News

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.

Up at Truthout
Up at The Progressive

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

News

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.

Up at Truthout
Up at The Progressive
Up at In These Times.

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

News

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.

Up at Truthout.
Up at The Progressive.

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

News

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.

Up at Truthout
Up at The Progressive
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.

News

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.

Up at Truthout
Up at The Progressive

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.

News

Halting the bipartisan deregulate-a-palooza, with Alexis Goldstein

Donald Trump ran a faux-populist campaign for office, bashing Democrats for being too close to Wall Street. But in office, it’s a different story. Alongside Congressional Republicans and a handful of Democrats, he’s been busy deregulating the banks, dismantling consumer protections, and otherwise handing Wall Street a bunch of gifts–to say nothing of the tax cuts. I spoke with Alexis Goldstein of Americans for Financial Reform to explain why, when we’re still living in the wake of 2008, deregulate-a-palooza is bipartisan policy–and how to stop it.

It is basically déjà vu all over again, is the short answer. It is like it is the 1990s and it is full speed ahead on ripping up all of the rules that we put in place after the last financial crisis. There are a few different things that are going on. One thing that is happening is in the consumer space. One of the best things that came out of the last crisis was the creation of this consumer bureau that was the brainchild of Elizabeth Warren, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It was one of the few places that was actually looking out for the little guy and if your bank rips you off for like $15, you could complain and pretty quickly usually get a resolution because they have this complaint system and the Consumer Bureau would reach out to the company on your behalf. It is amazing. The other thing that they did is they sued companies and tried to get back money that financial companies had stolen from people. They got back billions of dollars to millions of Americans. Trump installed this guy, Mick Mulvaney, who is this Tea Party guy who was already at the Office of Management and Budgets, so this is his other job. He is basically like Scott Pruitt at the EPA, a longtime foe of the bureau, running the bureau and dismantling it from within. When you complain, there is this database you can look at. So, if you have a company that is really giving you the run-around, you can look into the database and see if other people have had the same problem. Mulvaney wants to take the complaints offline so you can’t read them anymore. There were a bunch of lawsuits that the Bureau was pursuing against payday lenders that were totally scamming people and charging them like 300% interest. He dropped some of those lawsuits. He totally eliminated the Office for Students and Consumer Protection, which was one of the best – in my opinion – offices looking out for student loan borrowers. That is the consumer space. Then, if you look into the more bank-y, more systemic risk, more crisis kind of stuff, we are also seeing rollbacks there. We are seeing proposals to undo Dodd-Frank. Then, the third piece is partially Trump, partially GOP, but also, there are Democrats to blame. There were these really big pieces of legislation that was recently signed into law, that kind of makes a future bailout more likely. It is sort of like Congress is doing bad things and then, Trump is doing bad things in both the consumer space and the financial systemic risk space. It is all the bad things.

Up at Truthout.
Up at The Progressive.

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.

News

Stopping family separation at the border, with Eve Stotland

There’s been a lot of anger about the Trump administration’s policies on immigration, and in particular lately, around the policy of family separation at the border. But what is actually happening, and what do families actually need? Eve Stotland of The Door is an attorney who has worked on just these issues for years, and she joins us to disentangle the questions of what the Trump administration is and is not doing to migrant children and their families, and to tell us how to challenge this policy and fight for fair treatment for migrants and for everyone.

There are a few things going on and I think that some of them are getting conflated, so it is really helpful to pull them apart. One thing that is absolutely going on is that the US government, and very specifically Customs and Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement – these are two agencies that are in charge of policing our borders and enforcing our immigration laws–these agencies, when they detain families, when they are arresting families at the border for violating immigration laws, they are separating parents and children.
Now, some of this is new and some of it is not new. It is a surprise to a lot of people that I talk to that the US has been detaining–meaning prison, putting families who violated immigration law in prison, it is called immigration detention, but let’s remember it is prison–for many years. So that is not new. Also, immigration has been detaining children for many years. Also, Immigration has just been jailing a lot of people. In fact, I think there is something like 34,000 beds.
What is new here is that really Immigration did not have a policy at the border of separating parents and children. That is something that has developed recently. It is hard to track exactly when it started because the federal government is not being honest about it. One day they say there is no new policy. The next day, they say there is a policy. Then, Trump blames the Democrats for the policy.
The amount of intentional misinformation that is going out there is really intense, but what we do know, because people at the border, including the ACLU, have been tracking this and have brought a lawsuit about it, is that absolutely at least 600 parents and children have been separated in recent months at the border.

Up at The Progressive.

Up at Truthout.

Up at In These Times

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.

News

Defeating the attack on food assistance–for now, with Rebecca Vallas

A lot of things wind up embedded in the massive, regularly-renewed piece of legislation known as the “farm bill” each year, and one of the most important–at least, to the 40 million Americans who rely on it–is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, previously and still commonly known as food stamps. The program has been in the sights of Republicans, fresh off a victory on tax cuts, who want to pay for those cuts by slashing benefits to working people and the poor. Rebecca Vallas has been following the progress of these attacks and the broader push by the Right to put “Work Requirements” on everything, and she joins us once again to talk about how the farm bill was defeated and how SNAP might be saved.

A little bit of background on what the SNAP program is. It used to be called food stamps. People might be familiar with that name for the program, but today it is called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It helps about 40 million Americans put food on the table in any given month. Now, the benefits that it provides are already extremely meager. Just $1.40 per person per meal. Just pausing there for a second. Imagine that as your food budget, but you have got Republicans in Congress saying, “Nope, that is too much. We have got to actually take some of that away from people who are struggling to put food on the table.”
That is what this what this farm bill would have done, is to make a program that is already incredibly meager, where families already, by and large, report running out of food by the third week in the month. It is to make that program even harder to access for people when they are facing hard times. And the people that it targets, by and large, are people who are struggling to find work or can’t get enough hours in their job. That is who would be most hurt by this proposal.
Now, what happened last week, is we saw total unity among Democrats. We saw Democrats saying, “This is a heartless bill that I can’t vote for” and we saw that from every single Democrat in the house. What we saw in the Republican caucus was really disarray. Not super dissimilar from what we have seen on a number of occasions with a number of pieces of legalization where Republicans can’t quite seem to agree on how heartless they want to be.
We actually saw the bill go down literally in the middle of the voting. It seems like Republicans weren’t aware that they didn’t have the votes to pass the bill. So, we saw Democrats in lockstep say, “No, I can’t vote for a piece of legislation that takes food away from as many as 2 million Americans,” which is what this bill would have done. And we saw Republicans split between wanting to see the bill be even crueler and take even more food away from even more people. In some cases, in the case of moderate Republicans, we saw them saying, “Actually, I am realizing this is going to be bad for me in November.”

Up at Truthout.

Up at The Progressive.

 

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.

News

Making Private Equity Pay, with Debbie Beard and Carrie Gleason

When Debbie Beard found out the company she’d worked at for 29 years, Toys R Us, was closing down, she was shocked–she knew the company had been having financial difficulties for a while, but didn’t realize it was that bad. The more she learned, though, about the way the company had been looted by private equity firms Bain Capital and KKR, the more she determined that no one else should have to go through this. Debbie and other Toys R Us workers are organizing to demand severance pay from the company, and beyond that, organizing to stop the kind of leveraged buyouts that saddle viable companies with unsustainable debt. She joins me along with Carrie Gleason of the Fair Workweek Initiative at the Center for Popular Democracy to explain what can be done.

CG: This has been going on for quite some time, and during the recession, about ten years ago now, retail companies started to turn to these private equity firms to help them with their financial struggles. Many retail companies were bought out through this process called a leveraged buyout.
In the case of Toys R Us, what happened was in say 2005 the company only had 30% debt. Then, as soon as KKR and Bain Capital bought it out, that flipped and the company went to 70% debt and only 30% equity. The company had long paid back this debt, but then, as every year, they had to pay management fees and other kinds of, basically, fees to take care of Bain Capital from one year to the next, on top of interest, and it became financially unviable.
Then, Amazon gets on the scene and all of these investors across all of these retail companies look at what is happening with Amazon. Last year, it became the second largest retail company in America. They thought, “Well, maybe we should get out now, it is going to take too much investment, capital investment, to make this company competitive. So let’s just close the doors.”
The truth is that Toys R Us is a completely viable business. Many of these other retail companies that are closing doors, like Nine West, are completely viable businesses, but the problem is that the owners aren’t looking to run the business of retail. It is a big problem. Then, it is not just this private equity ownership. Big companies like Macy’s and Kohl’s have other kinds of debt that are really crippling them in this moment where they actually need to be changing their strategies for the new retail industry that is emerging.
As a result, I will say, a lot of people are losing their jobs. A lot of hard-working women like Debbie are losing their jobs. And, this is a disaster, a financial crisis that could completely be avoided if we just regulate these Wall Street firms.
DB: There are several single moms in my store. I get emotional about this. I am sorry. I have got a mom, Melissa, she has got three young boys under six trying to make a living because she is a single mom. Julie has a specific schedule because she is taking care of her mom. It is going to upset their whole lives. Julie, as a matter of fact, has been with this store for twenty-one years. She opened this store and now she is going to close it.

Up at The Progressive.

Up at Truthout.

 

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.

News

Finding healing justice, with Cat Brooks

The Justice Teams Network is a new project aimed at challenging dominant narratives of police shootings and helping communities find healing. Building on models developed by the Anti Police Terror Project and Dignity and Power Now, the network brings together activists with training in investigation, community support, and communication to deal with the aftermath of police violence, and works on policy to prevent it. I spoke with Justice Teams Network director Cat Brooks, who has also just decided to run for Mayor of Oakland, California.

When the cops kill somebody, the responding organization, whether it’s APTP, or somewhere else, our Facebook pages go off, our Twitter pages go off, our personal phones go off, We then send an email out to a list of about 500 people who are trained and are active in the database, who are trauma-informed investigators. That means they have been trained on how to engage communities and people that have dealt with various traumas. They go to the scene, they talk to community members. They look at the pictures. They scour the scene for any video footage that might be in existence of the incident. Sometimes the will pick up evidence that might be helpful that the cops leave behind.
Then, hopefully, the find someone that is connected to the family at that scene. If they don’t, they come back to social media and they scour social media. Because, inevitably, in this day and age someone who was there has posted something to Twitter. Once we have connected with the family, we have got two primary agenda items. One is to, within 24 hours, either hold a vigil or support the community in holding their own. The second, of course, is to see what they need. Then, in talking to the family, it is about finding everything out about the person that was killed. So, the news by that time, of course, has come out and said, “Oh, the police shot a black man–black suspect is actually how they say it most of the time–He had a gun and he stole a lollipop and he stole a lollipop in 1922 from Samuel Adams.” as if whatever happened in 1922 has anything to do with why he’s dead now.
We then come out with our narrative, the family’s narrative, “They liked the color blue, they went to church on Sundays. They were parents. They took care of their mother.” Just humanize them, because…when you talk about people, like dentists, students, mothers, lawyers, cashiers, whatever, we are having a different conversation.
Then, from there, we connect them to our legal team, which is pro bono legal support, and then we support them with communications, legal, fundraising—they have to hold a funeral, often have to raise money for independent autopsies because often the one you get comes from law enforcement, they’re not going to challenge what law enforcement said happened. Then, we walk with them, and that is a long walk because while the story is in the media for a week, maybe two, for families, this is years and years and years, it never ends. The pain never ends.

Up at Truthout.

Up at The Progressive.

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.