News

Getting through to the Senate to defeat Trumpcare, with Jaron Benjamin


Networks of activists around the country have been training in protest tactics for months; this week they put them to use in Washington, D.C. 80 were arrested bringing their message to members of the Senate, soon to vote on a proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act and slash Medicaid funds. Jaron Benjamin of Housing Works was one of those arrested and has been one of those providing training to groups around the country on how to reach their members of Congress when said members don’t want to be reached.

The day was pretty moving. And I think it was probably as impactful for people that participated as it was for people that saw it on the news. I didn’t expect that. When you get 150 and 200 activists, however many people we had in the room before we went to the Capitol, and a lot of these folks have either participated in protests or, since we had people from 21 different states, you would assume that people were already feeling as many feelings as they could feel, because everybody in that room is dedicated and committed, but one of the themes that I noticed when I talked to people after being released from cuffs was that we all got way more emotional, not only throughout the day but during the demonstration than we thought that we would. It turned out that we were more angry about this attempt to take away healthcare from millions of people than we possibly knew, and we cared more and we were moved to tears more during the protest.
The day started off with about 150 folks getting together and just talking about why we were together and then going over the scenarios, figuring out which constituencies would be able to go and have a demonstration at which offices at one time. To the untrained eye it was chaotic but to a lot of us it was democracy in action.

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

Shutting down white supremacy in Charlottesville, with Laura Goldblatt and Mimi Arbeit


The Ku Klux Klan held a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend. The people of Charlottesville were ready. Over 1000 people showed up to counter-protest the Klan, rejecting the violent white supremacist history that the Klan sought to evoke. Laura Goldblatt and Mimi Arbeit are two organizers who helped put together the mobilization that massively outnumbered the white supremacists and made sure that the headlines would read that the city rejects the glorification of the Confederacy.

LG: I think today people in Charlottesville showed up in an act of community of self-defense when the city showed that they would not defend us, nor would the police. In that sense, we celebrated our strength as a community and our ability to stand with each other and provide some measure of safe space in the midst of a really hostile moment.
People showed up at the park early in the day. People started with prayers and more and more people gathered. There was music. There were people with signs. There was this beautiful crane installation of a thousand cranes because cranes are a Japanese sign of solidarity. It is believed that if you fold a thousand cranes, you will be granted a wish. So, people embedded in the cranes their wishes to end white supremacy.
There were thousands of people there. It was a really moving show of the community coming out despite the fact that the city had officially discouraged people for coming and instead organized a variety of alternative events. Then, the police provided safe passage for the Klan to enter the park. They violently removed protestors who were standing at the entrance that the Klan had intended to use in order to prevent them from entering and from endangering our community. Police brutally removed those protestors, but nonetheless, activists remained chanting at the Klan and lingered long after following the police as the police, again, provided safe passage to the Klan back to their cars.

Up at Moyers & Company.
Up at Truthout.
Up at The Baffler.
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

ADAPT and resist, with Bruce Darling


Disabled activists have been leading the charge to save Medicaid from GOP cuts, from Fairbanks, Alaska to Orlando, Florida; from Portland, Maine to Phoenix, Arizona. Bruce Darling is a longtime activist with ADAPT, the disability-rights group that has fought for decades for the right of people with disabilities to live in and be treated equally in the broader community. Now those hard-won rights are at risk as the Republicans aim to cut over $770 billion from Medicaid, the service that pays for home care attendants, medications, wheelchairs, and lifesaving equipment for millions of Americans. Bruce joined me to talk about ADAPT’s fight against “Trumpcare.”

For us, what this bill will do is…disabled Americans will die. Others will be forced into institutions and increase this terrible feedback loop because institutions are more expensive. With capped funds it will drive more money to the institutions, making less money available for healthcare and services and supports in the community, so more folks will die and go into institutions. We wanted to people to see it is the equivalent of basically being dragged off; the way they saw it on the news, that is actually what happens, even now with the Medicaid program as it is. This will just make it far, far, far worse.
…We wanted to highlight that using language that we thought, or hoped, Republicans would understand. There isn’t an asterisk on the Constitution that says “Except disabled Americans.” We should have a birthright of life and liberty. Medicaid is the thing that actually pays for and supports our lives and our liberty in the community. So cutting that is actually cutting the lives and liberty of disabled Americans. It is killing disabled Americans. We really wanted to drive that point home.

Up at Moyers & Company.
Up at Truthout.
Up at In These Times.
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

Rising out of poverty, with Annie Chambers, Rachel West and Pat Gowens


Welfare reform briefly became a hot topic on the campaign trail last year when Hillary Clinton was criticized for supporting the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, signed into law with great fanfare by her husband, President Bill Clinton, who famously declared that the law would “end welfare as we know it.” The law did precisely that, turning the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program into the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant, which came along with stringent requirements for the people, most of them women, who received it. Since that time, extreme poverty has spiked in the country, and the share of single mothers with no income or benefits has gone from 12 to 20 percent. But welfare rights activists never stopped fighting for their rights, and many are backing a bill being reintroduced by Congresswoman Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, the RISE Out of Poverty Act. I spoke with several supporters of the Act at the People’s Summit in Chicago recently.

Pat Gowens: The RISE Out of Poverty Act would say that instead of only allowing mothers to do this unwaged work, that women could do their mandatory hours on job search, number one, and they could also do it going to college. They could get a two-year degree, a four-year degree, and that would could as employment. In the states right now, they can require the mother to leave their babies at two months, three months, whatever, one year. In Wisconsin it is two months. At that point, the children have no one on one care anymore from their mom and the mom has to, again, go into that unwaged workforce or, if they can find a job, the paid workforce.

This would say the states couldn’t do that. They would have to at least let the mothers be home—right now it isn’t clear whether it is going to be one year or whether it is going to be more. It’s up for grabs, because the bill is being revised.

Then, there is a third thing. The states wouldn’t be able to only say they cut the rolls. The law would have to be changed to say the states have to reduce poverty and increase employment, not just say, “Well, we cut a million women off this year” and they are all in the streets with zero income, or they are working for…probably ninety-six people are working for no pay at their Head Start. The states would have to prove that they are reducing poverty.

Up at Truthout.

Up at The Baffler.

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

Challenging Paul Ryan on his home turf, with Randy Bryce


Ironworker and cancer survivor Randy Bryce made a splash with the announcement of his campaign against Paul Ryan for Congress. His first ad focused on universal healthcare and Paul Ryan’s attacks on the existing system, and quickly went viral. Bryce talks to me about his decision to get into the race against Ryan, the resistance movement in Wisconsin, and why more working people ought to run for office.

It took a lot of people that were starting to ask me to consider getting into it. I said, “Thanks, I am flattered that you are asking.” Then, some other groups and local electeds had said, “Randy, you should really think about this. You are exactly the kind of guy that we need. You are everything that he is not. What you do for a living, you are a vet,” the experiences that I have had. Pretty much everything that he is doing and everything that he is taking away affects me somehow, is some part of my life he is trying to snatch away.

I know just talking to neighbors that they are being affected, too. This whole divide and conquer thing really has people upset; talking about making America great again, that doesn’t happen by dividing us. It has never helped make us great. What makes us great is bringing up the “united” part of the United States. People are having a lot of buyer’s remorse. Donald Trump had a message that resonated with some working people, but I said, “Just wait and see. He is not going to do any of it. It sounds good, but he is not going to do any of it because he is not one of us.”

Paul Ryan is totally complicit. He is choosing the party over the people. He thanked the entire Wisconsin Republicans at their convention, thanked everybody for electing Donald Trump. He owns Donald Trump. There was a chance at one time, when he was hesitant to back him, but they are handcuffed together right now. They are in the same boat and that boat has a leak.

Up at The Baffler.
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

Fighting no-show Senators for healthcare, with Autumn Zemke


Hillary Clinton won the “purplish” state of Nevada, notes Autumn Zemke of the Northern Nevada Working Families Party, but one of its Senators is still a Republican. Dean Heller has made noises about opposing Trumpcare, but now he’s dodging his constituents. Zemke and others attempted to hold a sit-in at his office last Friday, June 16, but were only let in one at a time. She talked to me about the movement for healthcare in Nevada, and the state’s own proposed Medicaid-for-all solution to the holes in the Affordable Care Act–one that could be even more important if the federal government repeals the ACA.

I think the American public needs that kind of realization, that kind of wake-up that I had, and I just happened to have it a little bit sooner than some people are coming to it. I think it is important for us to tell that story, “This person died.” There is this gentleman who I just came across on Twitter and he was trying to crowdfund his insulin. I think he was in Austin, Texas and he was big in the arts scene and comic book scene. This man actually died because he couldn’t do it.

We shouldn’t be crowdfunding healthcare. Not in the wealthiest country. It is insanity. Plus, it just doesn’t make financial sense. The reality is we have to hold Senator Heller accountable. “Why would you do this? Why would you take healthcare away from us?” And hold them accountable to the fact that there is no financial reason for it.

I have to add, the reality of people who are in the 1% are there off the backs of our labor. It is not like we are trying to take something from them. They have that wealth because they have workers, they have employees, they have people that have lifted them up to this point of extreme. They got there because they have companies where they have people working for them. That is our wealth. We helped make that wealth. Asking for healthcare shouldn’t be that big of a deal when we create the wealth as employees, as workers.

Up at Truthout.

Up at In These Times.

Up at The Progressive.

Up at Moyers & Company.

Up at The Baffler.

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

40 acres for liberation, with Chinyere Tutashinda


Juneteenth is not a federal holiday–but it should be. It is the day that the news of emancipation reached the last group of enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, months after the Emancipation Proclamation and even the official end of the Civil War. To mark the day, and its unfulfilled promises, a group of organizers planned a day of action: of reclaiming vacant land, 40 acres in 40 cities to be precise. From Atlanta to Oakland, Chicago to New Orleans, anchored by the BlackOUT Collective and Movement Generation, black people claimed and held land, taking space to have community dinners, put vacant spaces back into the commons, and challenge gentrification as well as amplify the demand for reparations. Chinyere Tutashinda of the BlackOUT Collective told me about the plan.

There are a lot of people who are out on the streets… I think there is a lot of interest and a lot of people who have been newly politicized and woken up to the fact that now Trump is our president. But, when I think around what has been going on within the Movement for Black Lives and organizations that are part of that constellation–because this is not new for us and because a lot of folks, particularly those in the South, have been living under conditions very similar to the ones that Trump is trying to enact nationally–there was just a different level of “What does that mean for us?”

People have been really focusing on strengthening their organizing and strengthening their base building and trying tto build and do strategy in just different ways. People are noticing there are less people on the streets, but they are not necessarily less people in our organizations or less people doing local work. I think as people are building and are slowly growing, the work that you will see come into fruition in the next year or so.

Up at Truthout.

Up at In These Times.

Up at The Baffler.

Up at The Progressive.

Up at Moyers & Company.

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 Trumpcare wherever you are, with Angel Padilla


The vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with…something is on, but Republicans are hiding the bill away, refusing public debate, and Democrats are unwilling to put it all on the line to stop it. Angel Padilla of the new resistance group Indivisible tells me what their strategy is to stop the bill, and why every single Senator matters.

Republican senators are hiding from their constituency. They are afraid of facing them because they know they are pushing this bad bill that is going to harm them. It is a bill that is literally going to harm thousands and thousands of their own constituents and they are doing it simply because they want to give Donald Trump a win. That is why they are hiding. That is why we have to bring the fight to them.

They are hiding, but constituents can go down to regional offices and they can make their voices heard. They can have sit-ins. They can keep calling. Even if they are not willing to meet with their constituents, they are paying attention. They know that people don’t want it. The only way we are going to stop this bill is if they really get the sense of how widely opposed this bill is. That is the truth.

Up at Truthout.

Up at In These Times.

Up at Moyers & Company.

Up at The Progressive.

Up at The Baffler.

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

No is not enough, with Naomi Klein


The rise of Donald Trump seemed shocking to so many, but to Naomi Klein, something of an expert on shock, the feeling that Trump brings out is more akin to the horror of a bad dystopian novel. Indeed, it’s like her decades of previous research into the growth of global brands and a movement against them, into the violence of neoliberalism, and the destruction and movement against climate change has all come together in one presidency. That gives her a lot of ideas of how to fight him, ideas she details in a new book, No Is Not Enough.

There is no doubt that the far right is entering into a vacuum left by neoliberal centrism and liberalism. It is worth remembering that not so long ago, there was a very large, progressive, committedly internationalist movement that was taking on the whole logic of what was called “free trade” or “globalization” or “corporate globalization.” We called it “corporate rule” for the most part, because the problem was not trade, it was the writing of rules for the global economy in the interests of a small group of powerful corporations. Forget hollow brands. The center of that fight was about the hollowing out of democracy. Yes, sure, you can still vote, but the most important decisions about your life are being outsourced to institutions over which you have no control.

The fact that neoliberal centrist parties pushed those deals, signed those deals, negotiated those deals, and never aligned themselves with that grassroots progressive movement, left the space open for the Donald Trumps and the Nigel Farages and the Marine Le Pens of the world to come in and say, “We know how out of control you are. We believe you should be authors of your own fate, of your own destiny.” We left these ideas unattended, let’s just say. There are lots of great groups that never stopped focusing on trade, like Public Citizen and Food and Water Watch and lots of groups in Europe. But it stopped being a mass movement in the global north after September 11th. It is worth interrogating why that happened.

Up at The Progressive.

Up at The Baffler.

Up at Truthout.

Up at In These Times.

Up at Moyers & Company.

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

Knock every door, talk to everyone, with Becky Bond


In the wake of Trump’s election, Becky Bond says, people began to ask her what they could do. Beyond just donating money to campaigns or showing up to protests, she says, people wanted to be active in their communities, talking to their neighbors. She and some of her Sanders campaign colleagues decided to create a platform for people to do just that, and thus KnockEveryDoor was born.

The big data strategy is where essentially you hire a bunch of data consultants to run a bunch of models to find out “What is the smallest number of people you can talk to and win? Who are those people and what do they care about?” We need to talk to everybody. When you talk to a small group of people, they may not reflect back what the campaign needs to hear and about what is really going on with most of the constituents in that race. I think that campaigns need to hear from the majority of the people how policies are affecting their lives. Then, that could really change what politicians decide to talk about and fight for.

One of the things that I really learned from talking to people across the country is that the people that are not participating in elections, the so-called “low information voters,” it is not that they are ignorant people at all. In fact, time and time again, when I talk to them I come away feeling like they have a very sophisticated political analysis and they are choosing not to participate in politics. Not because they don’t know, but because their liberation is not on the ballot or they don’t see how voting is actually going to materially change anything in their lives. I think that reestablishing the feedback loop of talking voters is doing an important thing. That the concerns from the people that are not participating can also be something that politicians take into account, not just the narrow slice of voters who they think will put them over the top.

Up at The Baffler.

Up at Truthout.

Up at Moyers & Company.

Up at In These Times.

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.