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Pulling down the statues in Durham and everywhere, with Angaza Laughinghouse


In the wake of the white supremacist attacks on Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend, protests sprang up around the country. In North Carolina, a place laden with its own history of white supremacist violence, protesters pulled down a statue of a Confederate soldier outside of the Durham County Courthouse. Arrests and raids on activists’ homes followed; so have further protests in solidarity with those who took down the statue, including, on Thursday morning, an attempt by hundreds to march on the jail and turn themselves in to protest the arrests and call for charges to be dropped. Angaza Laughinghouse is a longtime organizer in the area and he talks about the protests, the long fight against white supremacy in the South, and workers’ role in that struggle.

One of the things that we do as a union is we oftentimes go to the workplaces, whether it is street maintenance or it is the sanitation yard and usually they are in areas where people have to drive down a road to get into their workplace, to pick up their trucks, their sewer trucks or their equipment. While we are handing out the flyers, oftentimes some of the anti-union people, some of the people that have old white supremacist ideas and they are union haters, “You goddamned union communist organizer…” They try to hit you. So, it is very important that the governor stop this, make sure people are held liable as criminals when they hit or try to run over people as they hand out flyers in front of workplaces.
It is not just a question of protests and rallies. In the “right-to-work” South, where less than 3 percent of all workers in North Carolina are unionized, there is a lot of anti-union feeling. This white supremacist thinking is institutionalized. It is everywhere. In the history, in the workplace. Part of the anti-union right to work climate. These supremacists who are now calling the county government telling them to prosecute these folks who pulled down the statue to the fullest extent of the law. It is fully institutionalized, it is systematic, this white supremacy thing. It is not just a few crazies as some people want to write it off.

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Moving pieces for system change, with Jeff Ordower


It’s been nearly eight months since the inauguration of Donald Trump, and things could be a lot worse, notes longtime organizer Jeff Ordower. Yet it is not enough to simply congratulate ourselves for saving the Affordable Care Act or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, he says. Instead, we should be thinking about how to move the protests and uprisings of recent years onto the next level.

I think the story is really critical. Uprisings and movements happen because something horrible happened or something that affects people is going to happen. They are going to poison the water on indigenous land at Standing Rock or there is yet another police massacre in cold blood or there are people who are worried about their healthcare and what is going to happen to them and more importantly what is going to happen to their children. That is really important and can’t be underestimated as a starting place. How we tell that story and who is affected and having affected people take the biggest and boldest risk, being in the front is critical.
Then, I think a lot of times as organizers we sometimes fall into the trap where we want to have the perfect thing; either it is the perfect narrative, the perfect story—I know in the early days of the healthcare fight, for example, people were like, “If you want to move McCain, you have to get seven veterans to go to McCain’s office.” I think sometimes we try to be too strategic. Really, if people want to move, we have got to give them something to do that makes sense. Sometimes that is occupying a park or putting your bodies on the line and sometimes that is just like, “Show up with a handwritten letter. Here is your toolkit for organizing this alternative town hall.” I think creating those containers where everyone can take action is really, really important.
It is no different than when I was first training as an ACORN organizer back in the 1990s and you sit on someone’s couch and you’re talking about neighborhood issues. The way people were going to get involved or not, you are saying, “What do you think it would take to get a stop sign on the corner?” and they would say, “I don’t know. We have got to get some people in the street” and you are like, “How many people would it take to block the street?” “Thirty.” You would say, “Great. Could you be one of those thirty?” and if they could see themselves doing that, then they were going to join. And if they thought it didn’t make sense, they wouldn’t. I think creating things that people can see themselves doing is really, really critical to all the fights. That ask is different. It is not always an easy thing to do. People will go and be in the streets as we saw in St. Louis, as we saw in Ferguson, night after night after night, because they felt like that was the most important thing that they could do.

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Defending Charlottesville from White Supremacy, with Lisa Woolfork


Photo by Jill Harms.
The eyes of the country turned to Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend when a so-called “Unite the Right” rally turned deadly when a white nationalist plowed his car into a crowd of people, injuring 19 and killing Heather Heyer, 32, an activist and counter-protester. But organizers in Charlottesville have been fighting white nationalism for a while. Lisa Woolfork of Charlottesville Black Lives Matter shares some background on the community’s response to its “summer of hate,” connects the dots between the fights over Confederate monuments to violent white supremacy, and tells us about what she saw on the ground.

As well as seeing the Nazis and the “alt-right” retreat from Emancipation Park after their event was declared an unlawful assembly. That was quite a parade of hate. As they were leaving the area, they threw flares, they spit on people. There were several altercations of shouting matches and shoving matches. But still, it was a very powerful display of how love conquers hate. To stand there shoulder to shoulder to shoulder with neighbors, with colleagues from my department in English, with other faculty from around the university that I have seen a few of, from people in my own organization representing Black Lives Matter Charlottesville, which is a very small and new group, has since developed allied connections.
These were all examples of how the community wants to stand together against the threat and the promise of racist violence. Something that I thought was, again, very heartening, was that too often people want to believe that symbolic hatred and symbolic racism has no real world consequence, that if we are to maintain symbols of white supremacy, those are completely devoid from the practices of white supremacy. That is false.
….
What does it mean that someone’s personal identity is bound up in a racist confederate monument, a monument to white supremacy? For me, the argument about re-contextualization has already been made. I think the best and most honest context for these monuments is white supremacy. Nothing says what these monuments really mean like a thousand white supremacists coming to defend them.

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Postmortem for the GOP’s repeal attempts, with Sarah Christopherson


Sarah Christopherson of Raising Women’s Voices for the Healthcare We Need joins us for a breakdown of what went wrong for the Republicans, the movement that stopped “repeal and replace,” and what comes next in the budget fight.

If [Republicans] are going to stick with nice sounding phrases like “freedom” and “free market” they can get away from the fact when people think about healthcare, they don’t want to be exposed to market risks. They want good coverage at reasonable prices with the accountability of knowing that coverage is going to be there even after they get sick. People don’t want to have to, on their way to the ER stop and say, “Wait, is this in my health plan?”
Then, of course, you mentioned the so-called skinny repeal bill. They immediately tried to re-brand that as the Freedom Bill. I think that is the freedom to lose your insurance, have-your-insurance-taken-away-from-you bill. But, where they wanted to get rid of the individual mandate, which was originally a conservative idea. That is how you create market participation in a private insurance market, but you still have the consumer protections, you need that individual mandate. They were perfectly willing to get rid of the individual mandate and then let the private insurance market blow up.
I think that would push more and more people towards a single payer model or a public insurance model of some kind. Their efforts could really, really backfire on them. They have already backfired on them in terms of making the Affordable Care Act more popular and making single payer more popular.
The repeal effort isn’t dead. It is sort of undead procedurally. So, what they voted down last week, these three amendments, they could still, theoretically, bring back that underlying bill, ram I through with 50 votes and the vice president. But, they could really, if they somehow manage to do that, end up sabotaging themselves.

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Fighting the backers of Trump’s agenda, with José Lopez


Major corporations spend a lot of time burnishing their brand images, but under the surface, they’re often involved in things that would make their customers cringe. A new campaign aims to highlight a few of those cringeworthy practices–specifically, the investment in the Trump agenda from some of America’s biggest corporate names. This week, they’re targeting JP Morgan Chase and the megabank’s investment in private prison companies that house thousands of immigrants arrested and awaiting deportation. I spoke with José Lopez and Daniel Altschuler of Make the Road New York about this week’s action targeting JP Morgan.

Right now, a ton of the financing for the expansion of GEO Group and CoreCivic is coming from JP Morgan Chase. GEO Group and CoreCivic currently are the country’s largest private prison and immigrant detention companies. What we want to point out is that if the financing and the connection is coming from JPMorgan Chase, and they are connected to the current administration in many ways, we want to be able to draw that connection for people.
It has everything to do with profit. I think the message tomorrow is we want to be sure that companies like JPMorgan Chase are not profiting off of the backs of immigrant families and are not putting profits before a moral obligation to keep families together, to keep mothers with their daughters and their sons and their husbands and their loved ones.
There has been a ton of work over the last couple of months. Some escalations and some arrests have happened a couple of months ago in front of the JPMorgan headquarters. There was a shareholder meeting that took place in Delaware where hundreds of people marched on the shareholder meeting and a couple went in to confront Jamie Dimon. We just want to continue the drumbeat of going after corporations like JPMorgan Chase who stand to profit off of the misery and suffering of our communities.

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Killing Trumpcare, building alternatives, with Mari Cordes


Mari Cordes is a nurse, union leader, and organizer who was outside of the Capitol when Trumpcare failed. But that’s not the end of her work on healthcare–she’s been organizing for years as part of Vermont’s movement for healthcare as a human right, which led to the passage of a groundbreaking bill for a universal publicly-funded system that was eventually shelved by the state’s governor. With Trumpcare now also on the shelf, Cordes is running for office and working on the ground to continue to make universal healthcare a reality.

As my friend Sampson and I were heading toward the rally that night at the Capitol, we passed near an outdoor movie theatre and it turns out they were playing Star Wars. It was the perfect setting to hear that bombastic, symphonic music that is in Star Wars, because all of this still feels so unreal, so surreal, that this actually is happening in the United States.
We heard so many incredible and painful and heartbreaking stories about friends, people that we know, people that we don’t know that would have died and/or families that would have lost their homes and/or gone bankrupt, all in the name of an obsession with an ideology, an obsession with a hatred that a black man was President of the United States and was successful in creating policy that was definitely not perfect, but did help millions of people. It was very powerful to be in that circle, that communion of sorts, and hold a vigil for our country whatever the outcome is going to be.
In that moment, there was the moment of “We are going to lose” and that feeling of hopelessness and despair. Then, a pause and a quiet moment and Ben Wikler delivered it beautifully. He became really somber. I thought it meant that we had lost, but it created this silent space for us to hear the statement that the vote was “No.” I don’t think I have ever experienced anything so powerful in my life. It was incredible.

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All in to stop Trumpcare, with Anastasia Bacigalupo and Lauren Klinkhammer


The Senate passed the motion to proceed but so far hasn’t passed a healthcare bill, and activists aim to keep it that way. In Washington, D.C. there have been sit-ins, civil disobedience, and camp-outs; around the country activists are rallying to their Senators’ offices–including that of John McCain, who came to D.C. this week straight from cancer treatment to vote in favor of taking healthcare from his constituents. I spoke with two of those activists, who have been in D.C. and in Arizona fighting to keep their health insurance.

Anastasia Bacigalupo: If you live in a state where your Senator is voting against the Affordable Care Act, now is the time to acquaint yourself with that Senator. I would recommend showing up to every single even that Senator has in the community: they have an open house, they cut a ribbon, they smash a bottle over a boat. Whatever they are doing, show up. Show up with signs. Requesting to meet with the Senator.
Not everybody is comfortable with getting arrested and that is okay. You don’t have to get arrested to be a voice, to share your story. You can be out in the community and educate people. I think there are other groups you can also join besides ADAPT. I know MoveOn is very active. Various other Democratic groups are also very active. There are ways in which everyone can get involved in this. Senators really do listen to their constituents. It really makes a difference. Our blessing, being Californians, is that Senator Harris and Senator Feinstein are champions of disability rights and the disability community. We have a lucky circumstance, but even for us, we have friends, we have relatives in those states. You should be reaching out to those friends and relatives. Heck, it is summertime, take a trip and visit them. Talk to them about how to be active civically.
The worst thing is thinking that these elected officials are in ivory towers. They got elected by your votes. They got elected by your friends’ votes, by your family members’ votes. Those votes are important. They have importance. I would say that if you live in a state where your Senator has voted the wrong way, you need to start engaging. If you can’t make it because of your circumstance, if you can’t get to those events, you can send a letter every day. You can send a postcard every day. You can send emails. If you have an iPhone, you can record yourself speaking and send it as an attachment. There is just so much that can be done.

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Protect the most vulnerable, with Sister Simone Campbell


“Nuns on the Bus” helped pass the Affordable Care Act in 2010, with a letter that countered the Catholic Bishops’ opposition to the bill. This year, as the Republicans make attempt after attempt to dismantle the bill they fought for, Catholic sisters are once again demanding that Congress listen to them and stop trying to make healthcare worse. Sister Simone Campbell was on Capitol Hill Monday and she spoke with me about the latest campaign.

Our organization was founded in 1971, and we opened our doors in ’72 and we worked on healthcare all these years. In 2009-2010 we worked really hard on getting healthcare for people who were left out of healthcare in our nation. In that process, when it was coming up for a final vote in the House of Representatives, I wrote what’s called the Nuns Letter, that was signed by 59 leaders of Catholic sisters’ communities saying that the vote for the Affordable Care Act was a life-affirming vote…
But between the time I wrote and the time we got signatures back our Bishops had come out opposing the bill and then we released our letter in support of the bill, kind of bookending the Bishops, and I’ve been told by many that they were able, with their Catholic faith, that they were able to vote for the bill because of our letter. I know 29 votes that we got. …
This time we’re taking a letter…signed by the sisters themselves, and all calling on the Senate to care for the most vulnerable. It’s outrageous for us as Catholic sisters who work with the most vulnerable in our nation to see that 23, 22 million people could lose healthcare because of this foolishness? That’s wrong. And so that’s the message that we’re carrying today: Stop it.

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Healthcare as a moral issue, with Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis


Faith leaders from around the country have joined in civil disobedience to protest the attacks on healthcare in Congress, as the Senate continues to see-saw back and forth on whether it will or will not attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis of the Kairos Center was one of those leaders, and is also part of the new Poor People’s Campaign, which aims to link political attacks on the right to vote with the material conditions of poor and working people across racial and geographic lines across the U.S.

LT: I think that part of why we see it as really important for faith leaders to step up in this is because healthcare and all of these issues are moral issues, for too long morality has been confined to a very small number of issues, many of which are barely discussed in faith traditions and texts, and they’ve been in the hands of folks that are trying to exclude and oppress. And instead, we’re saying that if you look at various religious texts within the tradition of Christianity that I come from, Jesus traveled around the countryside healing people for free. Clearly Jesus had a universal healthcare system, but in this time, in this moment, these kinds of healthcare cuts, this kind of repeal of the ACA is all being done in the name of and with the support of many Christians and politicians who claim to be Christian.
And so it’s really important for faith leaders to say no, this is a moral issue, it’s a moral issue whenever you kill people because you deny them Medicare and Medicaid, whenever you deny people healthcare because they have preexisting conditions, that this is not OK in any of our sacred texts and it is a responsibility of everybody, including our moral leaders, our clergy, to not just talk a good talk but actually to be out there with people who are impacted fighting for the kind of healthcare system that we we want.

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Fighting for healthcare in coal country, with Gary Zuckett


The healthcare battle in the Senate has honed in on a few wavering “moderate” Republicans, many of them from states that are heavy users of Medicaid–and the ACA’s Medicaid expansion–for health insurance coverage. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia is one of those, and despite the state’s reputation as being the center of Trumplandia, Gary Zuckett of West Virginia Citizen Action Group says that people are ready to fight to keep their healthcare–and maybe even to make it better.

Like you said, we are sort of labelled as Trump Country now and we have voted for the Republican candidate ever since George Bush II got elected. It is easy to paint in broad strokes like that, but I would also remind folks that in the Democratic primary last year, the State of West Virginia went for Bernie Sanders. So there is a hunger for a populist message here in West Virginia. Unfortunately, our current president and his false populism appeal to a lot of people.
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We have been painted as a backward regressive state and I think that is unfair. One of the things that we saw after the election was a total insurgency of people coming out of the woodwork wanting to be active. Newly minted activists and people that had been active in their youth and maybe are now retired and decided, “Well, I better get back into this because times are rough” and pulled together. There are Indivisible groups in most of the counties in West Virginia now. There are women’s huddles from the Women’s March that are still meeting here in West Virginia on a regular basis and talking to each other. We, out of this office, helped organize a sister Women’s March to the one in D.C. We had somewhere between 3,000-4,000 people show up at our state capitol, which blew everybody away, including us.

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