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.

News

Repeal and replace the barriers to progress regardless of party, with Joe Dinkin

In a busy week for the Working Families Party, they announced a new director, found out that Paul Ryan was dropping out of his race against WFP member Randy Bryce in Wisconsin, faced threats of defunding, held a political education training, and voted to endorse the challengers in the New York gubernatorial race. Oh, and somewhere in there they helped pass paid sick days in New Jersey, too. I spoke with WFP’s Joe Dinkin about the party’s national strategy, how its challenge to Paul Ryan helped make him quit, and why they’re finally breaking with Andrew Cuomo despite his threats.

I think especially with Trump in the White House, with a cabinet and an administration composed of billionaires and avowed white nationalists who’ve been running the country, the urgency for our kind of values is felt more deeply and more broadly than ever before. People who are the opponents of that progressive agenda–whether they’re Republicans or whether they’re Democrats–are really feeling the heat right now. And it’s emboldened people to pay closer attention to politics–when I talked about the IDC in New York, we spent six years, eight years banging the drum about the Independent Democratic Caucus and how this third caucus was blocking progress on the progressive agenda, and almost nobody cared and almost nobody really understood it. It took until the election of Donald Trump for people to really wake up to the politics, pay attention to the news in a deeper way, look around and say “Well why can’t New York pass the DREAM act here, pass healthcare for all to ensure that if Trump guts Obamacare people are still covered, pass the Reproductive Health Act, and all of these measures of the progressive agenda that people deeply needed, why can’t we do that?” It was because of these state senators who were caucusing with the Republicans, and people got active and people got mad. I think that kind of thing has happened all over the country where there is this new, activated, almost radicalism, there’s a new energy in voters who are hungry for serious change and are really more open than ever to big ideas about the kind of change we need.

SJ: It separates you a little bit from the old model, which was very much based in New York, unions and community groups and the fusion voting strategy. That still matters but it’s not quite the center of the WFP strategy anymore.

JD: We have always been built on a base that includes unions, community organizations and grassroots activists, and what we’ve seen since the election of Trump especially but even going back before that to the Bernie Sanders campaign, to the rise of some of the social movements over the last couple of years is that that grassroots base, the individual activists are on fire.

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

Dreaming beyond the DREAM Act, with Kristian Hernandez

The Democrats gave in after just a few days of government shutdown, setting the stage for Trump to propose an immigration “compromise” that will do real harm to many under the guise of “helping” DREAMers. Where does the immigrants rights movement go from here? Kristian Hernandez of North Texas Dream Team and DSA North Texas joins me to talk about compromises, criminalization, and strategies for an election year.

There is definitely a lot of powerlessness that comes from the Democrats, that they seem to being going off of this “Well, we don’t have a majority here.” There are just a lot of excuses for why they can’t advance in the realm of immigration. They tend to, also, come back to it, especially during times like the primaries and during election season. They have this notion that their base is assuaged by this centrist viewpoint on immigration, when really you are finding more and more people being maybe a lot more aware of the horrors that the immigration system is actually doing because people, especially during the Obama administration, may have gone with the damaging rhetoric of “felons not families” but not realizing that when you have an administration that has very effectively criminalized communities of color, you are deporting a lot more people than felons.
You are deporting people that are caught up in that collateral web and going forward from that, we know that the system works against our communities. Even going off of that really dangerous rhetoric of “Well, we are only deporting criminals” is really this false lie. It is throwing one group of immigrants under the bus for the sake of another when a lot of us who have that deeper understanding that they are making us criminals on paper by putting us into this system that punishes you if you are poor. It punishes you twice over and makes you a criminal. There are a lot of false guilty pleas and really just a whole very complex way that the criminal justice system is intertwined with immigration.

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

Self-determined governance and electoral justice, with Jessica Byrd and Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson

2018 is a midterm election year, and that means the news cycle and a lot of the political energy (and funding) will be running to electoral politics. But what does that mean for social movements, for the Movement for Black Lives? I talk with Jessica Byrd, cofounder of the Movement for Black Lives Electoral Justice Project, and Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson of Highlander Education and Research Center about what role elections play in movements for liberation, what barriers still exist to democracy in the U.S., and much more.

JB: This part of elections that I think we talk about the least is the real structural barriers in accessing democracy. Right now, our democracy is really an aspirational one versus one that we are actually finding the fruits of. What happens as we attempt to continue to access it more and more is that there are more barriers put in place for us to fully participate. When I say “us” I mean nearly everyone but white men who own land and have a college degree, etc. Those laws largely were passed as folks were gaining access to democracy and access to voting and elected leadership and finding ways to make their voices heard in our electoral system. Part of what the movement has to engage in, as well, is removing those barriers.
….
AWH: I think that what has become ever more real in the southern specific context is that even with the achievements of Black liberation movements before us, specifically around voting rights and civil rights, that we deserve more than what policy ever gave us. I think that the Movement for Black Lives is really pushing both in the Electoral Justice Project and through the Vision for Black Lives policy platform, calling for what we have always deserved and not just what we would concede to.
That looks like demanding even more protections for folks that are exercising their right to vote as one particular form of participation and building people’s democracy. It is not the only tactic, but it is definitely one that we don’t have the luxury to ignore, especially with working class Black people, especially in places that tend to be more disenfranchised, whether because you are a formerly or currently incarcerated person. Alabama, again, is another case study–people who have never been convicted of a crime that are literally not being allowed to vote. We saw folks fight and win protections for those folks and over 10,000 formerly and currently incarcerated people registered to vote in this last election.

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

Down to the wire to stop the tax scam, with Sarah Chaisson-Warner and Jessica Juarez Scruggs

The Republicans think they have the votes to pass their massive tax cut package. But their constituents aren’t done fighting. From Kittery, ME to Nashville, TN and elsewhere around the country, groups are marching, sitting in, and even rewriting Christmas carols around the themes of upward wealth transfer. Sarah Chaisson-Warner and Jessica Juarez Scruggs of People’s Action talk about what’s in the bill, who’s still fighting to stop it, what can be done, and what happens next–including a preview of what to expect from election season in 2018 and some thoughts about what’s been surprising in 2017.

SCW: We’re still working to influence some of our targets in the Senate and the House. We do anticipate that they will probably vote this week or want to vote this week, Tuesday or Wednesday, so it’s coming up quite quickly, in the Senate we did hear over the weekend that Sen. Corker had shifted his vote, although that does not mean that the people of Tennessee will not be out this week. In Nashville, our affiliate is actually working with some of their allies as we speak to plan actions around that flip of the vote. Our affiliate in Maine continues to work hard on Sen. Collins, and we know that there are many House members who don’t support this bill or have some reservations about this bill. Members who are concerned about the repeal of the individual mandate and have real deeply invested concerns about healthcare. We have some members who have some concerns about the SALT provision, and others who are just a little uncomfortable with the bill and how quickly it’s moved and the cost of the bill.
So we will continue to work in largely Republican districts this week and should they vote on the bill this week our affiliates are ramping up for rapid response and again, if they vote, if they pass this bill, it will not be quiet in the states, it will not be quiet in the field, people are angry about this, no one wants this bill to pass, you see it in the polls, and we will be out in the streets and in the news and everywhere else showing members of Congress that this was the wrong decision.

Up at The Progressive.

Up at Moyers & Company.

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

Building nationwide political power, with Joe Dinkin

The Working Families Party began in just a few states with a very specific strategy, utilizing “fusion” voting laws to gain a ballot line and cross-endorse progressive Democrats. But lately it’s been lending its weight to elections far outside its usual orbit, from Birmingham, Alabama to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Communications director Joe Dinkin talks to me about the wins for the WFP’s endorsed candidates on November 7, the expanding and changing strategy for the party, and whether working within the Democratic party is the best way to pass social democratic policies.

 

I think down ballot what we saw was Democrats picked up something like 15 seats in the House of Delegates. I think most of the Democratic Party operatives were expecting to pick up more like 3 to 5 or 3 to 6 seats. The candidates actually won in some of the toughest districts, the more uphill, Republican leaning districts were some of the most progressive candidates running, people like Hala Ayala and Elizabeth Guzman, who were the first two Latina candidates to be elected to the state legislature in Virginia; Danica Roem, the first trans candidate; Lee Carter, Democratic Socialist and member of DSA. All those candidates were running as sort of full-throated and bold progressives.
I think it blows up this prevalent myth in the Democratic Party that the way to win swing districts is with these boring, moderate, uninspiring, white men, generally, who run these cautious campaigns where they try really hard not to offend anyone. These candidates in some of the swingiest races in Virginia who won were candidates running really as full-throated progressives and they were a diverse slate and really blew up that idea of the Democratic Party and proved that, at the very least, there is another way to win; which is having a progressive vision and actually inspiring people with the change that you want to make in their lives and telling them how you are going to do that.
And this wasn’t just Virginia. Around the country there were municipal races. The Working Families Party, in total, endorsed a thousand candidates in 2017, over a thousand. Around the country we were seeing a new crop of movement progressive candidates picking up the mantle to run for local office and winning. These are a lot of candidates who are not out of the traditional structures of the Democratic Party, but whose backgrounds are often in union organizing or in community organizing groups or in social movements, and that kind of candidate was running on these very bold and transformative visions in a lot of cases and being rewarded by the voters for it.

Up at The Progressive.
Up at The Baffler.
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

Putting Socialists in Office, with David Duhalde


The Democratic Socialists of America had a good night on election night, electing two endorsed candidates and 15 of its members to offices in cities and states across the U.S. From Peekskill, NY to Knoxville, TN, Billings, MT to Pleasant Hill, IA, socialists will be taking office. What does that mean for the political trajectory of the country and for next year’s Congressional races? I spoke with David Duhalde, deputy director of DSA, about the organization’s electoral strategy and where it fits in the overall spectrum of left groups winning elections in 2017.

we really wanted people to show us that they had a pathway to victory. We didn’t need somebody to say, “I am 100% a shoo-in to win” but we wanted people to really show us they have been thinking about what were the steps to win their races. We wanted people who really were going to be out there hitting the pavement and talking to voters. From this, we were able to select six candidates. Then, really built a national infrastructure to support them through our base. Social media is a huge asset, especially for local races trying to draw national and potentially international attention and donations. But also, using our network of hundreds of volunteers and thousands of members to do phone banking and to do door knocking. For example, in Seattle, Jon Grant who ran as a great housing advocate who unfortunately ran against a very good liberal Democrat, so it made it a hard race. The DSA knocked on 22,000 doors and we made sure to send out emails for them to reach other members in the State of Washington they might not have reached.
The same thing with Carter. We worked hard to talk to the media and raise awareness, especially in the D.C. Beltway about his race which helped generate attention he might not have gotten. So, strategically, we shifted and we are trying to look to 2018 about how we are going to expand this program, because 2017 was kind of the test run. We will see what happens, but we definitely want to be more sophisticated, we want to increase the standards to get endorsed, and also, look at now we helped people win, so we want to make sure we hold them accountable. We don’t want people coming to us to get volunteers and leaving. There are a lot of questions that are going to come up that the national political committee, which is DSA’s leadership, the national electoral committee are working on to really make sure we are still a very relevant and democratic organization that is electing Socialists who will be held accountable by their constituents.

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

From the Fight for $15 to city council, with Stephanie Gasca


Stephanie Gasca is one of many people this year moving from social movement, community, and labor organizing work into campaigning for office. She got her start with the Fight for $15, and works for Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha, which translates to Center for Workers United in Struggle, a worker center that helped bring Target to the negotiating table for retail janitors with several years of strikes. Now she’s running for a city council seat to make sure that the communities where she lives and works are represented by people who understand their struggles against state violence, against poverty wages, against racism and a vicious immigration system.

I am a mother first and foremost. I have a 14-year-old black son that I am raising here in North Minneapolis where the police have killed black men before, where the police harass our black youth on a regular basis. My politics are automatically different because of my life experiences.
Because of my background and where I come from and being one of nine children and having my step-dad being impacted by the broken immigration system and having our family being hit by poverty wages and a lack of access to education and opportunities and having my mom being impacted by not having paid sick leave, all of these things, all of these disparities, all of these specifics that everyone loves to go on about the numbers and this and this and that, that is my real life. I have a brother who just came home from federal prison in August who I am trying to support right now, helping him and ensuring that he gets a job and ensuring that he has access to the resources that he needs so that he is successful at re-entry and that he is not trapped by the system, because the system is designed to slap folks with a felony and they just keep them going back into the system.
When we talk about children being highly mobile, my niece is living with me right now who hasn’t had stable housing in 5 years because my sister cannot afford the rising cost of rent. All of these things that we talk about, I am living them every single day. So, my politics are automatically different because this is my life. These aren’t reports that I am reading. These aren’t statistics that I am looking at. This is my life and it is about a fight for my survival. It is about the fight for the survival of my family and my community. That is how I always approach my work because that is what it is. I can’t approach it any other way.

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

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

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.