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Palestinians March with Supporters In DC for End to Hostilities in Gaza

DC Media Group - Sun, 01/14/2024 - 17:32

Washington, DC—Tens of thousands rallied in Freedom Plaza and marched through the Nation’s Capital in support of Palestinians in what may be the biggest action ever taken here on behalf of Gaza. Awashed in a sea of waving Palestinian flags—black, white, green, red—speakers with relatives in Gaza told of the carnage unfolding in the occupied territory and warned many more innocents would be lost if hostilities did not soon end. Many wore Kufiya scarves wrapped around their shoulders and partially covering their faces. More carried signs with messages such as, “Stop the Genocide,” “Stop Funding Apartheid Now,” and “Free Palestine.”
(A video of the action is at the foot of this story.)

The action was organized by American Muslim Task Force for Palestine, with many organizations such as CAIR, Muslin American Society, Young Muslims, and Answer, taking part. Speakers urged international support be given to Gaza which is suffering under the onslaught of a lopsided military campaign. Speakers demanded the Biden Administration stop all military aid to Israeli forces and put more pressure on the Israeli government to implement a permanent ceasefire. Their messages were also streamed over foreign media services and published on social media for those in Gaza, although it was unlikely very many could receive them since electronic communication inside Gaza was said to be cut off or limited.

The organizers originally planned to rally on the National Mall, however a heavy winter storm saturated the ground and necessitated a move to Freedom Plaza which was dry. Thousands squeezed into the plaza, which itself is one of the largest public spaces available for stationery protests in Washington DC. Even so it was crowded and difficult to access so thousands more occupied the surrounding streets.

Adjacent to the plaza, at the Wilson Building, home of DC Government Administration, someone taped a Palestinian flag to the arm on the statue of former DC Mayor Marion Berry and wrapped a Kufiya scarf around his neck. Across the square, a group of Palestinian youths swayed to old songs sung by an elder about their struggle and living with courage in Gaza. In other places around the square groups paused for afternoon prayers while speakers and protesters fell silent out of respect.

After speakers finished, tens of thousands lined on 14th Street and marched through Washington DC towards the White House. Along the route police stood in lines to guard Starbucks coffee shops.

Starbucks has become a focus of a targeted economic boycott for its support of the Israeli government. This boycott has extended to other retail giants such as McDonald’s fast food chain and BAE Systems, a technology and aerospace company providing support to the Israeli Defense Forces. The campaign to boycott, divest, and sanction has been an ongoing resistance tactic to bring economic pressure on the Israeli government for its blockade of Gaza.

The blockade of Gaza has cost an estimated $16.7 billion in lost economic revenue since the Israeli government began its blockade in 2007, according to a UN report published in 2020. Currently there is an 100 percent unemployment rate as the Gaza economy has collapsed. Much needed food and medical supplies have been reduced as Israeli Defense Forces have closed off the territory and allowed access at only one point.

Art Installation Outside White House Depicts Life In Gaza

Meanwhile, in Lafayette Park at the White House, activists built an art installation to depict what life was like in Gaza amidst the bombing, destruction and occupation. The display contained broken cinderblocks laid in a long pile to mimic destroyed homes, hospitals, businesses, and schools. Between and behind the blocks were dozens of teddy bears. A periodic sound recording of explosions simulated the bombing of Gaza. Nearby a tank filled with red water symbolized the blood of 11,000 children lost thusfar to the continuing bombing of Gaza. An activist added a bottle of red paint to the tank to symbolize the 270 daily average deaths in Gaza since the war began on October 7. A desk with paper and pens was set up for particpants to leave notes to families of the children killed in Gaza by the bombings.

The teddy bear motif is a local DC custom whereby families leave teddy bear memorabilia and written messages to their deceased kin in tree boxes near sidewalks where youth have been slain by gun violence. A spokesperson for the installation told DCMG they did not seek nor were they issued a permit for the installation, which was in itself an act of defiance. No officers of the Secret Service or the National Park Service attempted to force activists to remove the installation, which was a day-long event. Typically such installations are not permitted at that location.

A banner was also attached to the fence reading “Palestinian Children are not collateral damage.”

Tensions Outside White House As Marchers Arrived

Later, as marchers reached Lafayette Park many remained past dusk. A group broke off from the main march and gathered along the fence and tensions rose. They shook a 10-foot barrier metal fence put up the day before. Authorities had erected it about 20 feet outside the Iron fence lining the lawn of the North Portico of the White House. Secret Service responded to keep the protesters from breaching the fence. But protesters’ defiace was driven by a growing sense of desperation for the welfare of Gazans and disillusionment with the Biden Administration’s diplomatic and military support of the Israeli government. No matter what Israeli government actions have been with respect to the Gaza occupation, the Biden Administration has supported it both politically and militarily. Several others distributed “Abandon Biden” signs.

As night fell, and tensions continued growing in the park, Secret Service were dispatched to a portion of the fence to keep protesters from breaching the outer temporary metal barrier. There was one report of an arrest in Lafayette Park for an empty holster and nearby police reportedly pepper-sprayed a protester.

International Consensus Expands Against Israeli Government Actions in Gaza

The war between Hamas and Israel is nearing its 100th day. Based upon the October invasion of Gaza, a blockade of Gaza imposed by the Israeli government since 2007, and the ensuing degradation of livability there, South Africa has filed a petition before the International Court of Justice alleging Israel is committing Genocide in the occupied Gaza territory. In it’s application South Africa argues Israel should immediately suspend its military operations and take all measures within its power to prevent genocide.

The application was filed on December 29, 2023, and supported by all the 57 members of Organization of Islamic Countries, The Arab League, Bolivia, Columbia, Brazil, Jordan, Turkey, The Maldives, Namibia and Pakistan.

Attack On Gaza: Prelude to Regional War

Uncountable numbers of munitions have been dropped on Gaza, many of which are unguided “dumb bombs” which have a high probability of missing targets and kill or injure many innocents caught in crossfire. The structural damage to Gaza is also incalculably extensive as well—Gaza has a growing resemblance to the destroyed cities of Germany during WWII.

Unguided munitions used by Israeli Defense Forces account for nearly 50% of bombs used on Gaza, according to a published report. The report was the result of a U.S. intelligence assessment verified by three CNN sources.

Hamas has fired thousands of rockets into Israel and taken hostages, 100 of which remain unaccounted for. Lebanon has also fired rockets into Israel in sympathy with Gaza. Israel has attacked Lebanon as well. Most recently, and in the last few weeks, Yemen has become involved in the war as Houthi rebels launched drones and guided missiles towards shipping lanes in the Red Sea. In response, an Alliance of Western nations led by the U.S. and U.K., attacked radar sites and bases in Yemen over the last 2 days. Houthi military commanders promised a massive response in retaliation.

With escalating tensions and military activities spreading, the region continues to stumble towards a runaway regional conflict.

The UN has reported that 85% of Palestinians in Gaza have been displaced as a result of Israeli military operations in Gaza, with over 23,000 killed and 56,000 injured, many of them women and children. On Friday the UN met to discuss the Middle East crisis. “The UN relief chief told ambassadors that any Gazans forced to flee the enclave must be allowed to return “as international law demands.”

The post Palestinians March with Supporters In DC for End to Hostilities in Gaza appeared first on DCMediaGroup.

Green Groups Rally On Earth Day, Warn Fossil Fuels Imperil Life As We Know It

DC Media Group - Mon, 04/24/2023 - 17:28

Washington DC—Over 40 green groups rallied on Earth Day at Freedom Plaza to celebrate the Earth’s natural beauty while calling on world and local leaders to get serious about ending the use of fossil fuel energy sources. The Saturday event saw hundreds join a in panorama of environmental and social justice messages on a common theme: any further delay in ending carbon based energy sources-oil, methane, and coal, and continued reliance on these energy sources—would lock in rising global heat levels and imperil the existence of all the future generations. 

The Earth itself has already been speaking its own language for several decades by warning us about rising global heat levels. Its message has been been in terms of increasing regional droughts, burning forests, stronger and more potent storms, a die-off of species, warming and rising oceans, melting polar ice fields, and increasing global heat.

Scientists have translated the earth’s language into mathematical terms and in the terms of physical impacts. But the environmentalists of Earth Day have translated the Earth’s messages into the collective practical action that must be taken now.

Global leadership has largely put off Earth’s environmental warnings up to this point. The President’s approval of the Willow carbon energy extraction project in Alaska and his subsequent approval of the North Slope Liquid Natural Gas export terminal with a 800 mile methane pipeline, just this month, illustrates this fact. Global leadership inaction spells out a short-term memory mentality on climate but it has long-term consequences for the Earth and all of its inhabitants.

The Earth itself has a perfect natural memory for its own environment. It remembers every pound of carbon dioxide gas released by burning coal, methane and oil. This also means that additional carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere acts for up to 3 decades as a catalyst by refracting infrared light (heat) into the natural moisture of the atmosphere around it. Carbon dioxide compounds the climate emergency by adding more heat to the atmosphere which is transferred by rain into the oceans.

The NOAA tracks the levels of carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere and publishes quarterly reports on its levels and it is increasing and has increased to levels not seen since in 1000s of years—since before humans began a coal boom energy extraction in Europe during the 1850s

Speakers Warn Of Dystopia By Inaction

One after one speakers told of the worsening climate emergency while hundreds listened and independent media broadcasted their speeches over social media. Some carried messages on sign boards while others wore special outfits. Many discussed the climate emergency among themselves, its impacts on them, and told of what they have come to accept: the Earth as we know it is dying and collectively we have less than a decade to end fossil energy dependence. To delay further is tantamount to a climate outcome worse on humanity than all the wars ever fought.

Speakers’ main points were: (1) There can be no climate solution without acknowledging and solving the human rights issues of those mostly severely impacted in the Black and Brown communities and that the climate emergency transcends political issues; (2) there can be no solution to the climate emergency if leaders continue to greenwash the climate movement by approving more methane, oil, and coal projects that cement more greenhouse gasses from additional fossil energy infrastructure; (3) the funding of climate creating infrastructure by the five major big banks must end; (4) initiatives must begin immediately because in less than 10 years it will most likely be too late.

Inaction on Climate Is Environmental Racism

Nee Nee Taylor, an organizer with Harriet’s Wildest Dreams, a civil rights organization in Southeast Washington DC, connected the dots between the climate movement and institutional racism on Black and Brown people. Taylor said that Black and Brown people in Washington DC and across the country continue to be the most impacted by climate disasters because many Black and Brown communities are converted to sacrifice zones by fossil energy projects and local government policy. Taylor cited the health effects and the climate impacts on low lying rural and urban areas where poor communities are usually housed.

Taylor pointed out in Southeast DC “two trash transfer stations are in Black communities. There are no trash transfer stations in Dupont Circle where Mayor Bowser lives.” This scenario has also been playing out repeatedly in regions across the country, such as in St. James Parish, Louisiana, a Predominantly Black community also known as “Cancer Alley.” St. James Parish is notoriously connected to environmental racism where petrochemical companies are springing up and making Black residents sick with air and water pollution.

“Black people have always been the canary in the mine,” said Taylor. “Environmental racism is not a Democratic or Republican issue. It is an issue of human rights and equality. It is also a global issue.”

Taylor called on the White-led climate justice movement to look closely at itself when calling out the banks, oil, gas, and coal corporations, and its financing of the climate machinery—that they must consider the inherent injustice of not recognizing the impacts of climate disasters on Black and Brown communities. “Until they recognize that Black lives matter, they will never be in a position to combat the climate disaster,” she said.

Extinction Rebellion Washington DC Art Project—Methane Pipeline Cube

Extinction Rebellion Washington DC Chapter Press SpokesPerson Jade Olson, called on DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and the DC Council to nix a plan by Washington Gas to invest $4.5 billion in its “Project Pipes” methane pipeline infrastructure investment and instead invest in expanding the electric energy grid. By replacing methane pipes the DC government is locking the city into many more decades of methane use, they said.

Extinction Rebellion Washington DC has embarked on a campaign to challenge the Washington Gas investment in its methane pipeline replacement project know as “Project Pipes.” On its website, Extinction Rebellion DC wrote, “Gas leaks are also a major environmental justice problem. Black, Indigenous and people of color are more exposed to the dangers of leaking gas pipes than white people. Gas utility companies also fix these leaks faster in white neighborhoods.”

Olsen described the methane pipeline cube art installment as taking months to build. It depicts a complex series of pipes interconnected with some open to the air. It demonstrates the futility of continuing to build onto an old design concept that is destined to fail.

Global Impacts of the Climate Emergency

Basiv Sen, Climate Policy Director at Institute for Policy Studies, spoke of the global climate impacts. He said that the U.S. was propagandizing the world with stories it was trying to fix the climate emergency while it was building more fossil energy projects. The two actions could not be reconciled.

“India and the South Asia subcontinent are going through an horrific unseasonable springtime heatwave for the second year,” he said. “This is part of the international impact of the continuation of the fossil fuel economy” He pointed out that the U.S. produces 25% of the global use of fossils and is addicted to carbon based energy sources.

Elders Join Third Act to Fight The Financiers of Fossil Energy Projects

Lawrence MacDonald and Lisa Finn of Third Act Virginia, an organization of elders fighting for democratic norms and advocates for climate justice joined the youth-led action on Earth Day because they believe they can learn from youth and help them with the climate emergency.

“The generation that was in power when climate went from being a problem to being an emergency has an obligation to support young people in demanding action and end the fossil fuel era,” said Mac Donald.

Finn, said that she would not have come out to Earth Day previously because did not know anyone involved. She joined Third Act Northern Virginia and it has given her a connection to the community and a sense of achievement. She is committed to helping other groups such as the youth in the community now because she can focus and work with others in Third Act on the same objectives.

“Forming a community on environmentalism is a big thing. We learn a lot from our youth because they have a lot to teach us,” she said.

The post Green Groups Rally On Earth Day, Warn Fossil Fuels Imperil Life As We Know It appeared first on DCMediaGroup.

Queer and Trans Youth Lead March for Equality in Washington DC

DC Media Group - Sat, 04/01/2023 - 02:02
Queer and Trans youth took to the streets in Washington DC demanding equality, recognition under the law, and an end to violence against them. Photo: John Zangas/DCMediaGroup

Washington DC—A march for Queer and Trans Youth Autonomy was joined by nearly 500 on Friday afternoon near the U.S. Capitol without incident despite a coordinated right-wing media blitz condemning it. The march was led by hundreds of Queer and Trans youth demanding the same civil access and equality under the law as is enjoyed by others in society.

The action was coordinated on Trans Day of Visibility, a global initiative to call an end to violence against the Trans and Queer community, and a moratorium to anti-Trans legislation being proposed and passed in States around the country. Marches were also held in cities across the globe.

Many youth activists spoke about their experiences and their growing anxiety of denial of access to healthcare, access to public spaces, oppression at school from legislative actions to deny their identities, and policies being enacted without their say in the policies being decided. They called on allies to join them in their quest for equality and human rights. One speaker drew on the reasoning of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that rights denied to one segment of society threatens the rights for all.

Ryan Cassata, a Trans youth activist who has been educating the public about Trans youth rights, spoke about the bills being proposed in State legislative sessions over the past year. “This year over 435 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced, 21 have passed into law, and more will unfortunately pass into law. Trans youth living in states that are banning [Trans] healthcare will have to wait even longer and waiting for a life-saving surgery is impossible. These bills are violent. These bills are murderous. Healthcare is a human right,” they said.

Cassata vowed the Trans community would not stop fighting for their human rights.

On the Trans Day of Visibility there was some good news despite the spate of mounting opposition to Trans rights in States legislatures. Thomas L. Parker, A U.S. Judge of the U.S. District Court, Western District of Tennessee, granted a temporary restraining order against legislation that would criminalize performance of “adult cabaret entertainment” in places that could be viewed by a person not an adult.

The law was passed by the State Legislature and signed by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, this month (March 2023) and would in effect prohibit Drag Queen Story Hour events. The legislation was tailored specifically to target Drag Queen participants from enjoying any public event such as family educational venues where children were present.

Judge Parker found that the State had not established any credible reason for denying the First Amendment rights of the persons affected and that it was “unconstitutional” on the basis for which it was passed.

The Tennessee District Court Ruling is here.

Another separate rally and march for Trans rights was planned for Saturday in Washington DC near the Supreme Court but was postponed due to a credible external threat of violence. Organizers determined that the public health and safety of the community was under a credible serious threat and though they had been planning the event for several months, they decided it was in the best interest of the community to postpone it to a future date.


The post Queer and Trans Youth Lead March for Equality in Washington DC appeared first on DCMediaGroup.

Elders Lead Third Act Climate Action At Major Banks In Washington DC

DC Media Group - Wed, 03/22/2023 - 22:13
Elders sat in their rocking chairs outside Chase Bank, one of four banks, in a 24 hour demonstration to draw attention to the financiers of the climate emergency. Photo: J. Zangas/DCMG

Washington DC—Elders picketed outside the branches of four major banks for 24 hours on Tuesday to call out their financial support of fossil fuel projects which are contributing to the worsening climate catastrophe. They sat in rocking chairs in front of the bank branches just blocks from the White House—warning them to stop funding fossil fuel energy or the planet will be unlivable within several decades.

A coalition of green groups organized by Third Act urged the banks to transition off of carbon based energy—oil, gas, and methane, and immediately and exclusively finance renewable energy sources—wind, solar, and geothermal, instead. The elders targeted Chase Bank, Wells Fargo, Citi Bank, and Bank of America, because they are the four major financiers of fossil energy, sinking a combined total of $1.2 trillion in the fossil fuel industry over the past 7 years.

Third Act is a relatively new climate organization founded by Bill McKibben in 2021 and a organization for elder citizens in their ‘third act’ of life. The four banks financial loans to fossil projects is one quarter of all fossil fuel financing, according to Third Act, consisting mainly of elders—folks 60 years and older—but many youth also took part in the rocking chair action over the 24 hour period.

As the sun came up on Tuesday morning and warmed the elders they were still lined on the sidewalk in their chairs, drinking coffee and chatting to the passers by about the worsening climate to be faced by generations to come. The planet is already beginning to suffer from the affects of carbon induced heat but in the years to come it will get much worse.

Many sat inside sleeping bags through the night as it was an uncharacteristically cold night. Some had enlarged photos of their grandchildren displayed on posters. They gave flyers to workers passing by educating them about the climate emergency and urging them to move money into green banks. Many workers asked why they had stayed out through the night—the Elders told them of their grand-children and great-grand-children to help them understand what who would be impacted most by the worsening climate conditions.

Later in the morning, those involved in the rocking chair action joined in a mile long walk from Franklin Park to the branches of the banks where the Elders were picketing to call out the banks for ignoring scientific research that demonstrated the climate emergency is rapidly worsening global climate conditions. Clergy from Churches, Synagogs, leaders from climate organizations, and union members spoke of what was to come if banks continued funding fossil energy projects. A scientist also spoke—something scientists rarely do—as they are pressured by their organizations to not speak publicly about the climate emergency. See video below.

Freeman Allen, an Elder from Charlottesville, Va, and member of Veterans Service Corps, joined Third Act because he was alarmed that enough wasn’t being done to transition off fossil fuels despite overwhelming evidence its resulting carbon output is responsible for global heat. He became involved with the climate movement on behalf of his six grandchildren, who were in their 20s. He said that they fully supported his efforts to draw attention to the climate emergency.

“The rocking chairs symbolize the fact that we are a group of older Americans deeply concerned about the climate emergency,” he said. He emphasized the climate was not a state of crisis but it was a state of emergency. “The tides are rising and the next two generations are imminently threatened. Species across the globe are going extinct and humans will be next,” he said.

Freeman Allen held a banner he made outside Chase Bank. He joined the climate action on behalf of his six grandchildren who supported his effort. Photo: J. Zangas/DCMediaGroup

Another elder sitting next to him said climate was an issue beginning to affect everyone. Susan Flashman, a retired electrician from a local union in the region, was worried that the U.S. was not doing enough. “Being a large and powerful country, we should be at the front because the countries suffering the most are the ones least able to help,” she said. “Everything is warming up and its changing the whole world.” She spoke about global regional climate impacts like last year’s floods in Pakistan, unprecedented fire storms and droughts in California, and the fact that there was almost no snow this year in the DC area.

A scientist was one of many who spoke during the rally against the banks. Rose Abramoff, who was fired from Oak Ridge National Laboratory for holding a banner during a protest, reading ’Out of the lab and into the streets,‘ said that most scientists want to speak out about the climate emergency but their organizations have warned them not to.

“What was summarized in the IPCC report yesterday is that in the next 10 years we expect to exceed 1.5 degrees celsius, at which point more tipping points become more likely than not. Widespread death of corals, abrupt melting of permafrost, collapse of Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets are things already possible and partially underway,” she said.

Abramoff also admonished that “as a society we have chosen to optimize infinite economic growth which is incompatible with sustainable resource use. Two options await us in the immediate future, climate crisis or climate revolution. Lets choose revolution.”

Later during a second march, activists used water colors on a street art project, resulting in one arrest. None of the elders were reported arrested picketing outside the four bank branches.

Third Act is helping to start a grassroots campaign for the public to transfer their money to ‘green banks’ or financial institutions that do not invest in carbon based fossil fuel projects. This will help pressure the banks to stop investing in fossil fuel energy source projects such as methane gas pipelines, methane extraction, and coal fired generation.


DC Community Protects Drag Queen Story Hour Reading For Children

DC Media Group - Sun, 03/19/2023 - 23:37
The Rainbow Defense Coalition stood between the Drag Queen Story Hour and a hate group to protect children and their parents while they attended a book reading. Photo: J. Zangas/DCMG

Washington DC—Once again a diverse group of citizens from the Washington DC community showed up to a Drag Queen Story Hour with their rainbow parasols and rainbow flags to protect it from a hate group attempt to disrupt it. The child’s book reading venue was held in Southeast Washington DC on Saturday where similar events have been held.

Inside the children’s story venue, Drag Queen Tara Hoot read stories to the children and their parents while outside a diverse grassroots group calling itself the Rainbow Defense Coalition twirled colorful umbrellas and danced to music playing over a loudspeaker—completely shutting down the hate group nearby. The citizens lined the entire block outside. The Rainbow Defense Coalition concept has sprung into action in many other States in response to right-wing attacks on Drag Queen Story Hour venues, including Florida, Arizona, Maryland, and Virginia.

The hate groups have been spurred by conspiracy and misinformation about the purpose of the Drag Queen Story Hour venues. Right-wing groups have threatened educational community building with harmful outcomes with intimidation, threats, and violence. Several right-wing extremist groups have already assaulted and bullied citizens at previous story hour readings.

The self-described religious group outside Saturday’s Drag Queen Story Hour bull-horned pseudo-religious doctrine and rhetoric, with several in its group trying unsuccessfully to access the venue where the children and their parents were enjoying the reading venue. But those in the Parasol Brigade formed lines with their umbrellas blocking them from the reading hour. They sang and chanted, drowning out the hate language. Others from supporting groups provided security by tracking infiltrators’ movements to keep them at bay. About a dozen DC police stood listlessly around their cars nearby while the volunteer citizens coordinated the street security action.

In the end, their coordination allowed the reading venue to go on without a hiccup, interruption, or incident. After the venue ended inside, escorts saw children and their parents safely on their way behind umbrellas and flags.

Several in the hate group objected over their bullhorn to being compared to Proud Boys, a nationalist group that has bullied and harassed Drag Queen Story Hour venues across the region, but the self-described religious hate group came across in language, tone, and aggressiveness similar to Proud Boy hate groups.

“We Keep Us Safe“

The Rainbow Defense Coalition (recently renamed) has been showing up to Drag Queen Story Hours because the threats from right-wing groups have grown aggressive both online and in presence when the groups show up to harass and disrupt the reading venues. Police have provided scant protection to the venues, if any at all, so citizens organized among themselves. The citizens provide essential support with large numbers of allies and supporters. Their security and organizational tactics have been successful, keeping the venues secure and well-monitored for threats against the business hosting the events, the parents and their children attending the events, and the drag queens holding the events.

Queen Tara Hoot dispensed bubbles and danced after finishing the reading venue—to the delight of admirers. Photo: J. Zangas/DCMG

After the reading inside ended, Queen Tara Hoot joined the Rainbow Defense Coalition outside, thanking them for their support and volunteerism. Tara Hoot held toy unicorn bubble blowers in each hand and danced outside on the sidewalk to celebrate another successful educational event with the community. The volunteers turned a stressful situation into a scene of dance, laughter, levity and fun, while building community spirit in troubled times. But underneath there was growing worry among many because in many States antiTrans and Drag legislation is being introduced.

For the Trans community recent developments in several States’ legislatures threaten their access healthcare, their identity, access to public space, their human rights, and their lives. For the Drag community some States’ legislators want to take away their rights to perform at public venues, including Drag Queen Story Hours. Some of the legislation being considered is intentionally vague, making it difficult to tell directly that it targets the minorities affected, but the results will undoubtedly harm the Trans community.

Anti-Trans Bills Multiply In States’ Legislatutres

Over the past three months States’ legislatures have tripled the number of anti-Trans bills pending approval. Some bills have already passes States votes in legistures and await final signature. If all the these bills pass they will remove healthcare access rights for transgender persons, access to public spaces for drag queens, threaten their rights to exist, and hasten the end of human rights for other minority classes of the LGBTQIA2S community.

The passage of such bills also signal possible overturn of same sex marriage laws, and decreasing access to healthcare for those with unwanted pregnancies.

According to Trans Legislation, an organization tracking bills being proposed nationwide, there have been 471 bills introduced in 44 states to reduce or limit Trans rights. Of those, 16 bills have passed, 415 are still active, and 40 have been defeated.

Among the States considering anti-Trans legislation is Florida, which now has 14 bills pending. One of the bills, FL S1674 requires exclusive restroom access based on gender, and if it passes, will provide criminal penalties for anyone in violation of the law.

Another Florida bill still active, FL S1320 prevents public educators from referring to gender preferred pronouns, and restricts instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Arizona has 11 anti-Trans bills pending, including SB1702 which prohibits trans hormone therapies, and SB1001 which restricts public educators from referring to a the biological gender of a student.

Access to pending anti-Trans and anti-Drag bills in States legislatures and updates to the progress of the bills can be found here.

Trans Day of Vengeance

The spate of legislation has prompted the Trans community to organize in a way not seen since the Stonewall Riots in New York City 53 years ago. The Trans community is planning a march in Washington DC on the Weekend of April 1 and plan to take their opposition straight to the seat of government at the U.S. Supreme Court. They will have their own security detail accompanying them.

A collective of activists is planning actions in response to State Legislation designed to take their rights to healthcare, limit their public access, and ban their public identities—in effect, activists say they “are fighting back against false narratives, criminalization and eradication of their existence.”

Concerned Neighbors Repulse Proud Boy Hate Group On Day of Rage

DC Media Group - Sat, 02/25/2023 - 23:57
Hundreds of concerned neighbors fed up with a hate group’s oppression stood shoulder to shoulder to block the group—but only one supremest showed. Photo: courtesy of @literarymouse ©️

Washington DC—A grassroots citizens collective calling themselves the Parasol Patrol decisively sidelined a hate group’s attempt to disrupt another Drag Queen Story Hour held in Southeast Washington DC on Saturday morning. Citizens who were fed up with the violent hate group’s attacks in local communities showed up by the hundreds and formed a block-long array of rainbow colored umbrellas, rainbow flags, and grassroots community solidarity to shield children and their parents from the hate group’s rhetoric, taunts, and oppression. But only one supremest was seen showing up, although it is supected that hate group scouts came but left the venue early because of the massive show of concerned citizen solidarity.

Harriet’s Wildest Dreams sponsored the Drag Story Hour which was an all-seats-taken venue with parents and their children enjoying a continuing educational series of children’s book readings about self-empowerment and self-expression. Queen Tara Hoot read to the children and their parents.

After the children’s reading was over Queen Tara Hoot came out into the street to thank the many neighbors who formed a line with their umbrellas and to tell them a story from memory. The story ‘Be Brave Little One,’ was about how to be brave in unsettling times, how to remain calm, and how to remain focused and stay on task in challenging circumstances. After telling the story the Queen told the gathered neighbors of spreading legislative efforts in other States to erase Drag Queen existence, cancel Transgender healthcare, and make Drag Queen art and culture a felony. They warned the neighbors of troubling times ahead if the legislation is not stopped, urged them to become knowledgeable of its effects on civil society, and informed them about aspects of the legislation and its impingement on minority rights.

The Proud Boy hate group has latched onto certain conspiracy information being propagated over right-wing social media channels about Drag Queen Story Hour events. Proud Boy hate groups have been showning up to harass and shut down dozens of the Drag Story Hour events in States across the country.

Today’s event coincided with the hate group self professed ‘Day of Rage’ in which Proud Boys came out on social media threatening Jewish venues.

Last Saturday about 30 members of the local chapter Old Line Proud Boy hate group based in Maryland assaulted multiple citizens who had formed a human wall with rainbow umbrellas to keep the hate group out of Loyalty bookstore in Silver Spring. Store management which sponsored last week’s reading hour, thanked the citizens of the Parasol Patrol for protecting the children while condemning the extremists for attacking citizens.

Last Saturday’s incident at Loyalty Bookstore in Silver Spring may have been a tipping point, however. Over the last week civil rights and grassroots groups connected across several States to buckle down and organize against hate groups and hate legislation. No one expected the turnout of citizen supporters to be so successful as it was today.

One Hate Group Antagonist Showed Up

DC Metropolitan Police were at today’s event and only one person showed up in opposition to the story hour Saturday. Online sleuths used several close-up photos taken of the lone antagonist today to identify him as Bryan Betancur, also known as Bryan Clooney and also known as Maximo Clooney. Betancur was among the 1000s at the January 6, 2020 U.S. Capitol insurrection who tried to stop certification of States’ votes confirming President Joe Biden’s election win. Betancur was arrested on January 18, 2020 for involvement in the insurrection. At the time of his arrest he was on parole for an earlier conviction and was wearing a GPS location device as part of his parole agreement. The device tracked him to the U.S. Capitol grounds on January 6.

For his part in the insurrection he pled guilty to charges of trespassing onto a secure Federal facility and was sentenced to 4 months detention and a $500.00 fine. A U.S. Department of Justice plea agreement Betancur and his attorney signed shows he understood that additional convictions after the plea agreement could nullify the agreement.

It is not clear that his appearance at today’s Drag Story Hour was a violation of the terms of his plea agreement or a violation of his previous parole. But one of the citizens in the Parasol Patrol witnessed Betancur approaching the Parasol Patrol and making a white supremacist gestures with his hands.

The witness, who identified themselves as Bubbles, said of Betancur “We first spotted him coming from the metro. He looked over at us at [name redacted], which is very obviously a queer space with pride flags everywhere, and immediately crossed the street to come toward us. He got close to us and flashed the white power hand sign at the owners, and then crossed the street again and tried to head to story hour.”

Bubbles said also that when Betancur tried to go into the story hour intersection police eventually removed him. Police were insensitive to escort him past the parasol patrol.

DC Police were video taped by @DCHomos escorting Betancur away from the Drag Story Hour on Saturday after citizens told police he was there. Police escorted him him up 8th Strret leave to the Eastern Market metro station. Police may have blundered any goodwill they had earned by showing up to protect the community, as officer Riley, who was being videotaped escorting Betancur, closed the entrance for a short time so he could get onto a train. Police officer Riley, who escorted Betancur looked backwards towards @DCHomo a videographer, he and said, “I feel threatened!”

Incidentally this latest story hour took place just across from the U.S. Marine Barracks at 8th & I Streets Southeast. Thursday was the 78th anniversary of the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima, an epic island battle in the South Pacific during WWII—a World War fought against fascist ideology during which 50 million died worldwide. Nearly 7000 Marines died fighting that island battle alone. The Marines were not involved in today’s incident.

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Proud Boy Hate Group Assaults Citizens At Children’s Book Event

DC Media Group - Mon, 02/20/2023 - 11:32
The Parasol Patrol stand holding hands and colorful umbrellas outside Loyalty Books, preventing a hate group from entering to disrupt Drag Queen Story Hour. Photo: DCMediaGroup

Silver Spring, Maryland—A family day story hour at a local book store for children and their parents turned violent outside when about 30 Proud Boys from the local chapter of the Old Line Proud Boys attempted to gain access to the event on Saturday. The hate group members beat, kicked, and stomped on several citizens with one sustaining open flesh injuries to the face. A medic provided first aid on the scene but no hospitalizations were reported.

The Loyalty Book Store and the Parasol Patrol had anticipated PBs would show up to the community friendly book reading—an event sponsored by Loyally Books, so Parasol Patrol formed a line on the sidewalk before PBs arrived. The Parasol Patrol effectivly blocked PBs from entering Loyalty Books with deescalation tactics. Loyalty Books had closed its doors to PBs to protect the children and parents from harassment. Maryland State Police were on the scene during the assaults but did little to protect the citizens outside. In fact as video shows, it was the Parasol Patrol that protected the families inside the venue from PBs, not police, as some news stories erroneously reported on social media.

This particular individual hate group has shown up to events in Washington DC and to other States to disrupt Drag Queen Story Hour readings and to harass families attending them. So it wasn’t a surprise that they would show up on Saturday to intimidate the families and children from attending the latest Drag Queen Story Hour, according to members of the Parasol Patrol.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated the PB organization as a violent domestic hate group. Its leader and members were involved in the insurrection on January 6, 2020, in which a Capitol Police officer died, over 130 Capitol Police were injured or maimed, and an insurrectionist was shot dead inside the Capitol. They were also the MAGA attack on Black Lives Matter Plaza signage in Washington DC, on November 7, 2019 during the Presidential election and in another incident involving hundreds from their group, assaulted scores on the weekend of a pro-Trump rally December 12, 2019. They were present at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017. During all these events there were citizens injured and property damage. After the Presidential election they skirmished in the streets and burned Black Lives Matter signage of venerated churches  in downtown Washington DC.

Book Reading Inside Was A Success

Inside Loyally Books, the family friendly event went off largely undisturbed with about 20 families enjoying the Drag Queen Story Hour, according to an inside source who spoke with DCMediaGroup on condition they not be identified. They were not affiliated with the Loyalty Bookstore and they were not one of the parents of the children attending.

They described a scene of joy and of children and parents enjoying themselves who were given friendly greetings with smiles when they arrived. The Drag Queen storyteller, Charlemagne Chateau, engaged the children by encouraging them to participate in dancing to the Hokey Pokey and to enjoy pantomimes as they read to them from books such as Karamo Brown’s ‘I Am OK To Feel.’ In this way the storyteller built children’s interest for books and of reading, and broadened their imaginations, which was the intention of the family event. Parents watched as Chateau interacted and engaged the children to participate.

The subjects of the stories promoted positive self images, allowed children to express themselves, and taught self-love and self-empowerment, according to the source. The author, Karamo Brown, is a celebrated media personality nationally known for his messages of inclusion and self-empowerment of oppressed groups such as the LGBTQIA2S community.

A rainbow flag placed over the window on the inside of Loyalty Bookstore facing the sidewalk, blocked the view outside where the PB assaults took place. The flag was in anticipation of an expected PB disturbance outside and amplified music outside made it all but impossible for children to hear the mayhem outside. The Parasol Patrol played Disney music and sang along with it over a speaker to frustrate the PBs and drown out their chants. And it worked—to a point.

PB Actions Turn Violent

As the PBs realized they would not be getting disruptive access to the bookstore to stop the reading, they began pushing, punching, and kicking a line of community citizens who call themselves the Parasol Patrol. The disturbing scenes captured on video taken by several in the Parasol Patrol depicted the violence. The PBs, who hid their faces behind black skeleton masks and wore combat grade flak jackets, attacked and shoved citizens, destroyed or shredded their umbrellas, and body-slammed one into a glass window cutting their face. Video and photos provided to DCMediaGroup show Maryland State Police on the scene but doing little to prevent injuries or protect the venue from PB mayhem. Police did eventually move between between PBs and the Parasol Patrol Police but only for about a minute and after several were already beaten and injured. Police have made no arrests as of our Sunday publication.

Kristen Mink, Council Member, 5th District of Montgomery County, was stomped and kicked by one of PBs outside Loyalty Books. “Proud Boys showed up in Silver Spring and got violent today, trying to scare away families and children attending Drag Story Hour at Loyalty Books. But the community held a wall of rainbow safety and support. The kids had a great time and were none the wiser. We will never back down,” she posted on Twitter.

She also released a video segment showing a PB assaulting her. “I looked down when I felt someone stomp on my foot. An adult. I just.” The video she released on Twitter also shows the same PB kicking her in the thigh.

One in the Parasol Patrol said the PB assault was an escalation of violence not seen before at any previous Drag Queen Story Hour.

One of the members of the hate group who menaced the Drag Queen Story Hour. Photo: DCMediaGroup

One of the citizens who showed up and joined the Parasol Patrol, said he was there because “Drag Queen Story Hour events have been consistently targeted by protesters who have harassed parents and their children.” John Stimpson was right up front in the line when PBs tried to push their way into the bookstore and he was “definitely shaken by the experience. I wasn’t sure how far they were willing to escalate, however I’m very proud that I was there and I that I was a part of keeping families safe from a violent hate group.”

Stimpson wrote by email of his feelings about the PB group, saying, “The PB claim to be there to protect kids, but that’s a ridiculous lie. The idea that any of the kids who came to this event with their loving parents would be comforted by the presence of intimidating strangers in skull masks is absurd on its face. The truth is they were their to intimidate and harass a marginalized group of people, who in their narrow minded worldview should not be allowed to exist in public spaces.”

Stimpson also wrote that the responsibility for the well-being of others in the face of hate groups is a community-wide imperative. “None of us are free until we are free. It’s vital that people who claim to support LGBT people get off the sidelines and into the fight for their rights.”

Michelle Peterson, a local resident of Silver Spring, also joined in the front of Parasol Patrol line to protect the community venue from PB hate. Peterson was also assaulted several times, being struck by several PBs and shoved as she stood next to others on the sidewalk, but she sustained no serious injuries. She wrote by message to DCMediaGroup about her experiences, saying she totally misread the tone when she first arrived—the PBs were far more confrontational than she expected. “I was holding an umbrella and a Proud Boy started leaning on it. I think it’s pretty clear in the video, you can see me trying to brace the umbrella by the handle, then I reach to support the fabric portion as he leans on it further. Then all the shoving breaks out. And one of the Proud Boys started trying to reach over the top of the umbrellas and started swinging. I wasn’t injured, but my hat was pulled from my head,” she said.

Peterson believes that people are allowed to live as they see fit and just as families of Silver Spring are allowed to live and raise their families, so are others, such as the PBs. But she drew the line on the PBs who willfully imposed violence on others. “No one is forcing anyone to go to these events. These are families that are part of or allies with the LGBT+ community, and they deserve the right to raise their children to be accepting of the community. Same as the Proud Boys are allowed to indoctrinate their children by taking them to church weekly and filling their heads with with racist nonsense. The LGBT+ community deserves our support in their fight for the right to simply exist.”

Loyalty Bookstore Heralds Actions of Parasol Patrol while Condemning Hate Group

The next day Loyalty Bookstore posted the following message on its Instagram channel:

“Yesterday afternoon Loyalty came under attack from hate groups who had tried to force their way into our store during a Drag Queen Story Hour with physical violence. The incredible Parasol Patrol and the Montgomery Country Chapter of Drag Story Hour did wonders to not only to push back and hold the safe space, but to keep cheering and singing joyfully in the face of hate speech and disgusting threats. Because of their efforts, the children inside the store got to enjoy doing the Hokey Pokey, hearing beautiful books read aloud, and basking in the presence of Charlemagne Chateau.

“We are incredibly grateful to the volunteers and our wonderful drag queen for focusing on joy and safety.

“Loyalty will continue with our Drag Queen Story Hour because it is an awesome time for kids and because there is no hate or violence stronger than our community.”

Loyalty Bookstore has put out a request for community help to support its mission of inclusivity of marginalized groups by either volunteering or donating at its website or by purchasing books from their website.

Police Were Ineffective At Protecting Community From Proud Boy Attacks

Twenty minutes after Proud Boys began shoving and striking the Parasol Patrol, police arrived and stepped in between citizens and Proud Boys, according to Sadie Kuhns, who joined the Parasol Patrol outside the story hour venue. They said police were neither helpful nor protective of those attending the story hour venue, and it was the Parasol Patrol who kept Proud Boys out of the Loyalty Bookstore. Video was shaky but it clearly shows who the aggressors were—and it was the Proud Boys. (See video at foot of story)

“Police did not break it up. Out of multiple assaults by Proud Boys, there was only one moment they stepped in to separate, and they pushed us back. They kept us separate for maybe 30 seconds and then stood in the street watching it all happen,” Kuhns said.

Kuhns also pointed out that police were not on the scene when Proud Boys first arrived and it was the Parasol Patrol that kept them out of the bookstore. “Police were not proactive. No barricades, no dispersal, no police line,” they said. They also said it was “just a community creating a barrier of flags and umbrellas and defending a bookstore full of children from neo-nazis.”

In The End Children’s Anonymity and Families Rights Were Protected

After the venue ended The Parasol Patrol formed a gateway to shield parents and children from PBs. They ushered them safely on their way home.

Some expressed concern and surprise that PBs showed up in Silver Spring, a diverse community which welcomes everyone from all walks of life.



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Noam Chomsky Joins Assange Supporters at National Press Club For Belmarsh Tribunal

DC Media Group - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 14:44

Washington DC—Prolific political scientist Noam Chomsky and Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg held court along with noted press rights advocates, constitutional lawyers, and journalists over the continuing imprisonment of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. The Belmarsh tribunal was held Friday, 20 January in the spirit of the Russell-Sartre Tribunals of the Vietnam War era. The Assange Tribunal was held at the National Press Club 13 years after Julian Assange appeared at the National Press to speak about the need for a free press. The event and it was open to the public.

Other noted speakers included Jeremy Corbin, the former Labor Party leader of Parliament in England.

Julian Assange, journalist and founder of the Wikileaks website, which released a trove of classified U.S. intelligence transfered to it by Chelsea Manning, has been credited with turning the tide against the U.S. military occupation of Iraq. The release of the documents was the catalyst that triggered a wave of Iraqi opinion against the Iraqi War and its eventual end.

Assange has been held in solitary confinement at the Belmarsh maximum security prison in London, pending extradition to the United States for trial. The U.S. State Department is seeking Assange’s extradition on the grounds that he violated the U.S. Espionage Act.

The Belmarsh Tribunal brought together a range of expert witnesses from constitutional lawyers, to acclaimed journalists and human rights defenders. Its purpose was to present the evidence of the attack on publishers such as Julian Assange, and to seek justice for the crimes he exposed.

If the U.S. is successful in extraditing Assange, he could face trial in the Northern Virginia, in the same court and with the same judge that prosecuted Chelsea Manning for his refusal to testify in a deposition against Julian Assange.

Political scientist and intellectual Noam Chomsky is one of a growing chorus who disputed any extradition justification on the grounds that the U.S. neither has the legal authority to extradite an Australian national, nor the legal basis to prosecute him. “Why should the United States have the power to control what others are doing elsewhere in the world? It’s an outlandish situation.”

The tribunal also hosted Daniel Ellsberg, an employee of Rand Corporation who in 1971 leaked classified documents known as the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times revealing the U.S. was much more extensivly involvement in the Vietnam War than the public was led to believe. Reports published in the New York Times and Washington Post about the Vietnam War helped turn the tide of public support against that war and eventually led to the U.S. exit from Vietnam in 1975.

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Starbucks Coffee Shop Workers Stike As Labor Unions Vow Support

DC Media Group - Tue, 12/20/2022 - 11:09
Starbucks baristas went on an unprecedented 3-day strike in 100 stores. Baristas voted to unionize and put Starbucks corporate leadership on notice about poor working conditions. Photo: J. Zangas/ DCMG

Arlington, Virginia—One year ago it would have been unthinkable that leaders from every major U.S. labor union would show up to support a small group of baristas at the Courthouse Arlington Starbucks. But seven baristas who recently voted to form a union at the Courthouse Arlington Starbucks were swarmed with union support from across the DC-Maryland and Virginia region. Unions promised to stand with and give undivided support to Starbucks baristas in their negotiations for collective bargaining rights with Starbucks corporation.

Union leadership from the AFL-CIO, Teamsters, SEIU 512, DC Nurses, Teachers Unions, and many other unions joined hands in solidarity for Starbucks Workers United, the union working to gain collective bargaining rights for Starbucks baristas across the country. So far baristas at 270 Starbucks coffee shop locations have voted to unionize.

Over 1000 Baristas went on a “Double Down” strike in nearly 100 coffee shops on Friday, December 16. The 3 day strike was scheduled to last until Sunday, but some coffee shop employees voted to strike only for a day. The Starbucks at Arlington Courthouse, a coffee shop in Northern Virginia, close to Washington DC, voted to strike for 1 day. The collective action was unprecedented and hit Starbucks in its pockets as customers were turned away Friday morning from nearly 100 closed coffee shops.

“A year ago today, a group of working class baristas organized the first unionized Starbucks store in the United States. In the span of one year, we went from ZERO unionized Starbucks stores to 270 and almost 7,000 union workers.” Starbuck Workers United tweeted on 9 December, the anniversary of the successful vote to unionize their first store in Buffalo, New York.

“We are not anti-Starbucks. We are Starbucks! We cannot reach our full potential if we are understaffed, overextended, exhausted, and burned-out,” Starbucks Workers United wrote on its website. So far Starbucks Workers United has not called for a product boycott but has urged other union members not to give Starbucks gift cards this holiday.

Organizers of the Double Down Strike asked supporters to sign a petition on the Union website. Organizers were also seeking donations of support for striking baristas because, of course, they were not getting paid for striking. The union was compensating baristas a portion of their lost wages to minimize the economic strain it would cause them.

The wave of labor union support couldn’t be coming at a better time for Starbucks baristas as Starbucks has ramped up pressure against union organizers at stores voting to unionize. Starbucks Workers United reported bullying from managers, sudden shift changes, reduced hours, firings for small infractions, and store closures for employees and stores voting to unionize.

Starbucks Workers United has filed over 900 worker complaints on behalf of its workers with the National Labor Relations Board, a government agency set up to arbitrate issues between corporations and employees. The complaints were reported since the first Starbucks voted to unionize on December 9, 2021, and they stem from bullying, firings, and sudden store closures at locations voting to unionize.

On November 17, Starbucks Workers United membership organized a “Red Cup Rebellion” strike which closed over 200 stores for a day. It signaled Starbucks executives that the union was committed to negotiating for improved working conditions for baristas. But Starbucks corporate officials still declined to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement.

Starbucks Workers United may become known as the ‘little union that could’ if union organizers successfully negotiate livable wages, stable shifts, 40 hour work weeks, and affordable benefits, which are some of the key issues impacting baristas.

Wave Of Bullying Comes After Union Vote

Sam Dukore, a shift supervisor at the Arlington Courthouse Starbucks said Starbucks is not negotiating with the union. His efforts with other baristas at Courthouse Arlington Starbucks to get better working conditions has centered it in what may turn out to be a major battle in the labor movement for worker’s rights to collective bargaining. But voting to ‘go union’ has come with a cost.

Dukore said that after September 30 when his store employees announced their intention to vote on whether or not to join the union, management began to pressure workers with write-ups for minor infractions. The work culture shifted as management used micro-aggressive tactics to bully baristas, according to Dukore. The write-ups were issued for infractions that before then were rarely given at the Arlington Courthouse Starbucks. The write-ups became even more common place after the Arlington Courthouse Starbucks voted to unionize on November 7.

Write-ups were filed against barristas for being late to a shift clock-in by 1 minute, even though baristas had been at the store for their health check. Baristas are not allowed to clock in until their health check is completed. Other write-ups included uniform infractions for improper shoes and write-ups for jeans with small holes or tears, something management did not monitor before the union vote, according to Dukore.

The write-up system is the basis Starbucks uses to terminate employment. Write-ups spell out that a barista can be terminated at any point and it does not follow any particular escalation path. Dukore feels the Starbucks termination system is ambiguous and being used arbitrarily to retaliate. The feeling is that a flurry of write-ups are being used to punish baristas at his store for voting to unionize.

Without a union, Starbucks regards its baristas as ‘at-will’ employees and under the Virginia State labor statutes, can terminate employment without a reason. At-will employment means that an employer can terminate an employee at any time for any reason, except an illegal one, or for no reason without incurring legal liability. Likewise, an employee is free to leave a job at any time for any or no reason with no adverse legal consequences, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures website.

The work environment at the Arlington Courthouse Starbucks became more adversarial and stressful after the union vote, according to Dukore.

One of the Arlington Courthouse Baristas was fired this week but the facts of their termination were not available to DCMediaGroup. Starbucks Workers United has not yet signaled whether it will file an complaint with the NLRB in this case.

Bullying was reportedly happening at other locations such as in Memphis, Tennessee where a Federal Judge ordered Starbucks to reinstate seven baristas it had fired for organizing and voting to join the union.

We Will Stand With You And Behind You

There’s nothing like a friend that stands with you in a time of need and that was the theme spoken by Liz Shuler, President of the AFL-CIO, a labor union representing over 12 1/2 million U.S. workers.

“Workers said enough is enough. They were tired of being treated with a lack of dignity and respect,” said Shuler. “We aren’t asking for much. We are going to keep fighting until we get a contract with Starbucks Workers United right in front of the labor movement leading the way.”

Leadership from every major union joined Shuyer in a vow to support Starbucks Workers United.

Shuler said that 12 1/2 million workers were at her shoulder and her message was clear, “if you have a union thats how you’re protected.”

Starbucks Succeeds But Baristas Left Behind

Starbucks reported in its digital magazine it had 15,444 locations, of which about 9,000 shops were licensed by their corporate headquarters as of January 2022. It also claims over 33,000 locations in 80 countries globally. With a reported $116 billion in gross revenue globally, why would a large corporation like Starbucks fight workers’ efforts to join a union? Its about money and power sharing, said George Atallah, Assistant Executive Director of External Affairs, NFL Players Association.

The NFL Player’s Association has joined in collective union efforts to compel Starbucks CEO, Howard Shultz to respect Starbucks baristas and their efforts to unionize and negotiate with Starbucks Workers United for a collective bargaining agreement. Starbucks attorneys have so far walked out of every meeting within a few minutes of the start of negotiations, refusing to bargain in good faith with Starbucks Workers United representatives, according to Atallah.

“Two issues we have found in our experience with management where they are not interested in negotiations in good faith are money and control,“ said Atallah. “There is plenty of money to go around [but] it can be terrifying to corporations to cede some of that control to its work force,” said Atallah. It is because “they are effectively unable to do what they want.”

For now Starbucks’ profit is very good for CEO Howard Schultz, a billionaire worth $3.7 billion who also owns a super yacht he named “Pi” which is valued at $118 million. With a glass-bottom swimming pool, spa facilities, and a helipad, it is a crown jewel of Starbucks’ opulence. Schultz has also gone a stock buyback spree, amassing over 210,000 additional shares earlier this year which he added to the $1.75 billion in Starbucks stock he already owns.

Starbucks reported in its digital magazine it had 15,444 locations, of which about 9,000 shops were licensed by their corporate headquarters as of January 2022. It also claims over 33,000 locations in 80 countries globally.

Starbucks reported $116 billion in gross revenue globally, and satisfied stock owners. Shultz is opposed to unionization, but as a wealthy billionaire with a glass bottom swimming pool in his 254 foot yacht named “Pi”, why would a successful corporation with excellent revenue flow with everything going for it not fight workers’ efforts to join a union?

Atallah looks at it this way, “Even if their practices are unfair, unjust, and not right, those things [worker’s rights] are not in line with the win-wins we talk about with labor management. They don’t get to just keep all they money for themselves and not treat the employees fairly. There has to be a way where a happy barista means revenue for the company.”



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Activists Disrupt Forced Birth Banquet And Outrage ‘Fake Pregnancy Healthcare Center’ Supporters

DC Media Group - Sun, 12/04/2022 - 21:52
Two grassroots reproductive rights groups Our Rights DC and Shut Down DC disrupted the annual Capital Hill Pregnancy Center Banquet fundraiser for propagandizing reproductive healthcare options for pregnant people.

Washington, DC—On Thursday civil rights and reproductive rights groups Our Rights DC and Shut Down DC disrupted the annual fundraising banquet hosted by the Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia. Seven activists registered and received invitations to the full-course banquet but did not go to donate to its forced-birth cause or support the hosts’ forced-birth message. They infiltrated the dinner to disrupt it and put hosts and attendees on notice that the fight to reclaim reproductive freedoms for everyone in every State was not going to end anytime soon.

Outside the Marriott hotel over 35 activists chanted and waved flags, banners, and signs, while Arlington Police kept them outside the hotel in the chilly air, off of its property, and on the sidewalk near the street. But that didn’t keep patrons from hearing the boisterous protest. Several groups from the banquet ventured down to photograph and take selfies with the protest group in the background. This drew into question outrage hosts expressed to right-wing Christian media outlets in response to protester’s disruption of their banquet.

The next few days, right-wing Christian media echo-chamber recoiled en masse criticizing the six disruptors (actually there were seven disruptors) who were on the guest list and invited by email. The disruptors attended as Christian guests wearing crosses and other religious garb and enjoyed a free meal. Right-wing and Christian media outlets described their outbursts as “obscene” and “vulgar.” The disruptors did use profanity and security quickly escorted them out of the banquet—one disruptor was shoved by a man at her back as she was already walking towards the exit.

The disruptors celebrated their outbursts as a big win, and agreed afterwards the main course fare of baked chicken was well served but the cheesecake desserts we’re a bit on the small side. Vincent, one of the disruptors who also displayed a handful of bread from the table at which he sat, grabbed it because he did not have time to eat before he was escorted out of the banquet, so he shared his bread with the others. Several of them mused and wondered if the lost loaf was an omen of things to come for the pro-life movement.

The disruptions were timed as jump-out popcorn actions during a speech given by Janet Durig, the Executive Director of Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center.

“Fake clinics hurt people. We held this protest to bring attention to the harm they do, and to highlight the dangerous efforts of Erin Hawley, who is actively working to ban abortion and harm queer kids,” said Sadie Kuhns of OurRightsDC.

“For every real abortion clinic in the U.S. there are at least four fake clinics. Most people probably don’t realize these crisis pregnancy centers exist right here in the DC area,” they said.

The headline speaker was Erin Hawley, wife of Josh Hawley, (R-Mo) who has drawn scrutiny for his role and support of the January 6, 2020 insurrectionists at the U.S. Capitol. “The headline speaker didn’t even show up but spoke on video and their speech was atrocious,” one of the disruptors added.

Meanwhile outside the Marriott activists chanted “Thank God for abortion!” and “Blood on your hands!” to counter critics and demonstrate they haven’t completely been claimed by godlessness. “We won’t give up this fight, healthcare is a human right,” was another chant to notify those watching from above and inside the hotel the activists would continue to show up to reclaim reproductive healthcare in States limiting or banning it as long as reproductive healthcare is being denied to anyone under the Dobbs ruling and subsequent States’ trigger laws.

A projectionist beamed a light-show of messages onto the facade of the Crystal Gateway Marriott, reading ‘Respect Existence or Expect Resistence’ and ‘Beware Toxic Political Poison.’ Several other activists blew soap bubbles with toy wands. There was also an automatic bubble maker. The ‘bubble resistence brigade’ has grown as an act of joy through resistence on a theme the activists have added to their toolkit. They blow bubbles to poke fun at claims by political conservatives in media that they are lawless, making too much noise in neighborhoods at the homes of conservative Justices, attempting to influence Supreme Court Justices, and should therefore be arrested for their actions.

Activists have come out saying such claims are not reality based but propaganda and police posted at right-wing justices’ homes have not yet arrested any of the activists for exercising their Frst-Amendment rights. Activists have consistently liaised with police to be aware of the limitations of their demonstrations.

A root purpose of the banquet action was to expose the Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center as a “fake clinic” that was part of a link of thousands of such centers across the country that does not provide reproductive healthcare options such as abortions to pregnant persons in crisis as a bonafide pregnancy clinic would provide. The Pregnancy Crisis Center network is self described as a “faith” based network.

Activists also wanted to debunk claims that centers such as Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center were apolitical—to the contrary, they said in a press release that Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center headlined Erin Hawley via video at its banquet, a lawyer with anti-choice and antii-LGBTQIA2S+ far-right-wing group Alliance Defending Freedom. Erin Hawley was centered in efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade on June 24 earlier this year. It was a long-running campaign she helped come to fruition.

ShutDownDC said in a press release that the Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center is a fake clinic—an institution that claims to provide health care to pregnant people but in actuality is run by anti-abortion extremists who use tactics including lies, coercion, and shame to pressure people out of terminating their pregnancies.“

According to Planned Parenthood website, Crisis Pregnancy Centers such as Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center “aren’t legitimate medical clinics, so they don’t have to follow HIPAA and keep information private, like most real health care providers do.”

According to the CDC, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a federal law that required the creation of national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge.

One sign read “Jesus loves abortions.”

The Planned Parenthood gives reputable reproductive health information while warning that “crisis pregnancy centers could even give information to other anti-abortion organizations or use it to harass you. This could be especially concerning if you live in a state with anti-abortion laws.”

Planned Parenthood gives a list of warning signs that a pregnant person has been duped by a crisis pregnancy center. “Crisis pregnancy centers don’t provide abortion or offer a full range of health care, and they won’t give you honest facts about sexual health and your pregnancy option—their goal is to spread misinformation and propaganda,” the website reads.

A database of crisis pregnancy centers can be cross checked here and here.

A locator for a Planned Parenthood near you, a reputable healthcare provider, can be found here on their site.

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Starbucks Workers Go On Nation Wide Strike In Red Cup Rebellion

DC Media Group - Thu, 11/17/2022 - 16:45
Starbucks workers took place in a nationwide strike earlier today with over 116 stores taking part. Pictured are workers from the Court House location, Arlington Virginia. Photo: J. Zangas/DCMediaGroup

Arlington, Virginia—The Starbucks at Court House on Clarendon Boulevard was one of 116 coffee shops nationwide that was forced to close for a day because its Baristas went on strike on Thursday morning. Workers refused to open their store and report to work over poor working conditions, poor benefits and low pay, unpredictable hours, and forced understaffing at locations nationwide which they say places workers and their families under undue economic strain. The “Red Cup Rebellion” strike was a also a response to Starbucks management’s refusal to negotiate with its union in good faith.

The strike took place on the day Starbucks rolled out its ‘Red Cup Day’ special offer in efforts to hit back at management for failing to negotiate in good faith with Starbucks Workers United (SB Workers United Union). SB Workers United Union is an employee-led union seeking accountability from management and a share in the corporate decisions that affects workers’ conditions.

The strike was also timed to draw attention from retail customers for their role in the plight of Starbucks workers and to help them understand what the workers are experiencing. While DCMediaGroup reported from the Court House location several dozen customers attempted to enter the store but doors were locked. Some of the customers were surprised at that workers were striking and wanted to know why workers were on strike. They were given flyers to help them understand why workers walked out for a day.

Sam Dukore, one of the workers who took part in the strike said that his store at Court House voted 8-2 on November 8 to join Starbucks Workers United. According to Dukore, the Court House Starbucks opened for business an hour late and had closed by 11 am, 7 hours earlier than its regular closing time. Managers from other locations worked in the store for the brief period it was open.

Dukore said that attorneys for Starbucks were not giving workers reasonable consideration because they would show up to negotiations and within a minute and a half, walk out of negotiations. He also related that Starbucks corporation had over 700 unfair labor practice claims filed against it over the past year by workers who were organizing.

George Atallah, Assistant Director for External Affairs, and a spokesman for the National Football League Players Association (NFL PA), a union that represents NFL players, was also present for part of the Starbucks strike at the Court House location. He expressed support for the barista’s strike on behalf of the NFL Players Association. “The NFL Players Association has a long history being a part of the labor movement across the U.S. and is affiliated with the AFL/CIO. All workers have common issues and common goals. One of those goals we are trying to attain not just for players but for Starbucks workers also, is the support of professional athletes to have basic fairness.”

Atallah pointed out that Starbucks makes billions off the labor of its workers but was not sure the managers of Starbucks were negotiating in good faith with SB Workers United. “The two issues we have found in our experience with management is money and control. There is plenty of money to go around,” he said. “It can be terrifying to cede control to workers because [management] can’t do what they want.”

Dukore was encouraged by the support from the NFL PA and felt that their support would gain much attention to the challenges working people face in retail and the beverage food industry. “I think its amazing that the NFL PA is supporting us because it means we’re starting to get the notice we deserve,” said Dukore.

Starbucks reported raising its starting pay for baristas to $17/hour this past Summer but the living wage in the Washington DC, North Virginia, and Southern Maryland area is double that. Starbucks also reported an historic fourth quarter consolidated net revenue result of $8.1 billion in 2021, an increase of 31% from the year prior.

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Press Freedom Allies Ring Department of Justice in Support of Julian Assange

DC Media Group - Tue, 10/11/2022 - 23:58
Many well-known independent media journalists and free press advocates spoke outside the Department of Justice on behalf of Julian Assange. Photo: J. Zangas/ DCMediaGroup

Washington DC—A who’s who list of press-freedom activists and journalists assembled outside the U.S. Department of Justice on Saturday to demand Attorney General Merrick Garland drop charges against the Wikileaks journalist Julian Assange and not extradite him to the U.S. where he would face charges under the Espionage Act. Assange has been imprisoned in strict solitary confinement at London Belmarsh prison for 3 years where he has faced tortuous psychological mistreatment for his role in the Wikileaks release of thousands of documents during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

Assange supporters carried a city block-long yellow banner around the Department of Justice while chanting “Free Julian Assange.” It was the fourth time this year they rallied at the Department of Justice in support of the Wikileaks founder and journalist. The action drew more supporters than had been present in all the previous actions there and demonstrated public interest in his release was expanding. A similar action was organized by Stella Moris on the same day around Parliament in London. Over 5000 joined hands circling the seat of government there to demand Assange be released from Belmarsh prison. Moris, an attorney and member of Assange’s legal team, married Assange earlier this year while he was in Belmarsh prison. She previously had two sons by Assange but kept knowledge of this a secret in order to protect them.

Up to now Julian Assange and his legal team have successfully avoided his extradition to the U.S. but it has come at great cost to him physically, emotionally, and psychologically. His wife recently said his health was deteriorating and he had contracted Covid late last weekend.

Over two-dozen well-known journalists and press freedom activists spoke to hundreds who had assembled at the DoJ on his behalf, condemning Merrick Garland and the curtain of secretive intelligence operatives behind him for their role in pursuing charges against Assange. One by one they faulted legal aspects of the extradition proceedings against him and the pending charges, of which if convicted, could carry a 175 year sentence tantamount to a death sentence. They argued the pursuit of Assange threatens press freedoms by undermining a major pillar of democracy—a provision in the First Amendment that the press must be free to report and watch over government. Without a free press government officials cannot be properly examined for wrong doing.

A free press exposed the Watergate scandal during the Nixon Administration, bringing it down and holding responsible those for wiretapping Democratic National Committee (DNC) telephones at its Watergate headquarters in the run up to the 1972 presidential election. A free press also exposed their ensuing attempts to cover up their wrong-doing. It was then established that had the journalists not been able to pursue the story of those responsible for the break-in at the DNC, Nixon could have gained unbridled power to do as he pleased in government.

A free press was also responsible for exposing the Iran-Conta arms trade scandal in 1986 during the Reagan Administration. The bombshell revelations resulted in Congressional hearings showing a secret agreement between the White House and interagency intelligence groups, trafficked hardware in violation of an arms embargo then in effect against Iran. Such stories were the result of a free press having a constitutional right to report what information they develop and keep in check those in power who would stray from constitutional principles of governance.

When Chelsea Manning released thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks without authorization, she exposed war crimes such as the Collateral Murder video that would have remained cloaked in secrecy at the behest of intelligence agencies. Information about the video exposed the dark underbelly of U.S. involvement in Iraq, it illuminated Iraq war crimes, and it shredded the fabric of diplomacy between Iraq and the U.S. It also led the U.S. to eventually withdraw from that war after Iraqi public opinion soured against the U.S. military being there.

There were other truths released on the Wikileaks website that embarrassed the George W. Bush Administration. Among them was the existence of a secret imprisonment facility at Guantanamo Bay and secret methods of torture by U.S. agents of hundreds of detainees rendered from foreign countries during the War on Terror. It was on this Cuban soil where detained insurgents were held for years without trial according to the secret documents released to the public on Wikileaks. The trove of documents also exposed “black site” locations and intelligence agency operations and diplomatic cables.

This placed Julian Assange in the crosshairs of efforts to prosecute him for Chelsea Manning’s massive document dump. The CIA surveilled Assange through cameras inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he sought and was granted political asylum. Later he was made a citizen of Ecuador, while still holed up in its embassy. Under pressure from the U.S. Government, and against Ecuadorian law, Ecuadorian President Moreno stripped Assange of his citizenship to pave the way for his illegal arrest and kidnapping on April 11, 2019. It was during this period when the CIA planned and attempted to kidnap him but he was immediately arrested by police in London once Ecuador rescinded its citizenship and expelled him from its embassy.

The wikileaks founder was cast as a hero among free press advocates and journalists in independent media circles for exposing the truth about wars in the Middle East and the lengths intelligence agencies will go to cover up war crimes. He has been awarded dozens of international awards for journalism and taking a stand against war and human rights violations through his reporting. He has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize eleven times.

Voices For Assange and a Free Press

Speakers focused on the free press as essential to the fabric of a republic to hold responsible those in power for what they do or do not do to maintain democratic norms.

Chris Hedges, a long time journalist and writer, and former war correspondent in the Middle East, spoke from prepared comments, saying that the intelligence agencies such as the CIA were ultimately behind attempts to prosecute Assange for violating the Espionage Act and the Department of Justice was carrying out their orders. “Merrick Garland and those who worked in the Justice Department were the puppets and not the puppet masters.” The prosecution and persecution of Assange was not based on law but on revenge, said Hedges. “Because the machine of this modern leviathan was exposed by Julian and Wikileaks, the machine demands revenge.”

Hedges raised jurisdictional issues, arguing it made no sense for the U.S. to prosecute a journalist from a foreign country for a law not applicable to him from another country. And to chase him down eviscerated any conception of a free press in this republic.

A published report claims the CIA planned to abduct and kidnap Assange from the Ecuador embassy in London by spying on him through cameras in the embassy. The spy agency also planned to assassinate Assange.

Esther Iverem, producer of the Pacifica program radio show, On The Ground, Voices of Resistence, said that it was good to stand up for Julian Assange if one believed in a free press. In speaking indirectly to past administrations that have sought to extradite Assange, she said, “You may try to silence Julian Assange but the thing about facts is facts don’t die. They don’t change. They don’t become un-facts. They don’t become untrue.”

John Kiriakou, a former CIA Intelligence Officer and whistleblower who exposed secret waterboarding torture methods used against prisoners taken during the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, and was subsequently prosecuted under the Espionage Act for going public about this fact, said that the public needed to show up for Julian Assange because not defending him would inevitably threaten the rights and freedoms of everyone. He pointed out the CIA engaged in torture programs, secret rendition and kidnapping programs, and established secret global black box facilities where prisoners were held, and could not be trusted because they publicly lied about the existence of all these programs. He said also they were lying when they (Pompeo) said that Julian Assange would be given a fair trial in the Eastern District of Virginia. “It’s up to us to be there for Julian Assange. A crowd like this has to be in front of the court house in Alexandria, Virginia. We have to be there every day doing our part,” he said.

Kiriakou lamented the growing possibility of Assange being brought to the U.S. “A fair trial is impossible for a bunch of reasons. The CIA actively sought to kidnap Julian Assange and surreptitiously bring him to the United States probably to be killed,” he said. “The CIA bugged the Ecuadorian Embassy with audio and video so they could spy on Julian Assange while he met with his attorneys to use the information against him in the United States,“ said Kiriakou.

Kiriakou ended by saying hello to and welcoming the FBI agents who had discretely shown up to surveil the demonstration. “Maybe you’ll learn something from us,” he said.

Short video of the rally and a few comments from several of the speakers is at the foot of this story.

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Appalacian Resistance Warns Energy Bill Will Compound Climate Emergency

DC Media Group - Sun, 09/11/2022 - 23:47

Washington DC—A coalition of dozens of environmental groups from around the country, led by grassroots community organizers, lobbied at Congress and at the White House on Thursday warning President Joe Biden that his agreement with Senator Joe Manchin would further worsen the global climate emergency. They assembled for a rally near the U.S. Capitol in the afternoon where speakers from front-line communities bore witness to the destructive effects the fossil energy industry was having on their health, water, land, and livability. Many held banners and signs identifying their community and their struggle. Nearly 1000 took part in the day’s long event.

Speakers came from Alaska, Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, New York, and many states in between to tell of the effects the fossil energy industry was having on their front-line communities. One by one speakers told it was more often than not the pipelines, methane powered plants, fracking wells, incinerators, and supporting infrastructure was being built in or near poorer communities, minority urban zones, and indigenous communities with the least amount of resources and political leverage to challenge or organize against such projects.

Environmental Organizers’ Voices of Resolve

William J. Barber, III, an environmental and climate justice scholar and advocate, who currently works as a Strategic Partnerships Manager at the Climate Realty Project, spoke of the relative recent successes the climate justice movement was having in getting Federal action on the climate action. He said that if the Appalacian Resistance climate justice movement was able to get climate legislation into the Inflation Reduction Act, the movement could do even more if it was at its full strength.

Barber, who is from North Carolina and has previously worked with his father, William Barber, II, on the Poor People’s Campaign, told of his mixed family heritage of African American and Tusca Roy indigenous roots and the impact fossil energy projects had on such communities. He said that voices from such communities were pivotal in moving climate justice forward and such voices needed to be in the rooms with energy giants so they could understand what impact their projects were having on those communities.

“Just a few months ago Federal Climate Action seemed like an impossibility but thanks to the tireless efforts of the voices and leaders like you all that refused to stop we forced Federal Climate action back into the conversation,” he said.

But he warned that there was no time to rest and much more needed to be done. “Our movement, our communities, and our planning is in the fight for its life. We must stand against ant attempt to fast-track projects that make this climate crisis worse.” He mentioned the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the fast-track initiative agreement between Senators Manchin and Schumer as one example of an “attempt to offer up our communities as a sacrifice zones. We cannot have climate solutions without justice justice,” he said.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline project is a 304 mile 42 inch diameter methane pipeline being built between Northwest West Virginia and Virginia that will process fracked methane gas to points South for national use and for export.

Crystal Cavalies, from the Occaneechi Band of Saponi Nation, came to the Appalacian Resistance action to tell of the impacts of the MVP on her community and people. “The MVP is coming through our lands and digging up our burial grounds. Our indigenous people have been made invisible for so long that nobody know and we have to speak up,” she said.

Another participant in the action was Steve Norris, an environmentalist who has worked with Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE) and North Carolina Alliance to Protect Our People and Places We Live (NC APPPL), both of which are grassroots organizations. NC APPPL previously helped fight the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, another methane gas project undertaken by Dominion Energy and Duke Energy and helped stop its construction in 2020.

The MVP will damage farms and communities in Appalachia,“ said Norris, who works on environmental issues in North Carolina and often travels across the country supporting other environmental groups..

Norris said the MVP will enable Duke Energy to fuel 50 methane gas turbines to generate electricity and blow efforts to reduce carbon output at a time when global heating is already having catastrophic consequences across the country.

“This pipeline is like having 20 million additional cars on the highways and we just can’t afford it,” he said. “We just can’t afford another pipeline of this magnitude.” Norris pointed out that although the climate emergency outlook was dim that we could not gove up hope ar stop organizing and fighting projects like the MVP. “The news is not good but on the other had its not good to give up hope because if we give up hope we lose.”

Tara Vamos, a front-line community organizer with Water Watch New York State, said that there is already so little community input when it comes to fossil energy projects. “The deal cut between Senator Schumer and Senator Manchin would gut policy protections in the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). It would gut the Clean Water Act and that would mean that twenty projects a year would get green lit without community input.”

Vamos was resolute that she and her organization would not stand by while projects like the MVP cut through communities. “Its time to get serious about people’s rights, indigenous sovereign rights, and the rights of people living in these communities.”

Climate Disruption Accelerating Globally

The effacts of deteriorating global climate crisis are becoming more and more physically evident as the climate worsens from continuing use of fossil fuels as an energy source—coal, oil, and methane—which are all carbon based energy sources—has gotten much worse, much more quickly, than even the scientists were projecting just a few decades ago. While claims of climate and environmental degradation are relative, there can be no mistaking the environment faces worsening waves of heat as a result of carbon in the atmosphere released by burning fossil fuels.

For those few still doubting there is a climate emergency, one only need look at headline news reports of drought, flooding, fires, and historic heat waves from around the world. It is clear that the time to act is quickly running out and that tipping points—major self-perpetuating climatic events on a global scale—may soon begin to take over the chain of climate events and make moot any action humanity takes to mitigate global heat.

In Pakistan, where 1/3 the country,nearly 35 million, were displaced by flooding since June of this year. The flooding seen there requires world countries to mobilize assistance said António Guterres, UN Secretary-General.

The Secretary-General traveled to Pakistan to view the devastation last week. During his remarks he drew a connection of the floods in Pakistan to climate disruption. “We need to stop the madness with which we are treating nature. According to the scientific community, we need to reduce emissions by 45 per cent until 2030. I’m not talking about the end of the century, I’m not talking about 2050, I am talking about now. Now is the time to reduce emissions. This will be essential in the discussions in Cairo of the [COP27]. But the fact is that we are already living in a world where climate change is acting in such a devastating way.”

In the U.S. midwest, where a decades-long mega-drought is getting worse, Lakes Powel and Meade have been reduced by 3/4 due to the drought, heat, and increasing demand due to drought. The flow of the Colorado River has been reduced by 20% leading to region-wide water restrictions. Seven States get much of their water from these sources. In California an unprecedented 90% of the State is under water restrictions.

A heat dome that lodged over California and nearby states over the last few weeks was responsible for toppling September temperature records across the region. The heat indices have contributed to the ferocity of large fires like the “Mosquito Fire” now having consumed over 50,000 acres as of September 11, and is still raging. This conflagration began on September 6 in the Sierra Nevada near Lake Tahoe and was reported to have induced its own weather pattern in the form of a pyrocumulous cloud resembling a swirling thunderstorm which reached the upper atmosphere.

Crystal Cavalier, Occaneechi Band of Saponi Nation Photo: J. Zangas/DCMG William J. Barber, III Strategic Partnerships Manager at the Climate Realty Project. Photo: J. Zangas/ DCMG

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Abortion Rights Are Labor Rights Say Activists on Labor Day

DC Media Group - Tue, 09/06/2022 - 22:34
Kuhns and Seilor hold a banner message that democratic norms are imperiled by the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v Wade. Photo: J. Zangas/DCMG

Washington DC—The tall metal fences and barricades have been taken down from around the Supreme Court and the protest crowds are thin. The street in front has been reopened to traffic but the fight to restore reproductive healthcare rights is still simmering thanks to a group of activists engaged in a grassroots campaign to see the fight through to the midterm elections. They may even continue protests beyond then if necessary.

The activists have still not given up hope that abortion rights can be restored if Congress, both the Senate and the House of Representatives, win enough “blue State” victories in November to enable passage of law that side-steps the Court’s recent Dobbs ruling on abortion.

A modest group rallied for about an hour on Labor Day to remind the public the Dobbs ruling overturned Roe v. Wade, the 50-year Federal law granting access to abortion-on-demand, is affecting millions in 26 States, and that a looming healthcare crisis will only get worse. It was on June 24 the right-wing Court under Chief Justice John Roberts, turned the clock back to 1973 on reproductive healthcare liberties for over 169 million.

The activists held a die-in and walked a short distance to block traffic on
Independence Avenue before police responded a few minutes later, ordering them out of the street. Several handed out a ‘zine’ — an unsigned mini-magazine with instructions and a tutorial on how to obtain abortion pills by mail and how to use them. The zine also explained the basics on how the pills work to terminate unwanted pregnancies.

The activists spoke about the dangers to healthcare the Court’s decision has had on those needing abortions and one of its secondary affects—that stripping bodily autonomy from persons with a uterus will have direct implications on the workforce. For millions already in the workforce it means many will be forced to carry a fetus to term and then have to leave the ranks of the workforce to care for their unplanned birth, something that will disproportionately affect lower wage earners, Black women and minorities especially.

Sadie Kuhns, an organizer with OurRightsDC, who has been advocating for reproductive healthcare on demand since before the Dobbs decision, said that the Supreme Court undermined the very free-market system it typically supported by undermining its workforce. And it undermined its most vulnerable workers at the roots of the labor force by stripping their ability to stay in the workforce under forced-birth circumstances.

Kuhns also railed against the Democratic Party for not taking this Court seriously when it had the chance to do something to protect reproductive healthcare. And although they were angry with the Democrats for not acting when they had the chance, they considered the situation strategically, “I’m pissed the f— off at the Democrats. If we lose Congress we’re done. Please register to vote. Vote for pro-choice candidates,” they said.

Kuhns’ remarks during the rally were a call not only for healthcare justice but economic justice.

Kuhns and Seilor hold a banner symbolizing errosion of democratic norms with the recent Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v Wade. Photo: J. Zangas/DCMG

Worsening Economic Future Post-Roe

The Turnaway Study, a long-term longitudinal project conducted by ANSIRH, examined the effects on families of unwanted pregnancy. The project researchers followed the lives of 1000 women over a 5-year period to track the social conditions of those seeking and receiving abortions versus those who were turned away. The first-of-its-kind study found:

— Persons denied an abortion had almost four times greater odds of a household income below the federal poverty level and three times greater odds of being unemployed.

— There was an increased likelihood that pregnant persons denied an abortion didn’t have enough money to pay for basic family necessities like food, housing and transportation if they were denied an abortion.

— Persons unable to terminate unwanted pregnancies were more likely to stay in contact with violent partners, putting them and their children at greater risk than if they had received the abortion.

— Continuing an unwanted pregnancy and giving birth is associated with more serious health problems than abortion.

— Existing children of pregnant persons denied abortions were more than three times more likely to live in households below the federal poverty level and they were less likely to achieve developmental milestones than the existing children of women who received abortions.

These findings point to a deteriorating economic outlook for lower wage earners, service industry workers, food service and restaurant workers, and housekeeping service workers. Wages have not kept abreast of inflation since the 1960s and a present day near double-digit rate of inflation, not seen since the early 1980s, has dealt a double punch to lower wage earners, something that’s going to economically stress Black and minority workers at a rate five times the average.

The U.S. is the only developed Western nation that still does not provide a compulsory national program of paid time off for workers needing time to care for an infant after giving birth. This further stresses wage earners at the lower end of the economic ladder.

Coupled with a stagnant Federal minimum wage that has remained cemented at $7.25 per hour since 1996, the economic outlook for wage earners is dim, especially in States like Alabama, where a total abortion law recently went into affect.

The Alabama State Legislature enacted its “most restrictive” abortion law in two generations after Dobbs went into effect. The law makes it a class-A felony for a healthcare provider to perform an abortion with a conviction penalty of 99 years’ sentence, and a 10 year sentence for anyone transporting a person out of State for an abortion.

The Turnaway Study also dispelled a popular belief among some conservatives that abortion leads to mental health issues for those who receive them. To the contrary, the analysis uncovered the opposite affects. The study found:

— Abortion does not increase a pregnant person’s risk of having suicidal thoughts, or the chance of developing PTSD, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, or lower life satisfaction.

— Abortion does not increase pregnant person’s use of alcohol, tobacco or drugs.

Nadine Seilor, a civil rights activist who has been working on reproductive healthcare access expressed dismay that more weren’t involved in the fight for abortion rights. “We are losing the little thread of democracy we have. We’re losing it even in the face of people knowing it is endangered and not enough people care.”

She has urged people to get involved with their presence and has devoted much of her free time working on reproductive healthcare options for everyone.

Behind The Scenes Organizing Grows As Street Movement Energy Fades

It is inevitable that the initial energy that drives people into the streets on social justice issues eventually fades. But as it’s energy dims it gives organizers an opportunity to build coalitions between people they’ve met along the way and then begins the not so prominent work of organizing behind the scenes in fights for causes.

Planned Parenthood published a state reproductive rights laws and abortion access tracker but warned that abortion rights access are changing as some States are imposing new laws and while grassroots organizations are challenging those laws in the courts.

Planned Parenthood reproductive rights laws and abortion access tracker.

Its website advised that the acts are changing quickly and to check with Abortion Finder Organization for the most recent information available.

Abortion Finder Organization is tracking access to reproductive healthcare across the country and provides this by-State web tool for an up-to-date authority on abortion access: Abortion Guides by State.

Tide Of Opinion And A Federal Response

There are positive signs the public clamor over the Dobbs ruling is forcing the Federal Government to act. It is also triggering grassroots efforts to intervene in healthcare rights for everyone.

Last week on August 29, 2022, the Veterans Administration announced it will provide life-saving healthcare for all Veterans in every State, no matter what the State laws say. In its interim final ruling for reproductive heath-care, the Secretary of the VA wrote, “VA is acting to help to ensure that, irrespective of what laws or policies States may impose, veterans who receive the care set forth in the medical benefits package will be able to obtain abortions, if determined needed by a health care professional, when the life or the health of the pregnant veteran would be endangered if the pregnancy were carried to term or the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest.”

The Department of Defense is taking decisive action as well to provide access to reproductive healthcare for those Service members and dependents needing reproductive healthcare. The DoD has signaled it will adopt flexible policies to excuse Service Members from their regular duties to seek reproductive healthcare if needed.

In States across the country grassroots efforts are underway to provide assistance to those wanting access to reproductive healthcare. One example is in the State of Texas where an anonymous group will walk anyone through the process. A video on youtube published by Vice tells this story.

Congress will have the final say in whether or not a new Federal law is passed restoring abortion rights. Photo: J. Zangas/ DCMG

But this still leaves a large segment of the country without the liberty they enjoyed before June 24 of this year. It will be up to the Democratic Party to change the direction of economic and healthcare justice for pregnant persons if they are able to retain and gain Congressional leverage in the midterm elections.

There are positive signs the national clamor for abortion rights issue will make this so.

In Kansas there was an overwhelming 1000% surge of new voter registrations just before a special election was held on August 2 to restrict abortions. Organizers mobilized a “No” campaign and helped to reject the law by a 20% margin. Kansas is considered a deep-red state.

In Alaska, another red state, Mary Peltora defeated Sara Palin a special District election held on August 16 becoming the first Democrat to win a U.S. House election in Alaska since 1972. Peltola, is the first Alaska Native elected to Congress, and the first woman elected to represent Alaska in the House. Peltola ran on a platform of supporting abortion rights.

This was the fourth major special election victory since Roe was overturned in June.

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Abortion Rights Advocates Demand Biden Declare Public Health Emergency

DC Media Group - Tue, 08/23/2022 - 23:11
Our Rights DC urge President Biden to declare a public health emergency and allocate funds for a growing healthcare crisis as a result of tge Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe in June of this year. Photo: J. Zangas/DCMG

Washington DC—Activists from the community collective OurRightsDC, an organization of concerned citizens in the DC metro area, walked to the White House on Tuesday afternoon to pressure President Joe Biden to declare a public heath emergency over rising numbers of pregnancy related health emergencies in hospitals across the country. They carried a hand-painted rainbow-hued banner reading “Public Health Emergency” with signs they also hand made. Several handed out flyers with instructions for pregnant persons to obtain and use abortion pills.

The organizers are known internationally for their 15-week sustained protests, which they refer to “Roe-tests“ at the homes of Supreme Court Justices since early May of this year. The Roetests were in response to the unauthorized pre-release in May of the Dobbs decision and subsequent June 24 ruling with overturned Roe, a 50-year old federal law which enshrined abortion liberties to pregnant people. The organizers have been hounded online for their actions and perseverance but nonetheless have continued their organizing as support for their cause has been overwhelming.

Speakers were critical of a lack of action on the part of Congress to act to codify Roe into Federal law in the decades Roe was on the books but were also critical of President Biden for failing thus far to issue an executive order setting aside federal funding for urgently needed medical assistance in States whose legislators have passed trigger-laws banning abortion.

“Biden introduced a bill to increase funding for police forces across the country. That bill was $37 billion. Where is that money when it comes to abortion rights?” said Sadie Kuhns, who uses pronouns they/them.

“If we can fund the people who are enforcing laws that we are criminalized by [then] we can definitely fund abortion healthcare across the country, we can declare a public health emergency, and we can save people from trigger-laws in States where people are bleeding out on their hospital beds,” said Kuhns.

Nadine Seiler, an organizer and civil rights activist, said that Black women were more likely to be impacted by the Supreme Court Dobbs ruling than their contemporaries because Black women were more likely to be victims of sexual and domestic abuse. “Black women make up 12.9% of the women in the U.S. but are 40% of the women who get abortions,” she said. “Why is this a thing? For starters, Black girls and women are disproportionately raised in sexual and domestic abuse mainly due to systemic racism and its ripple effects [are] impacting the Black community,” she said.

Abortion advocates spoke at the White House on the issues over abortion impact everyone. Photo: DCMG

Carley Hughes, a teacher in the local area said that she was speaking for women everywhere as a mother and as a concerned parent. “I am here because of my love for children and my love for people. Being pro-choice is being pro-child. In Tennessee there are only three abortion clinics. In Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas, there are no clinics providing abortions. Thats zero,” she said.

To support OurRightsDC and their efforts to restore national abortion rights visit this link.

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Police Warn Protesters of Arrests for Too Much Noise at Kavanaugh’s Home

DC Media Group - Thu, 07/14/2022 - 01:35
A protester outside of Brett Kavanaugh’s home on Wednesday. Photo credit: @LiteraryMouse

Chevy Chase, MD—The activists organizing protests at Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s and Chief Justice Robert’s homes were warned by Montgomery County Police they were too loud on Wednesday afternoon and they would face arrest if they continued yelling, using plastic drums, and speaking on bullhorns in the neighborhood.

Police first gave two protesters a warning and then gave the entire group a warning that they could face arrest if they continued noise levels over 72 decibels after the warnings were given. The activists from OurRightsDC and DownrightImpolite have been organizing the protests outside the homes of the right-wing justices for 10 weeks but this is the first time police invoked a noise ordinance as justification for arrest.

The constitutionally questionable order was issued to them by a spokesperson from Montgomery County Police who has previously liased with protesters before activists began walking to the justices’ homes. Noise has not been mentioned until Wednesday, according to several activists involved in the organizing over the last 10 weeks.

The spokesman said that a Maryland State employee followed the protesters with a decibel meter machine and recorded their voices. An officer warned two of the activists they were making too much noise and shortly thereafter he warned the entire group that it was too loud.

What is not clear to activists is why police are only making this stipulation known to protesters now and after they have been visiting the Kavanaugh’s neighborhood for 10 weeks. What was also not clear whether or not the Country code he cited to them was being enforced correctly and whether or not the activists were actually breaking a law because police have not previously set any stipulation as to noise level in their many impromptu liaison meetings with activists before the protests as they usually do.

Joe little, one of the organizers who has been at the protests since the beginning of the sustained actions believes that Montgomery County Police are bending to political pressure from Federal and State levels because of the high-profile nature of the protests and the attention it is getting in the press.

Little said that the police first warned two of the protesters they were being too loud and so the two protesters who were warned placed silver tape over their mouths. This tactic was so police couldn’t blame those already warned they were making too much noise again during subsequent passes by the Kavanaugh residence. Then police warned the entire group because police said the protesters had exceeded the 72 decibel limit.

“They’re just looking for any reason to arrest us,” Little said. “I think we’ve been out here so long that government leaders and officials are now bullying police to go after us.”

Little also feels the decibel readings were taken arbitrarily and the State employee who took the readings left doubt in his mind about about whether the technical procedure for taking the readings was correct. “I walked right in front of the decibel meter and yelled and I didn’t get a warning,” he said. “I don’t think they know what they are doing because they just threw this together.”

Little also noted that police told the activists they had taken every one of the protesters pictures who was present and would have the photos printed next week when they returned.

The continuing residential protests were organized by the activists who formed a coalition from several groups after the Supreme Court Dobbs v. Planned Parenthood draft decision was leaked. The protests continued to grow with more participants after the Supreme Court effectively overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24 and have been held continuously at Brett Kavanaugh’s home, and Chief Justice John Robert’s home since May 2. The activists have also held protests at the homes of Associate Justice Amy Barrett, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch, one for nearly each day of the week.

The protest actions have drawn national attention in many major news outlets and as police warned protesters they were “too loud” on their bullhorns it is certain to draw even more attention to the protests.

”We intend to keep protests going as long as we can,” said Little. “This isn’t going to dissuade us.”

Many from around the country have expressed desire to support the protesters. Protesters have been coming out of pocket for costs for art supplies and travel costs to the homes and have set up a go fund me page here.

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Extinction Rebellion Blocks DC Street With Fishing Boat In Climate Action

DC Media Group - Sat, 07/09/2022 - 11:32
The scene outside Washington Gas on Friday during rush-hour after activists dropped a fishing boat in front of its headquarters building. Photo: J. Zangas/DC Media Group

Washington DC—Environmentalists held a climate direct action by launching a boat on Maine Avenue in front to Washington Gas Headquarters on Friday as employees were ready to leave for the day. They also blocked the front doors of the gas company and stopped traffic to urge city government to stop billions being invested to replace methane gas pipes under city streets. Four activists locked themselves to the 30’ boat for about two hours while a dozen other activists blocked entrances to Washington Gas.

Above the boat the hoisted a large banner reading Jump Ship, a theme they want DC Council and Mayor Muriel Bowser to adopt in abandoning the fossil energy industry in the city’s energy policy.

After some period of negotiations the activists agreed with requests not to continue their lock-down longer than two hours. The activists unlocked their chains, they posted bond and forfeited their right to a trial, and they were released. Police towed the boat to an impound lot where it may be reclaimed.

The demonstration was festive as organizers held a vegetable barbecue and served ice cream. A performer with the stage name Dragon from the band ‘The Resistance Company’ entertained the participants with a repertoire of resistence songs on his guitar and drums. Several handed out flyers urging Washington Gas employees to “Jump Ship” and transfer their skills to renewable energy technology or speak to others in their industry about the harm the methane gas industry is causing to the atmosphere. The flyers also urged to Washington Gas employees to become whistleblowers and release details about insider industry knowledge of the climate emergency and contained a website to contact with that information.

Charles Spring, one of the activists who locked himself to the boat, and later released, said we needed Federal and local leaders to tell the truth about the severity of the climate crisis. “This action was targeting local leaders including Washington Gas who is trying to replace all the pipes in the city to lock us into another 100 years of methane gas,” he said.

Spring also spoke about methane and its contribution to global heat and the climate emergency. “Methane is one of the more toxic greenhouse gases and more potent than carbon dioxide,” he said.

Four environmentalists locked themselves to the boat for several hours. There were not arrested after they agreed to disembark the grounded ship with a post-and-forfeit fine. Photo: J. Zangas/DCMG

Extinction Rebellion DC has been engaged to a campaign to influence city government to drop its from energy dependence on the fossil fuel industry and to adapt renewable alternatives such as solar, electric, and alternate power sources for buildings, homes, and city infrastructure.

Sadie, an activist from Our Rights DC spoke about the recent ruling by the Supreme Court in the case West Virginia v. the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), saying the Court ruling against the EPA was harmful to everyone and was a trend of many recent decisions by the right-wing conservatives which harm communities and people everywhere.

“They’ve restricted the EPA response to the climate crisis and are weaponizing the fossil fuel industry all while we march for our rights in floods,” they said. Sadie drew comparisons to the recent Supreme Court rulings against Miranda Rights, Dobbs (overturning Roe v. Wade), NYC handgun permit law, saying the rulings are counter the livability of community health and safety.

They also warned that by ignoring the climate emergency, the Court and other institutions were imperiling the livability of the planet and the safety of communities. “We often say they are coming for us next but they are all coming for us now. We need to recognize and feel that sense of urgency,” they said.

Organizers had planned their action at the waterfront for several months and kept it under wraps until the day of the action, partially closing down the area, which is the neighborhood where Senator Joe Manchin (WV) moors his yacht, his legal domicile in Washington DC, which he uses as a houseboat. The West Virginia Senator has come under fire for his stand against renewable energy and for his support of the coal industry.

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Pro-Choice Activists Read First Amendment To Supreme Court Justices

DC Media Group - Sat, 07/02/2022 - 23:58
Activists read the First Amendment as they pass Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s home in Chevy Chase, MD.

Chevy Chase, Maryland—A letter from the Supreme Court Marshal’s office to Maryland State Governor Larry Hogan urged him to enforce statute restrictions against reproductive rights protesters outside the homes of Supreme Court Justices. Activists have been organizing the protests almost every day for 2 months, ever since the unauthorized release of Samuel Alito’s draft opinion ruling—which was officially released on June 24, effectively overturning Roe, and taking from pregnant people the right to make their own reproductive decisions.

Activists responded to his letter request within 12 hours by doing more of what they have been doing for 2 months—staging another protest outside the home of Brett Kavanaugh. However this time their protest came with a new twist—they read the First Amendment over bullhorns outside Associate Justice Kavanaugh’s home as they walked by.

Associate Justice Kavanaugh wasn’t there to hear them read it the three times they passed his home. But a photographer and a journalist from the Washington Post were there to report on the protest and interviewed the activists to publish a website story within an hour. It was the Washington Post that first broke the story of the Supreme Court Marshal’s letter early Saturday.

Michelle, an organizer from OurRightsDC and one of the activists organizing the daily protests outside the right-wing Justices’ homes said that she thought of the idea to read the First Amendment on Saturday morning after she learned of the Marshal’s office request to have police stop the activists from protesting, or to have them arrested and prosecuted. She said that the activists have been careful to protest within the limits of the statutes and have not broken any laws. “Everything we’re doing is entirely protected by the First Amendment,” said Michelle.

She shared her idea with the other activists and they thought it was a great idea and decided to organize an immediate protest—and within hours they met at a point close by and then walked to Kavanaugh’s home to read the First Amendment. About 20 uniformed police were waiting for them as they usually are waiting—some appearing annoyed at the inconvenience of guarding Kavanaugh’s home for another protest.

In fact all the activists have copies of Maryland statues regarding protests at homes and what their limits are so that they don’t break any laws. They have read the statues and in particular the statue against picketing which the Supreme Court Marshal alleges they are breaking. Police have not made any arrests since organizers began the protests 2 months ago.

The activists have also liaised with police to informed them when they are coming so police can be ready before they arrive, something activists don’t normally do.

Michelle also said that the latest incident has just given activists more reason to continue the protests. “If anything its made me more resolved. As long as I have my First Amendment I’m going to exercise it,” she said.

She also expressed disappointment the Supreme Court needed instruction in the First Amendment but confided the fact that so many rights were being stripped by this Court the letter wasn’t a surprise.

Michelle read the First Amendment in parts over a bullhorn. She stopped at the parenthetical pauses for all the activists—about 20 total—to chant them back to her. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” It took them a few tries to get the timing just right because they hadn’t time to rehearse it. (Video of action is below)

After the second recitation their timing was right. Then they added, “We are aggrieved.” The activists were joined by a few others who traveled from out of State to join them.

Lisa Rigsbee decided to participant in the action and drove from North Carolina Saturday morning when she found out about the spur-of-the-moment protest. She brought along her daughter who is also a reproductive rights and healthcare advocate. She also brought her grandson, a 3 year old who wore a shirt reading “I’m a little feminist.”

”We can’t let our rights be eroded by some out of touch court where religion has no place,” said Rigsbee. “Its too important to sit on your behind. We’ve got to stand up and fight back.

After they completed several readings of the First Amendment, they circled back and passed Kavanaugh’s home by a few more times to dance in the street to the Aretha Franklin hit “Respect.” Several neighbors came out to wave and greet them. One neighbor thanked them for what they were doing and urged them to keep showing up.

The Maryland State statutes are specific and define what picketing is and the activists are careful not to post or stand outside any of the homes as they pass.

Video of the action below:

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Supreme Court Guts Roe v Wade

DC Media Group - Fri, 06/24/2022 - 10:24
SCOTUS6 Ground Team has kept a near daily presence outside the Supreme Court since May 2 when Samuel Alito’s unauthorized draft opinion was released to the press. Photo J. Zangas/DCMG

Washington DC—Reaction was swift outside the U.S. Supreme Court as hundreds of protesters arrived within minutes to join in a mass condemnation of the judicial body over its ruling to abort 50 years of reproductive liberties. The Court ruled 6-3 in favor of Dobbs in the Mississippi case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, to effectively end Federal protection to reproductive rights, Federal protections were first granted in the 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade and permitted individuals to decide whether or not to abort a fetus.

Outside the Court dozens of police stood guard behind 15 foot metal fences which were separated from protesters with a second line of barricades, while furious pro-choice activists expressed discontent outside the lifeless building. The metal fences, police lines, concrete barricades, and metal barricades gave the Court a surreal aura of a bunkered body under siege and held captive by the discontented citizenry surrounding it. Movement towards or near the Court was at least as difficult as that of a federal prison.

Metal fences have become a common default on Capitol Hill to deal with the onslaught of grievances ever since the January 6 2020 coup attempt.

There are 26 States already planning to further restrict bodily autonomy as provided in Dobbs. Rights to abortion are still protected in 24 States. This ruling means that individual rights to reproductive healthcare will now be determined by geographical location or the State in which one resides and will not be determined across the land as a consequence of a general ruling and a right. This idea goes to the heart of the purpose of the Court—to rule equally for everyone. Dobbs inextricably does not accommodate that.

This ruling has deepened the perception among Americans that the Court is out of step with the preferences of most Americans—established by a Gallup poll published yesterday—that only 25% of Americans view the Court favorably, an all-time low. A 2020 Pew Poll survey taken in May found that 74% of Americans believe abortion rights should be granted in most cases.

Activists say this decision will result in the death and maiming of many who will be forced by law to give birth. The activists are planning to support underground railroads providing healthcare assistance to counter the Court’s ruling.

The unauthorized release of Associate Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion last month on May 2 sparked protests outside the Court that have gone unabated for the last 7 weeks. A group of activists calling themselves SCOTUS 6 Ground Team have been engaged in pass-by protests outside the homes of right-wing members of the Court since early May. The protests have been vocal but peaceful and there have been no arrests despite heavy lines of police outside the Justices’ homes.

Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayer Stings Majority Ruling in Her Dissent 

Justice Sonia Sotomayer gave a stinging rebuke to the Dobbs decision calling in question the logic of the ruling. It was only yesterday that the court ruled in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen that NY State would not have autonomy in determining “common cause” license constraints for concealed carry of handguns outside the homes of licensed handgun owners. The Dobbs ruling in comparison goes counter to this reasoning by granting States more autonomy in that they get to decide how restrictive reproductive rights will be, even if it means taking them away altogether, which some States have already done.

Associate Justice Sotomayer’s dissent tackled the majority opinion at the crux of its arguments, writing in part, the majority is “acting at practically the first moment possible,” “eliminates a 50-year-old contitutional right that safeuards women’s freedom,” “breaches a core rule-of-law principle,” “places in jeopardy other rights,” and “undermines the Court’s legitimacy.”

Reproductive Rights Activists React With Anger and Resolve

Activists reacted with anger and bitterness at the Dobbs ruling, they questioned the legitimacy of the Court, and they expressed views that the fabric of democracy had been irreparably damaged. In expressing their concerns they also anticipated this outcome but resolved to work to counter it.

Sadie, one of the activists who has been out in the neighborhoods of conservative justices protesting nearly every day since Samuel Alito’s draft opinion was leaked, said she was enraged and devastated. “I’m pissed the f— off. I think people need to come out on the streets. I think what’s next, according to Clarence Thomas is gay rights. This is the baby-steps to fascism we’ve been expecting. Its time to rise up.”

Sadie took aim at individual members signing the Dobbs majority opinion, especially that of Clarence Thomas and his wife Ginni Thomas who has recently been implicated in attempting to influence the outcome of the 2020 Arizona State vote. “I don’t think anybody should be allowed to sit on the Supreme Court whose wife tried to overthrow the government.”

SCOTUS6 Ground Team designed cardboard puppets in anticipation of the Dobbs ruling. Photo: John Zangas/DCMediaGroup

Julie, another reproductive rights activist who was also out front of the Supreme Court when the decision was announced, was also disheartened but not surprised. “We’ve been fighting this for a while and we’re just going to continue to fight.” Julie jostled with several forced-birth advocates when they attempted to place their signs in her face during this interview.

Julie said that the Dobbs ruling would have serious health consequences for the well-being of women. “Women all over this country are going to feel the effects of this immediately so I am very heartbroken for them for sure.” She gestured towards forced-birth advocates who were celebrating the ruling, saying, “Its not going to be anyone they know but it will be somebody everyone else knows and they’re going to suffer immense consequences that they’re not with healthcare anymore.”

Joseph Little, a Baptist Minister, who has also participated in daily protests since Alito’s draft-opinion was leaked, carried a sign reading ‘Forced Birth is Enslavement.’ “In this country where people who look like me We have made it clear

Little also expressed anger and frustration at the Dobbs ruling. “Whenever you take away a person’s ability and right to choose that is oppression. The Bible clearly says that we are supposed to correct oppression [and] in this country we have failed.”

Little placed blame in part on the Democratic Party for not standing up when Then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delayed by 10 months consideration of then President Barrack Obama’s Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016; then sidestepped a Congressional hearing and vote altogether, leaving a vacant seat vacant in the Court for the next elected President, Donal Trump. “They stole a seat from President Obama and the Democrats did nothing but lay over and allowed them to take that seat,” he said. He was also critical of the Democratic Party for not taking steps to put Roe v. Wade into a Federal Statute. “Democrats’ failure to codify Roe v. Wade failed to protect the oppressed people in this country,” he said.

Sign: ‘Forced Birth is Enslavement”

Beth, an educator in DC who came to the Court to protest in anticipation of the ruling, said that it was the wrong decision and she would stand by her students no matter what. “I’m going to continue to fight for choices that my children have now and in the future and that they deserve control over their bodies and they have the right to control their bodies.”

Eliza, a woman’s rights activist expressed disgust at the Dobbs decision. “I’m appalled that this is happening in this day and age. We deserve better than this. Women deserve better than this. There aren’t going to be less people who need [abortions] there is only going to be less access to safe abortions.”

Eliza was highly critical of the Court decision. “All they’re doing is putting women in danger. They’re not helping anyone and they’re not saving anyone.”

Discontent Outside Court As Dobbs Ruling Was Issued

Reproductive rights activists and forced-birth opponents vied for space and media access in the moments before the Dobbs ruling was issued. Jubilant forced-birth opponents who far outnumbered reproductive rights activists, goaded and laughed at after the ruling, further enflaming tensions. At several points Capitol Motorcycle Police separated the groups. As word of the decision spread, dozens of reproductive rights groups converged on the streets outside the Supreme Court. They were followed by media outlets from around the country and from other countries who sought interviews with opponents. The chaotic scene descended into near physical altercation but with all the cameras and police, skirmishes did not materialize.

Follow @DCMediaGroup on twitter for updates throughout the day on this ruling.

For updates also follow on twitter:



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Pro-Choice Activists Blockade Supreme Court

DC Media Group - Mon, 06/13/2022 - 00:59
SCOTUS6 Action Group passes outside Brett Kavanaugh’s home, scene of intense police protection but no arrests of the SCOTUS6 have taken place. Photo: J.Zangas/DCMG

Washington, DC—Margaret Mead once said “Never underestimate the ability of a small group of committed individuals to change the world.” And the Activists of SCOTUS6 Action Group have taken her words to heart, going to the homes of Supreme Court Justices for 6 weeks now, creating an unignorable presence outside and gaining a lot of media attention nationally, in the mainstream media and on social media.

But on Monday morning they ramped up  action to a higher level of civil disobedience by forming a human blockade at the entrances to the Supreme Court. They had planned their civil disobedience actions with other umbrella groups spearheaded by Shut Down DC, which is also based in Washington DC.

Their plan was to block the entrances to the Supreme Court so the Associate Justices and their staff could not get to work on Monday which is typically the day rulings are handed down. It was possible the final ruling of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health majority opinion would be released on Monday, but as the last of the rulings were issued at about 11:00 am, Dobbs was not among them. The Dobbs decision will be released in the coming weeks and possibly near the end of June as the last rulings issued come in late June for Supreme Court sessions.

The Dobbs ruling is all but certain to be made in favor of the conservative majority as it was previously mapped out in the unauthorized release in Samuel Alito’s draft majority opinion. This ruling will trigger a flurry of overturns of Roe v. Wade in the 26 States already signaling they want to overturn reproductive rights.

With a conservative ruling in favor of Dobbs, the rights of 63 million Americans to the agency over their own bodies, and to make their own personal decision of whether or not to carry a pregnancy to full-term, would be removed from Federal statute, sent to the States to decide, and effectively overturn Roe v. Wade, a benchmark ruling that has been the law of the land for 50 years.

SCOTUS6 Ground Team blocks access to Supreme Court for several hours on June 13, 2022 with no arrests. Photo: J Zangas/DCMG

A Supreme Court decision in favor of Dobbs would not end all abortions outright across the U.S. as there are still 24 States that will support Roe v. Wade in their State statutes. But in the 26 States already signaling they plan to overturn Roe v. Wade, it will result in travel out of State for those needing and wanting reproductive healthcare and that is something many in Southern States will not be able to afford.

This ruling will also result in an unfair imbalance across the nation in the personal liberties of individuals to reproductive rights healthcare, a condition which the Supreme Court will someday be forced to revisit.

It is for the victims of this imbalance of liberties that activists are waging their campaign of civil disobedience.

Supreme Court Shutdown

Early Monday morning the SCOTUS6 Action Group Ground Team met at Stanton Park along with other activists from umbrella groups, including Extinction Rebellion, a climate action group, under the larger umbrella of Shutdown DC, a direct action rights group based in DC.

From there the demonstration proceeded down Massachusetts Avenue and turned towards the Supreme Court on 1st Street. A group of forced-birth antagonists attempted to block them and a skirmish of bullhorns and jostling resulted in the antagonists being forced back. While tempers flared there were no injuries or arrests observed or reported (see DCMG video below).

Smaller groups broke off from the main body to block Supreme Court entrances to carports on 2nd Street at both Maryland Avenue and East Capitol Street.

SCOTUS6 Action Group on East Capitol Street blocking access to the Supreme Court for several hours on Monday, June 13, 2022.

The SCOTUS6 Action Group walked to 2nd and East Capitol Streets where they formed a human blockade. Police finished the intent of the activists by functionally shutting down the streets with barricades and lines of officers in order to prevent activists from gaining access to the carport entrances proper. At one point there were 50 officers but only 18 activists at 2nd and East Capitol Streets. The number of activists increased to over 100 as others joined them from other points in the action. The staff of the Supreme Court were blocked from access and police turned them away to find access elsewhere.

Meanwhile Extinction Rebellion blocked the carport entrance at 2nd and Maryland Avenue. Police kettled them and they were detained but soon after released without charges.

As the action began to wind down, Dr. Sophia Marjanovic, from the Court Accountability Project and ShutdownDC said, “The thing is people like you and me always stick together and we win eventually. We’re going to keep organizing together, doing our mutual aid because that is what actually wins. This is what they’re afraid of,”

Activists Planned Blockade For Weeks

The SCOTUS6 Action Group has been planning this action for weeks and spent a lot of time preparing for it through the rigors of street actions they undertook by going to the homes of all the right-wing justices over a sustained period..

They have received a lot of support from neighbors of some of the Justices, especially in Samuel Alito’s neighborhood in the Township of Fort Hunt, Virginia. Last Monday, neighbors on his street waved and thanked the SCOTUS6 Action Group for their perseverance while some joined them outside to engage in conversation about their action. One resident brought their toddler out to dance to their music and chants. Several teenagers followed them on bikes—one of the local neighbors extemporaneously joined them and carried a sign with them. Another celebrated the spirit of their resistence with a glass of wine as the demonstration passed her home.

Other neighbors have not been so nice about it, especially outside the private developments where Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch reside. While the Activists are not allowed inside the developments some neighbors have driven by them as they stand near the entrances, name calling, cursing, and gesturing at them. They’re unfazed by the negative attention and laugh it off—mostly.

Police lined the street outside Alito’s in unmarked vans and dark windowed vehicles to make sure they didn’t do anything wrong—and they haven’t done anything more than protest and chant on bullhorns as they walk by holding their signs. They are decidedly a non-violent action group.

If one were to believe any of the reports in the right-wing media it would seem they are breaking laws against intimidating Justices and should be arrested for breaking statutes forbidding the harassment of Federal Judges.

They haven’t broken any windows.
They haven’t threatened anyone.
They haven’t littered or spray-painted cars, sidewalks, or mailboxes, and if they had, one of any of the dozens of law enforcement waiting for them outside the homes would certainly have arrested them by now.

On the contrary, a designated representative of the SCOTUS6 Action Group has set up liaison with local police agencies and speaks to a representative of police before or during each action to make sure that ordinances and laws are not broken and the rights of others are not violated. Any allegations in right-wing media are unfounded or designed to distract viewers from the important issues: the removal of liberties once granted by the High Court.

“For the Supreme Court to change its mind on a law so basic as Roe v. Wade is going to create a lot of angry people because it can’t give half the population a right and then 50 years later decide to take it away simply because someone changed the Court with conservative people who disagree with that law,” said Carol, a feminist from Atlanta. “Its also going to create certain chaos as they plan to take other rights away like same sex marriage and [LGBTQ] rights—and they will if they do this,” they said.

SCOTUS6 Not Backing Down From Action

Margaret Meade also wrote, “The way to do fieldwork is never to come up for air until it is all over.” And the SCOTUS6 Action Group has kept a frenetic pace going to homes nearly every day of the week and planning their actions on the off days. Logistics take up a lot of time and money. Questions need to be answered and needs require immediate attention with every action because attendees and resources change daily. Questions like who is going to carpool who to where; who is going to bring signs; provide water, food, bullhorns, batteries, liaising with police, safety, etc., all have to dealt with. Often they are up to late hours filling in all the blanks of the questions members ask to make things work.

The Activists of SCOTUS6 Action Group have been going to the homes of Supreme Court Justices for 6 weeks now, creating inconvenience and noise ouside the Justices’ homes. It has readied them for today’s action.

Their efforts are being noticed online too and it has gotten allies to join them. Among them is Dragon, a skilled musician who helped create the band Resistance Company. He brings his amplifier, drums and guitar to the actions and has turned chants into musical treats the activists enjoy. It creates a buoyant mood and energizes the activists. One could easily mistake an action as a party-like atmosphere though the issue is very serious—Dragon has taken a heavy issue and difficult issue and created a scene of positive vibrations with his amazing musical abilities and creativity. It is not easy playing a drum with one’s foot while singing and playing a guitar but he does it.

See video of Dragon on twitter here.

Bodily Autonomy—A Ruling Would Affect More Than Cis Women

A large part of the fight for bodily autonomy and reproductive justice is led by cisgender women, that is, women whose gender matches their biological sex. Though this is incredibly vital, cis women are not the only population affected by the loss of safe reproductive care, said Thiel (they/them) who wanted to draw the distinction that the reproductive healthcare rights issue affects many identities.

“Many transgender people also have uteruses; this includes trans men, intersex people, and nonbinary people, just to name a few. These folks still deserve their basic human rights, and they definitely deserve to be part of the larger conversation around decisions regarding their bodies. We’ve been intentional about including this intersectionality in our signage and our messaging – that this is an LGBTQ+ issue as well as a women’s issue,” said Thiel.

“Further, the leaked draft which would remove abortion protections also cites the “right to privacy” as something these justices view as an impediment to their goals – which sets a dangerous precedent to further remove rights such as marriage choice and sexual safety and privacy, and further endangers the very existence of trans and gender non-conforming people. Bodily autonomy not only covers access to safe, legal, and affordable abortion care, but it also covers all aspects of gender expression and medical transition; trans folks are already targeted enough as it is and this ruling will serve as another avenue to endanger their lives.“

Thiel said that when the Activists show up to the marches at the justices’ homes, they hope to amplify the voices of the millions of people with uteruses whose lives will be devastated by this ruling; They hope to make it clear to the fundamentalists in power that the people they’re meant to represent do not stand behind them in this, and that we will continue to fight for these basic human rights.

“They’ve been trying to duck away from the dissent, so part of the point behind these non-violent organized actions is to bring local and national attention to their backwards views and to say that we are not being adequately represented and in fact, are being actively threatened, by these six justices who would rather see us hide in fear than hear us speak our minds.”

See @DCMediaGroup on twitter and tic toc and follow @RuthSent on tic toc for video shorts and livestream of this action.

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