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Appalacian Resistance Warns Energy Bill Will Compound Climate Emergency

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

The post Appalacian Resistance Warns Energy Bill Will Compound Climate Emergency appeared first on DCMediaGroup.

Abortion Rights Are Labor Rights Say Activists on Labor Day

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.

The post Abortion Rights Are Labor Rights Say Activists on Labor Day appeared first on DCMediaGroup.

Abortion Rights Advocates Demand Biden Declare Public Health Emergency

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.

The post Abortion Rights Advocates Demand Biden Declare Public Health Emergency appeared first on DCMediaGroup.

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

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.

The post Police Warn Protesters of Arrests for Too Much Noise at Kavanaugh’s Home appeared first on DCMediaGroup.

Extinction Rebellion Blocks DC Street With Fishing Boat In Climate Action

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

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:

The post Pro-Choice Activists Read First Amendment To Supreme Court Justices appeared first on DCMediaGroup.

Supreme Court Guts Roe v Wade

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:

@OurRightsDC
@downrightimp
@StrikeForChoice

 

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Pro-Choice Activists Blockade Supreme Court

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.

The post Pro-Choice Activists Blockade Supreme Court appeared first on DCMediaGroup.

Abortion Rights Activists Build A Movement At Homes of Right Wing Supreme Court Justices

Mon, 06/06/2022 - 01:50
The SCOTUS6 Action Group stirs up “Good Trouble” at all the homes of the conservative Justices. Photo: J. Zangas / DCMediaGroup

Washington DC—When Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s draft majority opinion in the abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health was leaked to the press, the streets outside the Supreme Court turned into a hornet’s nest of reproductive rights protests, mimicking Black Lives Matter Plaza after the Minneapolis police slaying of George Floyd in June 2020. Abortion rights activists were shocked by Alito’s draft opinion because it would explicitly overturn Roe v. Wade and end 50 years of settled law. They swarmed the Supreme Court within hours of its release.

A few days later U.S. Marshals barricaded sidewalks outside the Court to keep pop-up abortion rights protesters at bay. So some of the activists did what no one expected—they took their protests directly to all the homes of the five right-wing Justices supporting Alito’s draft majority opinion. This had never been done before.

There were only a handful of activists at first and they didn’t have a plan to counter the expected ruling. And they couldn’t do it 250 feet from the Supreme Court. They only knew their rights and bodies were on the line and they had to do something—anything—to express their outrage. So they organized a chat and connected, adding more who joined them later. The logistics for sustained protests would be daunting but they wanted to at least try to see how long they could do it. They planned the days to visit each justice’s home, arranging carpooling and rides since some of the justices lived too far out for everyone to travel from DC.

Reaching the sleepy suburban neighborhoods, its manicured laws and million dollar homes takes a lot of time, uses up gas money, and gas prices are going up fast with limited funds. But they want to make noise. They want to vent their rage. They brought bullhorns and made signs. Then they laced up their shoes. They call themselves the SCOTUS6 Action Group.

The First Day — Roberts and Kavanaugh

The Saturday afternoon after the big Woman’s March for Reproductive Rights action when over 15,000 and as many as 25,000 passed the Supreme Court, the activists pass flyers to marchers asking them to join protests at the Supreme Court Justices’ homes later that evening. They hand out stacks of flyers—all they had. But only a few showed up.

The activists met at a nearby rendezvous point before going to two Justice’s homes in Chevy Chase, Maryland that live about a half mile apart. Chevy Chase is outside DC but not as accessible as other parts of DC. They coordinated a walk through the narrow streets to Justice Brett Kavanaugh with plans to continue on to Chief Justice John Robert’s home later. The homes there are older and priced in the millions but they’re close together with small front lawns close to the street.

They chose a support activist to drive his car behind them for protection from traffic as they walk along the sidewalk. As Joseph drives he plays music as they begin to walk calling out, “No justice for us, no peace for you!” Their chanting bounces off the quiet homes and some neighbors come to their windows. Scenes like this play out in DC all the time but never here. It is odd to see a protest in a sleepy suburb but the situation has left the activists no choice.

When they arrive at Brett Kavanaugh’s home two dozen police are waiting outside for them—about one uniformed police responder for every activist. At least three police agencies are present based on the different uniforms they wear.

They chant and walk slowly past Kavanaugh’s home, remaining far from the police and in the middle of the street as they pass. There are no signs that the Kavanaugh family is even there although the drapes of one of the upstairs windows are left open with a desk lamp turned on as if to make it seem like a welcoming home but the excessive police force dashes that pretense. The fully armed police forces are intimidating enough, spaced closely together in a line on the sidewalk, with another line on the lawn and a few more by the front door. It is an overkill of force but no one knows what is going to happen as they pass. And word in the media was spread that by going there the activists were unlawful by “intimidating” Federal judges. But would they be arrested?

The First Amendment Right of the Constitution plays in their favor. As long as they keep moving they could not technically be intimidating someone they are not threatening. And as long as there’s no one there to be intimidated and they do not tresspass onto property they shouldn’t be arrested for that either.

They walk by Brett Kavanaugh’s home. They chant “Keep your rosary off my ovaries!” and “No justice for us, no peace for you!” The police don’t move their places standing like statues and there are no arrests. The activists walk past half a block and turn around to pass by again and then again, skirting the boundaries of the law that supposedly says they can’t assemble there. They pass by Kavanaugh’s home eight times. The police are irritated. And the mosquitoes are biting the police. The activists begin to chant “F— Kavanaugh!” and it is profane but the irony is the Supreme Court ruled profanity is not illegal on public airwaves in the 1970s. They walk the half mile towards Chief Justice John Roberts’ home. Many motorists cheer and blow horns in support as they pass. The activists cheer back. It gives them a boost. The walk there takes 15 minutes and the young activists move at a fast pace leaving some of the older ones behind—someone calls for them to slow down. The day is hot and in the 90s and they’re all tired from earlier march in DC. Someone says to hydrate—drink a lot of water. They press on passing under old growth shade trees with some relief from the heat.

The same annoyed police wait for them outside, having driven the half mile to beat them to Robert’s home. The activists pass by and then circle back, repeatedly passing Roberts’ home. There’s no sign he and his family are there. All the windows have drapes pulled closed. This time they walk on the sidewalk close to the property but are careful stay off the grass. The police stand motionless as they pass except to swat back the assault from mosquitoes targeting them. There are no arrests.

Many of the activists involved in the neighborhood protests have a personal story about access to abortion healthcare and how it provided them support when they needed it most. Some say it saved them from serious injury or worse and prevented serious medical outcomes that would have affected them permanently.

Key among the organizers is Sadie, who is determined to show up to every action no matter what. Her personal experience showed her first hand the threat to healthcare posed by the coming ruling on Roe.

Sadie is energetic and positive and puts the other activists at ease with her gentle voice. She’s a natural fit for leadership and when she chants on the bullhorn it seems to come easy for her. She is easy to like and shows a tender heart towards the other activists. She has a caring nature for animals and shares photos of her cat with the others. She is also youthful and energetic, and it seems she hasn’t been hurt too much by the way of the world but appearnces can be deceptive and she has to tell her story too.

Years ago she had an incomplete miscarriage which would have caused her to go into septic pregnancy or even worse, have cost her life had it not been for access to clinical care abortion. She got life-saving abortion healthcare from an urgent care clinic in DC. She wants the same option of care preserved for others. She doesn’t want to see others die needlessly.

She also worries for her younger sibling who identifies as transgender. She knows trans healthcare will also be affected by any overturn of Roe v. Wade. She says that there is already a difficulty getting care for the trans community and the fact that the Supreme Court is already attacking choices and bodily autonomy it will make it even harder for the trans community.

“Our mothers and grandmothers didn’t always have these rights so they feel the threat much more than we understand it,” she says. “For us its hard to imagine what it’s going to look like post Roe and it’s terrifying to think that at some point I could not have any more choices and that I could be forced into having a child.”

Sadie also worries for the other rights that may be lost as Alito’s draft opinion opens the doors to remove protections for same-sex marriage, LGBTQ rights, and inter-racial marriage. These rights have the potential to be re-examined by this Court using the logic of Alito’s draft majority opinion and it is unsettling to her.

Nadine is another strong personality unafraid to go into the heat of an action. Her energy is bottomless but underneath she is also tender hearted. Though she is much older than most of the other activists she is able to keep up with their tempo and often goes to the Supreme Court after the actions at the homes. She had a large flag made out of fabric: “Don’t Tread on My Uterus” in a play on the Libertarian motto. But instead of a snake the logo is the feminine organ. The flag is catchy and she shows it off to the other activists who love its message. Many tourists stop to photograph it.

Nadine was enraged at the Minneapolis police for smothering the life out of George Floyd in 2020 and as a result she spent a lot of time at Black Lives Matter Plaza in downtown DC. She saw a lot of police actions taken against activists in the six months at BLM Plaza so the police don’t intimidate her very much.

She often leads on the bullhorn and loud voice and her Caribbean accent booms unapologetically. She too has her story of tragedy regarding women’s healthcare. Life’s experiences were very harsh in her early years. She tells how she never had a mother because her “incubator” as she puts it, abandoned her and her siblings when they were born. Her incubator did not want children but had no access to abortion healthcare and was forced to birth children she did not want. Her upbringing was one of poverty and unspeakable abuse. The abuse she describes can not be written here. At times she did not want to live. She tells part of her experiences publicly in front of the Supreme Court after an action in early May so people there will know what some of the consequences that await a post Roe society. She doesn’t tell the details of the abuse.

During one of the actions at Justice Amy Barrett’s home in late May a disturbed neighbor follows the activists in the cul-de-sac where Barrett resides. She calls them names and tells them to “stop harassing” her neighbor, Justice Barrett. She yells at them to find something worthwhile to do with their time. The encounter quickly turns ugly as she tells the Black activists to “speak english” she can understand. The activists respond to her bigotry by circling the cul-de-sac more tightly. The activists pull up a hit song from their playlist by Lily Allen and jack it up on the speaker. They know they lyrics well and sing them as they walk past the neighbor who is actually following them around. She bacomes more enraged as she realizes the lyics “F— You very much” are for her and too much for her to take. She circles the activists ranting and cursing then runs behind the U.S. Marshalls who are bemused by the spectacle. The incident energizes the activists and they circle in front of Amy Barrett’s house for nearly a half hour until she leaves.

The African-Americans in the group are both bothered and hurt by the bigotry though they don’t express it outright. They decide to return by themselves after the other activists have left to sing a spiritual song as they walk. The contentious neighbor is by then gone but they wanted to have the last words and they wanted those words to be spiritual, not the bigoted remarks.They sing and walk slowly. Their song serves to cleanse the air of its foul mood.

A pair of right-wing media journalists employed by the Daily Signal, the mouthpiece of the conservative Heritage Foundation witness the scene but leave out of their report the ugly behavior and bigoted comments from the neighbor. The journalists don’t attempt to interview any of the activists to learn their stories. And even if they had done so it is unlikely they would report it in earnest anyway. The Daily Signal is rated mediocre for objective reporting.

But if they did objectivly interview the activists they would find the reasons the activists are going into the neighborhoods has nothing to do with changing the minds of the right-wing Justices, or trying to intimidate them, for that cannot be done anyway. The activists’ going there has to do with exposing the Democrats for not acting to investigate the right-wing Justices who were put on the Court not for their accomplishments but by dark money from groups like the Federalist Society and influence of the Heritage Foundation. They are there to expose the weaknesses of the Democratic party for not taking decisive action to codify Roe when they had control of the Senate. This is lost on the Daily Signal journalists.

Activists supporting the actions from the group Ruth Sent Us further point out the structural power dynamics at the Supreme Court are designed to disempower dissent—from the architectural design of the building which dwarfs protests to make them seem insignificant, to the barricades now moved into the streets to keep them as far back as possible.

The right-wing Justices are also historically partisan and in fact, three Justices, Roberts, Kavanaugh, and Barrett all worked on the George W. Bush campaign in the run up to the 2000 Presidential election, an election not decided by the popular vote. Roberts’ ascension to the Court and insertion by President George W. Bush to the position of Chief Justice, a position for which he was less qualified than any other Justice then on the Court, was completed by a President unpopular with the majority in the 2000 election. Other Justices were all senior to him and typically should have been considered for the Chief Justice position.

Then there is the spate of permissive rulings on lethal military-grade guns by the conservative wing of the Court. By failing to regulating guns they are able to legally look away from the terrorization of the citizens by those guns. Ruth Sent Us activists say the Court blinds itself to the affects of terror it allows because it disempowers citizens in the same way the Taliban rules with terror over Afghanistan. By failing to rule for gun regulation they in effect delegate terror to young white men with easy access to guns to carry out the terror and control over its citizens. And by overturning Roe they distract attention from what they are doing.

Many of the activists in the group have strong leadership personalities and that would typically lead to conflict and infighting but not this group. They jell together well and they’d better get along too. The issues are weighing on them. They have few choices left available to them so creating trouble at the Justices’ homes is their tactic. The days are arduous and there seems to be little reward and it’s impossible to tell what affects they’re having.

One thing is certain and that is their social media handles are getting a lot of views. Their accounts on Twitter and Tic Toc are starting to gain more and more enumeration and that means people are watching them. The accounts are taken down a few times but they have not violated community standards and are restored quickly. It’s obvious to the activists they pose a threat to right wing parties so it emboldens them even more.

Rising To The Call For Social Justice

Howard Zinn wrote, “People should go where they are not supposed to go, say what they are not supposed to say, and stay when they are told to leave,” and that’s exactly what the abortion rights activists of SCOTUS6 Action Group are going to the homes to do. They go to Supreme Court Justices’ homes to say things that the people there don’t want to hear and they keep going back. Kavanaugh and Roberts on Wednesday, Barrett on Thursday, Thomas on Friday, Gorsuch on Saturday, and Alito on Monday.

A month later they have persisted in a relentless pace through summer heat, downpours and angry neighbors. They keep returning to the neighborhoods like a heard of elephants clamoring through sleepy villagages with their speakers cranked on blast from a wheeled-wagon. They carry their offensively “vulgar” signs and bold banners; they chant to the resistence pop-music; and they trumpet over their bullhorns. Their constant returns have stirred up “good trouble” in the neighborhoods of each of the five right-wing Justices who signed onto the Alito draft majority abortion opinion. Their persistence has irritated police and gotten many neighbors to come out to thank and support them for showing up. Some neighbors bring gift cards and food. Others wave and ask how they can donate or support the activists.

One neighbor who has had enough of the constant protests outside Amy Barrett’s home confronts the activists outside his home with a camera pointed in their faces. His underage daughter also follows him to confront the abortion activists while he records, and he curses at them, calling Sadie a “Filty Potty-Mouthed, F—ing Radical”. Sadie laughs it off and the other activists coin the term “Cully the Twatwaffle” and blast him on social media. They later make a sign in his honor reading “F—Theocracy and Cully the Twatwaffle,”hoping he’ll be there next week to see i when they return. Sadie writes his insult on a shirt she wears to mock him. She takes a selfie of it with Nadine.

Paradoxically the activists are energized by the pushback they get. They laugh it off and come up with names and slogans for the opposition neighbors. They have persisted for three weeks and will make it to a month soon and they show no signs of backing down.

June 3, Marks A Month of Home Protests

Despite heavy police guards outside the homes, protesters keep up their pressure and for a month and make it into June. They have visited one or more homes almost every day—and some homes much more often than once a day. They pass by the same home multiple times to come as close to the edge of picketing the homes without actually picketing. They’re getting more organized, their legs have strengthened, some have lost a little weight, and their shoes show wear.

The overturning of the rulings Roe v. Wade (1973), and Casey v. Planned Parenthood, the benchmark rulings as proposed in Justice Alito’s draft majority opinion of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health majority opinion will vanquish 50 years of what the right wing Justices themselves admitted during their confirmation hearings, was “settled law.”

The loss of these rights that granted an individual’s right to bodily autonomy and to decide whether or not to carry pregnancy to birth, is all but etched in stone. Justice Alito’s draft opinion of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health majority opinion, which was released to the media on May 2, may see to that if it is published in its draft form.

Nikki, an experienced activist who understands movement dynamics tells of the hypocrisy of this Court to regulate vaginas while allowing guns to multiply unabated and unregulated. While the home protests have gone on one month there have been several dozen mass-shootings killing and wounding hundreds of innocent people going about their daily routines. The gun cozy Court is ignoring mass-shootings which have become the predominant health crisis across the nation, several of the activists say.

Understanding Movement Dynamics

Movement building is by its nature contentious and disruptive, impolite and vulgar, and often results in arrests as ordinary people push against social inequalities to demonstrate their discontent. To be civil and polite, unvulgar, and not to go against law that led to societal inequality in the first place would otherwise not change anything, according to Nadine. The question becomes—how much force is necessary to effect changes for social justice.

Frederick Douglas answered that question in 1857.

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both.”

Nikki is another leader among the group and has a strong voice with experience from past political activities she quit after years’ of involvement and becoming frustrated. The political two-party system was designed to frustrate and not accede to change. She left and now helps run a group that took interest in the reproductive healthcare fight and wanted to go to the homes because it was a natural fit for her. Keeping up seems to wear her down physically but she pulls more energy from reserves and keeps going with the younger activists.

Nikki laments—the big out-of-town organizers like the Woman’s March and NARAL suck energy out of the reproductive rights movement by not posing a significant challenge to the Democratic power structure which has failed to codify Roe and is directly responsible for the coming overturn of Roe v. Wade. And because of this lack of follow-through the march was barely a blip in the media. “People come out to march for a couple of hours and these organizations do no follow through,” she said. “Not these milk-toast namby pamby one-off occasional things. Where is the “Okay, you hundred people from Colorado came out. Here’s each other’s contact information. Go do some shit and here are some ideas; here’s the other states and what they are doing. Here’s what we are doing and how to plug in.”

She is infuriated by the lack follow through and it is as if The Woman’s March and NARAL are where the woman’s movement goes to die. “And then people feel even more helpless because the organizations that are supposed to be doing shit, aren’t so why even bother. The only thing I’ve gotten from them is one fundraiser email.”

After an action at Amy Barrett’s home one day in May, the activists agree to meet afterwards at a sports bar to share tater-tots and beer. It’s a party to celebrate their friendships as much as anything; they blow off steam as they unwind from the stress of organizing, police, keeping up with hundreds of chat messages, planning, and the unruly neighbors in Barrett’s suburb.

Nikki deep dives into the power dynamics of movements and gives a take on why the Left struggles for social justice and it is an issue that many often miss. She has a whole thought thing on how there are two different kinds of “liberalism” and they are often at odds with one another in each person and this makes organizing difficult in activist circles.

As she talks her energy rises and her clear voice is easy to hear above all the other discussions in the sports bar. Her voice carries and has clout. She shares wisdom with the newer activists. They learn from her.

Guns v. Uteruses and Vaginas

Michelle joined the activists with experience from the healthcare industry. She had little experience in actions on the street but she fits in like smooth piece of the puzzle. She is artistic with signs and designs the sign for “Cully the twatwaffle.” Everyone gets a kick out of her antics. Shes is not as vocal as the others.

The Court is clearly not pro-life she says. “They would do something to help curtail gun violence in this country if they were,” she says. “Thomas dissented on a ruling which allowed for gun restrictions for those with a history of domestic violence, arguing a single conviction shouldn’t be enough. If Thomas had his way, he would allow open carry without license/permit of any firearm anywhere in the US.

She says that in the eyes of SCOTUS, an individual’s Second Amendment right supersedes the rights of women to bodily autonomy, the rights of our children to attend school safely, and the rights of all our nation’s citizens to live their lives free from the threat of these mass shootings.

She is angry and depressed about the mass shootings as everyone else in the SCOTUS6 Action Group is. They support themselves by talking to each other about the grieving nation and the overwhelming nature of the terror society is feeling.

Nikki repeats often “if it doesn’t bother someone then they are the problem.” It is apparent that guns are not a problem the Supreme Court is concerned enough to fix, she says. There is another mass-shooting in Philadelphia on June 5; a day after two others in other states. It has been just over a week since 19 children and two teachers were killed in a classroom in Uvalde, Texas. There were a record of 59 mass shootings in May 2022 across the U.S., according to a published report. Hundreds were killed and wounded, many families are forever being destroyed by gun violence across the U.S.

Several of the activists talk among themselves about how hypocritical the Court is by rulings to revoke reproductive rights while allowing gun laws to terrorize the nation. Its as if the Taliban were here wrecking terror but the Court and Elected can’t act in the role of the Taliban directly so they allow 18 year old white men to terrorize for them. It results in disempowerment and deflates the will to resist. They must overcome and keep going.

The Women, The Men, They, and Them

There are many men supporting the women leading the marchs to the homes. They are almost never on the bullhorn. But they show up to the actions with a supporting attitude. They join the chants with the others even when the chanting refers to feminine roles.

Joe Little is one of them. He often helps shuttle the activists to the direct actions and acts like a marshal to help them stay together so no one gets lost. He believes that even though men don’t experience reproductive healthcare issues personally, the issue extends equally to them from a societal standpoint because men have a stake in the outcome of a child bearing partner.

As a DC native and healthcare professional, he understands that revoking Roe would do incalculable harm to men in DC as well as their partners. He tells how he has been upset since the night Alito’s draft majority opinion was released on May 2.. He can’t get his mind around this Court’s vendetta against choice when there is choice in so many other aspects of American life.

“As an African American I am also aware of the rates of maternal mortality in African American Women. As a Black cisgender man I feel it’s important to stand for them as they stood for us,” he said.

As a Candidate for At Large City Council, he also understands that DC does not have a voice in the Federal system of government because it does not have elected Representatives or Senators. This needs to change he believes.

“DC is unable to write their own story when it comes to representation and Roe v. Wade. That is a disservice to the Women who reside in Washington DC, in Puerto Rico and in all Territories who lack representation in our government. We had no say in our representatives and they shouldn’t have a say in our affairs,” he said

Rusty is a late comer to the home demonstrations but loves the camaraderie and cooperative attitude of SCOTUS6 Action Group. He comes after work to support where he can. He is quickly admired by the others and takes a quiet role. With his size and stature the aggressiveness from unruly neighbors is somewhat neutralized and stay away. Rusty believes the nation is going backwards by decades. “All the conservative Justices are activists who lied under oath about settled law and Roe,” he said.

On a late Sunday afternoon Nadine protests outside the Supreme Court by herself. While she dances to music a man speeds by on a scooter wearing a MAGA hat. They exchange words. Gender has nothing to do with the rights of the oppressed and it is just a distraction from the issues she says. She chalks slogans on the street. Among them is “Equal justice under law, my ass.”

On the Western Pediment of the white marble facade the words “Equal Justice Under Law” are etched in block letters under its apex. Nadine tells me to look at the figure at the top. “See? Its a woman,” she says. It is actually the mythological figure ‘Liberty’ enthroned in the image of a woman’s body. To her right and left are the figures Order and Authority, which face her.

If Roe v. Wade is overturned and it is almost certain it will be, American women will no longer have the liberty of bodily autonomy and the words ‘equal justice under law’ will be relegated to slogan staus. We’ve seen such slogans before.

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Press Freedom Advocates Say No To Julian Assange Extradition

Tue, 05/17/2022 - 23:59
John Kiriakou said that it was illegal to classify an illegal action as was done with the ‘Collateral Murder’ video. Photo: John Zangas/DCMediaGroup

Washington DC— Press rights advocates joined voices at the Department of Justice on Tuesday afternoon to condemn efforts to extradite Wikileaks journalist Julian Assange to the United States on charges of violating the U.S. Espionage Act. Activists speaking at the Department of Justice included well-known whistleblower and former CIA Intelligence Officer, John Kiriakou; Max Blumenthal, Editor-in-Chief and writer for The Grayzone; and Randy Credico, a civil rights activist, comedian, radio host, and the former director of the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice. Many others also spoke, including Dr. Marsha Coleman-Abedayo, founder of No Fear Coalition and Esther Iverem, an independent media journalist.

The action was organized by DCActionForAssange and held in parallel with another action being held in the U.K. to urge Priti Patel, the Home Office Secretary to block Assange’s extradition. Home Secretary Priti Patel is expected to rule on Assange’s extradition May 18th. If she rules in favor of US extradition, Assange’s last, but best hope for freedom will be appealing to the European Court of Human Rights.

Assange has been held in Belmarsh Prison, London, since April 2019 and although he faces no charges in the U.K., he faces up to 175 years imprisonment if extradited to and convicted in the U.S.

The advocates condemned the treatment of Assange, calling those responsible for his incarceration hypocritical and barbaric parties in their roles to extradite him. Advocates also cast the process as illegal from the perspective of international law and a form of torture from a human rights perspective. They also called the entire affair an abuse of press-freedoms which are protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Max Blumenthal said, “We need to expect Julian Assange in our community here,” in the near future, meaning his extradition was destined to happen at any time. He called on those who loved press-freedoms to champion his cause, follow his case, and criticized those in media remaining silent as complicit.

Blumenthal also revealed that The Grayzone would continue to publish a trove of email which contained information damning to Home Secretary Priti Patel, UK Home Secretary, of a gross conflict of interest in oversight of Julian Assange’s extradition to the U.S.

John Kiriakou also castigated the mainstream media for its silence in covering the Assange case and ignoring the implications Assange’s extradition would have on journalistic liberties. Kiriakou said, “I’ve heard weak-kneed journalists saying ‘I’m not writing about this because Julian Assange isn’t a journalist he’s an activist.‘ It doesn’t make a difference what he is. What he did was he revealed waste, fraud, illegalities, or threats to the public health or to the public safety. Thats the legal definition of a whistleblower.”

Kiriakou also said that it was illegal to classify a criminal act and that just because the CIA says something is classified does not make it so. “This is a political case more than anything else and we have to make sure that the American people understand that it’s a political case,” he said.

Kiriakou urged Assange’s supporters to show up and to be present for Assange if and when he was brought before the Eastern District Court in Arlington, Virginia. It was in this same court that dozens of U.S. Attorneys twice failed to compel Chelsea Manning to testify against Julian Assange. As a result of her refusal to give testimony against Assange she was held in contempt of Court and further imprisoned another 18 months before the Judge was forced to free her. She was not convicted for refusing to testify against Assange.

Manning was previously convicted of violating the Espionage Act during a 2013 General Court-Martial at Fort Meade, for her role in releasing 750,000 classified documents to Wikileaks. She was sentenced to 35 years imprisonment and served from 2010 to 2017 until President Barack Obama commuted her sentence. These documents included a videotape that became known as the ‘Collateral Murder’ video which depicts two Reuters journalists and several Iraqi civilians, including children, being gunned down by a U.S. military Apache helicopter during the Iraq War. Public knowledge of this incident would not have come to light had the video not been released.

John Kiriakou referred, in part, to the ‘Collateral Murder’ video when he said that the classification of illegal actions was not sanctioned under national security law.

Esther Iverem, an independent journalist, and radio host of ‘On The Ground: Voices of Resistance From tge Nation’s Capital’ Photo: J. Zangas/DCMG

 

Esther Iverem, an independent media journalist, and radio host of ‘On the Ground: Voices of Resistance From the Nation’s Capital’, told there was a connection  between the absence of press coverage about oppression of black and brown populations around the world and the absence of coverage of Assange, because mainstream media avoided the stories highlighting the underlying issues.

“There’s been a war on black and brown populations around the world whose deaths don’t even make the news,” she said. “When they talk about the [mass-murder] shooter in Buffalo [New York] they don’t want to talk about how he was wearing some of the same Nazi insignia on his clothing that the soldiers in Ukraine are wearing, that we are funding and supporting. If we had journalists courageous enough who aren’t afraid to speak out we would hear more of this news.”

Iverem was highly critical of those in the corporate press and admonished their silence on the issues behind the Assange story. “You’re not doing any favors to the American people by keeping truth from them. When we get to the point where our jobs and livelihoods are more important than telling the truth then I wonder why we came into journalism in the first place,” she said.

Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, Founder of The No Fear Coalition, and a whistleblower during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush Administrations, spoke from her own experiences in describing Assange’s incarceration. “Anyone who believes in press freedom and opposes imperialism must be a staunch Assange supporter because Wikileaks revealed U.S. crimes committed around the world,” she said.

Coleman-Adebayo exposed management for its corruption, retaliation, and discrimination against Federal workers at the Environmental Protection Agency during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Her experience and pushback against such policies ushered through Congress the No Fear Act, a law signed into effect in 2003, that has protected thousands of Federal workers and their families from exposing personnel abuses in government workplaces.

Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, Founder of The No Fear Coalition, and a whistleblower during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush Administrations, spoke from her own experiences in describing Assange’s incarceration. Photo: J.Zangas/DCMG

Coleman-Adebayo drew a parallel between her experiences as a whistleblower and that of Assange. “I just had to be here today because I know the cost of being a whistleblower—the cost to your life, to your family, to your community. I think we all need to identify in a personal way with being a whistleblower,” she said.

Randy Credico said it was a very good sign that so many new activists and supporters had taken interest in Julian Assange’s case. “What they’re doing is a coup—forget about January 6–its like the final blow pulling out its most important pillar—the First Amendment.”

Chip Gibbons, Director of Policy for Defending Rights & Dissent, said that since Wikileaks revealed the truth about U.S. foreign policy, the U.S. intelligence agencies have waged an “all-out vendetta on everyone involved.” He pointed out that Chelsea Manning served more time than anyone else ever has for giving information to news media.

Gibbons also characterized the FBI and CIA as rogue organizations in their involvement with the Assange case. “The FBI illegally entered the nation of Iceland under false pretenses and seized the twitter account of a sitting member of Parliament and the CIA planned to assassinate Assange,” he said. He said that these are some of the reasons to be concerned about the prosecution of Assange and the that these policies had far reaching implications to press freedoms.

Voices From The Past

There is a lengthy history of whistleblower resistance in American history. Notable among those is Daniel Ellsberg, an employee of Rand Corporation who was working at the Pentagon when he released information to the New York Times about the Vietnam War during the Nixon Administration. These unauthorized releases became known as the Pentagon Papers and consisted of a trove of documents exposing U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, the bombing of Hanoi, and the creep of the War into the neighboring countries of Laos and Cambodia.

In an interview with DCMediaGroup in 2014, Ellsberg said that Manning’s willingness to release information to Wikileaks resulted in “truth that authorities did not want [let] out, about torture, assassinations in Afghanistan, corruption…”

Video interview: Daniel Ellsberg Interview one

Video interview: Daniel Ellsberg Interview two

Ellsberg’s release of the Pentagon Papers caused a  knee-jerk reaction from intelligence services, and threw a damper on the Nixon Administration’s continuation of the war there as public perception cooled towards U.S. forces being there. The Manning document release had similar affects on public perception to the Iraq War, both at home and abroad.

Another voice from the past is that of Ethan McCord, the Army Soldier depicted in the Collateral Murder video which was revealed in the Manning release. McCord was a Specialist assigned to a combat unit in Baghdad when Apache helicopters opened fire on Reuters Journalists and Iraqi civilians nearby. McCord was sent to the scene of the carnage with his squad and described in this interview the aftermath of what he found and his reaction to help dave the lives of seriously wounded Iraqi children.

McChord soon afterwards left military service.

Video interview: Ethan McChord

Randy Credico, a civil rights activist and radio host, said the prosecution of Assange was tantamount to pulling out the first pillar of democracy-the First Amendment. He traveled from NYC with his companion, Sophia, to speak at the event.

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Reproductive Rights Advocates March To Supreme Court In DC

Sat, 05/14/2022 - 12:43
Reproductive rights supporters marched by the thousands on Saturday demanding the Supreme Court keep Roe v. Wade in place. Photo: John Zangas/ DCMediaGroup

Washington DC—Thousands rallied at the Washington Monument for reproductive rights in the nation’s capital as the U.S. Supreme Court was poised to overturn its 50-year old benchmark Roe v. Wade ruling. At the Washington Monument speakers told stories of what healthcare looked like before the pivotal ruling legalizing abortion in 1973. They said that overturning abortion rights would push the country back to a time when many died or were no longer able to give birth because of botched procedures and the fact that safe procedures were then not legal or available.

They marched in waves to the U.S. Capitol and past the Supreme Court, chanting and carrying the signs they made. Some had plans to later continue their protests at the suburban homes of the six conservative justices who signed the draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade.

Sister marches were held in cities across the U.S. as the grassroots swell of resistence grew across the nation. All indications of increasing police and political pressure to restrict access around the U.S. Capitol and U.S. Supreme Court buildings have only served to make protests grow as realization sinks in that healthcare liberties are at risk, and with them the threat to other pivotal Supreme Court decisions such as Civil rights, same sex marriage, interracial marriage, and contraceptive rights.

Thousands followed the lead banner to the Supreme Court in a show of support for maintaining the benchmark rulings of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Photo: John Zangas/DCMediaGroup

Demonstrations have been held daily outside the Supreme Court as organizers mapped out plans to circumvent the coming ruling by planning free services and safe-haven city zones in States for those seeking healthcare options outside the States that have already passed restricive healthcare laws.

There were rows of barricades and law enforcement at the U.S. Capitol and the Supreme Court in anticipation of the large march. As the marchers proceeded up Constitution Avenue, they chanted “Bans off our bodies!” and “Our bodies, our choice!” and when they reached the Supreme Court, they chanted “We will not go back!” and “We will not obey!”

Mayor Muriel Bowser vowed to make Washington DC a safe-haven for anyone seeking abortions. There are over 700,000 residents living in the District proper who do not have a voice in the U.S. Legislative because they do not have elected Representatives and Senators. Since DC does not have statehood, the DC Mayor serves in a role as if she were a State Governor but with oversight from the U.S. Congress so any such declaration of safe-haven she makes could be rescinded by a conservative U.S. Legislature in tandem with a Supreme Court overturn of Roe v. Wade.

Protesters Walk Past Homes of Supreme Court Justices

Although Republican Legislators frowned on protests outside the suburban homes of Supreme Court Justices, protesters have walked past the homes of the six conservative Justices since the draft opinion was leaked on May 2. Virginia and Maryland State Governors Glenn Youngkin and Larry Hogan have asked the Department of Justice to step in to prevent protests from going to Jurists’ homes but the White House sided with protesters saying the First Amendment allows for peaceful assembly there. And that didn’t stop Saturday’s protesters from going to the homes of all six conservative Supreme  Court Justices. Organizers coordinated a series of break-away protests and visited all six justices who signed on Justice Alito’s draft opinion.  There have been cordons of Federal and State police outside the homes to monitor the protests.

One group of about 20  protesters showed up at Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s home in Chevy Chase, Maryland and then walked about a mile to Chief Justice John Robert’s home in an adjacent neighborhood. They were met by lines of police outside both homes, wearing different uniforms and from different agencies. Typically Federal police agencies are tasked to provide security for high-ranking government officials, but there were also State police and DC police on the scene—which numbered about 20 officers in uniform—more than one officer for every protester that walked by.

The protesters were both vocal and persistent, walking past Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s home eight times. There were no signs anyone was present inside. Local residents looked from their windows and some waved in approval while many blew horns in support as they passed. One nearby resident came out to ask the protesters how to connect with the activists so she could organize others in the neighborhood to join the protesters.

Other groups visited the homes of Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch and Barrett. Police in Virginia restricted access the Justice Thomas’s home but it only served to make protesters inconvenience neighborhood traffic by impeding it.

Voices of Women Fighting To Keep Reproductive Rights (Video Below)

Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood b. Casey have not been overturned—yet. Overwhelmingly women want it to stay that way. The Supreme Court is expected to rule in early June after this term has ended. These are some of the voices of the supporters who marched Saturday.

Rosemary (No Last Name Given) in her 60s

”Leave women’s bodies alone. Let us make our own decisions-please. I can’t believe we’re going back in our history. In 1973 it was very, very scary. If you were accidentally pregnant you had no place to go.”

Julia Scotton, in her 50s

”Stop this Court from taking us back to the 1950s. They have no right to control women’s bodies. A fetus is not a baby. The sad thing about this is they only care about the fetus. Once the baby is born they don’t provide healthcare, food, shelter, or anything else. So is this really about pro-life? No. Its about keeping women down and its about keeping the poor poorer. Because who can’t afford to go out of State or out of Country for an abortion? Poor people. The rich women will still be able to have abortions at will. This is nothing about pro-life.”

Katherine Schultz, 20s, Mother of one daughter

”My daughter should have human rights. Withholding abortion is a form of torture. I hope that when she grows up she has the right to abortion whenever she wants and for whatever reason.”

Women young and old stand against rescinding their healthcare liberties. Photo: J. Zangas/DCMG

Kate Bigley, High School Student

“We have to do something about this. This fight has already happened. Its terrible we have to do it again. It infuriates me. It terrorizes me. I can’t believe I’m growing up in a Country where basic human rights are something we have to fight so bitterly for. But that doesn’t take away my determination to do that fight again. The reasoning of [Alito’s draft opinion] can be applied to turning back contraceptives, the rights to get contraceptives, and the rights to gay marriage. Its the logic that’s used that os dangerous and the fact that a body of people who are trusted to be objective to carrying out the Constitution are applying it in ways that roll back fundamental rights.”

 

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Congresswoman Cori Bush Joins Abortion Rights Protests Outside SCOTUS

Tue, 05/10/2022 - 23:59

Washington DC—A modest gathering of abortion rights protesters got an unexpected signal boost from U.S. Representative Cori Bush (D-MO) when she joined a protest organized by ShutDownDC outside the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday night. The Congresswoman took over on the bullhorn for a few minutes thanking the activists for their dedication in the fight for women’s healthcare and giving them encouragement to continue their activism.

But it was the double wall of barricades that set the backdrop behind Congresswoman Bush of a Supreme Court that appeared almost under siege ever since last Monday when an unauthorized pre-released opinion authored by Justice Alito spilled into the media. It was the pre-release of his opinion that ignited a surge of angry demonstrations—and the rebirth of a new movement for woman’s healthcare rights—not seen there in many decades.

“We’re not new to this fight,” she said as forced-birth trolls tried to out-shout her on their own bullhorns nearby. “We understand that [these] folks want to control our bodies because they can’t control our minds. But you know what? When abortion rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up and fight back!” Bush rallied with the pro-choice activists, leading the activists in a series of chants to shut down the trolls nearby who we’re beginning to anger the activists. The activists volleyed nearby by bullhorns with the trolls until police formed a line to separate the groups.

“This is our movement,” she continued. “This isn’t about babies this is about control and that’s one thing they won’t get from us. If it was about babies then these folks wouldn’t have a problem with medicare. There would be no problem with affordable housing. We’d have clean water and clean air. This isn’t about babies this is about control,” she repeated.

Pro-abortion rights activists marched from the U.S. Supreme Court to the U.S. Capitol to demand Congress pass the Women’s Health Protection Act. Photo: John Zangas/DCMediaGroup

The Senate is set to vote on the “Woman’s Health Protection Act” on Wednesday. Passage of this bill would create a Federal mandate which supersedes States’ restrictive laws over women’s rights to abortion. This bill has little chance of gaining the support it needs to pass because of the filibuster, Senator Joe Manchin’s pro-abortion stand, and Senator Kyristen Sinema’s pro-filibuster stand.

The activists then marched to the U.S. Capitol which is across the street from the U.S. Supreme Court. There they met more barricades and police but navigated onto the grass across from the North Wing of the Capitol.

Another speaker decried the expected U.S. Supreme Court overturn of Roe v. Wade because of the loss of autonomy over their bodies and the life and death consequences forced-birth laws would have for many experiencing unwanted or at-risk pregnancies.

The activists were decidedly not going back to a pre-1973 United States when abortions were only accessible through back-room pseodo-doctors resulting in death and infertility for many.

“I’d rather attend a protest than a funeral,” said a 19-year old speaker who said her grandmother encouraged her to go to the protest because she didn’t want to see her granddaughter live in a time she did when abortions were illegal and many suffered permanently from botched procedures. “Abortions are going to continue nevertheless and women are going to die,” she said.

Women and supporters are demanding Roe v. Wade not be overturned and vow to continue the fight for healthcare rights no matter what the Supreme Court rules. Photo: John Zangas/DCMG

 

 

The action comes on the heals of visits by activists and supporters to the suburban homes of several of the Supreme Court Justices who signed in support of the Alito opinion. Police presence has been heavy because of the swelling numbers of participants in the abortion rights movement. Crowd-control barricades with 10-foot metal fencing behind them have rarely been erected around the U.S. Supreme Court pending a high-profile ruling.

 

 

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Women’s Rights Groups Swarm SCOTUS As Unofficial Roe Ruling Surfaces

Tue, 05/03/2022 - 17:06
Thousands descended on the Supreme Court Tuesday following an unauthorized pre-release of an opinion set to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade law granting women certain rights to choose birth options. Photo: John Zangas/DCMG

Washington DC—On Monday night an unprecedented leak of a pre-decisional opinion showed the conservative-heavy Supreme Court is poised to overturn the historic Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey rulings which protected a woman’s liberty to decide whether or not to have an abortion. The premature release of the draft opinion immediately triggered an onslaught of reactions outside the white marbled Supreme Court building as thousands rallied in opposition to the impending official ruling. There was, however, little they could do politically in the near term to change the expected outcome. What was not yet known was how this decision would play out in the results of the midterm November elections later this year.

The high Court’s ruling—although not yet officially released—is certain to further polarize viewpoints while galvanizing women’s healthcare rights advocates to provide work-around solutions for those seeking abortions. It will also spur renunciation of right-wing discourse over women’s rights and erode conservative support at the mid-term poles this November when the decision’s impacts will have become more clear.

A vast majority of Americans—over 70%—support a woman’s right to decide their own healthcare options and plan their own families, according to a Pew Research poll conducted this year.

Emotions Run High Outside Supreme Court

Outside the Supreme Court police cordoned off the burgeoning crowd as speakers decried the unprecedented early text release which was confirmed authentic by Chief Justice Roberts earlier in the day.

Speakers included Senator Elizabeth Warren and House Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who both excoriated the contents of Justice Alito’s text. Several other speakers urged supporters to donate to local collectives providing services for those needing healthcare but not able to pay for it.

Later a dozen forced-birth activists showed up to heckle the crowd but were out-shouted and surrounded by hundreds of women’s healthcare rights advocates. The crowd confronted the hecklers who refused to leave although they had an exit on the Supreme Court grounds. A clash ensued and police arrested one of the hecklers before escorting the rest of them away. It was not clear what charges he faced.

The backlash against overturning the William E. Burger Court ruling on Roe v. Wade in 1973 has been building for decades as attempt after attempt by conservatives to overturn it had failed. But attempts to whittle away at and overturn the 50-year old Roe v. Wade law gained traction over the last four years by the confirmation the three consecutive controversial right-wing jurists. They were pushed through the confirmation process by very slim margins in a deeply split partisan Congress following acrimonious hearings. These confirmations occurred during the Presidency of Donald Trump, an administration that lost the 2016 election popular vote by 2.7 million votes; and a president with the historically lowest approval rating of any President ever.

The text of an embargoed ruling was released to journalists at Politico and has embarrassed the Supreme Court as Chief Justice Roberts vowed an investigation. Photo: John Zangas/DCMG

Next came the inevitable political maneuvering to vet the conservative Jurists. First was the forced delay of President Barrack Obama’s first nomination of Merrick Garland to the Court by then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who premised that a SCOTUS nomination 11-months out from an election should be delayed until after the election was done. McConnell then rejected his own premise at the end the Trump Administration and weeks from the Inauguration, by rushing the confirmation hearings of Amy Barrett. As a result, the Court has lost the luster as an unbiased mitigator of constitutional law. Some of those calling its legitimacy into question include key Democratic leadership.

All of the last three conservative Jurists appointed— Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett, testified in their opinion Row V. Wade was “settled law” during confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The impending decision to overturn the “settled law” was met by Democratic leadership with bitter criticism that these three Jurists lied to Congress during their confirmation hearings.

But the Court faces other potential sources of backlash as key elements of Alito’s justification to overturn the Roe and Casey rulings can easily be tailored to remove LGBTQ and Marriage liberties the Court has already enshrined.

Historic Roe v. Wade Ruling Was Not Absolute

When the William E. Burger Court ruled in 1973 to overturn the Texas District Court ruling in Jane Roe v. Henry Wade, the Court pointed out that the right to abortion was ‘not absolute’ and had to be weighed against the government’s interest in protecting a woman’s health and protecting prenatal life. This wording left the door slightly open to disturb the present Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.

The 14th Amendment provided a fundamental right to privacy and the Court held that the Texas law violated this right. The 1973 William Burger Court held:

“The due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides a fundamental “right to privacy” that protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose whether to have an abortion. This right is not absolute, and must be balanced against the government’s interests in protecting women’s health and protecting prenatal life. The Texas law making it a crime to procure an abortion violated this right.”

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden vowed to prepare options in response on Monday to the pre-release of the Court’s decision. But any option to affect Federal law will have to pass through Congress and so far that body has refused to take down its own rule, the filibuster.

Biden’s press release reads,

I believe that a woman’s right to choose is fundamental, Roe has been the law of the land for almost fifty years, and basic fairness and the stability of our law demand that it not be overturned.

Second, shortly after the enactment of Texas law SB 8 and other laws restricting women’s reproductive rights, I directed my Gender Policy Council and White House Counsel’s Office to prepare options for an Administration response to the continued attack on abortion and reproductive rights, under a variety of possible outcomes in the cases pending before the Supreme Court. We will be ready when any ruling is issued.“

On Tuesday, Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed the pre-decisional opinion was in fact an authentic text and promised to initiate a probe to determine the parties responsible for its release to Politico. But rights groups were quick to counter that the real issue is the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

Investigations into releases of government information are usually handled by the FBI.

Contents of The Pre-decisional Opinion

An cursory review of the contents of the pre-decisional opinion has shown that Justice Alito’s majority opinion is a disturbing read at best. He referred to Roe as “not deeply rooted” in American history, opening the door for the Court to also throw out recent rulings in rights for LGBTQ access to Federal , same-sex marriage, interracial marriage, and civil rights in general. Alito also quoted Sir Matthew Hale, an English jurist from the early 1600s, in support of his opinion. Hale supported marital rape and had several women executed for witchcraft.

Video short of woman’s healthcare rights advocates:

We will update this story as more developments are learned.

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May Day March 2022 Supports Workers Rights In U.S.

Sun, 05/01/2022 - 12:49

 

Washington DC—One won’t see mainstream media come out to report the annual May Day March in Washington DC at Malcom X Park and the numbers of marchers won’t swell by the tens of thousands as they do at stores on black Friday or at stadiums during the playoffs. But maybe May Day should be much more popular given that workers rights affect just about everyone struggling to make it in the economy with earnings for many that don’t even cover the cost of living. Mainstream media avoids coverage of workers carrying International Workers of the World (IWW) posters, red flags and calling for workers’ rights with higher wages because the wealthy own the major media outlets. why advertise the power of workers organizing? But the Organizing dynamics of union representation in Amazon max-prison style warehouses and Starbucks coffee shop sweat shop counters has caught mainstream media attention lately. Wealthy media owners know that workers hold the real power in determining their influence in the workplace and their economic outcomes—when they are organized and speak with one voice.

Despite virtually no media coverage, organizers from the IWW, the Socialist Party, the Communist Party, and immigration rights groups loyally show up each year to raise their voices and community awareness of the struggles workers, women, and immigrants face for paying the price of the long arm at capitalism’s stick held by wealthy CEOs and political classes.

The May Day March is a celebration of the power of the working class despite a lack of resources in both time and money and a lack of the lobbying power and access enjoyed by the wealthy in legislative affairs.

Diana, a member of the Communist Party, spoke about their reasons why supporting worker’s rights is important, saying that May Day is a day workers celebrate their collective power through organizing with unions. “Workers’ rights are always going to be a struggle because of the nature of the power of the capitalist ruling class has over us, they said. Diana, who did not give their last name pointed out that many of the privileges workers enjoy—the 5-day work week, 8-hour work day, and a 2-day time of time off per week were the result of unions and sacrifices workers make to fight for those rights.

But they also pointed out that immigrants, marginalized persons, and latinos working in janitorial and restaurant positions had the least power in the workforce.

“We are the backbone of this country and deserve to be respected and not exploited, they said.

Many Latino groups joined the May Day march in Washington DC to focus attention on the workers who form the backbone of the economy. Photo: John Zangas/DCMG

Diana offered that could be accomplished by organizing unions by “standing up and taking revolutionary action for all [workers’] rights, not just for the rights of a few.”

Union Organizers Gain High-Profile Victories

With small a budget and improbable odds, organizers were able to vote the unionize an Amazon fulfillment warehouse in the Staten Island Borough, NYC on April 1, 2022, the first ever unionization of an Amazon facility. The main organizer, Christian Smalls had been fired from Amazon for staging a walk-out in 2020 over a lack of worker protections during the Covid pandemic.

This was a stunning victory for workers of the behemoth company run by Jeff Bezos, a billionaire who reaped over 47 billion in profits during the pandemic while many workers lost jobs. Amazon workers were forced to work in high pressure conditions and odd-hour shifts management created despite the spread of Covid through their ranks and with little support or safeguard for them them from managers. This is one of the main reasons why Smalls organized the successful unionization vote on April 1, 2022. His story is an impressive example of how the will and tenacity of organizing can overcome the deep-pocket push-back and lobbying power of the largest companies in the U.S.

The efforts of Smalls and others like him have resulted in historic gains for workers during a time of upheaval in the workforce due to the pandemic and inflationary pressures. It has also emboldened other Amazon facilities to begin organizing for union representation.

It is also in keeping with the struggle of the workers during the Chicago Haymarket riots 135 years ago fighting for the 8-hour work week and other rights.

Starbucks employees have also been successful, voting to unionize coffee shops in several locations. A popular Starbucks location in Baltimore at the corner of Charles and Preston Streets unanimously voted to unionize just last week. This accomplishment occurred despite intense lobbying from Starbucks management against workers’ unionizing efforts.

During Pandemic Billionaires Gained While Workers Lost 

Billionaires raked in nearly 6 trillion during the pandemic over the last 2 years while many women lost jobs staying at home to care for families and their overall wealth of workers diminished by 0.3 %, jobs and savings evaporated, a million died in the U.S., and 12 million died globally. Yet the global economy remained tilted so that the profits of the U.S. big five (Amazon, Facebook, Walmart, Big Oil, Blackrock), afforded billionaires breathtaking gains.

The facts are really quite ugly when it comes to the viability of the U.S. working class with inflation taking more than its share of a shark-like bite at the little wage gains workers have eked out over the last six months. Just to fill up the tank costs over $50—and in case one is wondering, most of those who attended the 2022 May Day March in Washington DC walked, rode their bike, or took metro to get to it.

The world’s 2,400 billionaires raked in an increase of $4 trillion to their wealth during the first year of the pandemic alone, increasing their fortunes by 54%, according to a published report and that was in the first year of the pandemic.

A poster created by artist and illustrator Donny Dots was displayed at the White House on May Day to draw attention to the lop-sided wealth of 26 billionaires. Photo: John Zangas/DCMediaGroup

During the lengthy pandemic the wealthiest 1% increased their wealth by $6.5 trillion in 2021 to 32.3 % while the wealth owned by the bottom 90% of Americans dropped by 0.3 %, (30.2% from 30.5% of total wealth) according to government statistics. The wealthiest Americans (the “1 %” owned 32.3 % of total wealth. the next bracket of wealth holders “the 9 %” have the balance of wealth.

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Activists Support Ukraine with Light Projections on Russian Embassy

Thu, 03/17/2022 - 00:36

Washington DC— Activists showed support for Ukrainian resistence fighters by projecting a light show on the Russian Embassy on Wednesday night. The lights were to demonstrate support for Ukrainian resistence fighters, despite the activists’ stand against war. They were also designed to embarrass the few Russian diplomats left in the U.S.

Activists used a high-power projector with a metal plate copied from a button design depicting a Ukrainian woman holding flowers while facing an onslaught of a certain violent end. The Ukrainian resistence has stood against overwhelming odds the last 20 days and captivated worldwide attention, while inspiring the support of nearly every nation.

Activists projected this image of a Ukrainian freedom fighter at the Russian Embassy. Image: Heidi Phelps ©️ use by artist’s permission

Bill Moyer, Executive Director of Backbone Campaign, said that the projection onto the Russian Embassy was “to escalate peace and show solidarity with the people of Ukraine.” He also called for a ceasefire and withdrawal of all Russian forces. “We stand with the Ukrainian people who, like all people of the world, hunger only for peace and dignity,” he said.

Phil Atito, the light projectionist said he stood with solidarity for Ukrainian freedom fighters, and worried parties were moving towards nuclear war. He faulted NATO for its decades’ long ambitions that contributed to a war-footing situation. “We are not condoning Russia in any way,” he said, ”but the part of the puzzle that isn’t being talked about is NATO escalating the situation for the last [few decades].”

The projected image of a woman holding a sunflower was created by artist Heidi Phelps as a free non-commercial download to give the public a chance to show support for the Ukrainian resistence. The poster was inspired by Ukrainian vyshyvanka traditional folk dress, and Ukraine’s national flower, the sunflower, according to Phelps’ website.

Phelps said she created the image to stand with the Ukrainian people and stand against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “I made this poster available for free download on my website to make it easier for people to print and use as protest posters to get out on the streets and make themselves heard. By projecting this image, I’ll be creating a series of photos to use in a digital campaign to help raise funds for military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and provide a list of resources where people all over the world can provide concrete help now,” she said.

The light projection was accompanied by an image of a Ukrainian flag behind it.

Activists renamed the entrance to the Russian Embassy ‘Zelinsky Way’ in honor of the president leading the ongoing resistence in Ukraine.

Moyer said that said that “no country’s greatness is elevated by violence and bullying. Neither the US role in NATO nor interference in post-Soviet Russia is an excuse for Putin’s immoral, delusional and dictatorial violence on the people of Ukraine and his endangerment of the entire world. We refuse to allow Putin to bait the world into further devastating violence or any escalation that might unleash unthinkable levels of nuclear annihilation.”

Moyers applauded the people of Russia protesting in order to halt the war being perpetrated in their name. He urged them to continue their courageous and necessary efforts to stop the war on Ukraine through general strikes or any other nonviolent means.

“There are so many threats to our children’s future and the planet. Those actual threats demand transnational solidarity and collaboration. Russia’s shameful war robs us all of the opportunity to address these challenges together.”

Other light images projected included ‘Stop the War Machine’ and ‘War Fixes Nothing.’ All images were projected over a color image of a blue and yellow Ukrainian flag.

A video of the action follows below.

 

 

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Ukrainian-Americans Denounce Russian Invasion

Sun, 03/06/2022 - 16:58

    Students from Hood College joined Ukrainian-Americans to show their support for the beleaguered nation. Photo: J. Zangas/DCMG

 

Washington, DC—Hundreds of Ukrainian-Americans rallied at the White House Sunday on the 10th day of a brutal Russian invasion of their homeland and urged NATO and the Biden Administration to close the sky above the imperiled nation with direct air support. Many carried signs and wore painted Ukrainian flags on their faces while others were draped in blue and yellow Ukrainian flags and wore flowers in their hair. Speakers warned of much worse days to come for Ukraine and Europe if the invading military forces of Russian President Vladimir Putin are not decisively stopped.

Many told of family back home hiding in subways and bunkers and unable to evacuate as bombs, missile strikes, and special forces control most of the throughways leading from the cities.

Andrii [surname redacted], an international student from Hood College who was joined by several other students, said he was concerned members his family were trapped in [city redacted] in a bunker without a safe passage and dwindling supplies of food and water and that power was cut. “My father is on the front lines fighting and my mom and sister are in a bunker,” he said. He also said he felt terrible not only because of their situation but because the war was not something they wanted. He also said it was necessary to fight not just for Ukraine’s sake but also for the survival of Europe.

He reasoned that “Putin was just going to go into Poland after he took Ukraine” so placating Russia by standing back while Ukraine was destroyed was making an wider regional war more likely.

Andrew Futiy, President of the Ukraine Congress Committee of America had a message for the citizens of his country. “Dear brothers and sisters of Ukraine: Let there be no doubt we are with you, we are fighting for you, and we’re doing everything to make sure that Ukraine remains free and independent, and that you are alive.”

The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America is calling for more military equipment to be sent to Ukrainian fighters with deliveries of military fighters; continuing the crippling sanctions which have shut Russian banks from access to SWIFT, an international monetary transaction network; and supports closing the air space over Ukraine by creating a no-fly zone.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that any direct military action taken by NATO countries to create a no-fly zone would be taken as an act of war and would result in “catastrophic consequences” for the rest of the world,” according to a published report.

Putin further warned the West on Sunday that sanctions were tantamount to a declaration of war.

Andrii [surname redacted] argued that Vladimir Putin was already a significant threat and serious enough for Europe and NATO to engage Putin now and before he attacked Poland. He considered the situation serious enough that if NATO waits any longer it will give Russian forces a stronger hand in the coming weeks.

Video of Ukrainian-American action at the White House on Sunday:

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DC Area Peace Activists Discuss Ukraine Tensions

Sat, 02/19/2022 - 21:24

Washington DC—Local Peace Activists spoke about the growing crisis in East Europe, characterized the crisis as avoidable, and recommended solutions to avoid conflict. As tensions between world powers reached a climax not seen since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, and diplomatic efforts between stakeholders seemed all but doomed to fail, the activists drew on years of experience and understanding of global issues to draw their recommendations. Despite ominous developments they still held out hope that war could be averted.

Their recommendations came as President Joe Biden spoke to the nation on Friday afternoon, saying that diplomacy was still an option. His optimism however, was eclipsed by media reports of shelling in Eastern Ukraine from rebel-held territory, pipeline explosions, a car bomb explosion in Donesk, and the evacuations of most Western Nation embassies from Kiev. Another report flashed that Ukraine separatists had evacuated Ukrainians to Russia from rebel held territory, further complicating efforts to unwind regional tensions.

Superpowers are Responsible for Arms Reduction

David Swanson, Executive Director, World Beyond War, said that both Russia and the United States have played roles in the crisis.

“I think we’re dealing with a situation in which all the momentum is toward escalation. You just can’t line up two armies in front of each other, swear to each one that the other is about to attack them, commit each one to counter-attacking, throw in nationalistic and ethnic hatred, and then hope for peace. Both sides are guilty of this, not because they are equal in all ways, but simply because they are guilty of this. The main way in which they are not equal is that this is happening on the border of Russia, whereas the U.S. instigator is thousands of miles away. Russia’s demands for months have been perfectly reasonable and exactly what the U.S. would demand if the roles were reversed. Evacuating people to safety is a good thing, though unfortunate and not a complete solution.”

Swanson pointed out that the U.S. had already derived benefits from the situation by arms sales and the establishment additional military bases in Eastern Europe. He also offered possible solutions to deescalation.

“A complete solution would be to begin a reverse arms-race, a deescalation. But the reason Biden and gang don’t much care about their predictions of imminent invasions making them look dumb is the other purposes of such a crisis that are rarely talked about. The U.S. has gotten out of this already: new bases in Slovakia, billions in tank sales to Poland, billions more in other weapons to Ukraine and Eastern Europe, and along with all of that, more U.S. influence in a Europe kept at odds with Russia—plus a proposal to Congress for record military spending without the slightest murmer of diaspproval from anywhere. A success in moving toward peace would require undoing all of those successes for the military industrial congressional “intelligence” media academic thinktank complex. But if we can make it through 50 days of an invasion being imminent, we can make it through 100.“

Sustain Peace By Supporting International Monitoring Groups Like the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe

Michael Beer, Director of Nonviolence International, an Internationally recognized organization dedicated to building a global culture of nonviolence, said, “We need all governments to beat the drums of peace.” Beers further elaborated that the U.S. could do more to support peace monitoring support by strengthening the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine.

“While the US is concerned about the safety of its OSCE personnel it is at moments such as these when we most need peace monitors. It is critically important to maintain the personnel, who are currently involved in monitoring the situation along the line of contact and to take every possible measure to expand their capacity. Strengthening the Peace Monitoring Mission in Ukraine is something everyone can agree on.”

Michael Beer recently published his first book, Non-Violent Tactics in the 21st Century, which is a free update of Gene Sharp’s seminal text training the world in the value of nonviolent tactics, and is available online here.

Reduce Conflict Scenarios by Disbanding NATO and Cutting Military Expendatures

Medea Benjamin, co-founder and peace activist at CODEPINK! Women For Peace, said in a video that the roots of the current situation were tied up in continuing support for expanding NATO, while at home both parties in the Congress continued to green-light massive military spending. This along with silence among the voices of progressives has led to the present situation in Ukraine.

“Parties In the House and Senate fast-tracked bills calling for massive [amounts] of weapons to be sent to Ukraine. It just shows us once again that we have two war parties. We’ve seen this before and we’re seeing it now. The progressives in the meantime, are much more focused on domestic issues and you don’t hear them in Congress coming out and screaming ‘what the heck is going on’ and ‘what we need now is deescalation, diplomacy, and not to antagonize Russia’.”

Benjamin also said that progressives needed to discuss disbanding NATO and pointed to recent historic facts to explain why Ukraine’s intent to joint NATO led to Russia’s reaction.

“At the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union there were guarantees given to then President Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not move eastward and instead NATO move easteard and now NATO is on Russia’s border. So instead of progressives in Congress saying now is the time to talk about NATO there is all this talk about shoring up NATO.”

Benjamin discussed the limited role peace groups have in projecting a peace narrative because mainstream media was a much longer reach. “Peace groups are small and don’t have the ability to mobilize. The [mainstream] media consistently puts out the message ‘is Biden strong enough’ and ‘should he put sanctions on Russia now or later’, so we don’t have the mainstream media that can help us. We don’t have enough voices in the Democratic party so we have to work overtime to get the message out that it is insane what the Biden Administration id doing with the support of most of the congress.”

Benjamin also pointed out that most Americans do not want war with Russia, especially a war with a nuclear armed power, over the sovereignty of a nation next to Russia that most Americans cannot find on a map.

Commitments made During the Glasgow Climate Conference Demand Solutions for Deescalation

Margaret Flowers, Director of Popular Resistance, said that Western nations made a pact with the planet to preserve the environment for future generations but the signors of the COP26 agreements were sidestepping their commitments by posturing and moving towards conflict.

“The U.S. military is the greatest user of fossil fuel as a single institution and it is also the greatest polluter on the planet. There is a growing awareness in the climate justice and anti-war movements that these things are closely interconnected and we can’t deal with the climate crisis if we don’t address the U.S. military and the wars it wages.”

She also said that the world is changing geopolitically and the U.S. needed to accept that it is no longer the dominant world power it once was.

Flowers said that in terms of solutions we already know what they are and they include working within the international structures we already have in a good-faith way by respecting the framework of the Minsk Protocols, agreements signed by the key regional governments in 2014/15. She stated that the U.S. must stop funding and arming those in the Ukraine government it helped put into power by coup in 2014 and it must work earnestly with the U.N. Security Council to stabilize East Europe.

“The U.S. has been propagating misinformation to the U.N. Security Council but must use that body in the way it was intended to resolve the conflict that is going on in a peaceful and lawful manner.”

Flowers also felt the situation was a very dangerous period because it involved two nuclear powers with many at home distracted by other tangential crisis: the Covid pandemic and economic pressures which have created poverty and hunger.

“This could easily escalate into a world war, a devastating nuclear war with nuclear fallout and nuclear winter. This is really a moment people need to be aware and mobilizing,” said Flowers.

American Empire, Exceptionalism, and the Flames of Global Conflict

Lou Wolf, Co-founder and Director of Covert Action Magazine, said that American empire was devoted to the doctrine of American exceptionalism and was intent on expanding the 900 to 1000 military bases it already had in order to secure its access to natural resources.

“The daily bellicose drumbeat of war is blasting out of the White House and bespeaks the real agenda to encircle Russia and openly use NATO as a battering ram.”

Wolf said that Presidents Biden and Putin needed “to stop trying to out-macho each other with inflammatory and war-like statements.” He also criticized the Biden Administration for delivering planeload after planeload of weapons that further undermined the situation in Ukraine.

Wolf said it would be difficult to avoid conflict at this point with the accusations which were not designed to be diplomatic. “The elephant in the room is the distinct possibility of a nuclear exchange and if that level of conflict were reached, it would extinguish the human race,” said Wolf.

Video of a peace rally held at the White House in opposition to war in Ukraine at the White House last week:

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Peace Groups Say No to War Between U.S. and Russia over Ukraine

Sun, 02/06/2022 - 00:12
Peace Groups rallied at the White House on Saturday February 5 over escalating tensions between the US and Russia in Eastern Europe. Photo: J. Zangas/DCMG

Washington DC—Groups opposed to war rallied outside the White House to condemn the Administration’s role in a military buildup in Europe and warned war between superpowers would come at great cost. Speakers questioned why the U.S. is involved in yet another conflict less than a year after the end of the Afghanistan War — its most recent and the longest war it ever fought — while many families can not afford adequate housing, food and healthcare, and communities buckle under crumbling infrastructure.

Speakers from anti-war groups Answer Coalition, CODEPINK Women Against War, Caudia Jones School for Political Education, World Without War, and others hammered at the social and economic implications another war would bring. They called out the excessive funding for defense as a misguided policy that inevitably leads to war with results serving only those who profit from it.

Arianna “Afeni” Evans, an anti-war activist who rose to prominence during the Black Lives Matter protests in DC June 2020, said that war funding by “the richest country in the Americas” ignored the plight of working families and left children without food and healthcare, and communities with broken infrastructure. “There are a thousand bridges that are structurally unsound in the United States of America but for some reason we can find money to build another fighter jet,” she said. “Fifteen million people got kicked off health insurance at the beginning of the pandemic and most of those people didn’t get their health insurance back because they can’t afford COBRA. Their priorities are ‘lets go to war with Russia’ because war makes us money.”

Afemi, a Peace Activist said that war comes at the cost of families and communities. Photo: J. Zangas/DCMG

 

 

Evans also admonished peace groups for the same strategy of resistance against the arms industry. “It is not enough to continue chanting and screaming. We cannot just continue to protest. The only way they’re going to listen to us is when we withhold our labor, withhold our taxes and actually challenge the structural power of this country.”

Rafiki Morris, of the Black Alliance for Peace and a long time Peace Activist, said the costs of war would take the lives of families that could least afford it. “When the war starts they’re gonna send these little black boys out here on the streets that are joining the Army,” he said.

Morris spoke about his past involvement in the anti-war movement and told those present to take the messages home with them and speak to their families about them and ask them to join the movement. “When the war starts, thats who they’re going to send. Thats who is going to die.”

David Swanson, Director of World Without War, an anti-war activist from Charlottesville, said the evil forces that need resisting are not in Moscow. “They’re over there working at Lockheed-Martin, and Boing, and Northrup-Grumman, and Fox News, CNN, and down the street at the Washington Post. They’re toiling away in the U.S. Government dealing weapons around the globe and insisting on more and more bases and missiles because it’s better for business.”

Swanson stated we need a department of defense against the war-mongers and “in its absence we’ve got to build it ourselves and do it ourselves.”

On Friday night, President Joe Biden committed to send 3000 additional troops to Eastern Europe to augment the troops already being mobilized earlier in the week. Meanwhile video footage reportedly from Belize, showed dozens of Russian Special Forces tank units moving towards the border of Ukraine.

 

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Reverend William Barber Leads Moral Monday Action at U.S. Capitol

Mon, 12/13/2021 - 23:57
Reverend William Barber demanded Senate action on voting rights and economic bills now pending. Photo: John Zangas

 

Washington DC—Community organizers and faith leaders from 33 States converged on the U.S. Capitol to demand passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4) and the Build Back Better Bill (H.R. 5376), now pending Senate approval. They chastised West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin for his role in delaying passage of the legislation which would provide protection for voting rights and financial relief for millions of impoverished Americans.

Reverend William Barber called out Senator Joe Manchin by name for playing a “trick” on his constituents by delaying a vote in the Senate on the voting rights bill. Barber said that by delaying the vote until March it would give State legislatures time to gerrymander districts and allow passage of more restrictive voting laws. He acknowledged the voting rights act had some good provisions but for the first time in the nation’s history, it would mandate voter identification at the poles.

“We are here today to say to the Senate and the White House that they must pass voting rights protection, not in January, not in March 2022, They’ve had the entire year to do it and they haven’t gotten it done and its time to get it done now,” said Barbara Arnwine, President of Transformative Justice Coalition, and an internationally recognized human and civil rights leader.

Arnwine has been heavily involved in supporting voting rights nation wide for over 20 years and was a founder of Election Protection, the nation’s largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition, according to her website. Election Protection is a coalition of 100s of groups lauched in 2004 to assist historically disenfranchised persons to exercise the fundamental right to vote.

Hundreds of faith leaders and community organizers from 33 states marched in the Moral Monday action and dozens were arrested blocking Pennsylvania Avenue. Photo: John Zangas

Other community organizers were more blunt in their criticism of Senators responsible for delaying voting rights legislation, especially Joe Manchin. Catherine Jozwik, a community organizer from West Virginia, said Joe Manchin had a history of putting corporate interests before his constituents.

“I represent the thousands of West Virginians who are tired of being ignored and poisoned by Manchin and his corporate overlords. You should stand with the ordinary people of West Virginia and the country,” she said. Jozwik described how Senator Manchin “did nothing [while] Rockwool, a Danish company wanted to export its polution from Denark to the U.S. by building a coal and fracked gas fueled factory directly across the street from a Title I elementary school.”

Jozwik told how the residents of Jefferson County fought the Rockwool project while Senator Manchin ignored their requests to intervene. They visited his office to meet with him but he did not show up.

Maryanne Smith, an organizer from Oklahoma, told how the Build Back Better Bill would help many impoverished children get healthcare they need. “Even though Oklahoma citizens voted to expand medicare in 2020, our politicians have yet to abide by the people. This affects thousands of children who need and deserve this legislation,” she said.

Other speakers told of homelessness and deteriorating economic conditions in their communities due to stagnant wages. They also urged passage of the legislation as a moral imperative.

As the speakers finished the Moral Monday Marchers slowly walked while singing the same songs sung during the civil rights marches of the 1950s and 1960s. Voting rights and economic challenges communities faced then are the same as those faced today.

As faith leaders and marchers blocked Pennsylvania Avenue, U.S. Capitol Police moved in to arrest them. Reverend Barber asked the marchers to pray for the moral conscience of the police leadership for arresting those fighting for the good and better conditions in their communities while having allowed the January 6, 2021 insurrectionists to rampage through the U.S. Capitol.

On January 6, 2021, there was not one arrest on a day that resulted in five dead and scores of police injured and maimed. On December 13, this day, several dozen faith leaders and community activists were arrested on misdemeanor charges of obstruction.

 

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The Afghanistan War: Plague of Ignorance

Tue, 08/17/2021 - 17:09
Antiwar protesters at the White House call for end to endless wars. The War in Afghanistan lasted 20 years, longer than any other conflict in U.S. history. Photo: J. Zangas, DCMG

 

Washington, DC—From the beginning to end, incompetence was the primary theme of the US political, military, and intelligence failures to work in a responsible manner by any stretch of imaginable leadership standards. As the fall of Kabul unfolds, it’s time to revisit the events that led so many nations to follow the USA into a war that had no realistic goals to help the Afghan people, nor provide Allied soldiers any sense of accomplishment. So, how did it all begin? For that answer, we need to remember the statement by National Security Advisor Richard Clarke at the 9/11 Commission on the Hill. “Your government failed you, and I failed you,” he said. “We tried hard, but that doesn’t matter because we failed you. And for that failure, I would ask, once all the facts are out, for your understanding and for your forgiveness.” (Nov 27, 2002 Bush critic takes center stage)

The political squabbles of Clarke’s claims were never picked apart because Bush, the media, and the American public were all focused on revenge. On October 7th, 2001, the vast majority in the USA and beyond simply became bloodthirsty for retribution and if you dared hesitate to ask, ‘Hey wait, how did we get into this situation?”, you were labeled a coward and/or an idiot.

I’ve got to take pause for a minute as my eyes are getting blurry from all the propaganda I’m reading while doing research on this article. Some of the worst comes from the Washington Post ‘Afghanistan Papers’ series on Aug 10th a few days ago. The title had me hooked because it’s a recent piece that might lend some insight as to the depth of the Cheney lies and deception that led US troops into the war in Iraq. Nope, it was some incredibly untimely article about how the Taliban lied about an almost successful plot to kill Cheney in Afghanistan. It almost makes Cheney sound like a war hero.

Next, there is the New Yorker ‘“Not Our Tragedy”: the Taliban Are Coming Back, and America Is Still Leaving” By Susan B. Glasser. These recent distractions remind me of a quote from the Neo Liberal writer, Thom Freidman, 3 days before the US troops began flattening Baghdad on March 20, 2003. Freidman did a press conference to discuss the likely possibility of the war in Iraq. I recall that it felt like a stand-up comedy act when he said, “nobody washes a rented car”. His meaning was, that the US would create a mess and leave a mess in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I don’t often agree with Thom but on this he got it right.

One could say that the US press are doing one hell of a job trying to mop up this monstrous 20-year debacle with some fancy spin doctoring. It’s possible that I might be lacking the moral integrity to sufficiently outline these events because I’m not exactly comfortable in rehashing the darkest hours of the war such as the US torture policy and atrocious embezzlement of war funds from Cheney’s Haliburton. Whoops, maybe that was just enough to get folks riled up.

Moving on… Senator Joe Biden had been either minority or the majority ranking Democrat on the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. At the start, he was all for both the Afghan and Iraq war. Just before joining Obama on the campaign trail in 2007, he did a U-turn and began opposing the wars because support for these messy wars were less popular with voters. Once Obama/Biden took office in the White House, it’s now said that Biden opposed staying in Afghanistan during discussions in 2009. President Obama proceeded to spend his remaining 6 or 7 years in office telling the public that he would draw down troops to zero, ‘next year’. To be honest, because I followed this very closely, Obama might have taken a year off in saying he’d end the war in Afghanistan somewhere in the middle there.

Now let’s get down to the stone-cold facts. Anthony H Cordesman was the Civilian Advisor to Gen. McChrystal in Afghanistan. He was on CNN Monday as it was announced that Kabul had fallen to the Taliban. This is what he had to say on the historic afternoon, “This isn’t about a Taliban failed state, as it is a Taliban taking over a failed state.” Why is this advisor worth mentioning? Well because he wrote a detailed article/report called ‘Afghanistan: Conflict Metrics 2000-2018’. (CSIS)

One of the many eye-popping realities of how leadership dealt with a war that was going nowhere, is that they cherry picked any positive metrics/data and ignored harsh realities. In Cordesman’s report, he clearly states that intelligence and data gathering varied between the United Nations, the media, and think tanks. One of the only undeniable truths had been that Afghanistan continued to be controlled by warlords and tribal leaders.

One final note. In the reporting on the fall of Kabul I was irritated to note Russia and China spent the day humiliating the US for its failure in Afghanistan. It is a fact that Russia hadn’t made any effort develop medical clinics, help encourage women’s rights, and attempt to create some exposure to voting rights. Yes, most of the US contractor money for medical clinics went missing somehow, but hey, at least the USA tried to introduce something good.

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