“Every wave on the ocean that has ever risen up and refused to lay back down has been dashed on the shore, but it is the very purpose of a wave to rise up, once it rises up above the horizon it finally has the perspective to see that it's not just a wave, that it's a part of a mighty ocean. And the sharpest rock on the wildest shore can never break that ocean apart, they can never wear that ocean down, because it's the ocean that shapes the shore.” -- Tim DeChristopher, March 3, 2011, after being convicted for an act of climate justice.
Tim DeChristopher’s words ring true as we look at the resistance movements that fight for justice – economic, social and environmental – against the corporate power that brings injustice on all fronts. If you have not heard DeChristopher’s remarkable speech on the courthouse steps you can listen to it here. DeChristopher was briefly among the core organizers of October211/OccupyWashingtonDC before he went to prison. He is due to be released from a halfway house this April.
We were reminded of DeChristopher’s wave this week when we published an article by long-time antiwar and anti-corporate power activist Mike Ferner. Ferner was writing about another wave we should not forget, the global revolt against the invasion of Iraq. Thirty million people around the globe said 'no' to a war before it began. The New York Times wrote the next day that there were two superpowers in the world, the United States and the people. We did not stop that war, but history has proved us right. We should know from that experience and so many others that the people can rule better than the elites.
We are now seeing waves of protest in so many areas on so many issues, as the recent issues of this newsletter have shown. People ask where has Occupy gone? If they look, they will see people fighting on so many critical issues: health care because 120 adults die every day in the United States due to lack of health care, housing because millions have lost their homes, millions of homes are underwater and hundreds of thousands are homeless, poverty and hunger which effect 45 million, challenges to the unnecessary austerity and corporate tax breaks being pushed in DC and on and on. On issue, after issue, people are making waves.
One wave that took center stage this past weekend was climate change. The largest climate rally in US history was held this weekend in Washington, DC, at the same time people are fighting on the front lines against tar sands in Utah, the Keystone XL pipeline in Oklahoma and Texas – where the Tar Sands Blockade is calling for a week of national actions from March 16-23. In Washington, DC this week, 48 people were arrested outside the White House, including the executive director of the Sierra Club, which for the first time endorsed civil disobedience. The Boston Phoenix has an excellent article on climate being the new abolition movement, urging Americans who understand the threat it poses to embrace their radicalism. The article quotes Tim DeChristopher making points that apply to all of us working for peace, justice and ecology:
Weeks before his sentencing, DeChristopher told Rolling Stone's Jeff Goodell: "I'm a climate-justice activist. . . . We want a radically different world. We want a healthy, just world." But first, he said, "We need to get the fossil fuel industry out of the way. First we've got to overthrow the corporate power that is running our government." He understands what that requires. "It will involve confrontation and it will involve sacrifice."
At his sentencing, standing before the federal judge, DeChristopher concludes a long, eloquent statement that spreads across the Internet and galvanizes a growing climate-justice movement: "This is not going away. At this point of unimaginable threats on the horizon, this is what hope looks like. In these times of a morally bankrupt government that has sold out its principles, this is what patriotism looks like. With countless lives on the line, this is what love looks like, and it will only grow. The choice you are making today is what side are you on."
DeChristopher points to the issue that unites us "corporate power that is running our government." And, the choice we make every day: which side are you on? On every issue we face it the power of big business, often transnational corporations, which block progress and increase suffering and destruction.
People are standing up, getting organized and mobilizing. This week we posted an Occupy document, "The Activist's Handbook: 1000 Ways to Politically and Socially Activate Your Life." It is not just about protest and resistance. Fun should always be on the agenda as was shown at the Direct Action Fashion Show 2013 at the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space, an alternative to New York's fashion week. It is also about building an alternative economy as the people in Occupy Winchester, MA are exploring on March 9 – Community Reinvestment Day, including socially responsible investing, creating a public bank in Massachusetts and creating sustainable businesses. And, Occupy The Roads, which has traveled 25,000 miles visiting 149 cities has announced a plans to occupy retail space, loft apartments and offices, totaling 12,000 sq ft. in Southern Ohio. This could become a great center for organizing. They are looking for people to participate – everyone has to be a serious worker to join.
Of course, protest and resistance are essential to creating the transformation we seek. Here are two more protests we want to highlight: a monthly protest against drones outside the CIA headquarters and an ongoing protest against drones outside of the Hancock Air Force base near Syracuse, NY, which included a "War Crimes Indictment."
We are learning more and more about the extreme law enforcement response to the resistance movement. Documents from the Pacific Northwest Grand Jury show that police targeted activists merely because of their anarchist political views. In Charlottesville, VA the police finally shared video tapes, photos and other materials with Occupy Charlottesville, after fighting the release in court. Police say they will destroy the materials. In Boston, the prosecutors avoided a trial by dropping charges against all Occupy cases, much to the dislike of many occupiers who wanted their day in court. The police would not act this way, if we were not having an impact.
To remind us how long the arc of justice is, and how many waves of movements have advanced the cause of progressive justice, we close with commemoration of a birthday this week – the birthday of Frederick Douglas. Douglas was one of the greatest social justice activists of our history for abolition of slavery, women's rights and worker rights. His message of taking action is as true today as when he said it in 1857:
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."
There is no question that the future economy and government we seek will be defined by the struggle that gets us there. This is the struggle of which we are all a part.