Monday, October 20, 2008
Victory of Non-Violenece
Tuesday, September 2. Marchers gather at Mears Park in downtown St. Paul. The rally has been permitted months previously to begin at 4pm but we discover that the stage sound system is OFF! PPEHRC lawyer consults with park officials who inform him that sound was not included in the permit and due to "special security concerns" city employees should not come to the park to turn on the sound. Speeches proceed by bullhorn, only reaching the first few rows of listeners until after an hour "somebody" shows up to turn on the power.
About this time three U.S. Justice Department community officers warn Cheri about other protesters at the Capital with their own tear gas (false) who have been breaking windows (which didn't happen). She reminds the officers that if they know about the possibility of violence, THEY should do something about it and assure the safety of PPEHRC marchers.
Meanwhile, a disruption designed to pull media attention AWAY from the rally occurs just off the park. Among those arrested is a reporter from Independent Media.
The march 1,000-strong then gets under way, led by women with children and the disabled in wheelchairs. Passing the Ramsey County courthouse and jail, literally hundreds of regular police, military police and National Guard troops are on guard. Our leaders focus on preventing violence that might flare up from participants, not part of the campaign, who keep trying to bypass the front of the march. PPEHRC marshals, veterans of previous RNC and DNC demonstrations, instruct volunteers to join hands forming a circle of protection around Cheri, the disabled, the babies and their mothers. This creates a buffer and helps keep control, not letting agitators take over. March swells to 2,000.
The mood is tense. Residents from Dorothy Day Center for the homeless do not join as the march ends directly in front of their shelter, right across from the Xcel Energy Center. Apparently they were told by someone that they would "lose their beds" if they came out. Such rumors perpetuate the shroud of shame that envelopes the homeless, leaving them "invisible."
At the side door of the RNC Cheri is supported on the shoulders of another. For a moment she thinks that as a visible target she is going to die. But she addresses the crowd, "Raise your right hand and repeat after me 'I promise' (I promise) 'not to leave here' (not to leave here) 'or do anything stupid' (or do anything stupid). There are little bitty babies here. Please don't follow me. I am going to the steps of the Xcel Center to serve the Republicans with a citizen's arrest for crimes against humanity." As she approaches the fence with police guns aimed at her, for another moment she is sure that she's going to be shot. She wraps the citizen's arrest document in an American flag and slides it under the fence.
PPEHRC marshals give the signal to depart at once. We disburse with only a couple of our group getting sprayed trying to get out of the area. We keep getting blocked at every turn by police as if they want to push us back into the tear gas zone of agitators.
What did I get from this life-altering experience? I could go on about the courage and grace of people I hope to meet again. I learned that protesters in public places should purchase large generators and control the power. FEAR tactics employed by police under dictatorial political rule can be effective-large numbers of peaceful protesters stayed away.
But despite informers, plants, infiltrators and riot police, our experienced and disciplined leadership WON the day for peaceful dissent! To date, 17 new PPEHRC chapters are starting up around the country.
Police riot-gear masks made them invisible. OUR faces were seen, OUR voices heard.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Use of Force Against RNC Protesters “Disproportionate,” Charges Amnesty International
The organization’s concerns arise from media reports, video and photographic images which appear to show police officers deploying unnecessary and disproportionate use of non-lethal weapons on non-violent protestors marching through the streets or congregating outside the arena where the Convention was being held.
Amnesty International urges that an inquiry be carried out promptly, that its findings and recommendations be made public in a timely manner. If the force used is found to have been excessive and to have contravened the principles of necessity and proportionality, then those involved should be disciplined, measures put in place and training given to ensure future policing operations conform to international standards.
Police are reported to have fired rubber bullets and used batons, pepper spray, tear gas canisters and concussion grenades on peaceful demonstrators and journalists. Amnesty International has also received unconfirmed reports that some of those arrested during the demonstrations may have been ill-treated while held at Ramsey county jail.
Amnesty International is also concerned at reports that several journalists who were covering the RNC were arbitrarily arrested while filming and reporting on the demonstrations. They include host of independent news program Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman, and two of the program’s producers, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, who were both allegedly subjected to violence during their arrest. A photographer for the Associated Press (AP) and other journalists were also arrested while covering the demonstrations.
Kouddous described his arrest to media, “…two or three police officers tackled me. They threw me violently against a wall. Then they threw me to the ground. I was kicked in the chest several times. A police officer ground his knee into my back…I was also, the entire time, telling them, ‘I’m media. I’m press….,’ but…that didn’t seem to matter at all.”
Amnesty International recognizes the challenges involved in policing large scale demonstrations and that some protestors may have been involved in acts of violence or obstruction. However, some of the police actions appear to have breached United Nations (U.N.) standards on the use of force by law enforcement officials. These stipulate, among other things, that force should be used only as a last resort, in proportion to the threat posed, and should be designed to minimize damage or injury. Some of the treatment also appears to have contravened U.S. laws and guidelines on the use of force. The U.N. standards also stress that everyone is allowed to participate in lawful and peaceful assemblies, in accordance with the principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
For more information, please contact the AIUSA media office at 202-544-0200 x302 or visit our website at www.amnestyusa.org.
PPEHRC Members on trial in both Minneapolis and St. Paul on Oct. 1st.
On the afternoon of October 1st at 1:00PM in St. Paul, PPEHRC Members Cheri Honkala and Tim Dowlin will go to court for setting up Bushville, a tent city for poor and homeless people to gather, at Harriet Island Regional Park (a public park) prior to the RNC.
At a time when millions of people are losing their homes to foreclosure and banks are crashing, let's stand by the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign in
order to create another kind of world.
Please call the Mayors of Minneapolis and St Paul today and demand that all
charges be dropped!
Mayor R.T. Rybak
City of Minneapolis
Mayor Chris Coleman
City of St. Paul
Please also send this to as many other people as you can.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Democracy NOW!: Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign Takes Cause to Streets Outside RNC
One day after the historic Poor People’s March in St. Paul, we speak to the group’s national organizer, Cheri Honkala. She’s a longtime organizer and director of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union in Philadelphia. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: I am joined right now here in St. Paul on Democracy Now! by the national organizer of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, Cheri Honkala, longtime organizer and director of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union in Philadelphia, now living in Minneapolis here in the Twin Cities.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Cheri.
CHERI HONKALA: I’m very happy and very thankful for shows like yours.
AMY GOODMAN: Your thoughts on the Republican convention and what you feel needs to be the policy, the way to deal with the poor in this country?
CHERI HONKALA: Well, we’ve been trying to organize a poor people’s movement for over a decade now. And we’ve just been fighting to, I think, do the most important thing, which is to make poor people visible.
I think that the majority of the people in this country don’t know the conditions in which people live in, and only if they saw with their own eyes seniors having to share medication, farmers being thrown off their land, homeless people living under bridges—and I think that if they saw those daily images, that the American people are good people, and I think that they would be moved to do something about the situation.
But with the combination of the lack of civil liberties and the ability to march and to speak about what’s happening in this country, as well as the takeover of corporate media in this country, it’s one of the hardest struggles that I’ve been a part of, to show the faces of poverty in this country.
AMY GOODMAN: Your group was also at the Democratic convention in Denver.
CHERI HONKALA: Yes, members of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign were also at the Democratic
National Convention. Things were also difficult for folks there to put a face on what’s happening to the majority of the people in this country.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about your own story, Cheri Honkala. How did you get involved with this?
CHERI HONKALA: I’m a formerly homeless mother from here, from the Twin Cities, and I have an older son who’s twenty-eight now, but at the time, he was nine years old. And—
AMY GOODMAN: He’s Mark Webber, the actor?
CHERI HONKALA: Mark Webber, the actor now. And the both of us almost froze to death on the streets of Minnesota, because we couldn’t get into the homeless shelters here. And so, I decided one day to move into a government-owned, abandoned HUD property, because they had the heat on in the wintertime. And I made that decision—I had never broken any laws before in my life—because I wanted to stay alive and not die. And it’s been, ever since that time, some twenty-eight years ago, that I’ve been doing this kind of work, because I knew that if I could have died and nobody cared about what was happening to me, that that had to have been happening to thousands of other people across the country.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s the fortieth anniversary of King’s Poor People’s March that he started, and then was assassinated, but continued. What is the relevance of that to today? Were you inspired at all by that?
CHERI HONKALA: Our movement is very much trying to take up the baton where Dr. Martin Luther King left off. We now have the largest multiracial movement of poor people in this country. The Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign can be found on—it has over 200 affiliates. We have members like the Immokalee farm workers, to the Coalition to Protect Public Housing, to trailer park residents in Minnesota, to some of the largest Indian reservations, you name it. And we have one message, which is, we’re calling for the elimination of poverty in this country, not the reduction, no more band-aids, not a bigger and better welfare system, but an elimination to the kind of conditions that we’re faced with.
AMY GOODMAN: The message to end poverty in this country, will you talk about the corporate media and how it deals with these issues, or doesn’t?
CHERI HONKALA: Yeah, I mean, I’ve been involved in large demonstrations for like the last twenty years, and I’m very ashamed of my home state. I’ve never seen so many reporters like yourself being detained. A Channel 5 reporter was trying to cover a story of us; he was thrown into an elevator. A couple other folks that we know that were trying to cover some of our events were also detained and then later released on two different occasions. We were inside the Capitol trying to have a peaceful demonstration during regular open hours of the Capitol, and the reporters were literally locked out of the Capitol and unable to come in, even though they showed their credentials. And so, I don’t quite get what is so horrible about covering a story of women and children and the elderly and people of all colors trying to come together to talk about the day-to-day reality of their lives.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, I was astounded when I talked to the St. Paul police chief yesterday, and, you know, with the arrest, how is he instructing the press to—the police to deal with the press, and how are we supposed to operate when we are trying to cover this and the police arrest us. And he said you can embed yourselves with the police department. And you saw Rick Rowley, Big Noise filmmaker in this piece, he’s covering the riot police, and he sees there the Fox News reporter. As they’re pushing him away, she’s in the midst of them. And he yells to her, “Are you embedded with the police?” She comes in and out with the police.
CHERI HONKALA: Yeah. I mean, for us, that’s no surprise, when it comes to Fox News. But we’re just absolutely outraged. And, you know, like my son said, “Mom, when you get up this morning, don’t read any of the papers. You know, don’t even turn on the television,” because regardless of the fact that poor people came together from all walks of life, every color, every age, yesterday, regardless of being terrorized for actually the last month—we had two Bushvilles that were knocked down, encampments. When we came—
AMY GOODMAN: Bushvilles?
CHERI HONKALA: Yeah, we set up encampments, particularly during the Republican National Convention, for some place for people to sleep, because we can’t afford the W or the Hilton. And so, people were staying at the Bushville, and our first Bushville that we set up on Harriet Island, the first night we were surrounded by 200 police officers in riot gear. They turned on the sprinklers on our children while they were sleeping, turned off all the park lights and drove their police vehicles up onto the lawn with their brights on. And myself and a couple of our other leaders were then arrested, and our Bushville was torn down. Later through the week, they brought dogs to our Bushville, while the kids were sleeping, let the dogs bark and scare the kids, and then periodically would just go by and drive up and run their sirens at 2:00, 3:00 in the morning, just to make people afraid.
AMY GOODMAN: Cheri Honkala, can you describe the conditions of the poor, the daily challenges faced?
CHERI HONKALA: Yeah. Actually, later this afternoon, I leave to go to a funeral in Philadelphia, where a woman, a good friend of mine, Esther, struggled her whole life, because she was right on the borderline in terms of not being able to qualify for medical assistance. And I think she spent each and every day trying to figure out how to pay for the many different medications that she had. So her whole life was about how does she get up every morning and figure out how to pull together, you know, that $80, $90, or whatever, for one individual prescription after another. And these were in the last dying days of her life. People shouldn’t have to live like this.
I have a six-year-old son who needs serious eye treatment. I, as well, don’t qualify for medical assistance, and I’m right on the borderline. And he’s supposed to have regular eye checks, because —
AMY GOODMAN: Glaucoma?
CHERI HONKALA: Glaucoma runs in my family, and he’s stopped seeing out of his right eye. So I have no idea how I’m going to cover those costs.
My older son, who has now become a movie star, has spent every waking moment of his life using his power and his financial resources to fund and give us resources. And, you know, as this movement continues to get larger, there’s never enough money, but he’s committed to helping to fund a movement that wants to eliminate poverty and homelessness. He’s not interested in giving money to a charity. He knows, as a formerly homeless boy in this country, that he has a responsibility to do whatever he possibly can to help make this movement grow and give it visibility.
AMY GOODMAN: Cheri Honkala, your website?
CHERI HONKALA: Our website is www.economichumanrights.org. And people can see lots of the footage that they never will see on any television program on that website.
AMY GOODMAN: Cheri Honkala, thanks so much for joining us, of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, and we’ll link to it at democracynow.org.
Police aggression outside the Republican National Convention
by Kashish Das Shrestha | September 2008 | Courtesy of http://samudaya.org/
Photography by Kashish; Produced by Anup Kaphle
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Flickr Pix of the March for Our Lives
We will keep trying to post what we find. Here a flickr slideshow of pix tagged with
Thursday, September 4, 2008
March for Our Lives a success!!!
With over 200 people still in jail after Monday's arrests, and with a massive police presence in the street, the Poor People's March prepared to set out and braced for the police response. Footage from Rick Rowley, Elizabeth Press, Fatimah Mojaddidy, Rebecca McNeice and Jordan Hansen of Big Noise Tactical Films.
March for our Lives, PPEHRC in St Paul Minnesota during RNC. The march was followed by an enormous amount of police, though it was very peaceful. Footage courtesy of Lennart Kjorling.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Last night, we reestablished our Bushville tent city in St. Paul (400 Western Ave). The police have monitored our activities with numerous marked and unmarked police cars driving by Bushville including a SWAT van with the guards visible through the open back doors.
Despite attempts to disrupt and intimidate us, we are continue to prepare for our March on Tuesday, Sept 2nd. Delegations from Florida, Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and other parts of the country arrived today with more to come.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Star-Tribune: McCain to get official welcome
Organizers of the Republican National Convention will stage a welcome rally for presumptive GOP presidential nominee John McCain next Wednesday, the day he becomes the party's official nominee.
Doors for the rally will open at 11 a.m. at Peavey Plaza in downtown Minneapolis.
Convention organizers said tickets will be distributed to delegates Saturday. They did not immediately say whether the event will be open to the general public.
SCHWARZENEGGER SHACKLED BY BUDGET
When the Republican convention opens Monday night, its prime-time lineup could be missing one of its biggest draws: California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is vowing to remain in California if legislators fail to reach agreement on a state budget, now two months overdue.
"I am honored to be asked to speak at the convention ...[but] the state of California and the budget is the most important thing," Schwarzenegger said. "So that if I don't have a budget, I cannot speak at the convention."
A budget deal by showtime seems unlikely at this point, potentially costing Schwarzenegger a national platform and John McCain a high-profile supporter who has been popular with the kind of independent voter McCain hopes to attract.
Organizers of the convention still hope Schwarzenegger will show. Because his speech is scheduled for the Labor Day holiday, he could fly in and out on his private jet without missing any state business.
Convention spokeswoman Melissa Subbotin declined to say whether organizers were considering another option: a Schwarzenegger appearance by satellite from Sacramento, as Republican Gov. Pete Wilson did in 1992 during a similar budget stalemate.
GREEN PARTY PICK TO SPEAK IN ST. PAUL
Cynthia McKinney, Green Party presidential candidate, will be a speaker at a rally at Mears Park in St. Paul at 4 p.m. Tuesday, just before the Poor People's March is to begin.
McKinney and her vice presidential running mate, Rosa Clemente, will also serve as "truth commissioners" at a public meeting at 7 p.m. Monday in St. Paul.
The meeting, at Christ Lutheran Church on Capitol Hill, 105 W. University Av., will include testimony of poor residents from Minnesota and across the country. A similar meeting, not including Mc- Kinney and Clemente, will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at Sabathani Community Center in Minneapolis, 310 E. 38th St.
Both the march and the meetings on poverty are sponsored by the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign.
The Poor People's March on Tuesday will wind up across the street from the Xcel Energy Center, where the convention will take place. Peter Cooper, press coordinator for the group, said Wednesday that some demonstrators will try to scale barricades and fences and attempt to sit down in front of the doors of the Xcel to engage in civil disobedience.
RON PAUL BRINGING LIBERTARIAN BARR
Onetime GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul's plan to steal some of the limelight from the Republicans' show will bring yet another presidential hopeful to the Twin Cities next week.
Former Georgia U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, the Libertarian Party's nominee, will appear with Paul at a picnic Monday sponsored by Minnesota for Limited Government. The picnic will be held at 2 p.m. at Langford Park in St. Paul.
The joint appearance by Barr and Paul, a Texas congressman and onetime Libertarian candidate himself, does not amount to an endorsement by Paul, a campaign spokeswoman said.
Paul's forces plan a three-day "Rally for the Republic" that will climax Tuesday with a 10-hour extravaganza at Target Center in Minneapolis. Among the speakers will be former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Councilmember calls for investigation in RNC-related arrest
Less than a week before the start of the Republican National Convention, police have made their first convention-related arrest.
Minneapolis Police had their hands full Tuesday with protestors and citizen journalists; a possible sign of what's to come.
Armed with their voices and a video camera, a group fighting for affordable housing held a sit in-at the Minneapolis Housing and Urban Development office.
But when a 5 EYEWITNSES NEWS photographer showed up, a Minneapolis Police officer pushed him back into an elevator.
Shortly after, a demonstrator was arrested.
In a separate incident, police detailed three videographers from the Glass Bead Collective, an organization with a history of documenting police misconduct. They are in the Twin Cities to cover the Republican National Convention.
Videographer Vlad Teichberg said he and two others were stopped early Tuesday morning while walking to where they were staying in northeast Minneapolis.
Teichberg said police violated the group's First Amendment rights by taking items including a video camera, a still camera and a laptop.
"They are confiscating the means for us to do our work," he said.
An incident report classified the incident as Homeland Security issue.
Minneapolis City Council member Cam Gordon, who spearheaded the drive to protect demonstrators, wants an explanation from the police chief and the city attorney.
He said the police actions appear to violate the spirit of a resolution passed unanimously last month, which prohibits seizing cameras except during an arrest or when it captures evidence of a crime.
"We don't want to hide anything and I don't think we want anything to be hidden," said Gordon.
Minneapolis police spokesman Bill Palmer said the incident happened at 1:40 a.m. and that the group was stopped on suspicion that they were trespassing in a nearby railroad yard.
Authorities are concerned transportation could be a target during the Republican National Convention.
The three videographers said they did not trespass.
Poor People's Campaign Sits in At HUD
At roughly noon, these poor and homeless families sat down in Sydney's front lobby, insisting that he follow through on his written agreement to attend PPEHRC's Minnesota Truth Commission Sat August 30th at 2PM. In a July 15th letter, Sydney “look[ed] forward to learning more about the concerns ... regarding homelessness, the housing crisis, and the challenges many people face with affordable housing”.
While in the HUD offices PPEHRC members were informed by building security that the public office was in private property and were to be escorted out by Minneapolis Police. A representative of the Department of Homeland Security informed campaign members that they were there to keep HUD workers safe during our nonviolent protest. The Minneapolis Police closed down the hallway outside, even pushing a KSTP reporter into an elevator.
Sit-in Video Part 1 | Part 2
Members of PPEHRC stayed behind in the offices after the final warning of the Minneapolis Police and were arrested. Cheri Honkala, PPEHRC National Organizer, Deeq Abdi of Minneapolis PPEHRC, and Natashia Euler of the Kensington Welfare Union in Philadelphia, PA were arrested and held at the Hennepin County Jail with bail.
They have since been released.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Day 22-23: Twin Cities
Friday, August 22, 2008
Day 21: Rochester
We collected testimony of another formerly homeless Vietnam veteran who is currently receiving care at the Mayo Clinic for agent orange exposure. He spoke with us about the plight of homeless veterans and veterans without adequate medical care in Minnesota and around the United States.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Day 20: Austin
In Austin, we met with Dale Chidester..., the Assistant to the President of Local P-9, the union that led the historic Meatpackers’ strike of the Hormel plant in Austin in the mid 1980's. We talked about how 80% of the workers of one of the meatpacking plants are now Latino and the impact of the ICE raids and how corporate America is really making workers adjust to a lower and lower standard of living.
P-9 Interview Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
After the interview we drove by the Hormel plant and then we had an educational watching “The American Dream” and talking about the use of strikes today and the struggle to win concessions.
KFAI RADIO: Truth to Tell: Veterans for Peace and Poor Peoples' March
Story By Andy Driscoll
The names and numbers of organizations planning events coincident with and in response to the Republican National Convention (RNC) just keep on coming. At the end of the month the national and local chapters of the *Veterans for Peace (VFP)*will hold their convention, joined by the IRAQ VETERANS AGAINST THE WAR (IVAW), while on September 2, the second large parade of protesters will seek the eyeballs and ears of RNC delegates and the media – the MARCH FOR OUR LIVES organized by the POOR PEOPLE’S ECONOMIC HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN (PPEHRC).
Tune in on Wednesday, August 20th at 11am as ANDY DRISCOLL and LYNNELL MICKELSEN talk with leaders of all these events and get their take on the dynamics of the convention in St. Paul, Sept. 1-4 at the Xcel.
• JOHN VARONE, President, VFP Minnesota Chapter 27
• CHANTE WOLF, Vice President, VFP Minnesota Chapter 27
• JIM STEINHAGEN, Past President, VFP Minnesota Chapter 27
• WES DAVEY, Iraq Veterans Against the War
A Member of Community Shares National Federation of Community Broadcasters
Labels: March for Our Lives 2008
The Nation: The Party
By Michael Gould-Wartofsky
August 19, 2008
At some point during the upcoming Republican National Convention, delegates will look out the windows of the Xcel Energy Center, or down from swank hotels and grand old after-parties, and there, past the security fences and the legions of taser-toting police and private security guards, they will see the other America spilling into the streets of St. Paul, Minnesota.
That is, if the Republicans even make it that far. From September 1-4, the RNC will be besieged by a panoply of protesters--including antiwar activists, Iraq War veterans, Hurricane Katrina survivors, immigrant workers, labor unionists, anarchists, environmentalists, feminists and queers. At the frontlines will be America's young dissidents who will walk out of class, lock down intersections and dance in the streets to "Funk the War."
The view from Denver at the Democratic National Convention at the end of August will look a little different. That's because in the age of Obama many of these same movements, so united against the RNC, are deeply conflicted over the Democrats and the party system itself--perhaps none more so than the youth movement. At issue, say organizers across the country, is not only their relationship to the Obama campaign and the presidential elections but the very meaning of democracy in 2008. Is true democracy possible inside the party system and on the campaign trail? Or is democracy to be found and made by the people in the streets outside? Will the two ever meet?
Not if the conventioneers have their way. Uncredentialed activists are to be fenced off and kept away from the Pepsi Center in Denver by parking lots the size of football fields. The protesters descending on the RNC will be cordoned off into designated "free speech zones," guarded by thousands of police officers to the tune of $50 million at this "National Special Security Event."
The streets will also be haunted by the ghosts of conventions past, from the cracking of skulls at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago to the pre-emptive arrest and detention of nearly 2,000 protesters at the 2004 Republican convention in New York City. Like their predecessors outside those arenas, this year's dissidents have come to see the party conventions, advertised as the ultimate showcases of American democracy, as exhibits A and B of the nation's deficit of democracy instead. And they cast themselves in opposition, as the keepers of the flame.
"It really will be a collision of opposites," says Minneapolis activist Katrina Plotz when asked about the RNC, which she is organizing against with the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War. "A scripted and sanitized spectacle for a homogenous group of wealthy elites inside the convention hall versus a thriving, organic movement of the masses outside."
Perhaps the starkest contrast will be between the plutocrats of the Grand Old Party and the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, a coalition led by poor and homeless families fighting for the right to housing, healthcare, education and a living wage. They will be camped in a "Bushville," a tent city evoking the Depression, and setting out on the March for Our Lives. "It's to say to the whole country, 'We are here,'" says Minneapolis native Rickey Brunner, who, at 16, has become a spokesperson for the group. "We plan to show that this is a crisis, this is something that needs to be looked at with a little more urgency.... We don't have enough housing. We don't have enough healthcare. And it's killing the people."
The RNC for many has become a symbol of everything the protesters believe is wrong with America. They are moved to action by all-too-familiar litany of injustices--the occupation of Iraq and beyond, class war and racism, sexism and homophobia, torture and repression, corporate power and the climate crisis, rising tuition and an economic bust that's hitting this generation hard. Yet what they have in common, beyond a penchant for ruckus and a loathing of the GOP, is a persistent belief in democracy from below, in the power of ordinary people to transform the conditions of life in this country and worldwide--a power they believe must be exercised in the street, not just in the voting booth.
"Democracy is not waiting to vote once every four years. Democracy is getting out in the streets," says Sgt. Matthis Chiroux, a 24-year-old member of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) who refused orders to deploy to Iraq this June and now plans to show up to the conventions with IVAW. "They [the politicians] are not gonna do it by themselves. We're gonna force their hand, because that is the nature of democracy."
The dissent at the Democratic National Convention--though less "mass" than at the RNC, especially after the recent withdrawal of some national organizers--is set to feature events like an open-air Festival of Democracy, a Restoring Democracy Parade and a base camp with free housing and medical care, organized by groups like Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the Alliance for Real Democracy, the Recreate '68 Alliance and the immigrant coalition the We Are America DNC Alliance.
Activists with these groups report getting the critical questions from their friends and peers about plans to protest Denver: "Especially now, with a candidate who talks a lot about hope and change, people talk about, 'Why do you need to protest?' " says Zoe Williams, a local organizer with Code Pink: Women for Peace and a spokesperson for the Alliance for Real Democracy. Her answer? "I think that we need to define what hope and change are. We need to decide what that means to us as a people."
Even among the activist crowd, there are those who hope the youth movement outside the convention will join with those inside to toast the "new era" they believe the Obama campaign represents--as well as hold Obama accountable and engage the hundreds of thousands of newly politicized young people who have joined in the campaign. "For people who are disenfranchised by the system, some of them for the first time are being motivated into politics," says Rachel Haut, a member of SDS and labor activist at Queens College who is working on the 100 Days Campaign, intended to pressure the next President during his first 100 days in office. "We want to create a broad progressive movement that can invite these newly politicized people in. And we want to create a campaign that can take that beyond the voting booth."
Organizers like Haut feel the stirrings of a new youth movement, newly mainstreamed. Some say it's about the power of the stories that are told on the campaign--and about what stories will be told at the conventions. Madeline Gardner, an activist from the Twin Cities who now organizes with the Energy Action Coalition, sees a political opening for movements like hers: "The story Obama tells, about how we're gonna change this world by regular people taking action," she says, "creates more space for social movement organizing in a way we haven't had since the '60s. I would like to see the conventions and the protests around them take full advantage of that opportunity."
That sentiment is shared by Joshua Kahn Russell, an organizer with the Rainforest Action Network in the Bay Area who feels that the youth movement should "use both conventions to put forward a narrative that we are starting a new chapter in American history.... Our job is to be part of that progressive wave and to pull it to the left as much as we can."
Still, many in the youth movement are riding on a different wave, and they do not want to be swallowed up by the one depicted in Obama's campaign logo--especially following what they see as his betrayals of the movement's values. Some of them are tired of being taken for granted, whether as young people or as people of color. "Because Obama's running, they think, 'We've got them, they're coming out, they're gonna support Obama no matter what,' " says Troy Nkrumah, a chair of the National Hip-Hop Political Convention in Las Vegas, which is convening this summer to forge a national agenda for the hip-hop generation. "Some of us aren't so sure that it's gonna make a difference."
Likewise, young people like Adam Jung, a farm boy from Missouri who is helping to organize the DNC tent city with Tent State University, are questioning whether Obama and the Democrats are ever going to represent them: "The Democrats, they count on and expect our votes. We're saying, 'If you're not representing me, I don't have to vote for you. You need to start listening to the youth [and] the 65 percent of the people in this country who want the war to end.' "
Most determined of all are the anarchists and anti-authoritarians, as many of the youth activists describe themselves, including two of the most active groups preparing to crash the conventions: the RNC Welcoming Committee and the Unconventional Action network. Unconventional Denver organizer Clayton Dewey acknowledges that "the candidacy of Obama is a reflection of the public's desire for something different." But as an anarchist, he explains, "we believe that despite the rhetoric Obama uses, genuine change will always come from the bottom up, and that means countering the system as a whole."
"An anti-authoritarian vibe is what's going on," says Carina Souflee, an activist with Anarchist People of Color and the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) at the University of Texas-Austin, who was radicalized by the immigration protests and is planning to be in the streets at the RNC. "People have learned that a top-down approach to things doesn't work."
To young radicals like Souflee and Dewey, the question remains one of democracy, and to them, democracy has very little to do with the 2008 presidential elections. "What we have in common is a desire to break the spell that elections have over the US left," says a member of the RNC Welcoming Committee who goes by the pseudonym 'Ann O'Nymity.' "Our message is one of direct participation in democracy, bypassing corrupt politicians who don't represent us but instead further corporate interests."
Still, in the age of Obama, some in the youth movement are bypassing protests that directly confront the Democratic candidate and his party, opting instead to aim their dissent at the Republicans. "The RNC is a very easy target, because they are so visibly to blame for what's happening in this country," says Samantha Miller, who recently graduated UCLA and is now organizing members of DC SDS to bring the group's notorious Funk the War street parties to the RNC. "There's a whole lot more energy for the RNC than the DNC," she reports.
Thousands of youth from dozens of groups from across the country are coming together to blockade the Republican convention, using direct democracy not just as an end but as a means. Inspired by the Battle in Seattle and the global justice movement of the '90s, they are deploying a well-organized web of leaderless "affinity groups," "assemblies" and "spokescouncils."
Always the bete noire at a convention ("Anarchists Hot for Mayhem!" screamed a typical headline at the last RNC), this direct action wing of the youth movement has already sparked a media frenzy, along with an internal debate, over what tactics they will employ in the streets. Some activists are wary of the plans to blockade the convention. "I don't know what to make of shutting down the RNC," says Uruj Sheikh of New Jersey, who has worked with the War Resisters League and with the new SDS since its inception. "I'd like to see more of a consciousness raising thing. I don't want the left to be perceived as crazy."
Yet most activists in the Twin Cities agree that the likeliest scenario will be violence from those in blue, more than those in black: "We know that it is the police, not protesters or activists who will have the tasers, guns, rubber bullets, concussion grenades, chemical weapons, helicopters, the media spin machine and millions of dollars on their side," says the Welcoming Committee.
The same story can be heard over at the DNC protest headquarters. "We're just hoping that the Denver police don't recreate the violence that happened in Chicago [in '68]," says Glenn Spagnuolo of the Recreate '68 Alliance, "since they're the only ones capable of doing that."
The group's call to "Recreate '68" at the 2008 DNC has become a point of contention all its own, even among activists born decades after 1968 and bred amid a new world order. The collective memory of '68--not just of Chicago, but of the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, of Black Power and women's liberation and youth revolts worldwide--persists among this generation. But while some in the youth movement may look back on '68 as a usable past, as a memory of mass democracy they can mobilize and learn from, few activists see it as a moment to recreate. "It provides inspiration and an example of what can be possible," says Arya Zahedi of New York City SDS. "But it can also prove a disservice. If we just 'recreate '68,' we will be destined to also recreate its problems."
Not everyone is counting on the conventions, the campaigns and the protests. Not Senia Barragan, who helped found the new SDS at Brown University and in Providence: "That culture of activist summit hopping, I'm not really into that. I do think it is important to show a resistance to both parties. I just think that there are different ways that people go about doing that. And I hope we don't lose steam over this election. We've got a long way to go."
Already youth organizers are looking beyond September, even beyond November 4, 2008, and January 20, 2009. They are looking to the long haul, to the work of movement building, rooted in their communities but linked in solidarity with a global movement. For, they say, the whole world is still watching. "Our task today," says NYC SDS's Zahedi, "is to get to work organizing where we are, at our campuses, workplaces, and in our communities, while at the same time building links with people struggling all around the world."
For many, this push begins by showing ordinary people, and especially young, newly politicized people, their own power beyond Election Day. "We really need to find a way to engage the people who are excited, and really do think that Obama's gonna change something," says DC SDS's Miller. "We have to do a lot of popular education to say that it isn't politicians who make real change, it's the movements that politicians have to follow."
Labels: March for Our Lives 2008
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Day 19: Owatonna
Centro Campesino video: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
In Owatonna, we ended the day passing out fliers in a poor trailer park. The first woman we encountered, a woman who with serious medical problems who lives in the trailer park, gave us her entire change purse to support our efforts.
We ended the day sitting in the emergency room of the Owatonna hospital after a dog bit one of our youngest marchers’- Guillermo’s - hands and we had to fight with the hospital to get him stitches for his hand because Guillermo and his mother were notified on Friday that they are not eligible for Medical Assistance in Minnesota. The down payment in order for him to receive care was $50 (not counting the bill that will come later) and then his medication cost another $50. We understand why people don’t go to the doctor.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Day 17 - 18: St. Cloud/Waconia Photos
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Valley News Live - KVLY 11: March for Our Lives
They don't have health care, they don't have a home, and some don't have enough money for food. Advocates for the poor say these stories need to be shared in order to stir up change. Regional activists are touring Minnesota, in the hopes of gathering personal accounts of financial struggles. They plan to take the stories and gather volunteers for their cause. The tour is called "March for our Lives", and members from the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign are heading it. They are hitting dozens of Minnesota cities this summer. They want to help spread information to those who don't know about poverty. One of the concerns this winter is that people won't have enough money to heat their homes. The group will hold an open listening session Saturday at Romkey Park, Moorhead from 1-3 pm. The group will take what they've learned and present it at both the republican and democratic national conventions.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Day 15: Moorhead
People Escaping Poverty Project (PEPP) Video: Part 1 | Part 2
PEPP members joined us on our march through the city and they took us to Social Connections. This is a program where low-income people in the area shared with us their personal experience of being poor and their struggles for a right to mental health services.
Duke, the executive director of PEPP, took a couple of PPEHRC members out door-knocking to invite people to a picnic we held the next day. We had a potluck with PEPP members that night where we exchanged organizing experiences. The next day two PPERHC members joined Lorenzo, from the UND chapter of SDS, on Peace Talk Radio to discuss the March For Our Lives and the new relationship between PPEHRC and The American Driver. That afternoon, at the picnic, we talked about food access issues with community members and human rights with Del Rae Williams of the Moorhead Human Rights Commission. We ended the evening with political education by watching the film Hotel Rwanda and having a lively debate. Lastly, the hospitality was amazing. We were hosted in the personal homes of generous PEPP members.
Friday, August 15, 2008
KFGO Coverage: POVERTY TOUR HEADED TO MOORHEAD
A MINNESOTA HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP WILL BE IN MOORHEAD TOMORROW TRYING TO RAISE AWARENESS ABOUT POVERTY AND HOMELESSNESS. MARSHA DUGAN IS WITH "THE POOR PEOPLE'S ECONOMIC HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN". SHE SAYS THEY'RE FINDING CONDITIONS AREN'T AS BRIGHT AS STATE LEADERS CLAIM. THE GROUP IS USING THE THREE-WEEK TRIP TO COLLECT STORIES AND TESTIMONY FROM LOW INCOME AND HOMELESS PEOPLE. THE INFORMATION WILL BE PRESENTED AT THE REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION IN ST. PAUL SEPTEMBER 1ST.
Day 14: Detroit Lakes
They also shared with us stories of, such as the elderly women who was found living in an abandoned chicken coupe, or the person living in an oil drum.
Other members of PPEHRC went to the food bank to see what the food bank process was like there. One woman discusses with us how the food would only last her family of five two to three weeks, but people are only allowed to utilize the food shelf six times per year.
We spent the night at the Refuge, a place that offers free meals and spiritual guidance to those in need. We had a wonderful discussion of how neither the Democratic party nor the Republican party are doing the lords work, since neither is shining a light on the issues of the poor nor walking with the poor as Jesus taught. The generosity and love that these Christians shared with us that evening was overwhelming. We were especially moved by their prayer for us and we won’t forget our new friends.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Days 11-12: White Earth
Watch this three part interview: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
We were then brought to the community rediscovery center, in which we were hosted with a gracious meal of soup, fried bread, and other native foods. Then we spent a night enjoying a campfire and hearing stories and songs of Anishinaabeg culture.
The next day we were taken a poverty reality tour by our host, Sandy, around the many poverty stricken villages of the White Earth Reservation. Two PPEHRC youth members provided childcare at the Rediscovery Center by taking them fishing and engaging in other outdoor activities. Meanwhile we met with a man who the Tribal Council was blacklisted from being employed on the reservation, merely due to his political stance and action within the community. We then met with Bill Paulsen, care taker and member of Sahkahtay Indigenous Preservation Society, who gave us a tour of the Giiwedin, the Shakahtay garden project. He also treated us to lunch and a gracious donation and told us about how they bring in adults and children to help with the gardening and teaching self-sustainable farming, including wild rice gathering, berry scattering, etc. It was very uplifting to see someone struggling with incredible obstacles to make such positive change in their community. Later in the evening we were again hosted by our favorite cook, Michael, and were treated to a gathering around the fire including stories, songs, and a drum ceremony.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Crookston Times: Marchers draw attention to the poorest of the poor
Published: Tuesday, August 12, 2008 1:35 PM CDT
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Participants in Operation: March for our Lives pause Monday near the post office on South Main. (Natalie J. Ostgaard, photographer)
About 10 people participating in Operation: March for Our Lives who are on a mission to call attention to issues affecting the poorest people in the nation made a stop in Crookston Monday, where they conducted an early afternoon march from the former SuperValu parking lot to the Care and Share Center. Despite rain drenching them along the way, they managed to get their message across with waterproof signs and banners and at a press conference outside the center.
"We're going to communities across the state documenting people's stories about having their human rights to housing, health care, education, food, living wage jobs, and other basic needs denied in this country," said Jenn Cox, who came from Philadelphia to join the initiative. "We're also trying to bring people together to join us at the end of this month and early September in St. Paul."
The march, under the national Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC), kicked off Aug. 1 in St. Paul and will end Aug. 22 in Minneapolis-St. Paul after visiting about 20 communities across the state. March participants are sharing experiences, exchanging ideas, collect human rights documentation, and join local actions in the fight for economic human rights, according to information provided by PPEHRC. They're also hosting teach-ins, panels, workshops and performances in an effort to grow mobilize and grow the movement to end poverty in the United States.
"There is a large number of people working real hard to survive but can't because of high gas prices," said Cox. "People are losing their farms, homes, and trucking businesses, not to mention going without food and health care. For the richest country in the world, our people shouldn't have to live like this to get by."
She pointed out several events set to take place in the Twin Cities later this month and early next month, culminating with protests at the Republican National Convention:
-- On Aug. 30, the Minnesota Truth Commission will collect testimony detailing violations of economic human rights from throughout the state.
-- On Sept. 1, the first day of the RNC, PPEHRC will join the "March to Stop the War!" tying the issues of poverty, homelessness and the health care crisis with the spending of trillions of dollars on the Iraq War.
-- Also on Sept. 1, the National Truth Commission on Human Rights Violations in the U.S. will collect testimony detailing violations of economic human rights from across the country.
-- On Sept. 2, the national "March for Our Lives: Money For Health Care And Housing Not For War!" will bring together tens of thousands of people, led by poor families, marching to the site of the RNC.
"We're encouraging people in the Crookston area to join us and get involved in these activities in some capacity," Cox said. "Maybe you have a story to tell. Maybe you just want to show your support. We'd really welcome a delegation from the Crookston area. We'd be glad to talk with people on how to make it happen and are working on getting transportation there and back."
If interested, contact the PPEHRC by mail at PPEHRC, Sabathani Community Center,
310 East 38th St Room # 126, Minneapolis, MN 55409; by phone at (612) 821-2364; or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the Website economichumanrights.org for more information and details on upcoming events.
The PPEHRC was formed 10 years ago, the 50th anniversary of the U.S. signing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Cox explained. This is the international standard for human rights, and full implementation would mean that poverty would not exist in this country.
"That's not happening, now, is it?" she said.
Each summer, the group conducts marches and other events to call attention to economic rights violations, she said. Cox has been involved with the organization since the beginning and has been to two other protests to the RNC, in 2000 and 2004.
"We're not partisan, though," she stressed. "We're not connected to either party - we think both parties have screwed peoples lives up."
The reason they're focusing on the RNC this year is because that's the party our president belongs to, Cox explained.
"There will also be protests and stuff around the Democratic National Convention," she said. "But conditions over the last eight years, based on Bush's presidency, have caused a lot of hurting."
"Stop spending money on the war and give it to the poor," said Mario Seina of Grand Forks, who's with the UND chapter of Students for a Democratic Society. He's been working with American Driver, a trucker's group protesting across the nation. "A lot of owner-operators are filing bankruptcy and having to delve into their retirement funds. We want to raise awareness and let people know how this affects citizens across the board. Everything that comes into the city comes from trucks."
He added that he hopes the protests at the RNC will attract national media attention and get people talking to work on a solution to the problem.
Marsha Duggan, a college student from Iowa, said she came on board with PPEHRC after a spring break service trip that "really opened my eyes to poverty, homelessness and food issues going on. It really made me frustrated. I don't think its right for mothers and fathers not to be able to put food on the table at night for their kids, not to be able to have a home and put their children to bed, and not have health care."
Deeq Abdi, the leader of the group from Minneapolis, said he became involved with the group because he went through some housing issues and others helped him get on his own feet and more independent.
"I don't want anyone to go through the same situation as I did," he said.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Day 10: Crookston
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Day 9: Red Lake Falls
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Day 8: Red Lake
Later we were given an educational on the history of the Red Lake reservation who was conducted by our friend Jodi Bolio.
Watch this three part video: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Another educational was had later on about the school of the Americas by Deeq Abdi, one of our fellow human rights monitors. We attended the church service and joined the congregation in song and prayer.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Day 6: Cass Lake
Grand Rapids Herald-Review: 'Operation: March For Our Lives' makes a stop in Grand Rapids
By Marie Nitke
Grand Rapids Herald-Review
The group is in the middle of its "Operation: March For Our Lives" tour across the state, sponsored by the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign.
The peaceful demonstration march began last week in St. Paul, then traveled north to Duluth and west to Taconite, Hibbing and Grand Rapids. It is scheduled to pass through 18 communities before winding up back in St. Paul on Sept. 2 for the Republican National Convention.
"We march because as poverty, hunger, unemployment and homelessness grow throughout this country, political leaders from both major parties have abandoned us," states the March For Our Lives website. "We cannot afford to be silent. We cannot afford to disappear from the public eye and the political debates as our families suffer... We will make our voices heard."
"Operation: March For Our Lives" is an effort to raise awareness about poverty in Minnesota, and to gain support for more legislative funding for things like healthcare and housing. Participants are attempting to collect stories of economic rights violations through conversations with the public. They plan to present these stories to the Minnesota Truth Commission at the end of August.
The march brought about 10 people to Grand Rapids, who stopped at the Grand Rapids Food Shelf to have lunch and to talk to people in the community who live in poverty. They discussed topics such as paying for healthcare, losing a home to foreclosure, affordable rental housing, unemployment and hunger.
"I don't like the term 'human rights violation,' because I don't feel violated," said one food shelf client. "But I do feel like I have no recourse to try and solve my situation. I'm not whining. I just want to be able to do what everyone else is trying to do -- provide for myself."
This woman and others at the food shelf -- who agreed to be interviewed anonymously by the March For Our Lives group -- expressed frustration over the economy, both nationally and locally. Most said that either they or the head of their households worked a full-time job, but still couldn't make ends meet due to low wages.
"If you ask me, the number one problem around here is jobs," said one person. "People want to work and provide for themselves, but aren't able to because there just aren't enough good-paying jobs."
There was also concern over a lack of affordable housing in the area.
"We've been trying to find a rental subsidy," said one woman, "but it's taken nearly a year already to make it happen."
Another woman said she's had trouble finding housing for her family "because most landlords require a damage deposit plus first months' rent, which I can't afford. So then I end up paying $550 a month for a little two bedroom trailer."
"Operation: March For Our Lives" will travel next to Cass Lake on Wednesday, and will arrive in Leech Lake on Thursday. For more information about the group, visit www.economichumanrights.org.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Day 5: Grand Rapids
After breakfast, the marchers marched 4 miles to Second Harvest Food Shelf - who generously hosted the caravan's lunch. At the Food Shelf, many families, who are receiving minimal help from social services and having terrible times making ends meet, shared their stories. The marchers then collected Economic Human Rights Violation Documentation from these families.
Next, the caravan moved on to the ITASCA Resource center. The staff of the center will bring a delegation to the MN Truth Commission and the March for Our Lives. The caravan enjoyed dinner hosted by the ITASCA Resource Center.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Dia 5: Grand Rapids
Dia 5: los marchadores empezaron el dia a las 8:30 a.m. comiendo desayuno alrededor de la gigantesca estatua de Iron Ore Miners Statue,un tributo a los mineros de los Estados Unidos que han jugado una gran parte en la historia de los U.S y de la revolucion industrial. Despues de desayunar , marcharon 4 millas hasta Second Harvest Food Shelf que generosamente nos dejo quedar ahi a comer. Una ves en el Food Shelf, muchas familias que reciben muy poca ayuda de servicios sociales y teniendo tiempos muy malos tratando de sobrevivir compartierons sus historias y documentaron todo lo que les habia ocurrido.
Despues el grupo fue al Centro de Itasca. La gente que trabaja ahi dijo que llevara una delegacion a la MN Truth Commission y a la Marcha Por Nuestras Vidas el 2 de Septiembre. El grupo disfruto de una deliciosa cena ahi.
Day 4: Hibbing
We marched approximately ten miles under a potent sun into Hibbing, recieving many supportive honks along the way. We found out as we entered town that a front page article in the local paper, the Hibbing Daily Tribune, had roused local interest and support for our visit. Along the route, we were startled when a local woman, who had been on public assistance herself in the 80's, pulled over and told us she had looked for us on the highway, but had just found us. She had to leave quickly but found us later, talked to us and gave us money for food. In downtwn Hibbing, we met O Jay, a long time homeless local who allowed us to videotape him telling his story and marched the rest of the way to Bennet Park with us. We also encountered Chris Buckley from Channel 11, who immediately began filming us marching the streets and chanting. After resting briefly at the park, we made our way to the Salvation Army, where we met Chris and Mike Jennings of the Hibbing Daily Tribune, who interviewed Cheri and expressed interest in following up on local sotries of poverty and degradation.
O.J. Sanders from Hibbing tells how his mother has had her utilities shut off on her and will be evicted from her home after being foreclosed on.
We proceeded to eat at the Salvation Army and spoke at length with local folks. O Jay loaned us his laptop and we sat outside accessing the internet to read email and post crucial updates. We also met Cedric, from Cass Lake, who had left the reservation with his family at a young age and now finds himself isolated as one of the few Native Americans living in Hibbing. Many of us spoke with Victor, a volunteer at the Salvation Army, about his long history of participation in social movements such as the Black Panther Party in southern California.
Hibbing Press Conference
Just following the press conference outside of the Salvation Army, we were joined by Liz Ortiz, a long time member of PPEHRC and the Kensington Welfare Rights Union, from Philadelphia. From there we proceeded to Chisholm Baptist Church, where we unloaded our things and had a meeting to plan the strategy for the coming days. The pastor of Chisholm Baptist graciously lent us his office computer as well as his personal laptop. After the meeting and brief work at the computer, we took a chance to rest our legs, take showers, play pool and watch movies.
Monday, August 4, 2008
Hibbing Daily Tribune: March for economic rights due in Hibbing
Will wind up at Republican conventionMike Jennings
HIBBING — A march that is intended to draw attention to the needs of Minnesota’s poor is due to arrivetoday in Hibbing.
Sponsored by the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, the march began Friday in St. Paul and continued Saturday in Duluth and Sunday in Taconite. It is scheduled to pass through about 20 communities across the state this month and end Sept. 2 at the front door of the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, where the Republican National Convention will be in progress.
Cooper said Sunday that 10-15 people were participating in the march so far. “It’s kind of fluid, and it’s going to be growing,” he said.
Those who have been “denied health care and housing are welcome to come out and share their stories and march with us,” Cooper said. He said that during the march the group will collect documentation from people who have been denied services that meet basic needs.
On Tuesday, the march is due to continue in Grand Rapids.
Mike Jennings can be reached at email@example.com. To read this story and comment on it online go to www.hibbingmn.com.
Southside Pride: Federal mediators want to get involved in protest plans
Federal mediators want to get involved in protest plans
Bergeron had called Honkala at Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC) headquarters on July 3 to ask if her group would be willing to participate in training to mitigate what he saw as possible violence during PPEHRC's planned "March for Our Lives" at September's Republican Convention in St. Paul.
"He basically implied violence toward myself and toward the other marchers," Honkala said. "He said that he was concerned about a counter demonstration and that the (St. Paul) police had recently purchased 300 new Tasers," said Honkala.
Bergeron's office within the federal justice system is with something called the "Community Relations Service" (CRS) whose stated function is "mediation of disputes and conflicts, training in conflict resolution skills, and help in developing ways to prevent and resolve conflicts," according to the government. CRS was created by the 1964 Civil Rights Act and has a long history of involvement in defusing confrontations, including easing racial tensions in the South and helping pave the way for gay and lesbian issues to be addressed on college campuses.
"My question was, 'Why do they have to be involved unless they have knowledge of an intention of violence. And if they have, they should reveal those threats to the public," said Honkala. "He also told me that AIM (members of the local American Indian Movement) and the Welfare Rights Committee had said they would be participating in his training, which I later discovered was not true," Honkala said.
Both AIM and the Minnesota Welfare Rights Committee, as well as the local Anti-War Committee, have gone on record as saying they would not be interested in federal training. They say that their own efforts to apply to authorities for common ground—like applying for the proper permits to demonstrate—have been frustrated or delayed. The Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War was forced into court with the City of St. Paul because city officials wanted to keep protesters out of the sight of convention goers.
Nineteen St. Paul and Minneapolis police officers were given CRS training on July 23.
"Police are one entity that may call us in—we may enter a community on our own or at the request of the community," said Ryan Breitenbach, CRS Senior Counsel. "But we are unique within the Dept. of Justice as we have no investigative or law enforcement power. We only provide facilitation of dialogue, particularly in regard to protests or marches," Breitenbach said.
"We are a movement that practices nonviolence. The federal government has never seen the need to become involved in our movement in more than twenty years," said Honkala. "Our only other experience in dealing with the feds is our experience with ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and their treatment of our local immigrantpopulation. We have many immigrants in our movement," Honkala said.
"Communities often don't want any kind of federal presence, and that's understandable," another CRS mediator, Patricia Campbell Glenn, told City Pages back in 2002. At that time, the Minneapolis City Council and local community leaders asked CRS to facilitate talks between the city and neighborhood groups after a riot broke out in the Northside's Jordan neighborhood when a police bullet hit an 11-year-old black child in the arm. After a months-long mediation process between a diverse coalition of community groups and representatives of the Minneapolis Police Dept., a federal mediation agreement was reached.
Yet according to Honkala, CRS's contact with her was a bit more heavy handed. In a subsequent phone conversation with Bergeron, Honkala said that her group had declined the use of CRS services."He got really upset and started screaming," said Honkala. "He told me that if anyone even had a heart attack during the march, that I would be held responsible," she said.
So much for federal facilitation at the Republican Convention.
Labels: March for Our Lives 2008
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Day 3: Taconite
The pastor opened her congregation to the marchers and she is a prime example of what religious leaders ought do be doing - working to meet the needs of others not just in working in their own interests. Pastor Dorothy's comments were moving in that she stated that she "feels an inability to live lavishly while others are suffering." This is the source of her congregations commitment to aiding those in the areas around Taconite.
We would like to extend our prayers and gratitude to Lawron Presbyterian Church and its congregation for their support and loving kindness. We wanted to share the beautiful prayer from this morning's service:
You love us but we have not loved you.
You called but we have not listened.
We walk away from neighbors in need,
Wrapped in our own concerns.
We accept evil, prejudice, warfare and greed.
God of grace,
Help us to admit our sins,
So that we may repent and receive forgiveness.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Northland News Center: Plight Of The Poor
By KBJR News 1
Concerns over high gas prices, the slumping housing market and rising food prices have many people concerned.
However, it's easy to forget those who are less fortunate.
Trevor Roy spoke with a group dedicated to remind people of the plight the poor of this country face everyday.
Nearly twenty people marched on Duluth Saturday to educate and promote economic human rights reform.
The group calling themselves the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign is taking a bus tour around Minnesota.
They are gathering stories of violations regarding the human rights to health care, housing, food, and education to present to state and national leaders.
3:50"All of this will culminate in a Minnesota truth commission, where people will travel from Duluth to the Twin Cities to talk to commissioners about what's happened in their lives and than we have our big anti–poverty march September 2"
Cheri Honkala, whom was at one time homeless, says it was the good will of other people that inspired her to get involved.
"7:30 I'm a formerly homeless mother and that's why I do this, people decided to help me and step forward in a difficult situation and we need people to get involved."
Ann Patterson says she started protesting at an early age, but after having her children she realized that this issue is something that she can latch on to.
8:18 "From the age of probably four I was on protests and marches with her and taking over houses, abandon houses for homeless people, but as I got older I had five children and I'm on a very very low income and so it's becoming more of a necessity to me than a passion".
Honkala sees the war in Iraq as being at odds with the war against poverty.
"5:06 While there is a lot of focus on the war that's going on in Iraq nobody is talking about the need for something like operation March of Our Lives, where we give visibility to what's happening to families and the consequences of spending billions of dollars on the war.'
The group is planning on marching on the Republican National Convention which runs later this month.
In Duluth, Trevor Roy, the NorthlandsNewscenter.
Day 2: Duluth
UNITE! HERE Local 99 of Duluth hosted breakfast (thank you!). Local President, Todd Erickson, explained the struggle of Duluth workers as their economy and industries have shifted from union mining jobs with excellent pay and benefits to low wage service industry jobs with or without benefits. Local 99 will join PPEHRC at the March for Our Lives and will bring a delegation from Duluth.
Operation: March for Our Lives then marched 3 miles through downtown Duluth community members to the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial for a press conference
After that, the caravan joined a local soup kitchen for lunch and collected documentation from homeless folks assembled for lunch.
From there, the caravan traveled to CHUM, a local family single adult/family shelter. Hosted by Tony, a CHUM staff member, he recounted the story of losing his home and her 9-year old children in house fire. He told of having to rebuild her life over the years and the importance of treating people with humanity and dignity. He spends every day of his life "giving praise to people to building them up and not breaking them down." Marchers talked to lots of people and invited them all to join us
The marchers ended their day at Loaves and Fishes for a community dinner. Here we met a man named Marty who was displaced by Hurricane Katrina and then again two weeks later by Hurricane Rita. FEMA provided him a trailer that was contaminated with formaldehyde. He brought attention to the fact the trailer was uninhabitable; FEMA then moved him to a second trailer which was contaminated with asbestos. This left permanent scars on his legs. He is now in Minnesota and unable to leave due to medical crisis which have left him incapacitated. His medical condition prevents him from working. He is saddled with massive medical bills leaving him without a way to pay bills, rent, and other expenses.
The marchers spent the night here.
Operation March for Our Lives Underway!
PPEHRC held a news conference to start off Operation: March for Our Lives in front of the Vision of Peace Statue at the St. Paul City Hall with representatives of UNITE! HERE, the American Indian Movement, The Minnesota Tenants Union, St Stephen's, the Maria Iñamagua Campaign For Justice, The Main Street Project and the Minnesota National Lawyers Guild.
PPEHRC Members have 22 days of marching and caravaning across the state collecting documentation of economic human rights violations. Staying with those most affected by poverty and the worsening economy, PPEHRC will spend much of the upcoming weeks in in homeless shelters, soup kitchens, visiting with farmers who have lost their farms, and visiting some of the poorest Indian Reservations.
If you have you are a Minnesotan and have been affected by poverty, share your story with us using our economic human rights violation form. These stories from people by poverty in Minnesota will be documented and brought to Minneapolis for the Minnesota Truth Commission, a hearing by human rights experts, clergy and government officials.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Operation March for Our Lives: Minnesota Statewide Caravan
On August 1st at 3:30 PM at St. Paul City Hall (15 W. Kellogg Blvd.), the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign will launch "Operation March For Our Lives." Operation March for Our Lives will be a statewide caravan through Minnesota to collect economic human rights violations documentation. The portrait of poverty that this documentation paints will be presented at the Minnesota Truth Commission at 2PM on August 30th at Sabathani Community Center on August 30th at 2:00pm.
We are recruiting and training Human Rights Monitors to collect economic human rights documentation. Human Rights Monitors will be hosted by local communities and will march and sleep along the roadside. We're encouraging Minnesotans to watch our website and to visit us along our caravan and to bring us your stories of trying to pay for healthcare, losing your home to foreclosure, high unemployment on your reservation or how you didn't have enough food to feed your children this month.
Operation March For our Lives will also serve as a vehicle to place representatives of Minnesota's various branches of government & opinion shapers on notice about their obligations under human rights treaties.
If your interested in helping to host the marchers or if you would like to join us on the march, please email us at Louieppehrc@yahoo.com or call our office today at 612-821-2364.
Here is the tentative route for the Minnasota Statewide:
- Aug. 1-2: St Paul to Duluth
- Aug. 3: Taconite
- Aug. 4: Hibbing
- Aug. 5: Grand Rapids
- Aug 6: Cass Lake
- Aug 7: Leech Lake
- Aug 8: Bemidji
- Aug 9: Red Lake
- Aug 10: Red Lake Falls
- Aug 11: Crookston
- Aug 12-13: White Earth
- Aug 14: Detroit Lakes
- Aug 15-16: Moorhead
- Aug 17: St. Cloud
- Aug 18: Waconia
- Aug 19: Owatonna
- Aug 20: Austin
- Aug 21: Rochester
- Aug 22: Minneapolis/St. Paul
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Poor people’s march to be held at RNC on Sept. 2
by DENNIS GEISINGER
Demonstrators on the sidewalk outside the HUD office in downtown Minneapolis. (Photo by Dennis Geisinger)
A protest of government policies that concern, among other things, how the homeless population in America is calculated, has generated a written promise from feds to attend an airing of issues by representatives of those in Minneapolis who have lost or are in imminent danger of losing their homes.
During a planned “living room” demonstration by members of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, activists were able to obtain a signed statement from U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Field Director Dexter Sydney that he would attend a “truth commission” to be held at the Sabathani Community Center on Aug. 30.
About a dozen human rights advocates arranged a sofa, chairs and handmade cardboard signs in front of downtown HUD offices on the morning of July 15. The act was devised to raise public awareness of how local citizens are being kept outdoors without a decent place to live because of economic hardships and what homeless advocates charge is government’s lack of concern or alternately, its narrow definition of homelessness.
Minnesota branch HUD offices are housed in the Minneapolis International Centre, a block of office towers encompassed by Marquette and 2nd Avenues from 9th to 10th Streets that is also home to several of the largest real estate developers in the Midwest.
“Nowdays they’ve relocated their offices inside places where it’s harder to carry out public demonstrations—because of all the private property issues,” said human rights organizer Cheri Honkala. “It’s too bad that we have to do things like set up house on the avenue,” Honkala said. “But we don’t have any choice because our elected officials really don’t care about these issues—especially in the summer,” she said.
During morning business hours, with people passing on their way to work, the mostly young, college-age activists, distributed flyers, answered questions and collected stories from Minneapolis residents who have experienced economic human rights violations, like a lack of affordable housing, health care and food. They distributed food items to those in need, including building employees.
“This is everyone’s struggle,” said Christopher Rotondo, a human rights activist who is working with the Poor Peoples’ Campaign as part of studies in a political economy program at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. “When it comes to who shows any interest in what we’re saying here, it depends on who they are,” Rotondo said.
Ann Patterson is one who lives near Powderhorn Park, who said that she and her family are in danger of being put out on the street for good if their balancing act between staying employed and paying bills takes another sideways hit. An employee at Abbott Northwestern Hospital for the past 16 years, Patterson said she had successfully weathered five or six layoffs. But when her husband lost his job some seven months ago they had to rely on credit cards to pay for some of their basic needs, forcing them to refinance their home to consolidate debt. Now, according to Patterson, her mortgage payments are so big, any more strain on her family’s already stretched resources would send them into foreclosure.
Tristan Hunter, who lives near the Bancroft Neighborhood, is also worried that he, his girlfriend and young daughter may be forced to move out of their apartment. His girlfriend was recently laid off and because she and their daughter both suffer from asthma, making sure that they receive proper health care while taking care of the rest of his financial obligations is a constant concern. Hunter, who says he feels that he is just working to work, surviving by neglecting one bill to pay another, says the alternatives are far from desirable.
“As a black man growing up on the Southside I saw the guys on the corner making their money and having the cars and the stereos and the gold—all the things that the TV says a young black man should have,” said Hunter. “I’m 21. There’s times that I wake up and just want to die,” Hunter said.
Heather Harding, a native Objibwe, has been a human rights organizer for seven months. The $400 a month she makes does not allow her a place by herself, so she lives with her mother. But the experience of working with the Poor People’s Campaign has provided her with a new perspective on local life.
“The people I work with are more like family that my own family,” said Harding, who recently obtained her high school diploma. “They’ve shown me a different side of Minneapolis that I never knew existed. Now I want to help others as well as myself,” she said.
“I think the people on the street understand the issues better than those they’ve elected to office,” said Honkala. According to information released by the Poor People’s Campaign, HUD’s definition of homelessness is restricted to those living in shelters or on the street. It does not include children and families who have lost their homes but are temporarily staying in motels or with relatives or friends because a shelter was not available or appropriate.
According to homeless advocates, this means that nearly 600,000 children and youth nationwide—60 percent of the students identified by public schools as homeless—are ineligible for HUD Homeless Assistance.
“This has been a big embarrassment for HUD,” said Honkala, who pointed to a HUD report from last year that claimed the chronically homeless population nationwide had been decreased by 12 percent.
At August’s truth commission, HUD Field Director Sydney will hear testimony from individuals from across Minnesota detailing their experiences of homelessness in the growing foreclosure crisis.
“We are asking people in Minneapolis and St. Paul to come by our office and drop off their stories or join us at the Minnesota Truth Commission. Our voices are important and need to be heard,” said Honkala.
The Poor Peoples’ Campaign will also be hosting “March For Our Lives,” a convergence of poor people from Minnesota and across the nation on the Republican National Convention in St. Paul on Sept. 2.
Labels: March for Our Lives 2008
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