Category Archives: immigration

After Only Two Weeks, Trump’s Buccaneer Presidency Falls Foul of the Constitution

Donald Trump has made an unprecedented attack on a federal judge, calling him a “so-called judge” and blaming him and the court system “if something happens.” The Bush appointee, James Robart of Seattle, suspended Trump’s immigration executive order on the grounds that it is unconstitutional and places an undue burden on the state of Washington and on its 25,000 residents from the 7 countries that it singled out; moreover, the judge held his ruling applied nationwide. The government appealed the decision, but the US appeals court denied its request for a reinstatement of the ban without further legal argument.

Trump’s anger reflects the significance of this decision, which asserts the responsibility of the government to the public and the constitution, not the executive. Juan Cole described the ruling as “incredible” and “tremendous.” “Robart stood up for the residents of Washington state who were unconstitutionally deprived of basic rights by the [executive order]. He also stood up for the economy of Washington state and its ‘tax base,’ playing turnabout with Trump by arguing that what he did is bad for the economy! … Robart is saying that residents of a state in the US have rights that the president cannot simply erase by fiat. He is further saying that institutions of the state itself, including universities, have a right to pursue their work unmolested by discriminatory policies.”

Constitutional lawyer Marci Hamilton described the conflict as “an epic confrontation between the presidency and the constitution,” while the attorney general of Washington state, Bob Ferguson, told reporters: “We are a nation of laws. Not even the president can violate the constitution. No one is above the law, not even the president. This decision shuts down the executive order immediately – shuts it down.”

The extremism of Trump’s executive orders has activated the Democratic base with a speed that has taken its own representatives by surprise. Chuck Schumer, the minority leader in the Senate, faced protesters outside his own home in Brooklyn who cheered and jeered as they held signs with slogans like “Buck Up Chuck”; “Resisting Trump Is Your Primary Duty”; and “Filibuster Filibuster Filibuster.” Gothamist reported: “Patrick Youngkin, a member of CWA Local 1102 and a former Marine, shouted gleefully, bringing the crowd to a fury. ‘I fought for the right to protest, I fought for the right to assemble, and hold elected officials accountable,’ he said. ‘Senator Schumer, your constituents, we’re going to take this fight to the street. But it’s your duty as Senate minority leader to take this fight to the floor’.”

The country is divided between those who believe that Trump is acting to keep them safe and those who are vigorously resisting him. The number of voters who support impeaching him has risen to 40 percent. But what will seriously undermine his presidency is the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act with no viable replacement. Legislators say they are inundated with requests for town hall meetings to discuss the issue: the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that tea-party darling David Brat complained that he has been hounded by female constituents opposed to the repeal of the ACA. “Since Obamacare and these issues have come up, the women are in my grill no matter where I go,” he said. “They come up – ‘When is your next town hall?’ And believe me, it’s not to give positive input.”

In Roseville, California, police had to escort a Republican congressman from a meeting with his constituents. According to the Sacramento Bee, “facing a packed auditorium and raucous crowd, Republican Rep. Tom McClintock on Saturday defended his party’s national agenda and voiced strong support for President Donald Trump’s controversial executive actions to scale back Obamacare, ban visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries and build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. ‘Vote him out,’ hundreds of demonstrators chanted outside the Tower Theatre in downtown Roseville, the Republican-heavy population center of McClintock’s sprawling congressional district. … Attendees, some carrying signs that read ‘Resist,’ ‘Dump Tom McTrump’ and ‘Climate change is real,’ pressed McClintock to denounce Republican plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, acknowledge the science supporting the human causes of climate change, and oppose Trump’s executive order temporarily restricting refugee admissions to the U.S.”

Trump won’t succeed in creating the kind of working class jobs he promised during the election campaign for industries that are already failing. His populism is fake: the true basis of his support within the ruling elite is from aggressive financial operators like Goldman Sachs, heavily represented in his cabinet. Yves Smith says that while many business professionals are upset with Trump’s win, “the ideology that he represents is very much in line with the logic of corporate raiders, many of whom, like him, went to Wharton Business School. And many elite professionals, in particular lawyers and consultants, profited handsomely from the adoption of the buccaneer capitalist view of the world and actively enabled much of its questionable thinking and conduct.”

Trump had little to say on the campaign trail about wages or job protections, despite posing as a champion of American workers. “Make America Great Again” really meant conflating workers’ interests with those of American billionaires. What is characteristic of his presidency is his plan for a new executive order to scale back the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, part of a sweeping plan to dismantle much of the regulatory system put in place in the wake of the 2008 banking collapse. “This guy is a fraud,” Bernie Sanders told CNN on Sunday, pointing out that his Cabinet appointments and advisers directly contradict his pledge to take on Wall Street by re-instituting the Glass-Steagall Act, a regulation that separated commercial and investment banks, which was repealed under Bill Clinton.

Josh Marshall comments: “The unifying message of Trumpism is nationalism, and particularly an aggressive, zero-sum nationalism. … That is the focus around which all the actions of these rancorous 13 days come together into a unified whole – aggressive attacks on friends and foes alike, threats of tariffs against non-compliant foreign states, clampdowns on immigration, etc. … Trump is cozying up to the Wall Street barons he campaigned against. He’s about to throw 25 million Americans off their health care. ‘We expect to be cutting a lot out of Dodd-Frank, because frankly I have so many people, friends of mine, that have nice businesses and they can’t borrow money,’ he said again today, while he also talks about vast tax cuts for his wealthy friends and tax increases for many ordinary working and middle class families. This is a perfect evocation of government by the richest, for the richest, by the rich – and from the President’s own lips.”

Not all Trump voters are authoritarian white nationalists. Many voted for him despite their dislike of his crude propaganda because he presented himself as ready to make drastic political changes that would restore their living standards and job security. As Trump attempts to blame Mexicans and immigrants for the failure of his promises, Democratic activists need to turn out to the heartlands and campaign vigorously for a universal healthcare system that all can afford, free education, and stopping bank foreclosures on homes. In other words, a Sanders agenda that focuses on ending wealth inequality, making the billionaires pay their taxes, and that sweeps away the party leadership’s prevarications.

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Filed under Democratic Party, donald trump, executive orders, immigration, muslims in america, Uncategorized

Americans Rise Against the Neofascism of Trump and Bannon to Affirm the Foundation of the Republic: once again, E Pluribus Unum

Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigrants from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia created chaos after its immediate enforcement at US airports on Saturday. Passengers with valid documentation and green cards were denied entry by immigration officials, a move that was both unconstitutional and illegal.

But Trump and his neofascist advisers did not anticipate the public response to this attack on the foundational ideas of America. At all major airports around the country spontaneous protests grew into thousands chanting: “No hate, no fear. Refugees are welcome here,” and hundreds of lawyers volunteered their services pro bono.

It’s clear that Trump has no idea about how to govern: after one week in power, his administration has provoked a constitutional crisis that pits the immigration bureaucracy, acting for the executive, against the legislature and the courts. While the botched executive order was crafted by neofascist Steve Bannon, it was defended by his tea-party fellow travelers Reince Priebus and Paul Ryan, revealing they are not only out of touch with the ideals and sentiments of the majority of  Americans, but actually believe their own lies about public hostility to Muslims.

According to the New York Times, Trump’s rush to enact his campaign promises bypassed all agency and legal reviews, and his executive order on immigration “had the most explosive implications. … But Mr. Bannon, who believes in highly restrictive immigration policies and saw barring refugees as vital to shoring up Mr. Trump’s political base, was determined to make it happen.” What Bannon really wants to achieve is to remove all checks and balances on Trump’s executive power. The sudden dismissal of senior officials at the State Department with no replacements in line, creating a vacuum of leadership, is designed to neutralize the agency in foreign relations. Angela Merkel was forced to “explain” to Trump the obligations of the Geneva refugee convention in a phone call on Saturday, reported the Guardian, in contrast to the toadying of British prime minister Theresa May on her recent visit.

The protests against the ban began on Saturday immediately after the news that two Iraqi refugees were being held at JFK airport in New York.  Gothamist reported the crowd numbered about 100 people shortly before 2 p.m., but 40 minutes later had doubled in size; people kept on coming until there were thousands lining the approach road and in the three floors of the parking garage overlooking the terminal. Shortly after noon on Saturday one of the Iraqi travelers was released. After nearly 19 hours of detention, Hameed Khalid Darweesh, an interpreter who worked for more than a decade as a translator for the US in Iraq, began to cry as he spoke to reporters after his humiliation by the authorities. But he said of the protesters who surrounded him, carrying supportive signs, “This is the humanity, this is the soul of America. This is what pushed me to move, leave my country and come here.”

The New York City Taxi Workers Alliance tweeted that they would undertake a one-hour strike on pickups at JFK, to stand in solidarity with the people protesting the immigration ban. At the same time, the ACLU mounted an emergency habeas corpus petition in Brooklyn federal court. An ACLU lawyer, Andre Segura, was at JFK by 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. He said that the outside section of a restaurant in Terminal 4 was “entirely taken over by attorneys,” all working to file petitions for individual clients with the help of the clients’ families. He added, “The dynamic between what was happening inside the terminal with all the attorneys, and outside with massive protests and people holding signs — I’ve never experienced anything like that.”

According to the New York Times, US district Judge Ann Donnelly, “ruled just before 9 p.m. on Saturday that implementing Mr. Trump’s order by sending the travelers home could cause them ‘irreparable harm.’ She said the government was ‘enjoined and restrained from, in any manner and by any means, removing individuals’ who had arrived in the United States with valid visas or refugee status.” She had been alerted by the ACLU to the fact that a Syrian woman with a valid green card attempting to enter the country had been placed on a plane to take her back to Syria within the hour; government lawyers were unable to provide assurances about her safety on her return without additional information.  The Guardian reported: “Well that’s exactly why I’m going to grant this stay,” Donnelly replied to muffled cheers in the room.

Back at JFK, a Gothamist reporter described the continuing protest. All of those he spoke to “were angry, many scared. But they didn’t seem demoralized. They stayed, for hours and hours. Pizza boxes became impromptu signs. Parents held onto their kids, fresh out of dance practice in Manhattan or coming from their homes nearby in Queens. A group of Yemeni men stood around, chatting and filming the action. … I assumed the combination of cold and darkness would start to thin the crowd, but people were still showing up at 7 p.m. They flooded out into the streets, still chanting, ‘Fuck the wall, we’ll tear it down’ and ‘Not on our watch, not in our name.’ A few folks danced. It was electric. Around 9 p.m., when word of the stay came through, spread along the human mic, there was just a surging roar, punctuated by people drumming on buckets. The crowd started to sing.”

The judge’s ruling had immediate national repercussions. Minutes later, another judge, Leonie Brinkema of Federal District Court in Virginia, issued a temporary restraining order for a week to block the removal of any green card holders being detained at Dulles International Airport. The Washington Post reported: “In Seattle, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas S. Zilly granted an emergency stay preventing the deportation of two people detained at the Sea-Tac International Airport …  Just before 2 a.m. Sunday in Boston, two federal judges ruled for two University of Massachusetts Dartmouth associate professors — Iranian nationals who are permanent legal residents in the United States — who were held at Logan International Airport when they landed after travel for an academic conference. The judges there also put a seven-day restraining order on Trump’s executive action.”

However, the application of the ruling – which prevents deportations of people already on US soil – is being challenged by Homeland Security officials who are still preventing immigration lawyers from contacting people detained at airports. At Dulles airport in Virginia Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials were refusing to comply with the court order on Sunday, denying detained immigrants access to lawyers and turning away members of Congress who demanded officials comply with the federal court.

Becca Heller, director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, told reporters on Sunday morning: “Rogue customs and Border Patrol agents continue to try to get people on to planes. A lot of people have been handcuffed, a lot of people who don’t speak English are being coerced into taking involuntary departures.” Heller said in one case, an Iranian Fulbright scholar had been forced on to an Air Ukraine flight at JFK – hours after agents had received the court order to stop. “The flight started taxiing away from the gate,” Heller said. “She was on the phone with us and stood up and asked to get off the flight the crew just ignored her.” The attorneys made desperate calls to higher-level officials, and the plane was eventually turned around on the tarmac and the woman returned to detention.”

The New York Immigration Coalition announced Sunday that volunteer lawyers remain at JFK’s terminals to help travelers caught by the ban, as well as “non-legal volunteers, community members, and even people who had just gotten off their flights [who] offered their time and energy to support the effort.” Camille Mackler, director of the group’s legal initiatives, said: “I think people reacted to how fundamentally un-American the [Executive Orders] and values put forth are. This is what has propelled people to the streets, what has pushed people out there to protest and to keep showing up. Lawyers have a skill and want to put it to work—they came out to the point that we had to turn people away. This all has been overwhelming but amazing.”

Trump’s extremism has alienated Americans from all classes of society, from ordinary members of the public to legislators and lawyers. They immediately understood the deep betrayal of American ideals and the Constitution that Trump and his enablers are trying to impose, and which the authoritarian elements in Homeland Security are following to the detriment of the rule of law. The United States cannot be ruled by fiats or tweets.

Trump’s aggressive executive orders threaten the legitimacy of his government and the presidency itself. The executive branch has been hijacked by a group of dangerous men who have to be stopped before they have inflicted irreparable damage. The ground has been created for a mass movement unlike any seen before that aims to defend the fundamental pluralistic premises of the United States. The left in America and Britain needs to grasp this reality and participate without preconceptions about political leadership. And Theresa May is exposed as the appeaser of a would-be fascist dictator.

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Filed under donald trump, immigrants, immigration, muslims in america, populism, racism, Syria, Uncategorized

Britain’s Brexit: the left must fight for migrant rights

The result of the Brexit vote stunned the British political elite and sent shockwaves around the world; it was welcomed by separatist and rightwing populist movements in Europe and by Donald Trump as he visited his golf courses in Scotland. By just over a million votes in a high turnout referendum, the public voted to leave the European Union. The vote was uneven: Scotland voted by a large majority to remain, as did London.

It was a victory for the far right of the Tory party, which campaigned incessantly on restricting immigration. But there are other deep-seated reasons for the Brexit vote. Foremost among them is the resentment of the white working class, especially in the North, over deindustrialization, degradation of benefits like housing, health and education, which is blamed on immigrants as the most visible sign of what is in fact a neoliberal reconstruction of society.

Gary Younge argues: “Britain is no more sovereign today than it was yesterday. We have left the EU but we remain within the neoliberal system. … The chutzpah with which the Tory right – the very people who had pioneered austerity, damaging jobs, services and communities – blamed immigrants for the lack of resources was breathtaking.”

Owen Jones commented: “It may not have been the working-class revolt against the political establishment that many of us favoured, but it is undeniable that this result was achieved off the back of furious, alienated working-class votes. … Many of the communities that voted most decisively for leave were the same communities that have suffered the greatest battering under successive governments.”

What started as a maneuver by prime minister David Cameron to control the rightwing of his party resonated with the country in an unprecedented way. Younger voters and those living in metropolitan centres like London, Manchester and Liverpool voted for Remain, while in the deindustrialized north and midlands there were large majorities for Leave. The country is now intensively polarized and resentful of the other side.

The New York Times reported on the generational divide: “Leslie Driscoll, 55, sells hot cross buns in an English bakery in London. Having different cultures and communities is ‘fantastic,’ she said, ‘but what I don’t like is the fact that, through having that, we’ve now left ourselves open. I feel like a second-class citizen in my own country’.” Her daughter Louise grew up in the same area “but in a more prosperous, multicultural Britain than earlier generations had. In school, she was one of only two white students. Her friends are Eritrean, Nigerian and South African. Louise said she understood the pressures that immigration placed on schools and hospitals. But leaving the European Union worried her, she said, because it risked wrecking the economy and making it hard for young people to secure employment. It took her eight months to find work as a barista, she said.”

John Harris commented in the Guardian: “for millions of people, the word ‘immigration’ is reducible to yet another seismic change no one thought to ask them about, or even explain. What people seem to want is much the same as ever: security, stability, some sense of a viable future, and a reasonable degree of esteem. To be more specific, public housing is not a relic of the 20th century, but something that should surely sit at the core of our politics.”

Not that the vote will change that; if anything it will make things worse. Brexit voters were making a plea for a return to a self-contained economy with defined borders that would allow for a national compromise on jobs and benefits – in other words, Britain as it was before Thatcher, or rather an idealized country of the past.

Fintan O’Toole comments in The Irish Times: “The sense of grievance is undeniably powerful. It’s also highly contrary: it is rooted in the shrinking of British social democracy, but the outcome of Brexit will be an even firmer embrace of the unfettered neoliberalism that is causing that shrinkage. … The great cultural appeal of nationalism – we need independence or our culture will die – doesn’t wash. And besides, take immigrants out of English culture and what do you have left?”

Some on the left consider the result a progressive move that could lead to the weakening of neoliberalism. Joseph Choonara of the British Socialist Workers Party told Democracy Now that he hoped the vote “begins to precipitate the breakup of this huge bosses’ club. So that’s the basis on which we campaigned for exit of the U.K. from the EU. It was on the basis of an internationalist, anti-racist and progressive vote against neoliberalism. … The point is that there is going to be popular opposition to these kind of institutions. Does it receive a right focus or a left focus?” Alex Scrivener of Global Justice Now disagreed: “We’ve woken up today to a Britain in which it is a much, much scarier place to be a migrant. … Austria came within a whisker of electing a far-right president. We are living in very terrifying times. The National Front may be—is leading the polls at the moment for the French presidential election. You know, I think we’re on a level of political crisis here we haven’t seen since the 1930s. And I think that the sort of glee on some parts of the left about the EU breaking up, I think people are going to regret that, if that leads to a retreat into nationalism, which is already happening.”

In a similar debate on The Real News Network, John Hilary of War on Want said that the referendum gave a voice to voters’ desire for change: “so many millions of people voted saying, we do not trust our government and political elites anymore; we want a different type of politics which does not just serve the interests of the few … this is genuinely a return to a situation where we have direct democracy again, not a situation of the European Commission being able to hide all the time behind the democratic deficit that exists at the heart of the E.U.” Economics professor John Weeks responded: “Immigration was the issue people that voted on: we’ve got too many foreigners over here in Britain. That’s what the Out won on, and that is what they are going to pursue. And if I were the person that takes over after David Cameron, I would immediately call an election with the confidence that I could win it. And the reason that the Tories could win it is because the Labour Party is split. Most of Jeremy Corbyn’s MPs would love to see him defeated and will not work for a Labour Party to win. And when that happens, we could be in a very difficult situation indeed.”

The left needs to face up to the reality of the Brexit vote – the toxic nature of the Leave campaign created a nationalist backlash against immigrants who will need to be defended. The left has a huge responsibility and opportunity now, as Alex Scrivener of Global Justice said, “to fight for migrant rights, fight for those people who are going to lose hardest from this historic and tragic moment in our history.”

The idea that breaking up the EU means that opposition to neoliberalism will gain an advantage by only confronting a nationally delimited capitalist class is a fantasy. The UK was only ever an independent nation because it was sustained by a huge empire, and Thatcher carried out the last act of an independent nation-state when she opened up the country to international capital after the defeat of the miners’ year-long strike. Since then it’s been under the thrall of one neoliberal government after another.

Colonel Despard will be publishing a three-part reappraisal of the 1984-85 miners’ strike and its international implications, the lessons of which have still not been absorbed by the left. Watch for the first instalment next week.

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Filed under Brexit, Britain, British elections, Cameron, David Cameron, deindustrialization, immigration, Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Party, Thatcher, Uncategorized

Whatever It Takes in the Fight For 15: Workers Mobilize Against Poverty Level Wages in America

Fast food workers in Raleigh, N.C march along South Wilmington Street to protest outside a Burger King. Photo: MSNBC

The “Fight for 15” campaign has spread rapidly from its beginnings in New York City two years ago. Last Thursday’s civil disobedience strikes affected 150 cities throughout the U.S. – significantly, many of them were in the South, historically hostile to unions. As well as broadening their support, strikers faced jail as a way of showing their determination to achieve a $15 an hour minimum wage.

Obama referred to the movement at a speech on Labor Day in Milwaukee. He said: “There’s a national movement going on made up of fast food workers organizing to lift wages so they can provide for their families with pride and dignity. … If I were busting my butt in the service industry and wanted an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, I’d join a union.”

As well all the major cities in the North, protesters were arrested in St. Louis, Missouri; Little Rock, Arkansas; Durham, North Carolina; Phoenix, Arizona; New Orleans, Louisiana; Nashville, Tennessee; Atlanta, Georgia; Miami and Tampa, Florida; and Charleston, South Carolina. In Nashville, McDonald’s worker Jamar Black was at a protest outside of a Sonic restaurant. He told In These Times “We’ll do whatever it takes to get to $15. If we have to go to jail, we’re doing that.”

The Huffington Post reported that in Charleston around two dozen fast food workers blocked traffic at the entrance to a freeway, backing up traffic for miles. Police arrested 18 in what were deemed “non-custodial” arrests – but “the fact that it was happening at all in South Carolina took onlookers by surprise … Dave Crossley, a local who came out in support of the protest, marveled at the line of workers bottling up traffic for blocks on Spring Street, chanting for ‘$15 and a union.’ ‘This sort of thing doesn’t happen in Charleston,’ he said.”

Reports indicate that the police were much more careful in their treatment of protesters than in previous strikes, which reflects both public support for the movement and the condemnation of police over-reaction to the protests in Ferguson. For example, Durham police in union-unfriendly North Carolina “followed the city’s protest for upwards of three hours while making no arrests, even as workers sat in a series of increasingly busy intersections. Eventually, the protesters advanced to the corner of West Main Street and Great Jones Street, one of the busier intersections in downtown, where 23 workers wearing red armbands sat down in the middle of the street. The police blocked off traffic around the intersection but did not advance on the protesters for about an hour and a half.”

The LA Times reported that in New York City, “Hours after the morning protest in Manhattan, marchers gathered again on the busy corner of 8th Avenue and 56th Street, where several were swiftly arrested and taken away in a police van after they lay down on the pavement and blocked traffic. … Lunchtime diners at a nearby open-air bar watched the protest and arrests, which lasted no more than half an hour. ‘Good for them,’ one man in a business suit said who was weaving his way through protesters as they chanted and disrupted traffic. ‘Everyone deserves to make a living’.”

Ashona Osborne, who works at Wendy’s in Pittsburgh, told Democracy Now: “We volunteered that we were going to take a nonviolent civil disobedience and sit down, just to make the point to these CEOs and corporates that ‘We’re not playing.’ … This strike that we had, as opposed to our last strike, we had way more people walk off the job and way more people from the public and workers come and join us as we were striking. We started out with about 10 people at 5:00 in the morning. By the time they came about noon, we had over 200 people all striking together as one.”

There is a fusion between the fight for a living wage and other campaigns for social justice, such as the “Moral Mondays” movement in North Carolina and the struggle for immigrant workers’ rights. The larger movement includes activists from Ferguson, Missouri, who decided to travel to New York City on Thursday to join the protests there. Jeanina Jenkins, a McDonald’s employee in Ferguson, said she believes their fight against Michael Brown’s shooting will be on the minds of many striking fast food workers. “We’re fighting for the same thing, basically,” she said. Co-worker Carlos Robinson told the New York Times: “In Ferguson we needed to stand up for what’s right. Here we have to stand up for what’s right. It’s all about rights. … Ferguson gave us a boost because it helped us realize some people really don’t care about you. If you don’t care about yourself and take a stand for yourself you’ll always be at the bottom.”

The change in tactics to civil disobedience was combined with the addition of home healthcare workers to the campaign. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has been a major backer of the fast-food strikes; its president Mary Kay Henry said: “Homecare workers … decided to join with fast-food workers yesterday in building the broadest, most powerful movement possible … We looked at [Obama’s speech] at 5:45 yesterday morning in Oakland. And workers who hadn’t had a chance [to see it], because they were working on Labor Day, were incredibly thrilled that the president of the United States is saying that what they’re doing makes complete sense.” She added: “There’s an incredible intersection of the immigrant rights movement and the fast-food workers’ movement. I saw it in Oakland yesterday. Many of the workers were Latino and had immigrated from Central America and Mexico. We’ve seen it across this country as the city organizations get built in local coalition with the immigrant justice movement.”

The strikes are not directed at obtaining concessions from one particular company or store, but are aimed at changing the political climate so as to make it unacceptable for corporations earning billions of dollars to keep wages at poverty levels. This includes challenging the legal strategies used by corporations to avoid liability for labor conditions. The movement achieved an important success in this respect by winning a decision by the National Labor Relations Board that McDonald’s could be treated as a joint employer with its franchise holders in labor complaints, opening the way for major pressure on the corporation’s practices.

Most new jobs created in the U.S. today are low-waged, but workers in these jobs are becoming more militant and political in their fight against multi-billion dollar corporations. Washington Post correspondent Harold Meyerson pointed out that: “even though the campaign has yet to win a union contract for a single worker, it already has to be judged a signal success. By highlighting the abysmal incomes of millions of hardworking Americans, it has prodded governments to phase in minimum wage increases in a growing number of cities and states. … The fast-food workers’ campaign, then, may be viewed … as the second act of a broader workers’ movement kicked off by the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations of 2011. Occupy never developed a strategic focus that went beyond occupying, but it nonetheless focused the nation’s attention on the widening chasm separating the 1 percent from everybody else. The fast-food campaign … has staged enough high-profile actions, with a compelling economic and moral message, to win real gains for workers, whether those workers stand to ever become union members or not.”

The gains that have already been made have built workers’ confidence in their own ability to fight and their strength as a class. Alliances with community activists to build an inclusive movement are creating a new form of labor struggle, in the teeth of antagonistic courts and Republican-dominated state legislatures. Much greater conflicts are in store as the movement challenges the basis of corporate profits and their political and legal influence.

Ferguson McDonald’s worker Jeanina Jenkins said that Michael Brown’s shooting had made her think about the reasons why it had happened. “These corporations make billions of dollars each year,” she said, “and if it wasn’t for the workers they wouldn’t have a company to run. … I want to make a history that’s going to change not only us but change the world.”

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Filed under African Americans, fast-food workers, Ferguson, Fight for 15, immigration, low-waged, Obama, poverty, strikes, We are the 99 percent

Oakland and Anaheim: A Tale of Two Libraries

A writer with the Orange County Register recently attended a dance festival with Anaheim mayor Tom Tait and, rather than discuss recent police shootings in the city, told him a heart-warming story about a community center in nearby Santa Ana “that appeared overnight when a psychology professor and a pastor simply rented an apartment. They also opened a small library in the former living room.” The originator of the initiative was a woman who lives in Anaheim. “What’s her email address?” asked Tom. Clearly, for both journalist and mayor, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a library is a public good.

There is a contradiction between those in local administration like Tom Tait encouraging civic engagement and federal and state authorities seeking to impose order. Libraries are historically connected to the ideal of American democracy that legitimizes state power, so they are held to be important for communities where there is an ideological acceptance of police monopoly of force. But in marginalized populations police authority is increasingly asserted through violence and the threat of violence, as demonstrated by the Anaheim police gang enforcement unit (and as the New York Times discovered from an analysis of stop-and-frisk operations in NYC neighborhoods). When the same kind of arbitrary force was used against the Occupy movement, the police made sure when they could to destroy the libraries that symbolized stability in the occupations.

In the very same week that the reported conversation took place, community activists in Oakland occupied a derelict former library, cleaned the building, removed piles of garbage, filled it with donated books, and renamed it the “Victor Martinez Community Library.” Sociologist Darwin Bond-Graham writes: “Upon leaving the library last night I approached three young men standing on the corner across from the scene who were passing a blunt around and surveying the scene. ‘How long do you think this will last?’ I asked them. ‘I hope it last forever,’ said one of them with an earnestness that surprised me. ‘We need a library in this neighborhood. The closest one is way out in Fruitvale, the Cesar Chavez branch, or else you have to go all the way downtown.’ Another one of the youngsters said with equal seriousness, ‘a book can save a life’.”

The city administration took less than 24 hours to send police to evict the activists and board up the building. This didn’t stop the library from being reopened on the sidewalk the next morning, with a renewed supply of books. But it underscores the fact that in Oakland, programs that benefit the community – such as libraries, affordable housing, mental health clinics etc. – have been defunded while 40 percent of the city’s tax revenues have been absorbed by the police. One of the library organizers observed: “Larry Reid, chair of the council, said he’d have cut libraries and other services two years ago, rather than lay off police officers.”

That’s why Latino citizens in Anaheim have been fighting to get council representation – so they can get more resources like libraries for their neighborhoods. They are symbolic of the cultural heart of the community, an escape from incessant corporatization, and open to everyone – inherently democratic. Those without literacy and computer skills can get help from those who have learned them.

There are many more libraries relative to the population in affluent Anaheim Hills than in the much poorer flatland areas that have little political sway. Poverty is high there because the only available jobs are in the service sector where wages are too low for people with families to make ends meet. Corporate Disney has been able to coopt local government to support zoning and subsidies for tourism (in effect to boost its bottom line), but has not supported (and has in fact opposed) the construction of affordable housing for its minimum-waged workers to live in.

Bobbi Murray comments: “Anaheim’s economy is based almost exclusively on tourism, and that particular workforce is largely Latino. In Orange County, where Disney is the largest employer, the median hourly wage for a housekeeper is $9.82 ($19,640 gross annual earnings based on a 50-week year); food preparation pays a median wage of $9.33 an hour ($18,660 gross) according to the California Employment Development Department. The average rate for a Disneyland Resort cashier is $21K, according to …

“ ‘If a city is oriented around one industry, one corporation, it squeezes out the needs of other neighborhoods in the city, certainly neighborhoods where Latino and working-class residents live,’ Eric Altman, Executive Director of Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development, said in a phone interview.”

Poverty has spread as a result of the city’s political subservience to corporate Disney’s goal, which is “to create an environment that is pleasing for a temporary visit of a few days, but not an environment designed to be a permanent destination, or a permanent home, for the city’s residents,” according to urban planner Andrew Reovan. “In the end the community of Anaheim falls by the wayside because city officials, buying into Disney’s emphasis on its own economic importance instead of focusing on other needs of the local community, tend to place Disney’s concerns over those of any other party in their decision-making process.”

West Anaheim’s largely immigrant community is taking up the kind of struggle that took place in Oakland in 2009 when unarmed Oscar Grant was shot  by police while restrained and face-down on a station platform. His killer received two years in jail. Journalist Davey D. described the ensuing protests: “… folks from various ethnic backgrounds, and political persuasions and stripes found ways to work together and at the very least co-exist, as everyone pushed hard to get justice for Oscar Grant. It was unprecedented. You had everyone involved from suit and tie church-goers to blue-collar labor folks to longtime grassroots youth activists to traditional civil rights leaders to white t-shirt wearing cats off the block to longtime police reform advocates to students both in college and high school. You had revolutionary and anarchist types working alongside folks from the Nation of Islam working alongside immigration reform folks working alongside teachers and professors.”

Alliances across ethnic and class divides are the future of political struggle in America. Increased Latino representation in Anaheim will not make poverty go away, but the protests over police killings have challenged the hegemony of the white suburbs – and the strong political influence of Disney over the city legislature.

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Policing on Behalf of the One Percent in Anaheim: Defund Communities and then Shoot the Little People

The Anaheim City Council in California has sidestepped an opportunity to help resolve tensions in the city after an unarmed man, Manuel Diaz, was shot dead by police last month, and local residents gathering to object were fired at with less-lethal weapons. A later protest at a council meeting on July 24 led to further confrontations when residents attempted to march to the police station.

The council voted down a proposal to create voting districts that would replace the current “at-large” system and help increase Latino representation. Hundreds of people attended the special meeting at the local high school on Wednesday, but despite residents’ heartfelt appeals for redistricting, mayor Tom Tait and councilwoman Lorri Galloway were outvoted by the conservative majority representing the affluent Anaheim Hills area.

The council voted instead to establish a “citizens advisory committee on elections and community involvement.” According to the OC Register, the vote angered many in the audience, who began chanting, “We’ll be back. We’ll be back,” as they left the auditorium.

The council lost an historic chance to restore equality in political representation. As the LA Times editorialized: “Replacing at-large elections with district voting wouldn’t solve the problem overnight, but it would be an important step toward greater civic engagement by Latinos and responsiveness by government. Yet the council had never formally considered such a change until Tait — acting before the shooting — put it on the agenda.”

The sharply divided council also voted down another ballot measure that would require a public vote on tax concessions to hotel developers, eliciting some boos from the crowd – and some yells of “recall.” Many in the Latino community opposed a $158 million tax break given to the builder of two luxury hotels earlier this year, seeing it as depriving their neighborhoods of badly-needed resources.

A number of speakers called for the setting up of a citizens’ police review board, as has been done in some other towns in California, and for a higher level of police professionalism. In an incident which dramatized the city’s polarization between supporters and detractors of police crackdowns on gangs in Anaheim, after Manuel Diaz’s mother made an emotional appeal to the council to provide more resources for children’s recreation in the area, to give them hope, she was interrupted by a man who cursed at her and shouted “You’re a horrible mother.”

A police press conference attempted to undermine the symbolism of Diaz’s killing by identifying him as a member of the Eastside Anaheim gang, following a Friday pre-dawn raid in the area that led to 44 arrests. Police claimed Diaz would have been arrested in the sweep had he been alive.

Local residents were suspicious of the raid’s timing. Ricardo Hurtado told the OC Register: ” I just think this community is being targeted by the police because we’re speaking out. This is all a cover-up. … They never expected this community to blow up like this.” Residents described officers in military camouflage knocking on doors and barging into homes. “My brother has nothing to do with drugs or the weapons that were found,” said Jose Castro, whose brother Eriberto Castro was taken into custody. “I want to know why they have him as a documented gang member.”

Anaheim police claim that local gangs have terrorized the population into distrusting the police, but community spokespeople say that the police themselves have created the mistrust through aggressive and trigger-happy policing.

The police also claim that officer-involved shootings are a response to a rise in violent gang-related crime. However, statistics don’t bear out a connection between police shootings and crime levels. According to an LA Times analysis of autopsy reports, a sharp increase in the number of people fatally shot by police in neighboring Los Angeles County during 2011 took place when the number of homicides in the area fell to historic lows.

In Anaheim this year, the city has recorded 13 homicides, five of them fatal police shootings. In comparison, there have been two other fatal police shootings in all of the rest of Orange County. The LA Times review continues: “In recent years, Orange County prosecutors have reviewed a number of other Anaheim police shootings and deemed them justified even when suspects had no guns. …

“In October 2008, Anaheim police Officer Kevin Flanagan was chasing four juveniles shortly after midnight. Hearing the commotion, Julian Alexander, a 20-year-old African American, came out of his home with a broomstick in his hand. Flanagan, believing he was being threatened, fatally shot Alexander. Prosecutors in March 2009 found that the officer acted within the law, saying that Flanagan had told investigators that he shot Alexander twice after the man raised the stick.”

The fact that law officers who shoot unarmed people appear to face no consequences, and the political demonization of immigrants as responsible for crime and gangs, reinforces a trend to the use of lethal force in poorer communities.

As they made clear in many speeches to the council, Latino residents want to be recognized as an equal part of Anaheim society, to be treated with respect. Aggressive policing denotes their exclusion from the rights of citizenship, and erodes residents’ trust of social authority. The Anaheim gang enforcement unit is perceived as an oppressive force entering the community to terrorize it – a “killing crew,” as it was described at the meeting.

In an academic study of policing after the riots in England last year, the authors conclude that police actions have to be perceived as fair and impartial to gain community support. “The fairness of police actions is important not only because it communicates status and belonging to citizens (in turn generating and sustaining legitimacy), but also because police unfairness encourages division and antagonism, eroding people’s connections to institutions and society (and undermining legitimacy). Furthermore, when the police lose their legitimacy in the eyes of the policed they lose their claim to the monopoly of the use of force.”

The protests against Diaz’s killing challenged the legitimacy of police violence in the city. While residents are generally supportive of actions to curb gangs and drugs, nothing has been done to alleviate their source in unemployment, poverty and bad housing. The lack of jobs and social facilities, institutionalized racism, and the control of the council by representatives of the white suburbs contribute to increased tensions within the community.

Residents are conflicted about outside groups coming in to support their protests, some viewing them as disrespectful of the community’s own efforts.

According to the OC Weekly, “two groups have made their presence known in the Anna Drive neighborhood, seeking to radicalize local youths in the aftermath of the tragedy: the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) and the … Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (a.k.a. BAMN) formed in 1995 in response to the UC Regents’ decision to ban affirmative action. … But residents interviewed by the Weekly were not happy with those outsiders trying to convert them to their views. ‘I was fine with them at first, but they took it too far,’ Mariano Macedo says of the groups, such as RCP, who were ‘swooping in’.”

Others welcomed outside supporters. Jaclyn Conroy, whose nephew Justin Hertl was shot and killed by police in 2003, told the OC Register: “It puts a tear in my eye that people from outside the area have come to support us. They’ve helped bring a national spotlight and that allows us here locally to talk to people about the problems we’re having with police.”

The inclusive principles of the Occupy movement have more to offer the Anaheim community than the prescriptions of left groupings for building a new political leadership. Anaheim is in fact an example of the effects of starving federal resources to cities and states in order to finance the continued subsidy of corporations and big banks. The important thing is to find ways of forging alliances between different groups in struggle and to create a new model of resistance that challenges the construction of a police state.

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Resistance Resurges in New York Despite Police Batons: We Are Still Occupying Wall Street

The spring resurgence of Occupy protests shows that despite continuing police suppression, the impulse to defy the authority of the corrupted political and financial system is stronger than ever. As part of a worldwide May Day mobilization, large demonstrations were organized in cities across America, including Chicago, Denver, Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York and Boston.

The May Day “general strike” action also revealed how the inclusiveness and carnivalesque forms of protest facilitated by Occupy Wall Street has enabled it to act as a focus and connection for unions, community groups, immigrant rights groups and the student movement. During the winter months occupiers were busy building alliances with these groups.

In New York, an estimated 30,000 people filled Lower Manhattan in the late afternoon, converging on Union Square to join a city-permitted march to Wall Street. Commenting in the Guardian, Janet Byrne noted the diversity of the marchers’ affiliations: “Among the groups chanting ‘We are the 99%’ were the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, construction worker union LIUNA Local 78, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, and the AFL-CIO.”

Earlier in the day, protesters had picketed banks, corporate headquarters, and other locations throughout Manhattan. Democracy Now interviewed Jackie DiSalvo, a liaison to the coalition that Occupy Wall Street formed with labor and immigrant organizations for the May Day events. She explained: “We organize what we’re calling the ‘99 Pickets’ campaign, and there are many going on today. In fact, right now, the National Association of Broadcast and Entertainment Technicians are picketing ABC-Disney. And they were going to pick up some supporters at—from Occupy at Bryant Square and march up to 67th Street. There’s—this morning, the New York Times reporters were out in front of the New York Times. The Newspaper Guild can’t get a contract. There are just—we have over 40 labor pickets, and then a lot of pickets that are going to the 1 percent, the banks, mainly.”

Sarah Jaffe of Alternet covered the UAW picket at the New York Times building, where they were supporting lawyers and legal support staff of Legal Services NYC who face cuts to their healthcare benefits and to the free legal aid they provide to low-income New Yorkers. “As we stood talking, the Rude Mechanical Orchestra and a small march rolled in, playing ‘Which Side Are You On?’ and thrilling the workers, who didn’t seem terribly connected at first to the larger May Day celebrations. The picket line turned into a dance party, and the band played along with chants of ‘Hey hey rich boy, my job is not your toy’ and ‘We’re legal services for the poor, fired up won’t take no more’.”

Robert Sietsema of the Village Voice described a protest outside St. Vincent’s hospital in Greenwich Village: “There’s about 60 demonstrators walking around in a circle, some of them costumed with bloody bandages. Among them are doctors and nurses who used to work at St. Vincent’s before it was closed last year. The average age of the demonstrators is probably 60, with several walking with difficulty with canes and walkers. Clearly, the closing of the hospital has had a devastating impact on many lives.”

The mainstream media ignored this aspect of the day’s protests in favor of reporting the more than 80 arrests in Manhattan. The Guardian reported that clashes with police began when protesters attempted to break out of Bryant Park where they had been kettled: “During one such attempt, at around 1pm, demonstrators, most clad in black and many with their faces covered, faced off against scores of NYPD officers. Shortly after 1pm, the demonstrators attempted to begin their march amid chants of ‘a-anti, anti-capitalista’. Moments after they stepped off the sidewalk, attempting to cross an intersection, police moved in to stop them. A confrontation ensued and one young man was pulled to the ground by his hair. With his face pressed against a sewer grate the man was handcuffed and arrested along with several others.

“The ruccus at the front of the park created an opportunity for others to slip out through the rear, where demonstrators quickly moved into the roadway. The march tore through China Town and Soho, with demonstrators darting down streets and sprinting to stay ahead of police scooters in pursuit. As he watched the rowdy march pass, Jason Rose cheered in support. ‘I think they’re doing the right thing,’ Rose said. Seth Carter, another bystander, agreed: ‘I think this is the best thing’.”

The effectiveness of black bloc tactics seemed to vary across the country; in New York unpermitted “wildcat” demonstrations attracted support from onlookers, but also led to attacks on the press. According to the Gothamist, some protesters were seen knocking photographers’ cameras out of their hands, in one instance shooting black paint at a lens. C.S. Muncy of the Village Voice reported: “Interaction between the black bloc and the press, it’s pretty ugly. I had a couple grab at my lens.”

Protesters started to rally at Union Square in mid-afternoon. According to Alternet blogger Julianne Escobedo Shepherd: “One of the only spots with a city permit, [Union] Square was the destination for the day’s live music, but it also served as a safe space for protesters unwilling or unable to risk arrest. As such, the undocumented faction came out in droves, and it became a symbolic place where unions and Occupy joined forces with immigrants’ rights movements. People carried signs reading, ‘Amnesty Para Todos,’ ‘Trabajando y Educación Para Todos,’ ‘Stop the Raids’ and, most crucially, ‘No a la guerra, ni a la militarización de la frontera’. … the most salient point of the rally was made by a speaker later in the day, who reminded us that the Supreme Court is on the cusp of legalizing Arizona’s immigration law, SB 1070, and that it was up to us to stand against similar racist laws like it.”

At 6 p.m., 30 minutes after the official start of the march, thousands were still trapped by police barricades at Union Square.  OWS blogged: “Broadway is packed, stretching for blocks for the permitted march. Some people report being stuck in the same place for 45+ minutes. Chants: ‘Let us march!’ Large union presence. Chants at front: ‘Obama, escucha! Estamos en la lucha!’ ‘One struggle, one fight! Workers of the world, unite!’” (Watch video here)

When the marchers finally reached the financial district they found police had blocked off Wall Street, so many continued to the Veterans Vietnam Memorial Plaza in lower Manhattan. According to the Guardian: “Scores of New York City police officers with riot gear moved in to enforce a 10pm curfew at the memorial. Roughly a dozen clergy members and veterans – some of them having served in Vietnam – locked arms and attempted to block the eviction. They were arrested and the NYPD proceeded to clear all remaining demonstrators from the area.”

However, students planned to stage a continuation of the May Day action at CUNY’s Brooklyn College Campus starting May 2 with teach-ins, political theater, food, music, and events to show that “Another University is Possible.”

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