All posts by slingshot

In memory of Stephon Clark: We will not shut up and dribble

By Gerald Smith

The Oscar Grant Committee Against Police Brutality (OGC) went to Sacramento on March 29, 2018 to join the demonstrations following the police killing of Stephon Clark. On our way to the demonstration, a young man walked up and hugged me. I was taken by surprise. This young man was Stevante Clark, the brother of Stephon Clark. He is the man who on Tuesday, March 27 led hundreds of people to disrupt the Sacramento City Council meeting as he danced into the building and jumped up on the dais chanting his brother’s name. He later said, “They gun him down like a dog. They executed him…” Of the 20 shots the police fired at his brother he said, “That’s like stepping on a roach and then Steppin Steppin Steppin Steppin Steppin Steppin Steppin.”

The killing of Stephon Clark on the 18th of March by Sacramento Police has sparked anger and militant protest in the capital city of California. Clark, a twenty-two-year-old father of two was standing, unarmed, in his grandmother’s backyard holding only his cell phone when pigs, who did not announce they were police, appeared in the dark, yelled at him to show his hands and quickly fired 20 shots at him before he could comply. In the wake of this, his 25-year-old brother has been thrown into the national spotlight and forced to deal with the media, protests, lawyers, and donations while struggling through his own pain, grief, and anger. He said, “ I shouldn’t have to defend my brother. They [the police] should be proving their innocence.”

On April 19, Stevante Clark was arrested for threatening his roommates. No bail. I was in Sacramento on Friday, April 20 supporting the anti-fascist protesters Felarca, Williams and Paz, who are currently on trial. In the courthouse, I was fortunate to learn from a number of activists who knew Stevante what was going on. They explained to me that Stevante was deeply troubled having lost two brothers to police violence. That his behavior had been erratic. He threatened everybody they said. He even threatened Fred Hampton Jr., the son of assassinated Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton, when he came to town. His roommates had called the pigs multiple times to complain about Stevante’s threats. No police response. Then, they came down on him.

Jamier of the Party of Socialism and Liberation explained to me: “Stevante was a symbol that the establishment created and then demonized. They built him up so that they could tear him down and replace him with the Build. Black. Coalition. What they don’t want is an independent People’s movement.”

The recent protests have rocked Sacramento. They blocked downtown traffic; marched on the I-5 freeway; and shut down the Kings basketball games. This is not our Grandmothers’ civil rights demonstration. The authorities had to install a fence around the entire stadium to ensure that King fans could attend the games.

On March 29th, Hundreds attended Stephon’s funeral. At the funeral, Stephons grandmother, Sequita Thompson lamented:

“Why didn’t you just shoot him in the arm, shoot him in the leg, send the dogs, send a taser? Why? Why?”

During the funeral, Reverend Al Sharpton declared, “Yesterday, the president’s press secretary said this is a local matter. No, this is not a local matter. They’ve been killing young black men all over the country.” Indeed, this horrific murder by police was like too many others…

After the protesters shut down the Kings NBA game, organizer Barry Accius received a startling response from the Kings. They asked him to come and speak to the owner. Accius thought he was going to be arrested having just blocked 10,000 fans from seeing the game. Instead, he met with co-owner Vivek Yeshwant Ranadivé and former player Doug Christie. They offered to set up a fund to help the young black people of Sacramento. This was a big surprise. The money has been donated to the Build. Black. Coalition. This grouping includes Black Lives Matter and the NAACP. The majority of players in the NBA are black and they know that they too could be victims of police murder. DeMarcus Cousins, formerly a member of the Kings, presently with the New Orleans Pelicans, offered to pay for the funeral expenses. Matt Barnes offered to pay for the college expenses of Stephon Clark’s two children. On March 25, when the Boston Celtics played the Kings, the players wore t-shirts that read: #Stephon King and on the back “Accountability-We Are One”. The NBA players made a video in which Al Horford of the Celtics proclaimed “We will not shut up and dribble”.

The struggle continues.

Dear Joan: tools for for building community processes to center the healing of rape victims

Dear Joan,

I’m writing to you from the underground music scene of a town that seems big, but is smaller than you’d think.

An individual in our community has admitted to raping three women. His friends all think he has paid enough of a price since he sometimes feels awkward going out. I am disappointed in the way this is being handled, as no one seems sure of what to do, and many want to pretend it is okay now. People still support the band he is in, still go to shows and play shows with him, praise him for his “honesty” in “admitting it” (even though he only admitted it after it became public), and insist he is getting better and deserves a second chance. A lot of this comes from some kind of strange pseudo-hippy “love”/”forgiveness”/”vibe”/”don’t judge” thing which is maybe the worst kind of liberalism? Either way no one is taking account of how supporting him is affecting the survivors.

One of the survivors had the courage to bring her rape out to the public, and that is how all of this became known. Now she has been basically ostracized by the community. Some have done it intentionally, because they think she is “crazy.” Others have done it as a matter of neglect – because they haven’t chosen a side. No one wants to choose a side. But I think that is irresponsible. What do you think?

I do not know the other two survivors, but one of them put posters all over town about what happened to her. She is scared for her life. None of them can access spaces he is in, and I want to change this. I want to form a group to begin opening up spaces for survivors by kindly removing rapists from them. Something has to be done to let survivors know they belong, and that this is their community too. I am deeply afraid that my friend and the other two women will leave our city and he will stay and it will all be forgotten about. I am also afraid he will rape again. He has continued to display predatory behavior. He still tries to get women drunk, and no one calls him out.

I have reached out to a lot of people here and formed a list of people I believe will be “allies,” but it is hard, because people think they are “allies” until the hard work comes, and then people suddenly want to pretend it’s a “both sides are to blame” thing. There are no “both sides” to rape. It is one side who is to blame. So I am building my ally list but I don’t know how effective that will be. Maybe I need to learn to communicate better, or choose allies carefully, and I am open to advice on that as well.

My hope is to get a group that will kindly clear space in venues and bars, and especially at shows, for survivors, by having “protectors” of some kind who will ask rapists to leave. I know other communities have groups that do similar things, but I am just researching this now and I know it is a hard ideal to achieve.

In Solidarity, A Little Less Yuck

 

Dear ALLY,

Thanks for writing in! I should say that I’m not any kind of certified authority on handling rape in community—here at Slingshot, we don’t believe in authorities—but I can certainly share with you my thoughts, and draw from the 15+ years of experience I’ve had dealing with rape, stalking, and sexual violence within community organizations, and also from my experience as a survivor of rape and as a co-counselor to rape victims. When I can, I’ll try to back up my statements with statistics (cuz unlike authoritarians, I don’t think people should believe what I say just cuz I say so) but that said, I’m convinced that pretty much all current datasets on rape are broken due to underreporting & underfunding of research.

First, dang. All I can say is…how does it feel to be the one sane person in a SEA OF FUCKING MORONS? I mean, sorry, but WOW! Clearly, lot of people in your community don’t have a clue what rape is! All this “both sides are to blame” and “he’s been punished enough” bullshit must be super aggravating! It’s that kind of stuff that makes you want to beat your head against a brick wall. GAHHHHHH!

So, when I was in college, one of my friends learned that his little sister had been raped by his dad (~30% of kids who report being raped were raped by a family member1), and my friend did this totally dissociated thing of trying to get his sister to “make up with” his dad. Like, WTF! If someone was mauled by a dog, would you fucking insist that they “make up with” the dog?! That relationship is done. There is no longer a relationship, there is a disaster. Rape isn’t a conflict. There are no two sides to nothing.

I’ve come to learn that hella cognitive dissonance is totally normal when people learn that someone in their life has been raped by someone else in their life. Maybe one of the reasons for this dissonance is the Hollywood stereotype that all rapists are creepy “Jack the Ripper” types—inhuman monsters who spend their lives lurking in dark alleyways with creepy violin music playing in the background. Most people don’t realize that’s it’s not like that at all. It’s more like Battlestar Galatica, like how everyone is surprised when they find out someone’s a cylon cuz “they seemed like a real person!” (cuz, they are real people, duh!)—that’s how rapists are: real people. And they are among us. Totally like cylons. A majority of rapes happen between people who knew each other in advance1, so there’s likely a social network that surrounds the victim and the rapist, and yeah, I guess it’s hard for a lot of people to understand the severity of rape when they just saw the victim and the perpetrator just the other day having such a nice time together, and it doesn’t help when they have this unrealistic image in their heads that rapists are like Freddy Krueger rather than what they are: actual, real people.

I’m sorry to hear that people in your community are calling the victims “crazy.” I wish I could say that’s unusual. I hate to be the one to say it, but in a personality contest between a victim and their rapist, the victim will almost always lose. This is because a serial rapist is more likely to have narcissistic personality2, and because the victim is likely to be dealing with a slew of medical issues in the wake of being raped that are likely to, well, “reduce their social capital.”

A 2010 study by the Center for Disease Control showed that 81% of women who experience rape or gender-based violence report having serious medical consequences3. Rape victims will often have random PTSD triggers, panic attacks, disassociation, flashbacks, suicidal thoughts and behavior, moderate to severe depression, digestive problems, nervous system problems, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome—not to mention physical wounds that may have been caused during the rape itself. Rape and sexual violence are “a major health problem in the United States” according to the CDC. These are serious medical problems victims are left with. One friend who was raped over a decade ago still has to go to the hospital every couple of months for IBS attacks that started right after her rape. A lot of friends who have experienced rape get panic attacks, which feel like heart attacks—they’re really scary and fuck up your week!

So, being raped and its medical consequences are likely to seriously mess up your social game. Rape victims will be more likely to “flake out” on social events (due to flare-ups of rape-related medical problems). The victim is more likely to yell or act erratic (cuz random trauma triggers can lead to adrenaline rushes, dissociation, and other PTSD symptoms). Also, when triggered, a victim is likely to experience flashbacks of not just the rape but all the harm they’ve ever experienced in their whole dang life—cuz yeah, the synapses for traumatic memories are often bound together in the nervous system and trigger each other.

Serial rapists are able to capitalize off of how predictable these symptoms are. The rapist might use their victim’s state to discredit their claim of having been raped, or, like in the case of the rapist you’re talking about, they might subtly try to frame things as: “Who do you all want in your community, that nervous wreck, or me?”

Five years ago, I was living in a co-op house, and we had a serial assaulter move in who was a PhD student in psychiatry and who proclaimed himself to be an “expert in Nonviolent Communication.” After he’d assault a woman, he’d make a big deal about how she was “yelling” and that this was a form of “emotional violence” and then he’d offer to give her free training in NVC, at which point she’d move out in terror. He’d say to the other housemates: “A lot of insecure women find a strong man like me to be upsetting” and “I refuse to back down when they project their rape trauma onto me.” Like, holy shit! He managed to assault three women before everyone figured out what was going on. Well, no… No one figured it out actually: he was caught in the act by another housemate. What a bummer that no one believed the first victim! But this guy was a smooth operator.

Rapists often put a lot of effort into grooming entire communities to support their behavior. A serial rapist is often surrounded by serial rape apologists. Just look at Harvey Weinstein’s staff: there were several older women on the staff of his company who he’d groomed to say things like “that’s just the way Harvey is—he’s a touchy guy” to victims and concerned observers. The aim of any serial rapist is to train the people around them to make excuses for them and support their behavior so they can keep doing it. What’s crazy is how easily people fall in line and do this.

Colonial capitalism has hecka trained us to rally our care and labor around supporting people who harm others—people who abuse the environment, people who abuse workers, people who abuse indigenous people, people who abuse women, etc. We’re all trained from birth in this broken, unsustainable and stupid culture to form hierarchies that center abusers and excuse and accommodate their behavior. For a whole community to fold itself into a cushy extension of rapists’ raping habits is really no surprise. It’s the norm in capitalist culture, not the exception.

The fact that some people in your community are saying “he’s suffered enough” shows that they are thinking more about punishing the rapist (which is a way of centering the rapist) rather than holding space for the healing of the victims. The community strategy of handling rape must always ever be focused on the victims’ healing and community safety.

Back in 2014, I was teaching a free community writing class and one of my students wrote something that we published in Slingshot. Then we were contacted by someone from out-of-state who said that person had raped someone in their community, and thus should be banned from all of our community spaces in the Bay. I was glad we got the email: I discretely informed several likeminded community members to keep a close watch on the rapist. But were we going to ban the guy? Drive him out of every infoshop, hacker space, and house show in the area? He had already been banned from an entire extensive community in another state, and I believe his reason for moving to our region was to try to rebuild his life. Many of us of course kept an eye on him, and no rapes (that we know) of occurred. But yeah, wow, the fact that those folks in the other city were hellbent on “ban him from everywhere on the planet!” was just nonsensical. Like, the person who sent the email wasn’t the victim, and there was no indication that she was in contact with the victim. Also, based on the info she sent, the victim was going to college in another state! She had never been part of our community nor was she planning to join it. Banning the rapist from our spaces wouldn’t have helped the victim at all. This was just a case of someone punishment-mongering.

A lot of people, rather than holding space for the victims’ stories and healing, will do this self-centered ego-driven thing of taking it upon themselves to punish the rapist. This vigilante bullshit comes from a childish desire to play hero, and is a way of centering yourself rather than the victim. Also, it is a huge reason that many victims don’t speak up: Having big-ego-types walking around talking about how they plan to break the legs of any rapist puts a ton of pressure on the rape victim not to speak up cuz, on top of everything else they’re dealing with, now they have to worry about their rapist’s safety. You could punish and torture a rapist unto infinity, and it will never reverse the harm that was done.

When communities go overboard with punishing a rapist, it also makes it really hard to rally people to respond to the next rape or assault (and this is rape culture—there will be a next time). I’ve totally seen communities do a 180-flip and fail to address future rapes cuz they aren’t comfortable with the level of extreme punishment that went down last time.

Not that over-punishing is what you’re dealing with. You’ve got the opposite shitty community response on your hands: apathy/dissociation. But still, people in your community are latching on to this whole punishment crap, in the form of deciding it’s okay to let him into the victims’ community spaces because “he’s suffered enough.” The punishment paradigm leads people to think that once a rapist has had what to them seems like enough punishment, the situation no longer needs to be addressed. It’s yet another freaking way of throwing victims under the goddamn bus.

When rapists stay in community spaces, it often means their victims have to leave to avoid being re-traumatized by seeing their rapist. Additionally, due to shitty things people tend to say to rape survivors (I’ve compiled a list here: goo.gl/zj6BPc), survivors tend to be re-traumatized when they try to seek support from their community. The fact that you’re working on creating a network of people who kindly ask rapists to leave community spaces for the sake of allowing their victims to be in those spaces is huge! It is also huge for members of the community to educate themselves about what rape does to people, and about how important it is to avoid saying and doing shit that can re-traumatize victims.

I wish we could say that in the Slingshot / Long Haul community, we’ve figured this out, but the truth is, we’re still working through it too. There are always new people who join our community who haven’t yet watched this pattern go down, people who “refuse to take sides.” I wish I could say there was some easy way to convince these folks to be more proactive, but you can’t make up other people’s minds for them. They have to do the work themselves. We have very tragically lost multiple amazing women from our collective who had been victimized by people who used the building or who were also in the collective. For those of us who the victims confided in, we feel like failures for not doing anything fast enough to make the space feel safe for them. Because of our indecisiveness, they ended up re-encountering their perpetrator, and had to leave the collective (and the area) as they grappled with their trauma and their need to find somewhere safe. Those were people who brought wisdom and light to our project and community, and the Slingshot loft will always be just a little bit dimmer now that they are gone.

Holding space for rape victims to heal (rather than centering rapists) has to be a choice. It has to be a conscious, intentional choice on the part of everyone in the community. If your community is failing to have that type of intentionality, well, they should call themselves “consumers” then, rather that “hippies.” Consumers are all about doing whatever is easy at the time at the expense of everyone else and the environment. Hippies, at least the real ones, understand that creating a world where free love and equality are possible takes work. “Everyone gets a blister,” is a local hippy saying, cuz, whether you’re building a Free Speech Stage on the land you’ve just taken from the man (Long Live People’s Park!), or whether you’re building a community process to center the healing of rape victims, building a new, better world takes work. Doing work means you’ll get tired sometimes, but that’s part of what being a real hippie is all about! And being a punk! And a hacker! This is part of building a counter culture that is a true alternative to capitalist rape culture, rather than just replicating it.

Even though it seems like we have a long road ahead of us, the fact that we are able to have this conversation, and that victims feel more confident than ever before in sharing their stories, is a sign that change is coming. For a victim to share their story is a leap of faith. It is up to the community to catch them—to whirl into action and center their healing. A better world is possible, but only if we all put in the work.

Towards something better, Joan

P.S. If anyone reading this feels their space or community has a really awesome set of practices for addressing rape and sexual violence, we’d love to hear about it! We’ll pass along anything you send us to ALLY, and we may even print it in the next issue of Slingshot.

El Banco: Bilingual interview with Mexico City bank occupiers

By Renaldo Bellamy and Adelita Zero

This is the first part in a series of interviews of radical projects and struggles in Mexico. We are starting with our friends in El BANCO (acronym for Neighborhood with Art, Our Culture Organized), an ex-Bancomer (bank franchise) — now squat —that can be found in the municipality of Ecatepec; one of the marginalized neighborhoods on the outskirts of Mexico City where overpopulation, violence, and flooding are its most notorious aspects. In this complicated zone an incredibly horizontal, creative and solidary project has emerged that is looking to generate a change in its community.

Ésta es la primera parte de una serie de entrevistas de proyectos y luchas radicales en México.

Empezamos con nuestros amigos en el BANCO (El Barrio con Arte, Nuestra Cultura Organizada), un ex-Bancomer -ahora okupa- que se encuentra en el Municipio de Ecatepec, uno de los barrios marginales de la ciudad de México en el que la sobrepoblación, violencia e inundaciones son sus aspectos más notorios. En esta zona tan complicada ha surigdo un proyecto bastante horizantal, creativo y solidario que está buscando generar un cambio en su comunidad.

¿Cómo surgió el proyecto?

“Yo viviendo aquí desde que tengo 11 años … no había algo que te influienciara de alguna manera positiva por decirlo, entonces terminamos en situaciones difíciles. Es parte del proyecto, no? Empezar a generar raíces, porque si sabemos de dónde venimos, pues sabemos a dónde vamos. Es importante que en estos tiempos de capitalismo, donde todo es consumo y centros comerciales, pues existan este tipo de lugares aquí.

“De tantos años trabajando en la colonia, tuvimos la fuerza un día de ver el Banco deshabitado y decir, vamos a ocuparlo.” ~UnoConHambre

How did the project begin?

“Living here since I was 11 years old, there was nothing to influence you in a positive way so to say, so we ended up in difficult situations. Its part of the project, no? Begin to generate roots, because if we know where we come from, well we know where we are going. Its important in in these times of capitalism, where everything is consumption and shopping centers, that places like this exist here.

“From so many years working in this neighborhood, one day we had the strength to look at the bank uninhabited and say, lets occupy it.¨ ~UnoConHambre

¿De qué se trata el proyecto?

“El proyecto es rescatar el espacio para integrar a la comunidad mediante talleres, eventos culturales, además de que está en una zona muy conflictiva. De todo lo malo que existe aquí, sacar algo bueno mediante el compañerismo y la organización.” ~Samara

“Funciona como un faro, como un escenario, un lugar de exposición de otros proyectos; hay muchas formas de participar como en el huerto. Es un espacio que permite que sea una galería de arte donde hay una exposición que constantemente se cambia con artistas locales de gráfica, de pintura y escultura.” ~Lalo

What is the project about?

“The project is to rescue the space to integrate the community through workshops, cultural events, even with it being in a conflict zone. Of all the bad that exists here, bring out something good through companionship and organization.” ~Samara

“It works like a beacon, a stage, a place of exposition of other projects; there are many forms of participation, like in the garden. Its a space that allows itself to be an art gallery where there is an exposition that is constantly changing with local artists of visual arts, painting and sculpture.” ~Lalo

¿Cómo son las condiciones de la comunidad?

“Hay un montón de peligro, en todos lados, pero en Ecatepec más. Sabemos que matan a cuatro mujeres al día [en el Edo. Mex.] nada más por el simple hecho de ser mujer. Antes la cifra mayor era Ciudad Juárez, ahora pues se supone que le gana Ecatepec. Uno de los objetivos es podernos mirar a los ojos y hacer comunidad entre todos y conocernos y poder cambiar de cierta manera el lugar en donde vivimos. Alrededor de este espacio hay mucha delincuencia y hay muchos espacios abandonados, sigue mucha gente robando. En este espacio ya no se meten, tal vez porque conocen que hacemos cosas diferentes.” ~Dulce

How are the conditions in the community?

“There is a lot of danger, everywhere, but in Ecatepec there is more. We know they kill four women every day [in the State of Mex.] only because of the simple fact of being a woman. Before the higher number was in Ciudad Juárez, but now is supposedly in Ecatepec. One of the objectives is to be able to look in each other´s eyes and make community between all of us and to know one another and be able to change in some sort of way the place we live. Around this space there is a lot of crime and there are a lot of abandoned places, there are still a lot of people stealing. They don’t come inside this place anymore, maybe because they know we are doing different things.” ~Dulce

Cómo se organizan?

“Hacemos juntas en donde cada quien desde su área expone las necesidades de los proyectos que está teniendo y conforme a eso se hace un acuerdo de cómo se puede participar. Hay egos, conflictos, pero el deseo de prevalecer nos ha permitido escucharnos. Somos un grupo que trata de retroalimentarse uno del otro. Tres años no es mucho, pero se debe a que nos hemos escuchado y tenido paciencia.” ~Lalo

How do you organize?

“We have meetings where each from their area explains the needs of their project and according to this an agreement is made on how to participate. There are egos, conflicts, but the desire to persevere has permitted us to hear one another. We are a group that tries to give feedback to each other. Three years is not much, but it is owed to the fact that we have listened and had patience.” ~Lalo

¿Cómo se puede apoyar al proyecto?

“Viniendo, buscando talleres, difundiendo, trayendo una planta para el huerto. Hay muchas maneras de apoyar, pero sobre todo nos gustaría que vinieran y fuéramos compas, compartir algo y hacer comunidad; conocernos y seguir compartiendo el espacio, porque al final de cuentas si somos un grupo pequeño, queremos que crezca”. ~Dulce

How can someone help the project?

“Showing up. We are looking for workshops, spreading the word, bringing a plant for the garden. There are many ways to help, but overall we would like that people come and become friends, share something, make community; know each other and continue sharing the space, because at the end of the day we are a small group, we want to grow.” ~Dulce

¿Están involucrados con otros proyectos?

“Afortunadamente sí. Creemos que involucrarnos con otros proyectos va a permitir que nos fortalezcamos. El BANCO como tal, es una estructura vulnerable, es una okupa, estamos sin permiso de nadie y por las situaciones políticas y sociales ahorita estamos bien, después no sabemos. Las redes y el apoyo de otros espacios es lo que nos podría hacer el paro de que esto no se venga abajo.” ~Lalo

Are you involved with other projects?

“We believe that involving ourselves with other projects will permit us to become stronger. El BANCO as it is, is a vulnerable structure, its a squat, we have the permission of no one and because of the political and social situations now we are ok, later we don’t know. Social networks and the support of other spaces could be what keeps this place from going down.”

¿Qué problemas han encontrado y cómo lo solucionaron?

“Uno de los problemas era que la gente no se acercaba. La gente no sabe qué es una okupa pero es algo desconocido y ése es un gran problema, ¿Cómo haces que la gente pase a un banco en donde iba a meter dinero y ahora no tiene ese fin? Al contrario, en ese banco están regalando cosas y a lo mejor es así cómo lo hemos solucionado. Al principio venían nadamás gente de otros lados y la gente a la que está dirigida el espacio no estaba aquí; a los que queremos sacar de ese hoyo negro de la violencia, los asesinatos, las drogas, los robos. Lo hemos resuelto con actividades, obras de teatro, música, la gratiferia, salimos a repartir propaganda para que la gente venga.” ~Jakie y UnoConHambre

What problems have you encountered and how were they solved?

“One of the problems was that the people didn’t want to approach. They don’t know its a squat but its something unknown, and this is a big problem. How do you get the people to enter a bank where before you deposited money and now it does not have this purpose? The opposite, in this bank they are giving things away, and maybe this is how we have solved it, gifting. In the beginning the only people that came were from other places and the people that this space is directed to weren’t here; those that we wanted to take out of the black hole of violence, murders, drugs, robbery. We have resolved it with activities, plays, music, the freefair, we go out and distribute propaganda so the people will come.” ~Jakie y UnoConHambre

¿Qué planes tienen para el futuro?

“Al final, si tu logras que una persona salga de aquí con una mentalidad diferente, no va a importar que no esté el BANCO, esa persona va a salir y fundar un Banco en donde sea. Eso lo hemos hecho y lo hemos replicado varias veces y sabemos que es posible.” ~Pavel

What plans do you have for the future? “In the end, if you achieve that one person leaves here with a different mentality, it doesn’t matter if there is no BANCO, that person will go out and start a BANCO wherever. We have done it and we have replicated it multiple times and we know it is possible.” ~Pavel

Find them on facebook as BANCO / Encuéntralos en facebook como BANCO @ReventonCultural

 

Stranded at the border: caught in limbo in Tijuana

By Josef Dobraszczyk

The city of Tijuana in Mexico lies exactly on the border with the US, and from many points in the city there is a clear view of the wall stretching all the way across the hills. On one side a densely packed urban metropolis fills space as far as the eye can see, and on the other there lies a relatively untouched area of grassland interspersed with the occasional housing development. At the border crossing itself giant flags of each country are raised high above the buildings, visible for all to see while waiting in line to cross. On the San Diego side the wait to cross is rarely longer than half an hour, while on the Tijuana side it can be up to 3 hours going into the US (“the other side”, as the USA is colloquially called by everyone here). This is the most crossed border in the world, and you can feel the atmosphere of life as a border town on the streets of Tijuana, permeating into businesses, shops and markets.

In the last years, thousands of Haitian migrants arrived, traveling on the promise of work, based on the previous status offering legal asylum to enter the USA. With this status now changed however, they now find themselves stranded in limbo living in shelters that are often over-filled and under resourced.

Many of this community are highly skilled and educated, often having worked in a number of Latin American countries prior to Mexico, picking up various professions to work wherever possible and learning new languages along the way. In the wake of the cataclysmic 2010 hurricane that destroyed much of the country, many migrated to Brazil for readily available work during the successive World Cup and Olympics in 2012 and 2014. With a struggling economy and work drying up there, many felt no choice but to leave the country towards the US.

With the recent change to legal status for Haitians and an increasingly strict deportation policy taking shape in the US, Tijuana is now a place of limbo for thousands of Haitian people. “Many people are just waiting for something to happen in the US, for Trump to be killed or some major change to take place,” says Hugo Castro of the Border Angels organization. For the foreseeable future then, thousands of Haitian people are indefinitely living here, with no sign of a slowdown in new arrivals entering into shelters.

Charity groups are using the term ‘humanitarian crisis’ where government officials often seem unwilling to. Such groups are emphasizing the permanent nature of population change within the city, advocating greater efforts to include the marginalized Haitian community in Tijuana society. They accuse the Mexican government of failing to offer adequate support to those living in shelters, often relying largely on charitable donations or working in unregistered temporary labour.

One organization working with the shelters are the group Border Angels (Los Angeles de la Frontera), a cross-border effort based in Mexico and San Diego, with the US side primarily focused on fundraising, with the Tijuana side delivering these donations. There are three main members in the Tijuana team, working with a Haitian community of over four thousand (known) migrants in the city. The team regularly drive across the expansive urban area of Tijuana with food and supplies for shelters, including footballs, coloring books and children’s toys. Although some of the larger shelters possess a well developed infrastructure, many smaller shelters the group visit have poor access, without regular bus connections or paved roads in some cases, becoming almost inaccessible during periods of heavy rain. At one shelter the pastor explains how she built the wooden housing cabins, a lady in her 60’s, sometimes working alone in running the centre.

The Border Angels team walk around a shelter assessing some of their needs. Hugo Castro mentions the exposed wiring and multiple electrical connections scattered around. The conversation with pastors around the needs of the shelter is always impassioned, with both sides keenly aware of the financial and physical limitations of developing the shelters.

During the morning meeting at another shelter the discussion is centered on how food should be distributed for communal meals. It seems like an essential discussion in the life of a shelter, that always have sets of agreed rules displayed boldly on the wall regarding meal times and many other aspects of communal space. In the meeting, three men including the pastor stand at the front of the converted church speaking, with a translation from Spanish to Creole French. It seems like a rough and ready decision making process, with people often talking over each other and some walking out midway in frustration.

Most shelters housing the Haitian community are converted churches, led by pastors that have responded to the crisis by offering such spaces as housing for large numbers of people Before the large-scale migration of the Haitian community began in earnest during 2016, many pastors had little to no experience in running spaces set up like this, usually taking on these roles without any formal support. As a result, the internal organization in shelters is sometimes fragmented, with no government or centralized network co-ordinating needs across the city, where resources may be readily available.

When delivering donations, the Border Angels group make frequent use of social media, personally thanking individuals from the US who have recently donated to the group. Nearly all their interactions at the shelters are livestreamed, where much of the donations the group receive are sustained in large part by their social media connection to those in the US. Alongside essential supplies, these donations are used to fund new construction and housing projects. The response to the group is more hostile in one shelter however, as one young man plainly states “we are not monkeys here for you to come with a sack of rice to take pictures with. If you want to know how it is, come here and talk with us. It is a crisis, but there are lots of other things you can do to help”. It’s a frank and clear statement from someone now clearly accustomed to the wave of journalists currently flocking to Tijuana.

Undoubtedly civil society groups are overstretched and working relentlessly in response to the crisis, yet there seems to be a relationship of dependency that exists for many living in shelters. Speaking with people here the question asked is often if it is possible to help find a job. People are working hard to create a life here in Mexico, yet many are hampered by a lack of legal working status or adequate connections within the city. A wider working network with the Mexican community is still an issue for many, as people recount tales of their positive experiences working in Brazil, finding it easier to connect with society in general than here in Mexico. The charities are doing all they can to provide for people living in shelters, but many of the social barriers to life in the Mexican community are still firmly in place.

The Haitian community are not the only group feeling the effects of border policies here in Tijuana, with an increasing number of Mexican ‘deportandos’ out on the streets, often people raised in the USA, finding themselves suddenly deported and stranded in Tijuana, a city that can often feel unwelcoming and tense, very much a foreign country for those unaccustomed to the hustle of it all.

An organization working closely with these migrant communities is ‘Madres y Familias, Deportados en Acción’, quite literally a frontline service based out of a small office almost directly on the border crossing. The offices are open five days a week offering vital legal support for migrants but with a constant supply of coffee, food and phone charging space, it feels like more of a refuge or community centre than office. The project was set up by the tireless Maria Gallete, working as policy campaigner, legal adviser, part-time guidance counsellor and mother all in one.

The future is most definitely unwritten for Tijuana and the migrant communities across all of Mexico. It remains to be seen how the government, charities and civil society groups will work together, how the network of shelters will cope and adapt to increasing numbers, and how new communities will connect with each other in Tijuana and across Mexican border towns. It seems likely dramatic changes around migration on the border will continue under the Trump administration in the US, while the response from people in the US and Mexico has been just as strong in supporting independent groups looking to bridge the divide and support all those affected by the border.

 

Images by Alexandre Alfonso

Pipeline sentencing: outlaws in robes

By The Pukulatamuj brigade of the Imaginary Anarchist Federation

On December 18th, 2017, two Canadian anarchist comrades were sentenced for their role in a 2015 direct action in which Enbridge’s Line 9 was shut down. Their affinity group accomplished this by physically closing a manual valve, thus proving that it was possible to safely shut down pipelines. This action, the first of its kind, inspired a wave of similar actions, including one in which 5 pipelines in 4 different states were shut down simultaneously.

At the sentencing, the judge gave the defendants a lecture. “You were convinced”, he said, “that it was correct”. He went on to compare the action with terrorist attacks such as Boston Marathon bombing and the Bataclan massacre in Paris, because all of these actions were ideologically motivated.

This judge is a representative of the very same Crown that has been responsible for atrocities much worse than the Boston Marathon bombing or the Bataclan massacre. The genocidal residential school system was presided over by many judges, and the human cost of this system has been much greater than the terrorist acts the judge cites. How dare you chastise our comrades, as if they were errant children, for disobeying your Law, when much greater atrocities have been committed by people using the Law as their weapon? It is your moral code, not ours, which is ill-conceived and naive.

You are old, and will not live to see the full extent of the coming cataclysm wrought by climate change and the crises it will precipitate. For those of us who must live with the consequences of your generation’s failure to address the ecological crisis, we cannot tolerate the rape of Mother Earth that Enbridge and their malignant ilk daily engage in. Would you rather that we wallow hopelessly and helplessly, watching the web of life upon which our survival depends deteriorate further and further? The political channels you would have us believe in have clearly proven their inability to address the planetary crisis.

In your inane lecture, you compared Frederick Brabant to Hitler, for the reason that they both believed in a cause. The election of Hitler was legal, the actions of those who protected Jews from the Holocaust was illegal. The actions of slave-owners who whipped slaves was legal, the Underground Railroad was some outlaw shit. The residential school system was legal, indigenous ceremonies were forbidden. It is an idiotic abasement of the human faculty for reasoning to equate lawful with right, and unlawful with wrong. The law, in every country, is created by its ruling class, according to the interests and inclinations of that class. What you are saying is, in effect, Might makes Right, and in doing so you place yourself in the spiritual company of the judges of countless oppressive regimes, who have legitimized terror and torture by upholding the Law.

There will come a day when the actions of water protectors will be seen in the same light as those who fought against slavery and imperial conquest in earlier generations. While we await that day, we will continue to fight in defense of Mother Earth, on behalf of future generations and all our relations, consequences be damned.

And make no mistake – our movement is growing. Those with their fingers on the pulse already know this – the rest of you will soon enough.

 

Will clit envy cause the end of the world?

Will Clitoris Envy Cause the End of the World?

Inspired by Ladypants McGee

Written by H. Sabet

I don’t think I knew what the clit was until after I started having sex. Even now, much remains a mystery. Imagine realizing what your penis is after you’ve already been using it. Or smoking weed without ever inhaling and knowing what it feels like to get high. Before masturbating or having sex for the first time, I didn’t realize that the clit is the only organ that is dedicated solely to sexual pleasure. That it rivals the penis in size and has erectile tissue. With over 8,000 nerve endings, it contains more than double the number of nerves penises do. Best of all, the clit continues to grow. Not only during arousal, but also 4x its size by the age of 32. And 7x by menopause! (Tina C., “A Whole New Reason to Love Your Clit”)

It’s no coincidence that rad and glorious information about the clitoris is obscured in our society. For thousands of years, thanks to medical inaccuracies, moral objections, and the fact that most scientists, research subjects, and anatomists have historically had penises, precise charting and understanding of the clitoris remains tragically deficient. The significance of the clitoris has also been minimized because it does not have specific reproductive function. Its size is unrecognized because it’s inside.

Can people accept that people with clits not only have essentially the same size sex organs as cis-men, but they can also feel more, have the capability of reproducing, and of getting aroused discreetly without exposing ourselves or blowing our loads? My guess is that some people can’t—por ejemplo, our president/notmypresident.

Is it any coincidence that a man who endorses grabbing women by the pussy has a childlike, pathetically unhinged obsession with size, of always having the biggest and the best—My button is bigger than your button. Not. Even. Possible. The desire to control others’ bodies by asserting non-consensual and feigned dominance is one symptom of repressed envy, “a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.”(dictionary.com)

What happens when this longing cannot be fulfilled? This inability to accept truth, inadequacies and verguenza leads to a funny thing called clit/pussy envy. And feeling green is the number one ingredient for making green. If he wants what they have but “bigger” and “better”, and will stop at nothing to gain the leverage he will never have, capitalism is working.

In our redhot sexist, heavily militarized cesspool of a society, nuclear weapons and gender have undisputable connections. Dr. Carol Cohn, who is the founding director of the Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights, built her career in the world of nuclear security policy, having worked at Rand, a US institution for nuclear strategy. In her research, she discovered two key things: that “nuclear strategic discourse is weirdly sexualized in a dominantly masculine way, and that the technical jargon of nuclear strategic discourse is a gendered discourse that leverages masculinized and feminized concepts to police what can be thought in nuclear policy.” Some terrifying examples of this include an ad for a “special bunker busting bomb, called a Kinetic Energy Penetrator, which included statements like ‘designed to maximize runway cratering by optimizing penetration dynamics and utilizing the most efficient warhead yet designed.’ Of this, Cohn says, “In case the symbolism of ‘cratering’; seems far-fetched, I must point out that I am not the first to see it. The French use the Mururoa Atoll in the South Pacific for their nuclear tests and assign a woman’s name to each of the craters they gouge out of the earth.” (Aaron Johnson, “Missile envy”)

Overcompensating for their lack of clitoral depth, the government continues to repress female and gender nonconforming sexuality, taking many steps to remove access to information as well as resources for reproductive and sexual health. Trump/#notmypresident has been trying to “cut Medicaid funding, which 13 million American women of reproductive age rely on for family planning, STI testing and treatment and pregnancy-related care. According to the Guttmacher Institute, Medicaid accounts for 75% of all public dollars spent on family planning in the U.S., which helped women avoid nearly two million unintended pregnancies in 2014.” (Maureen Shaw, “Trump’s budget is an unmitigated disaster for abortion rights and reproductive health”)

Not only is this lack of information disempowering sexual health for those with clits, it is empowering a systemic bully to repress female/gender nonconforming sexuality. Even Wikipedia tells us that cultural perceptions of the clit are significantly impacted by the lack of knowledge of the organ. Clits make people feel uncomfortable. Under ‘Weird News’ on Huffpost in 2013, an article titled “‘International Clitoris Awareness Week’ Takes Place May 6-12 (NSFW)” reveals a lot about our social psyche—‘NSFW’=Not Safe For Work. But you ask any teacher K-12 what they find drawn on desks and lockers more than anything else, I guarantee they will say penises. There’s even a comically popularized motion for jerking off a penis, used to mean an array of things. What’s the sign for getting off with a clit? Where’s all the whimsical clit graffiti? One’s relationship to the clit is not meant to even exist and especially not be glorified outside the realm of penis control. It’s a matter of power, of insecurity, of fear and fear-mongering.

So what can we do? For starters, I’d like to bring back International Clitoris Awareness Week, initially started by Clitoraid in 2013, as the first week of May. (This year would be May 6 – May 12th.) Clitoraid, a nonprofit that aims to offer free medical services for the physical restoration of Female Genital Mutilation victims, found that whenever something has an ‘awareness day,’ it makes it more comfortable to talk about. Take a week to celebrate the only organ designed purely for pleasure. Make a giant glittery clit to take to festivals and concerts for people to hug and call it a Glitoris (an artist named Amanda Palmer already did that for real). Draw your own clit and make a clit collage with your friends. Visit your local sex shop and get ideas for creatively treating yourself. Continue to serve your clit communities by supporting proactive sex education. Study a diagram of the clit and learn the names of all its parts to impress your coworkers or your special person [; Knowledge is power. And pussies are meant to riot.

 

People’s Monday: A weekly celebration of the lives of people murdered by police

by Crow

In February of this year, Black Lives Matter activists in NYC marked the third anniversary of weekly march called the People’s Monday. It is organized by a multiracial POC-led group called NYC Shut It Down. Formed out of a desire to maintain movement energy generated by the 2014 unrest following the police murder of Eric Garner, each march memorializes a different victim of police murder. The first one was held on February 9th, 2015, and I’m told there has been one every single Monday ever since, without fail, no matter the weather. Initially, every People’s Monday march began at Grand Central Station, but over time organizers chose to start holding it in different parts of the city. Sometimes they will go to Brooklyn, Harlem, Queens, etc… and bring street demos with a militant vibe to neighborhoods where protests are rarely held. Part of the thinking behind this is to bring people from the neighborhood into the streets, which apparently has been successful.

I visited NYC last winter, and attended the People’s Monday march on March 13th, 2017. At 7 p.m. A group of around 30 people gathered in Washington Square park in the middle of Manhattan. The march was unpermitted and the route was not pre-announced, but that didn’t stop the group from immediately seizing the busy streets. Throughout the march, NYC Shut It Down showed their courage and confidence in their own power by not only disobeying police orders, but also antagonizing the police by yelling insults at them from close range. Keep in mind there wasn’t a large crowd to melt back into if a juiced-up pig started ‘roid-raging. These folks know the power of the people, and how to assert it.

The real reason that I’m taking the time to write this reportback, though, is because this group did something that I haven’t participated in before, which I think could be a useful tactic in many instances. The group invaded first a bar, then a fancy restaurant, then a Whole Foods grocery store with a huge check-out line.

The purpose of going into these places was to force a captive audience to listen to a political message. For this, they used the Occupy Mic-Check tactic. One spokesperson would speak at the top of their voice, and then everyone else would repeat their words as loudly as possible. In this case, the message was as follows (almost verbatim):

“We are here today because Black Lives Matter! We are here today because Black Women Matter! We are here today to remember Denise Hawkins, murdered by police!

Fact 1: Denise Hawkins was an 18-year old black woman from Rochester, New York. Her high school principal said “they never saw her not smiling.” Denise had an 18-month son with her husband, Lewis Hawkins, at the time of her murder.

Fact 2: Her father forced Denise to marry Lewis after she became pregnant. Lewis was abusive and she tried to leave Lewis three times before she was killed. Police had been called before, but they never helped Denise.

Fact 3: On November 11, 1975, Denise and her family were at her cousin’s house for dinner when she and Lewis started arguing. Her cousin called the police.

Fact 4: Denise was holding a knife when Lewis chased her out of the apartment with a chair, threatening to kill her. Seconds after she fled the apartment Officer Michael Leach, who was standing outside, shot her in the chest, killing her.

Fact 5: Officer Leach claimed he was trapped in a corner unable to move away from Denise and feared for his life, a story disproven by forensic evidence. Officer Leach made a similar claim in 2012 when he murdered his own son. No officer was charged with any crime in the murder of Denise Hawkins.

This is not an isolated incident. In the past 15 years, the NYPD has murdered over 300 people. Of these, over 80% has been black or brown. Of these murders, there have been four indictments, resulting in a total of two convictions, with an end result of ZERO JAIL TIME. If you believe that BLACK LIVES MATTER, we ask that you raise your fist in solidarity.”

In each location, quite a few people present did raise their fists, and the protesters exited the premises, chanting, in one case to applause. It felt validating for more than one reason – on one hand, it felt nice to be supported by members of the public, and on the other hand, it felt good to get in the faces of people who aren’t sympathizers… to force them to listen. In the age of the echo chamber, where social media algorithms allow people to insulate themselves within bubbles filled with like-minded voices, we gotta find creative ways of rupturing them bubbles. Nowadays, when it feels like many liberals believe that the media portrayal of reality is more important than reality itself, it was intensely satisfying to participate in something where the desired result did not happen in the digital landscape but on a human level.

So mad respect to the People’s Monday organizers NYC Shut It Down, for showing me what consistency looks like. And let’s be real, if we can’t be consistent, what can we hope to accomplish?Since 2014, every single Monday, rain or shine, they’ve been holding it the fuck down. What can we learn from them? Be bold. Be defiant. Have a specific message. Be loud. Be proud. Have fun. Say it like you mean it. And make it social – after People’s Monday, comrades gather to socialize in a neighborhood restaurant.

I’m told that in the past, the People’s Monday march has occasionally led to clashes with police, but apparently property destruction is not part of the culture. Perhaps smashing windows and slashing tires is viewed as counterproductive, because I’m sure that’s it neither due to moral objection or lack of courage. If the point of militant protest is to deliver a message in a way that can’t and won’t be ignored, they achieve that in their own way.

The People’s March does very much have a ritualistic element to it… which I mean in a good way. As such, every march ends with Assata’s prayer, with all participants joining hands and chanting together: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and protect each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

I think a weekly ritual could serve the purpose of movement-building well. Public events give people an opportunity to meet each other, but we all know that activists are slow to bestow trust. People need to get familiar with each other before they can work together. A smaller group makes it easier for folks to get to know each other.

Also, I really like actions that are demanding justice on autonomous terms rather than reacting to an injustice. I think it’s a mistake to view outlying incidents such as police murders as the actual problem, rather than symptomatic of a more deeply oppressive normalcy (i.e. self-policing, surveillance, prison slavery, wage slavery, patriarchy, and the list goes on). Rage at the abuse of power can conceal the heart’s true rage, the rage born of the heart’s desire for freedom – the rage against oppressive power itself.

So, whether you live in New York City or whether you just happen to find yourself there on a Monday, I encourage you to check the People’s Monday march. Folks are friendly and you don’t have to conceal your politics. Maybe you’ll make some new friends.

And if you live in place where there is enough of a movement to turn out 15-30 people on a weekly basis, maybe this is an tactic that could be adopted into the protest culture of your town or city. Maybe a weekly anti-gentrification march makes sense in your city. Think about it. Or why not a weekly Anti-fascist demo? The thoughts start coming quick, don’t they?

Slingshot issue #127 Introduction

Slingshot is an independent radical newspaper published in Berkeley since 1988.

On March 9, Slingshot turned 30 years old. One of our members dropped a tab of acid to celebrate and then was riding on BART and noticed everyone was on their cellphones — and that BART is fucking weird while you’re on acid — so they decided to blend in by looking at their phone. The first thing they saw was an email from Eggplant who said, “Today I imagined a Slingshot box that would joke about not trusting it because it’s over 30 — realizing how tiresome that joke is now in some way.” But some of us who put the issue together had never heard that joke, “Don’t trust anyone over 30,” a joke from the Yippie movement of the 1960s. Some of our collective members weren’t even born 30 years ago! Some of our members are straightedge, so they don’t do any drugs of any form, so they made weird faces as the story was told. It was really nice acid, though — it was super visual but didn’t make them anxious or paranoid.

As we were laying out the paper on Saturday, the anti-birthers and breeder-sympathizers had a debate over whether it’s irresponsible for activists to have children. Should we boycott reproducing and devote all our energy to rescuing the planet? The next day, a group of children between the ages of 5 and 7 took over our building and declared it an “adult-free zone.” As part of their communiqué, they declared that any child who allows an adult to come in will be put on a rocket and sent to the moon. But then there was a lot of confusion over who the adults actually were…. So the kids settled down and painted watercolor pictures next to us while we finished up layout, which was pretty fun for everyone.

We are really excited that in this issue of Slingshot we got separate articles on sex positivity, sexual labor relations, and building consent-based communities, along with articles on and fights for racial equality, the ecology, and worker’s rights. This issue of Slingshot truly is an attack on reality from every angle. We even included an article that explicitly attacks reality.

If the number and quality of the articles we received at the deadline is any kind of barometer, it’s going to be a long hot summer. Perhaps we’re finally shaking off recent jarring events. Like after a big bomb goes off everyone’s ears are ringing and you’re momentarily paralyzed, but then the smoke clears and it’s time to jump up and run forward again.

Some collective members are eager to tear it all down. Others are eager to see people’s attention directed towards those who are most vulnerable. Perhaps these two stances can swirl together into a perfect storm, as we reconfigure our social relations from the ground up and create a human modality that isn’t constantly at war with itself and the environment.

Slingshot is always looking for new writers, artists, editors, photographers, translators, distributors, etc. to make this paper. If you send an article, please be open to editing.

We’re a collective but not all the articles reflect the opinions of all collective members. We welcome debate and constructive criticism.

Thanks to the people who made this: Adam, Caylly, Daniel, Eggking, Erica, Fern, Gerald, Hannah, H-Cat, Indiana Joe, Isabel, Jesse, Joey B., Kristi, Korvin, Lew, Mirocat, Talia, Starpuncher Kai, and all the authors and artists! Cover art by Elayne Ryder.

Slingshot New Volunteer Meeting

Volunteers interested in getting involved with Slingshot can come to the new volunteer meeting on Sunday, August 26, 2018 at 7 pm at the Long Haul in Berkeley (see below.)

Article Deadline & Next Issue Date

Submit your articles for issue 128 by September 22, 2018 at 3 pm.

Volume 1, Number 127, Circulation 22,000

Printed April 27, 2018

Slingshot Newspaper

A publication of Long Haul

Office: 3124 Shattuck Avenue Berkeley CA 94705

Mailing: PO Box 3051, Berkeley, CA 94703

510-540-0751 slingshotcollective@protonmail.com

slingshotcollective.org • twitter @slingshotnews

 

Slingshot free stuff

We’ll send you a random assortment of back issues for the cost of postage. Send $4 for 2 lbs. Free if you’re an infoshop or library. slingshotcollective.org

 

Circulation information

Subscriptions to Slingshot are free to prisoners, low income, or anyone in the USA with a Slingshot Organizer, or $1 per issue. International $3 per issue. Outside the Bay Area we’ll mail you a free stack of copies if you give them out for free. Say how many copies and how long you’ll be at your address. In the Bay Area pick up copies at Long Haul and Bound Together books, SF.

 

We are all West Virginia

By Dana Blanchard

If people had told me a year ago that I would be driving back for the second time in a month to West Virginia — the state that voted more lopsidedly for Donald Trump in 2016 than any other — to talk with people about union organizing and socialist politics, I would have thought the idea was absurd.

But here we are — my partner came along for the second trip — driving along a mist-filled mountain highway in a cold rain to visit a group of people who have quickly turned everything the media has told us about “red states” on its head.

Looking back on the caricature that the media and sensationally awful books like Hillbilly Elegy have created of the poor, white, backward Trump voters in this part of the country, it’s obvious that they didn’t do any real research on working-class people in West Virginia.

They talk about working-class people, especially those who voted for Trump, like they’re an alien species, rather than a group of people who are frankly just sick and tired of being sick and tired — like the rest of us.

Yes, this is a state that voted overwhelmingly for Trump. But it’s also a state that went for Bernie Sanders, an open socialist, in the Democratic primaries.

There are good reasons that many voters who typically vote Democrat didn’t support Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. West Virginia was essentially run by the Democratic Party for almost the entirety of the last century, so the Democrats are responsible in large part for the economic and social conditions people live under today.

Out of all the 121 terms of statewide office that have been regularly elected since 1932, all but seven were won by a Democrat. From 1930 to 2014, Democrats held majorities in both chambers of the West Virginia legislature.

West Virginia has had a Democratic governor for 64 of the last 85 years–including the current governor, Jim Justice, who was elected as a Democrat before switching back to a Republican in 2017.

Many West Virginians thought they could get change through voting for a different party. But some are starting to realize that they have to be the changemakers. That sentiment is what led to the teachers’ revolt.

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It’s clear from talking to people that they are looking for politics beyond what is offered through the ballot box.

West Virginia is much more than just a story about two-party political jockeying at the top of the state. It’s a state that broke away from Virginia during the Civil War over the issue of slavery — the people were opposed to slavery, and Virginia remained in the Confederacy.

It’s a state that saw militant, violent battles between Black, white and immigrant miners on one side and company coal bosses on the other. These workers battled for decades in the early 1900s to win basic union rights and freedom from control of the mining corporations in all aspects of their lives.

Striking miners and their families lived in tents when they were evicted from company housing in the dead of winter, rather than give in and go back to work.

In 1990, teachers went on strike for 11 days and mounted militant pickets at schools and bus yards across the state to win a raise. This history of struggle and radical politics has shaped generations of workers in West Virginia, and most certainly had an impact on the teachers’ strike of 2018.

While workers in West Virginia are shaped by the struggles of the past, they have also been impacted in an immediate way by the current teachers’ strike. Just like people talk reverently of family members who held the line against Big Coal, the striking teachers have inspired ordinary people across the state.

Walking around Charleston in the days after the strike victory, everyone was talking about how proud they were of the teachers and education workers.

“They deserve it” and “I’m glad they stood up for what is right” were common phrases in the coffee shop and hotel. It was like people felt that they had finally gained some ground on the crooks in the statehouse and won something for regular people who have been getting stepped on for far too long.

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In talking to some of the teachers who helped lead the strike, they were simultaneously energized and a little exhausted by the struggle, but also very cognizant that they still have major battles ahead.

The teachers we met with were proud of the way ordinary people came together across 55 counties to stand up and demand more. They were excited when teachers stood in solidarity with other state workers and refused to take a tiered wage increase.

These same teachers also said that until the billionaire oil and gas barons, many of whom hold positions in the state government, begin to pay their fair share, the fight for public services and well-funded classrooms must continue.

The ongoing struggle for funding public employee health care is just beginning in West Virginia. The state has created a task force and will be holding meetings across the state about the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) and how to fund it moving forward. This will most certainly be another space for struggle in the months to come.

For those of us who have worked in public schools, the politicians are raising a familiar narrative about the PEIA: “We have no money, how can we fund it?” They tell teachers and state workers that there’s no money for raises, health care or pensions while continuing to cut corporate taxes and give tax breaks to the very wealthy.

West Virginia is the very heart of the extraction industry — driving across the state, one sees not only coal tipples, but also fields of oil derricks, natural gas pipelines and chemical processing plants. Yet instead of raising taxes on the extraction industry, state legislators voted in 2016 to cut the oil and gas severance tax from an already meager 5 percent down to 3 percent by 2019.

This is one of the fights teachers and state workers are gearing up for next: Making those who profit off the state’s resources pay more to help fund social services and make up for the environmental degradation these industries continue to inflict.

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It’s also inspiring that most of the strikers who were on the front lines in West Virginia were women. In the era of #MeToo, this shows another layer to the struggle against sexism — that women deserve decent, well-paying jobs in addition to workplaces free from harassment.

As the coal jobs dried up in the last decade in West Virginia, women workers often became the sole wage earner in households across the state. Women workers aren’t exempt from raising families and being primary caregivers just because they work one or even two jobs outside the house.

The stories of mothers who made tremendous sacrifices to find childcare for their own kids in order to drive hours to the capital to stand up for the children in their classrooms as well showed the tremendous tenacity of the women strikers.

The women we met in West Virginia are leaders, union militants and organizers, and many of them are also mothers and wives. They refuse to be typecast. They are juggling all the things that capitalism throws at working families while managing to be part of the most exciting act of workers’ resistance in decades.

Perhaps the biggest lesson from my visit to West Virginia is that while we may live in different states and have different life experiences, we have so much in common in our struggle as workers.

One of the teachers we met with spoke candidly of having to choose between paying for a medical procedure for their infant son and buying food and diapers that month.

They spoke of generational poverty and what it’s like to inherit nothing but debt and live paycheck to paycheck despite having advanced degrees and working for nearly a decade in education.

They talked about how some of their students live in housing conditions like those in the shantytowns of apartheid South Africa, and how it’s understandable in these conditions that schools have become places not just for teaching skills, but for building communities of support that provide meals and comprehensive social services for people who have no other options.

Pictures of broken chairs, tattered textbooks, mold and pest infestations in classrooms, stories of working multiple jobs to make ends meet — this is the narrative playing out on people’s Facebook feeds and in the stories from teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona.

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It’s horrifying, but it’s not completely unfamiliar. In some ways, what we are beginning to see is that we are all West Virginia. For decades, education workers have existed in conditions that continue to deteriorate due to long-term neglect.

Whether it’s no heat in schools in Baltimore or lead in the water in Detroit and Flint public schools, teachers have been trying to make it work and doing their best in situations that are completely unacceptable.

However, education workers are also beginning to take a page from West Virginia in other ways, too. We are starting to believe we’re worthy of better — that we deserve more, that the children we teach deserve better, and to get it, we have to be willing to fight for it. And if we fight for it together, we can win.

Driving home from West Virginia to Chicago, past the signs for Cabin Creek and Paint Creek, sites of the infamous mine wars from decades past, I couldn’t help but feel hopeful.

Not the kind of blind hopefulness that means putting faith in politicians to do something for us, but hope in what West Virginia teachers showed us–that we can do it for ourselves.

I am grateful to have been able to spend a few days talking to people who are now both my heroes and friends — to be able to learn from them and be a small part of knitting together this rich narrative of worker resistance that is, hopefully, just a beginning of larger fightback for the schools and working conditions we know we deserve.

Anthony Cappetta contributed to this article.

Frontlines in the Forest

By Olea

My boots sink a few inches into soft snow with each step as I make my way along a narrow path behind my comrade. We try to avoid leaving prints by walking on the bare patches of soil, but in this spot, the snow has blanketed the ground. On our left the hillside falls steeply beneath towering old growth Douglas fir, tanoak, madrone, and bay trees. The forest floor is cloaked in moss and ferns and dotted with fallen branches and logs. Above us is a gravel road, and on either side there are rows of close-planted tree farm fir. Suddenly, my comrade whips around, motioning to me silently and pointing up the hill. A truck is passing  just 20 feet above us on the road. We freeze, silent until it passes, exchanging sighs of relief that we were not spotted. We are deep in timberlands owned by Humboldt Redwood Company on Northern California’s lost coast – behind enemy lines in a battle that many thought ended years ago.

I had come to Humboldt county with only a pedestrian grasp of the history of California’s timber wars. I had, completely on accident, walked into a meeting of activists defending old growth forest in the Mattole watershed. I had always assumed direct action campaigns were completely underground affairs carried out by experienced activists in tight knit affinity groups. But they needed hands in the woods, and I just happened to be there. That’s how I found myself in the backseat of a sedan rushing south on Highway 101 with tinny Grateful Dead in my ears and pot smoke wafting past my nose.

We were dropped off and began the several-hours-long hike up logging roads to reach our destination: Rainbow Ridge, the 3000-foot spine separating the Bear River watershed to the northeast from the Mattole River watershed to the southwest. Beyond the Mattole’s verdant ravines, only the forested King Range lay between us and the Pacific ocean, 10 miles west as the crow flies. That first night, trekking in the darkness up a steep gravel road, I wasn’t entirely sure I’d make it. After a month of hiking Rainbow Ridge, though, I came to know each turn and landmark. I felt the comfort of homecoming when I reached the familiar meadow marking the summit of the hike. I called out to the cows grazing in the ranchers’ meadows; I imagined that their responding moos were proclamations of solidarity with our forest defense efforts. I could look across the valley and distinguish the uniform green blocks of planted Doug fir from the old-growth mixed stands with their rich, heterogenous colors and textures.

The history of forest defense in Humboldt County is long and rich. The seeds were planted in the late 70s when activists first used non violent direct action tactics to resist logging near the Sinkyone wilderness, but forest defense efforts didn’t garner widespread attention until the late 80s. In 1985, Texan venture capitalist Charles Hurwitz orchestrated a hostile takeover of the Humboldt county timber company Pacific Lumber (PL) and began liquidating their assets – clearcutting at a breakneck speed forests that PL had been cutting slowly for over a century. Resistance mounted all over the county against the timber harvest plans of PL and other logging companies. One campaign coalesced around the headwaters of the Elk River, a 20,000-acre forest southeast of Eureka owned by PL that included several pristine groves of old growth mixed forest.

The battle over the Headwaters wore on for over a decade – in the forest with blockades and tree sits, in the community with demonstrations and public actions, and in the courts with suits over PL’s destruction of endangered species habitat and blatant disregard for forestry regulations. In 1999, the Headwaters Deal was signed, in which 7500 acres of timberland in the Elk River watershed, including 3000 acres of old growth, were bought out from PL in exchange for $480 million in taxpayer money and the green light to log other PL holdings.

The Mattole is often referred to as the orphan of the Headwaters Deal because activists proposed that protections for the Mattole be included in the Deal, but none were granted, leaving the area vulnerable to continued logging. In 2007 PL declared bankruptcy, an inevitable conclusion after two decades of mismanagement which prioritized immediate gains over environmental and fiscal sustainability. PL’s assets, including over 200,000 acres of timberlands and the company mill in Scotia, were reorganized into Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC) with general support from the community, largely because HRC promised not to log old growth. The majority shareholders in HRC and its sister company, Mendocino Redwood Company (MRC), are the Fisher family, San Francisco real estate giants and owners of the Gap clothing brand and the Oakland A’s. Between HRC and MRC, the Fishers possess 440,000 acres of forest, which makes them the single largest landholder of coastal Redwood forest. If you suspect that the 1% have their nasty fingers in literally everything evil, and then wonder if thinking that makes you a conspiracy theorist, you’re not tripping – it’s fucking real!

The Headwaters Reserve and most of the other former timberlands that have been granted protection as a result of the timber wars are low elevation, mixed forest dominated by coast Redwood. 97% of California’s old growth coast Redwood forest were logged, and most of the remaining groves are now protected. The Mattole is unique in that it is dominated by Douglas fir and tanoak rather than Redwood. Coast Redwoods only grow up to about 2,000 ft above sea level, and being at about 3,000 ft, Rainbow Ridge’s only Redwood trees are a short row of young saplings planted as an experiment by the company.

Douglas fir is the only “marketable” species on the ridge, and HRC has been intent on converting the diverse mixed forest into a monocropped Doug fir plantation for maximum board foot output. To this end, HRC and MRC both employ a barbaric herbicide technique known as “hack and squirt” to kill “unmarketable” hardwood trees (which on Rainbow includes tanoak, live oak, madrone, and bay laurel), which they have the audacity to call restoration. Notches are cut into the trunks of the hardwoods, and then injected with Imazapyr, an herbicide that is an ingredient in Roundup and that is water soluble and can travel to parts of the landscape where it wasn’t sprayed. We walked through a unit on Rainbow Ridge that had been treated with herbicides, and it gave me the chills. The hardwoods are left standing dead, and the remaining forests feel like spooky, dry brown graveyards with lonely surviving Doug fir mingled throughout. There is a severe fire risk posed by forests filled with standing dead fuel, and in 2016 Mendocino county voters passed a measure, aimed specifically at MRC, to limit hack and squirt on the basis of fire safety. But enforcement has been lax, and MRC continues to herbicide hardwoods. HRC faces no such limitations.

There was frequent resistance to PL timber operations in the Mattole prior to HRC’s acquisition of the land. In 1997 Mattole valley residents sued PL over destruction of habitat for endangered coho salmon and staged demonstrations. In 2001 forest defenders blockaded a narrow section of road just above the Upper North Fork of the Mattole River. The spot they chose is strategic — blockading this single point prevents access to 18,000 acres of forest. This gravelly section of road has seen a lot of action since then. In 2014 HRC filed 2 timber harvest plans (THPs) for Rainbow Ridge and activists responded with a four month blockade, which halted logging on that side of the ridge.

In 2016, in response to community pressure,  HRC cancelled their plans for helicopter logging on Rainbow, but retained 2 cable yarding THPs. In 2017 company officials told the community they wouldn’t log until summertime, but activists discovered company contractors had herbicided over 180 acres in the spring. Again, a blockade was set up, and HRC was unable to log all season. HRC renewed their two active THPs in the area in September of 2017, claiming there were no significant changes in the units. In fact, a massive landslide had occurred directly adjacent to a unit, a clear indication of the instability of the steep, rocky hillsides that characterize the ridge — and a certainly a reason not to risk additional logging the area. Activists dismantled the blockade at the end of the logging season in the fall but have maintained a close eye on HRC’s movements on the ridge over the winter.

The newest development is that HRC has filed a road proposal for a completely redundant road which would serve the sole purpose of circumventing the bottleneck spot that activists have successfully blockaded for nearly 2 decades. Constructing the road would require destroying a sensitive marsh area, removing a beautiful grove of old growth bay laurel trees, and quarrying a huge rock outcrop. California Department of Forestry (CDF), the regulatory body responsible for the final stamp of approval, is notorious for approving virtually every timber company scheme that lands on their desks, but this road proposal has faced half a dozen delays as HRC struggles to comply with CDF’s meager requirements for new logging roads. Forest defenders are poised and ready to make sure this pointless and destructive road is not built. At the same time, the logging season is upon us, and with two active THPs on the ridge HRC could start work in the units any day. There is also a second road proposal, already approved, farther down the ridge that would open up access to unentered old growth.

Nonviolent direct action tactics like blockades and tree sits cannot protect the forest forever, but in the past 35 years they have proven to be a crucial stalling technique, slowing or stopping logging during the long months or years it takes for aboveground routes to be navigated – which often ultimately looks like buying the land and designating it a preserve, but can include legal strategies such as suing the timber companies over noncompliance and legislating tighter restrictions on timber operations. Forest defenders hope for full protection in perpetuity for the remaining 1,100 acres of unentered old growth on Rainbow Ridge.

There are a multitude of tangible, locally relevant reasons to oppose logging in this region – protecting habitat for native endangered species, including salmon; preserving wildlands for the next generation to enjoy; and preventing direct impacts on local residents, such as exposure to toxic herbicides, or the landslides and floods that come after heavy logging, just to name a few.

But what makes the Mattole worth fighting for if these issues don’t affect you personally? The temperate rainforest of the Pacific Northwest is actually the most efficient carbon sink of any ecosystem on Spaceship Earth – more effective at sequestering carbon per acre than the Amazon. With climate change quickly surpassing conservative estimates, the importance of the carbon sequestration value of forests, as well as their role as climactic regulators in the water cycle, increases every day. Scientists are scrambling to design carbon sinks – it is ludicrous to destroy the natural carbon sinks Earth herself has gifted us with. Forests the world over will go through major changes in the coming centuries as climate change progresses. Karen Coulter of the Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project says that it is imperative that we create protected areas where ecosystems can have the freedom to adapt to climate change without human intervention. We must realize that examples of ecocide such as the logging and herbiciding of Rainbow Ridge are not merely little individual tragedies. They are appendages, small in appearance, but connected to a many-limbed beast of industrial destruction that is fueled by consumption and piloted by the cold logic of capital. To resist this, our struggles for ecology cannot manifest as isolated efforts to address a single issue. Our campaigns must be rooted in a broad intention to address ecological devastation on all fronts across the globe.

The forest defense movement is wide-ranging and is made up of people of many walks of life participating in different ways. There are lawyers and nonprofit directors who work behind the scenes to file suits and get the land permanently protected. There are rascals on the ground building blockades and climbing trees. And there are a multitude of things to be done to support a forest defense campaign – supplies to be hiked in, food to be dumpstered, calls to be made, big trees to be measured, articles to be written, benefit shows to be played, collective dysfunctions to be addressed. This work is never easy, but it is unequivocally important, and deeply meaningful.

Climate chaos is fully upon us now, and working to address it and adapt to it requires all of our attention and focus. We can no longer afford to carry on focusing on jobs, school, or family as if things are as they’ve always been. We are facing something unprecedented, and protecting forests is crucial in mitigating ecological collapse.

All my respect and love goes out to those engaged in eco-defense around the world. I call on those who are not engaged yet to reach out to your local campaigns against ecological devastation. Organize in your community, or come to Humboldt County and join us here. The forest is waiting for you to call it home.

Upcoming action camp will be held May 24th – May 27th near the Mattole River watershed in Southern Humboldt county.  Trainings and hands on workshops will be held on nonviolent direct action, tripod blockade rigging, tree climbing, herbal first aid, backwoods medic skills, logging monitoring, groundtruthing and more!  Come prepared and self-sufficient for all weather conditions, and for those interested, come ready to play in the woods after camp! For further details and directions contact mattoleactioncamp@riseup.net or 707-336-2231