Volume 21, Number 5
March of the Dead
Direct Action Changes
Winter Soldier Rules of Engagement
Gabriel San román
If the Left Debated the Campaign Issues
Radar, Star Wars, & the Czech Republic
A Dutch Letterbox
"Good News," Iraq & Beyond, Part II
Roberto j. González
Karen Nadder Lago
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Five Years Later, Direct Action Has Changed
Although both activists and the media expressed positive surprise at the healthy turnout, the number of people on the streets in San Francisco and elsewhere was far lower than the numbers seen in 2003, when 500,000 people protested in New York City and 20,000 people (with 2,150 arrests) shut down San Francisco's financial district. Interestingly, over the past five years, opposition to the war has moved from being a marginal to a mainstream sentiment.
David Solnit, organizer with DASW and member of Courage To Resist, argues that comparisons of overall turnout are not an accurate reflection of our success or of the powerful shifts taking place in the anti-war movement. "For one, we're at a different time in history," he says. The 2003 actions were built on a year-long campaign to stop the U.S. from invading Iraq; it was an historical moment. In contrast DASW took four months to organize 2008's actions for what was essentially, and unfortunately, one of many anniversaries. Solnit also maintains that focusing on turnout at marches "ignores the thousands of people who are below the media's radar belt, involved in sustained community campaigns against the institutions that are holding up the war, like military recruiting stations, shifting power relations, and creating a crisis for the military industrial complex.... In 2008, we need a different measuring stick."
In contrast to 2003 DASW made a strategic decision to prioritize targets that were directly propping up the war in Iraq, such as military recruiting stations, corporations that profit from and provide services to the war, and media corporations that have a bias against the war. Understanding that sustained, ongoing campaigns are generally more effective than one-off mass actions, DASW also prioritized targets that were already subject to ongoing campaigns so activist energy could be channeled into supporting existing struggles.
Based on these principles, Chevron was an obvious target. According to the Department of Energy, the oil multinational's Richmond facility refines around 1.1 million barrels of Iraqi oil a month. Chevron is also lobbying the U.S. government and the Iraqi parliament to pass the Iraqi oil law, which would allow for two-thirds of Iraq's oil fields to be controlled by foreign companies, such as Chevron.
The speaker list on March 15 revealed the breadth of the ongoing campaigns against Chevron. Intermingled with a variety of folk bands, rappers, and hip hop artists, we had the newly elected Green Party mayor of Richmond, Gail McLaughlin, and Henry Clark from West County Toxics Coalition. Jessica Tovar, from Communities for a Better Environment, criticized the Richmond refinery's role in polluting local communities—increasing asthma, cancer, and death rates. The speakers called on the Richmond City Council to deny Chevron's current request to expand. Amazon Watch and the Filipino American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity were among those criticizing Chevron's polluting activities worldwide—from Ecuador to the Philippines to Nigeria to Burma. Nina Rizzo from Global Exchange exposed the link between Chevron and global warming. DASW organizers shared information about the ongoing campaigns against Chevron and encouraged anti-war activists to attend the Richmond City Council Planning Commission meeting to oppose Chevron's proposal to expand the refinery.
Highlighting the interconnectedness of various struggles is another strategy that has become more common within the anti-war movement. Last year for the first time there were two actions—one in Washington, DC in October, another at Chevron's headquarters in San Ramon, California in March. Both actions linked "war and warming." Such a strategy has its benefits. By building alliances between movements and organizations around common interests it allows us to build the power we need to challenge the war. Solnit commented that: "Actions like this also make the impacts of the war more tangible. Instead of just talking about 4,000 dead soldiers, we're also talking about the people in communities near the Chevron refinery who have cancer and asthma, we're talking about corporations that are making billions from the war as our economy tanks."
According to Jen Angel, a DASW organizer, countering apathy and keeping people involved in direct action during an election year needs to be a key focus for the anti-war movement. "When we articulate a compelling and effective strategy, then people will stay involved. When we don't, people who are frustrated look to the Democratic Party who say, ‘We'll make the changes for you, we'll pull out of Iraq.' But they won't."
Unfortunately, there are many factors that work against people believing that direct action works. For instance, Chevron consistently claimed to the media that its operations were "not affected" by the protests. Mainstream media coverage also failed to mention up and coming actions that viewers and readers could participate in. A one-off action tends to look weak when it's not couched within the contexts of a broader movement. Imagine the story: "Activists swarmed refinery for half a day then left with questionable impact on operations." Would you get involved in an action like that?
But the Chevron action was effective. The fondly-named DASW Yacht Club (some boats and a kayak) sailed around the refinery's pier. They didn't stop tankers from docking and employees still went to work, but no trucks entered the refinery (for a half day) to fuel as a result of DASW's blockade. As trucks usually enter the refinery every three to five minutes, this was a success story that organizers need to make known. Perhaps one of the most powerful antidotes to apathy is being a part of powerful actions where people witness their collective power, be it through stopping oil trucks, filling highways with people, or generating enough political strength to control the action.
"People have the power to stop the refinery any time we want to, to stop the processing of stolen Iraqi oil," Richmond resident and environmental justice activist, Dr. Henry Clark, told the San Jose Mercury News. This is true. Our generation of change makers has a lot of power. The protests in Seattle in 1999 in opposition to the World Trade Organization were a key ingredient in a larger effort by citizens in both the global north and south that has led to the WTO's steady demise. People power against the war in Iraq will yield similar results.
Jessica Bell is an organizer with Direct Action To Stop The War.
Z Magazine Archive
HUMAN RIGHTS - The U.S. Human Rights Network will celebrate its 10th anniversary with the Advancing Human Rights 2013 Conference, December 6-8, in Atlanta, GA.
Contact: 250 Georgia Avenue SE, Suite 330, Atlanta, GA 30312; firstname.lastname@example.org; http:// www.ushrnetwork.org/.
AFRICAN/SOCIALIST - The Sixth Congress of the African People’s Socialist Party USA will be held December 7-11, in St. Petersburg, FL.
Contact: 1245 18th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33705; 727- 821-6620; info@aps puhuru.org; http://asiuhuru.org/.
SCHOOLS - The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) will host a workshop on the DSC “Model Code on Education and Dignity: Presenting A Human Rights Framework for Schools” at the Mid-Hudson Region NY State Leadership Summit on School Justice Partnerships, December 11 in White Plains, NY.
Contact: http://www.dignityin schools.org/.
ANARCHIST/BOOKFAIR - The Humboldt Anarchist Book Fair will be held December 14, in Eureka, CA.
Contact: humboldtgrassroots @riseup.net; http://humbold tanarchist bookfair.wordpress. com/.
CLIMATE - The World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities is hosting a follow-up event to the 2012 Rio de Janeiro symposium. The gathering will be held in Qatar on January 28-30, 2014.
Contact: http://environment.tufts. edu/.
LABOR - The United Association for Labor Education (UALE) will host Organizing for Power: A New Labor Movement for the New Working Class in Los Angeles, March 26-29. Proposals are due December 15.
Contact: LAWCHA, 226 Carr Building (East Campus), Box 90719, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0719;lawcha @duke. edu; http://lawcha.org/.
MEDIA FELLOWSHIP - The Media Mobilizing Project is seeking applicants for the first annual Movement Media Fellowship Program. The Fellow will work with MMP to produce the spring season of Media Mobilizing Project TV. MMPTV is a news and talk show that tells the stories of local communities organizing to win human rights and build a movement to end poverty.
Contact: 4233 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104; 215-821- 9632; milena@media mobilizing.org; http://www.media mobilizing.org/.
RACE - The 7th Facing Race: A National Conference will be held in Dallas, TX November 13-15, 2014. Organizers, educators, artists, funders and everyone interested in racial equity is invited to exchange best practices and learn about innovative models and successful organizing initiatives. Proposals must be submitted by January 24, 2014.
Contact: Race Forward, 32 Broadway, Suite 1801, New York, NY 10004; 212-513-7925; media @raceforward.org; http://race forward.org/.
VETERANS - They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars - The Untold Story, by Ann Jones, is about the journey of veterans from the moment of being wounded in rural Afghanistan to their return home.
Contact: Haymarket Books, PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618; 773-583-7884; http://www.haymarketbooks.org/.
LIBYA - Destroying Libya and World Order: The Three-Decade U.S. Campaign to Terminate the Qaddafi Revolution, by Francis A. Boyle, is a history and critique of American foreign policy from Reagan to Obama.
Contact: Clarity Press, Inc., Ste. 469, 3277 Roswell Rd. NE, Atlanta, GE 30305; 404-647-6501; email@example.com; http://www. claritypress.com/.
CHILDREN - Fannie and Freddie by Becky Z. Dernbach is about two bumbling villains who gamble away the savings of the people of Homeville.
Contact: fannieandfreddiebook @gmail.com; http://fannieand freddie.org/.
PROTEST/COMIC - Fight the Power!: A Visual History of Protest Among English Speaking Peoples, by Sean Michael Wilson and Benjamin Dickson is a graphic narrative that explains how people have fought against oppression.
Contact: Seven Stories Press, 140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013; 212-226-8760; info@ sevenstories.com; http://www. sevenstories.com.
CHILDREN - Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is the true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history.
Contact: http://www.harpercollins childrens.com/Kids/.
FESTIVAL - The 2014 Queer Women of Color Film Festival will be held June 13-15 in San Francisco. The festival is currently accepting submissions until December 31.
Contact: QWOCMAP, 59 Cook Street, San Francisco, CA 94118-3310; 415-752-0868; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.qwocmap.org/.
IRAQ/REFUGEES - Ten years after the U.S.-led war in Iraq, thousands of displaced Iraqi refugees are still facing a crisis in the United States. The Lost Dream follows Nazar and Salam who had to flee Iraq in order to avoid threats by Al- Qaeda-affiliated groups and Iraqi insurgents that consider them “traitors” for supporting U.S. forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Contact: Typecast Films, 888- 591-3456; info@type castfilms. com; http://type castfilms.com/.
HUMAN RIGHTS - Lyrical Revolt! III will be held December 4 in Syracuse, NY. The event will feature hip-hop musician Anhel whose album Young, Gifted, and Brown was just released. The event is sponsored by ANSWER Syracuse, Liberation News, and SyracuseHip Hop.com. Performers and artists are encouraged to send submissions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.answercoalition.org/syracuse/.
FOLK - Musician Painless Parker has released his album Music for miscreants, malcontents and misanthropes featuring “Fuck Yeah, the Working Class.”
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://painlessparkermusic.com/.
COMEDY - Political comedian Lee Camp’s new album Pepper Spray the Tears Away has been released.