Latest WEAP Updates

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Oakland’s ‘mega-evictor’, the landlord who filed over 3,000 eviction notices

Leketha Williams was out of options. When the Oakland, California, mother was evicted and became homeless in May of 2010, she had just enough money to book a hotel for her and her two sons, then aged seven and 12.

In the following weeks, she worked to get her children to school on time each morning before carrying all of their belongings from one temporary home to the next, often forced to make dinners for the family out of hotel microwaves.

Williams had fallen behind on rent during a difficult financial period and had begged her landlords for mercy, writing in one handwritten letter: “Please let us stay for at least a week because my boys do not have anywhere to go … Do it for the sake of my boys.”

But records show the sheriff ultimately forced her to surrender her apartment.

Click here to read more.

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Episcopal Church formally asserts its support of pipeline protestors

At its most recent meeting last week, the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church adopted a resolution calling on government leaders at the national, state and local levels to “de-escalate military and police provocation” at the site of the protests, staged by groups naming themselves Water Protectors, against the Dakota Access Pipeline the territory of the Standing Rock Sioux nation.

Click HERE to read more.

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Langston Hughes- “Let America be America Again”

With the presidential election just days away, it’s important to know that more than 80 years ago, in 1935, the great African American poet Langston Hughes answered those who were proclaiming “Make America Great Again” in the midst of the Great Depression. His powerful “Let America be America Again” includes these verses:
It never was America to me . . .
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
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Separate and Unequal Justice

America’s wealth gap has corrupted its justice. That’s the conclusion in investigative reporter Matt Taibbi’s best-selling book, “The Divide, American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap,” Why has America’s prison population more than doubled over the past 20 years, skewing heavily dark skinned and poor, while Wall Street’s epidemic of white-collar crime over the same period goes almost entirely unpunished? Blame the wealth gap. Taibbi says it has produced a hypocritical double standard of justice that harshly prosecutes the poor but lets the wealthy walk away untouched. His book, “The Divide,” is a gripping explanation of why that is. Click HERE  to see Taibbi interviewed by Bill Maher. Read a Washington Post review of his book HERE.

 

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“We Are All Greeks Now”

Greece may be the clearest example yet of where the U.S. working class is headed. Greek workers voted NO on austerity and their will – like the will of U.S. workers – is being completely ignored. The Greek working class is being screwed because it does not have the political power to fight the big European banks and financial institutions that are using their governments to insist repayment of their loans is more important than the welfare of the Greek people. It doesn’t matter that they made predatory and usurious loans which Greece could not repay. It doesn’t matter whether there are food shortages, shortages of oil and gas, shortages of medicine and medical care. It doesn’t matter if unemployment rises until Greek workers scream for mercy. The global money managers make sure they get theirs first.

In the U.S., with the 2008 recession that was engineered by big banks and financial interests still strangling working families, workers face the same enemies the Greek people face. As we saw in the Big Bank Bailouts of 2008, we have laws that protect the ability of corporations to make profits. Huge corporations like Apple and Google are allowed to evade taxes, offshore profits and enrich themselves rather than enriching the society. No such luck for workers, who get only a broken social contract and a tattered safety net. For a stinging look at how “capitalism  . . turns everything, including human beings and the natural world, into commodities to be exploited until exhaustion or collapse,” CLICK HERE to read Chris Hedges on how “We Are All Greeks Now.”

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Corporate Dictatorship In Oakland?

Corporate dictatorship may look like business as usual. But at its heart, it’s pressuring government officials to do what benefits business, not what benefits “we the people.”

Take Oakland CA, for example, where the city’s corporate voice, the Chamber of Commerce, has long been wary of public protests by environmentalists, Black Lives Matter demonstrators, labor union members, OurWalmart protestors, advocates for a higher minimum wage and other activists for social justice. Demonstrators have been active in Oakland’s streets and government buildings since long before Oscar Grant was shot in the back and killed by a transit policeman as he lay face down on the Fruitvale station BART platform on New Year’s Day, 2009.

CLICK HERE to see a powerful protest video, “Don’t Let Them Get Away With Murder.”

Earlier this year, after violent individuals took advantage of peaceful protest demonstrations to smash store and car windows along Broadway Auto Row, Oakland’s new mayor, Libby Schaaf, issued an order banning demonstrations after 10 p.m.

There is a federal 9th Circuit Court decision saying when unlawful conduct mixes with First Amendment activity, the proper thing is to punish the unlawful conduct, not prevent the First Amendment activity from occurring. The ACLU sued. Mayor Schaaf has not publicly rescinded her order, but has since allowed a few nighttime demonstrations. As Dr. Martin Luther King said in his last speech, made on April 3, 1968, to striking garbage workers in Memphis TN, “The greatness of America lies in the right to protest for right.”

Before the mayor’s ban on nighttime protests, Oakland closed a City Council chamber balcony after affordable housing activists shut down a Council meeting to protest the planned sale of public land to a luxury housing developer, despite city and state policies favoring affordable housing on public land.

The closed balcony meant the Council was turning away people who wanted to attend its public meetings. A union representing some city workers sued, charging that it violated city and state open meeting laws. It took an order from an Alameda Superior Court Judge for the public to regain access to what by law is a public proceeding.

In Alameda County, where Oakland is located, the district attorney’s office is keeping mum about its plans to acquire a half-million-dollar device capable of locating and tracking your cellphone. The East Bay Express reports that the DA has signed a non-disclosure agreement with the manufacturer, and there is no guarantee that the tracking device works as claimed. CLICK HERE to read the East Bay Express article, “Alameda County DA Seeks Controversial Surveillance Device.”

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What About The Kids?

With more than 1% of U.S. adults in prison or jail, what happens to their children? A recent meeting of the Alameda County Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership (ACCIPP) discussed issues growing out of the staggering number of arrested parents.

As Michelle Alexander points out in her book, “The New Jim Crow,” nearly a third of black men are likely to spend some time in prison, only to find themselves permanently stigmatized second-class citizens after they are released. Her book argues that the “War on Drugs” which filled America’s prisons with disproportionate numbers of African Americans and low income people, was really a continuation of a race war by other means, a social control program aimed at pushing back the gains of the Civil Rights Movement.

The Chronicle of Social Change reported that in a survey of 100 children of incarcerated parents conducted in San Francisco by Project WHAT!, 43 percent of the children had witnessed their parent’s arrest, and of those, 51 percent witnessed violence or abuse by an officer against their parent at the time of arrest.

“Because their parents are often stigmatized and demonized, it prevents people from understanding that these kids are like all kids in many ways, and they’re unlike all kids in many ways,” said Carol Burton in an interview with The Chronicle of Social Change. Burton is co-chair and coordinator of ACCIPP.

To read the Chronicle of Social Change story on the meeting, CLICK HERE

 

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How Corporate Dictatorship Works

It Ruined Greece, Now It’s Ruining The U.S. Economy for Workers

WEAP stands in solidarity with the Greek attempt to support the needs of human beings, not the profits of rich corporations. When the world’s global money managers forced Greece to impose austerity on the Greek people, they were just making sure that rich elites and international corporations could profit from pushing the Greek economy into failure. Calls for austerity and privatization in the U.S. are doing the same thing, making sure that corporations benefit at the expense of the rest of us. Click HERE to read how a tiny handful of super-wealthy financial corporations dictated the ruin of the Greek economy. In the U.S., the corporate dictatorship that has captured the allegiance of both major political parties is pushing similar austerity measures on U.S. workers. Why? Because the microchips and algorithms of the electronic revolution allow them to produce goods – and increasingly services – with less and less human labor. They don’t need workers anymore, so they don’t want to feed, clothe, educate, house or provide benefits for workers they don’t need. The Greek people are saying no more, we’ve had enough, we will not accept this trashing of our workers and our families by Global money managers intent on enriching global corporations. The question is whether U.S. workers will continue to enrich a tiny clique, and continue to fuel the corporate dictatorship, or use the power of the robot revolution to meet human needs for the good of the entire society.  Read more details here: Greece-What You are not Being Told by the Media.

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African American Protests Could Spark The Next Mass Movement For Workers’ Rights 

Are police killings of unarmed African Americans finally kicking off a new social movement for human rights and against the corporate military security state that is throwing away all low income workers? Black Agenda Report Executive Editor Glen Ford says – maybe. He compares the protests in Ferguson, New York City and elsewhere around the country with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and the subsequent “slide into hell for the masses of black folks.” That slide, he says, is being ignored by a “Black Misleadership Class” deeply connected to the “New Jim Crow,” the repressive state tactics that have filled America’s prison industrial complex with those the corporate military security state considers disposeable.

The New Movement: Are We There Yet?

by Glen Ford, Executive Editor, Black Agenda Report

 “This movement-in-the-making has no choice but to challenge the very legitimacy of the State and its armed organs of coercion.”

After decades of misleader-induced lethargy and quietude, Black America is finally in motion – or, at the very least, earnestly seeking ways to resist being plunged deeper into the abyss. The nascent “movement” is more like a pregnancy than a full-term child, and thus does not yet have a name beyond the focal point of “Ferguson.” Yet, it is kicking its way into the world robustly – even seismically – registering nearly two hundred demonstrations in the week following the non-indictment of killer cop Darren Wilson. This baby is reaching self-awareness in the womb of struggle, and will emerge screaming its own name at the top of its lungs.

Unlike its older siblings, Civil Rights and Black Power, this movement-in-the-making has no choice but to challenge the very legitimacy of the State and its armed organs of coercion and control: the police and, inevitably, the entire intelligence and national security apparatus of the ruling regime. Poor baby, but such is her fate.

A half century ago, when Civil Rights triumphed over official apartheid and Black Power strutted proudly across the landscape, a national white consensus quickly congealed around a project to contain the “Second Emancipation”: Mass Black Incarceration. The project began in high counterinsurgency drama with the launching of the first SWAT attack on the Black Panther Party headquarters in Los Angeles, in 1969. The initial blueprint and funding for the vast expansion and militarization of local police was established through the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA), a product of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson, the great “friend” of Black and poor people (and Vietnamese).

The FBI’s COINTELPRO spooks, provocateurs and assassins shredded the ranks of Black radical leadership, killing scores and burying many more in their dungeons, while President Richard Nixon’s War on Drugs created the legal and physical infrastructure to put the Black America poor on permanent, nationwide lockdown. By 1970, Mass Black Incarceration had become a foundational organizing principle of U.S. domestic policy. Over the next four decades, the total prison and jail population would increase more than seven-fold, with Black and brown inmates becoming, for the first time, the overwhelming majority of inmates.

“By 1970, Mass Black Incarceration had become a foundational organizing principle of U.S. domestic policy.”

The Black Mass Incarceration State – or, as Michelle Alexander calls it, the New Jim Crow –penetrates and defiles every aspect of Black life. It killed Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin and Sean Bell and Oscar Grant and many thousands of other martyrs to police terror, stigmatized a whole race of survivors, and warped intra-Black social relationships beyond measure. Yet, even as two generations of Blacks were systematically dehumanized by a Mass Black Incarceration State that operated in near-identical fashion across the width and breadth of the country, the Black political class deepened its collaboration and identification with the ruling regime, reveling in their imagined and actual proximity and usefulness to Power. Black mayors and city councils functioned as cogs in the wheels of the people-crushing machine, dutifully sending millions of fellow African Americans into prisons and cemeteries, and then partying every September at the Congressional Black Caucus gala dinner, in Washington. Some of us at BAR call them the Black Misleadership Class, but that is far too kind.

In June of this year, the Congressional Black Caucus showed definitively that the bulk of the CBC are operatives of militarized racist oppression – that is, of the Mass Black Incarceration State. Eighty percent of the 40 full-voting members either opposed (27) or abstained from voting (5) for a bill that would have prohibited Pentagon transfers of weapons and gear to local and state police departments. These Black lawmakers paid for the army of occupation that patrols the streets of Ferguson and every other heavily Black city, and are fully culpable for the results. (See “The Treasonous 32: Four-Fifths of Black Caucus Help Cops Murder Their Constituents,” BAR Sept 10.)

Therefore, whatever this new Movement is to be called, it must find itself in opposition to the Black Misleadership Class and its constellations of collaborators in mass Black oppression, including – no, especially – the high profile Quislings of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The Nature of the Struggle

The movement that is now being born is unlike the Civil Rights struggle, which was, of necessity, a fight for full Black protection under the umbrella of bourgeois liberties afforded or implied by the U.S. Constitution. The Black Mass Incarceration State was created as a direct response to the success of the Civil Rights Movement. This “New Jim Crow” proved fantastically effective in containing the self-determinist imperatives of the Civil Rights Movement’s short-lived successor, Black Power, snuffing out its more radical political elements while diverting the energies of the newly upward mobile Black classes into collaboration with the supposedly “enlightened” corporate regime.

The post-Sixties Mass Black Incarceration order became steadily harsher with U.S. capitalism’s rejection of the social contract with labor, finance capital’s rise to political hegemony, and the quickening cascade of global capitalist crises. After 1980, the pace of general Black economic and social progress slowed to a crawl or, in some indices, halts entirely, soon accompanied by a renewed War on Drugs (crack) and another round of draconian penal legislation and prison building.

This slide into hell for the masses of Black folks had no effect on the political behavior of the Black Misleadership Class, which continued to revel in its Oprahs, the growing ranks of Black generals and corporate executives, and every trophy awarded to Black movie stars. In 1986, half the Congressional Black Caucus voted for 100-to-1 penalties for crack cocaine versus the powdered kind. It was no great leap at all when, 28 years later, four out of five CBC members voted to continue arming local cops as if they were Marines preparing to assault Fallujah.

“There will be an entrenched, organized class of Black people deeply connected to Power who will attempt to thwart and betray the movement at every critical juncture.”

Given that the “traditional” civil rights organizations have always acted in close concert with their state and national legislative Black caucuses, the CBC’s behavior is a good measure of the political stance of the larger Black Misleadership Class in relation to the rest of Black America. The lesson of history is clear: the selfish, grasping classes that were propelled into leadership of Black America by the opportunities opened to them by the mass-based Civil Rights Movement, and whose hold on leadership was further strengthened by the State’s decimation of Black radicals and the diversion (and perversion) of popular Black Power sentiments into Democratic Party politics, will not play any positive role in the new movement directed against the State’s police. This, alone, sets the nascent movement apart from its predecessors, in that there will be an entrenched, organized class of Black people deeply connected to Power who will attempt to thwart and betray the movement at every critical juncture.

An Anti-Police Movement

Most importantly, this movement is fundamentally different than the Civil Rights struggle because it is directed against the police, the embodiment of the State’s monopoly on the use of force. Inevitably, it challenges the legitimacy of the American State – the same government that is currently led by a Black man and which has overseen the militarization of police and the relentless enhancement of the Black Mass Incarceration State for nearly a half-century.

Under these circumstances, some level of violence is inevitable – the police will make sure of that, and Black youth will demand payback. Moreover, although it is necessary and right to pursue reforms, especially to establish the most thoroughgoing community control of the hiring, firing, and tactical and strategic direction of local police, reactionary white majorities in state legislatures are likely to stymie such reforms at every turn. In the final analysis, cities will almost certainly have to be rendered ungovernable before the State will accede to substantive people-power demands – which was why Ferguson posed such a threat to power, and such a strong appeal to those who desperately need a fundamental change in power relationships in Black America.

“Some level of violence is inevitable – the police will make sure of that, and Black youth will demand payback.”

The movement-in-the-making has been inexorably propelled by the objective facts of Black urban life to the same political juncture that confronted the newly formed Black Panther Party for Self Defense, in late 1966. This does not mean that the new movement will have to take the same path, but it must confront much the same quandaries, against a far more powerful national security state. The comparison is inescapable, for the simple reason that the “police army of occupation” that the Panther Party struggled against is the same one that killed Michael Brown and the rest of the current era’s victims – only far bigger and better armed, backed by an incredibly pervasive intelligence apparatus. The circumstances of struggle will be more difficult than any other that Black people and their allies have faced since Reconstruction was sold out by northern capital in 1877. However, the alternative is continuation of the Black Mass Incarceration State, buttressed by a lawless gendarmerie – a regime that has led to African Americans making up one out of every eight prison inmates on the planet.

In this vortex of struggle, the newborn movement will name itself, and choose its own leaders.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Cultivating Climate Justice: Brazilian Workers Leading the Charge Toward Zero Waste

Brazilian recycling workers are leading a six-continent movement toward zero waste, a new kind of economy that puts a premium on environmental justice, good for people and the planet. Read the story here. The story is part 1 of a four-article “Other Worlds Are Possible” series on “Cultivating Climate Justice” which tells the stories of community groups on the frontlines of the pollution, waste and climate crises, working together for systems change. United across six continents, these grassroots groups are defending community rights to clean air, clean water, zero waste, environmental justice, and good jobs. They are all members of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, a network of over 800 organizations from 90+ countries.

According to the organization WIEGO, Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing, “Little research exists about gender relations and divisions among waste pickers. A collaborative project involving waste pickers in Latin America seeks to shed light on the multiple levels of discrimination that women waste pickers face and their needs.

“In 2012, the Latin American Waste Pickers’ Network (Red Lacre), the National Movement of Waste Pickers in Brazil (MNCR), and Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) agreed on the importance of opening up a dialogue about gender in the context of waste picking or informal recycling. An existing relationship with the Center for Study and Research on Women (NEPEM) of the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) allowed these groups to start a pilot project in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Later INSEA, an NGO, joined the project.”

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