Progressive Activism Is Bubbling Up Across the Country -- Here's What's Happening That the Corporate Media Can't Be Bothered to Report
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This was a week that exemplified the historic moment in which we live. We will look back at these times and see the seeds of a national revolt against concentrated wealth that puts profits ahead of people and the planet.
Mike Lux, who authored a history of the movements of the 1960s, wrote this week that when he researched his book he “was struck by the fact that so many big things happened so close together.” Comparing that moment to today he writes, “We are living in such a moment in history right now, that organizers and activists are sparking off each other and inspiring each other, that there is something building out there that will bring bigger change down the road.”
That is how we felt as we watched and participated in this week’s unfolding. We began the week prepared to focus our attention on the amazing teacher, student and community actions that were occurring in defense of schools. In Philadelphia, there was a giant walk-out of schools last Friday as students demanded their schools remain open and be adequately funded. The photos of young people fighting for the basic necessity of education were an inspiration.
That was followed by three days of protests in Chicago that were equally inspiring, students organized and communities came together to fight for education. Though corporate-mayor Rahm Emanuel’s carefully selected board voted to close 50 elementary schools and one high school (while the city funds the building of a new basketball stadium), the Chicago activists say they are not done. They are just getting started. It is that kind of persistence that wins transformation. These school battles are part of a national plan to replace community schools with corporatized charter schools. The battles of Chicago, Philadelphia and other cities are all of our battles.
Then there were the college students, who inspired us with their bravery especially because they were not fighting for themselves but for the students who come after them. At Cooper Union, students are in their second week of occupying the school president’s office. As the sit-in grew to more than 100, they garnered increasing community support. The school is about to begin to charge tuition, ending the nearly two century mission of its founder for free higher education. The students protesting will get free tuition; they are protesting for the students who follow. While they are sitting in, they are painting the president’s offices black and will continue to do so until he resigns his $750,000 a year job. Thousands have signed a “no confidence” petition against the president and board chairman.
We believe that a country that really believed in its youth and was building for its future would provide free post-high school education, college or vocational school, to young adults rather than leaving them crippled by massive debt.
As the week went on, more Americans stood up and showed their power. On Monday, people who have lost their homes to foreclosure or are threatened with foreclosure, along with their allies, began an occupation of the Department of Justice. Some of them joined us first as guests on our radio show on We Act Radio. Afterwards, we went to Freedom Plaza where they rallied. The coalition was a great mix of people of different ages, races and regions who were angry, organized and prepared. They marched down Pennsylvania Ave. to the Department of Justice to demand that Attorney General Eric Holder prosecute the bankers who collapsed the economy and stole their homes.
They blocked the doors at the Department of Justice and put up tents emblazoned with “Foreclose on Banks Not on People,” put up a home with “Bank Foreclosed” over it and blocked the streets with orange mesh saying “Foreclosure and Eviction Free Zone.” As evening came, they moved their tents onto DOJ property, brought in a big couch and prepared to stay the night – and some did. By the third day of protests, they moved to Covington and Burling, the corporate law firm that spawned Eric Holder and where the DOJ official in charge of prosecuting the banks, Lenny Breuer, who did not prosecute a single big bank now gets a $4 million annual salary. In Congress the DOJ could not justify their claim that prosecuting the big banks would hurt the economy.