The Seeds of Rebellion Are Taking Root, and Protests Against Injustices Are Blooming Across the Country
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Stephen Shapiro describes Occupy as a “dandelion moment” in which the movement successfully dispersed seeds to float and root, thereby growing into a bigger movement. We would not limit the seeds to the US Occupy, but include the Arab Spring, the Indignados, the current revolts in Brazil and Turkey and the new phase of revolt in Egypt. All of these mass actions spread around the globe like seeds spurring more mass actions. In the US we certainly see ongoing activism around many issues and flowers of resistance growing.
Shapiro also describes the moment we are in as a potential pre-history moment, asking: “What if we are in a time akin to the early 60s and in a few years there is a May 1968 moment?” The actions around the country indicate a potential pre-history moment, a lot is bubbling around the country, not quite boiling but getting hotter.
This week the verdict in the George Zimmerman case caused strong reactions with thousands marching throughout the country, sometimes met with abusive police force like the LAPD shooting rubber bullets. While people were directly upset with the verdict, they also connected the decision to evidence of widespread racially unfair bias in the criminal justice system, white privilege, the long history of racism in the United States and the disregard for young black men. People are focusing on repealing “Stand Your Ground” laws that have been pushed by groups like ALEC and the NRA. In fact, Floridians have occupied Gov. Scott’s office for three days, here’s what you can do. But, they are also thinking more broadly about how to build a new civil rights movement and not allow the energy created by this verdict to dissipate, but continue to build. Florida has another Zimmerman-like case coming up, the Department of Justice is looking into civil rights charges, and given the much-too-common killings of African Americans by police and others, there will continue to be reasons for anger.
One of the worst aspects of the criminal justice system in the US is the widespread use of solitary confinement. Solitary Watch reports that 80,000 to 90,000 inmates live in solitary confinement on any single day. Only 8 nations have more total prisoners than the US has in solitary confinement. Thousands of prisoners in California are on a hunger strike to protest solitary confinement. Truthout.org is in the midst of an excellent series introducing people to the prisoners on hunger strikes, we republished two of their stories, Jeffrey Franklin and George Ruiz.
Hunger strikes are an important tool, usually a last resort, for prisoners and others. Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, gives a brief history of hunger strikes and their impact. There is currently a widespread hunger strike among Guantanamo prisoners as well as solidarity hunger strikes in the United States, several are long-term strikers. In Greece, there was a successful hunger strike this week. A prisoner sentenced to 2.5 years without a trial went on a 38 day hunger strike and was released on bail.
Another issue that is helping seeds of resistance take root is the disclosure of NSA spying by Edward Snowden. It has become clear that the goal of the NSA was to capture it all; and they even wanted more than the mass Internet and telephone dragnet they already have, e.g. they wanted banks to provide them with all financial records of Americans. Thanks to Alfred McCoy we can see the long history of the development of the surveillance state since 1898. McCoy shows how big the dragnet is by describing the capacity of the new NSA facility in “Utah, whose storage capacity is measured in ‘yottabytes,’ each the equivalent of a trillion terabytes. . . 15 terabytes could store every publication in the Library of Congress.” And, he describes how surveillance is going into space “omnipresent digital surveillance networks that will envelop the Earth” where the US can not only monitor millions of people, but can also create weapons that blind entire armies or kill individuals.