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Standing Up For Democracy: How Activists Are Fighting Injustice in America Today

Bill Moyers talks with activists about an initiative to open Americans' eyes about income inequality.

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We look back at the Civil Rights Movement, the Women's Suffrage Movement and with great admiration. But at the time, this was not a group-- these were not groups of people winning big popularity contests. They were ostracized in their own time. So we need a movement of truth tellers willing to say, "We think this is possible." And then actually going out and putting our bodies in the line in the name of a new economy.

BILL MOYERS: Are you asking that of your followers now when they go into those stockholder meetings this spring? Are you saying they should put their bodies on the line and be arrested?

GEORGE GOEHL: I think we're saying that people should engage in action that shines a spotlight on the crisis and on those behind the curtain.

BILL MOYERS: All right. I'm going--

GEORGE GOEHL: In many cases in--

BILL MOYERS: --into one of these meetings and I'm going to follow you into one of these meetings. And let's say that Brian Moynihan is there as the CEO of Bank of America. What are you asking me to do? Now be specific.

GEORGE GOEHL: For a specific set of people that are ready to risk arrest, we'll be engaging in actions that will move to that level. But not everybody that's coming is going to be at that place. And if you even look back at the Civil Rights Movement, it's not like everybody--

BILL MOYERS: Oh, no.

GEORGE GOEHL: --said, "I'm ready to risk arrest." But I think there's an increasing number of people that are saying, "We are ready to risk arrest in the name of what we believe."

BILL MOYERS: Bill McKibben and the environmentalist who led a movement to be arrested at outside the White House at the protest of the building of the Keystone Pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. They were arrested.

Spent three or four days in jail. Had a big impact in the news. And at the moment, Obama backed away from approving the Keystone. Now we have a story that the president and government are going ahead with Keystone. Just reconfiguring it so it gets around what those protesters were opposed to. You don't win in the long run, against this system.

GEORGE GOEHL: That’s why we have to change the system. And I would say that I think that we're at what is, I'm hoping is the tail end of a 40-year effort to undermine the role of government. To disempower organized workers and to deregulate the financial markets in the corporate sector.

If you were in the meetings and saw what I see happening around the country, you would be so hopeful. Because whether--

BILL MOYERS: What meetings?

GEORGE GOEHL: --whether it's a meeting in Minnesota with a bunch of rank-and-file members of a grassroots organization or in a meeting of organizational leaders from across the country meeting in Washington, D.C. to hatch strategy, people are thinking in bigger ways. People are putting their egos to the side, and their values up front. And saying, "How do we come together to create a real sea change in our politics and our economy?"

BILL MOYERS: But that is a familiar story in America life. Protest, demonstrations. The search for a better system is inherent in the American experience. And often is the loser against these mighty powers of the economic structure.

GEORGE GOEHL: Yeah. I would say we've been laying down. There have been exceptions. We've had mobilizations. We've had actions. We've had people push back. But I would say the onus is on us as the American people. If we continue to lay down, we'll continue to be walked over.

 
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