Top 5 Groundbreaking Movements That Rocked the Boat in 2014
2014 was an unjust year to say the least. From corporations pursuing control of the Internet to cops getting away with murder, the last 12 months were certainly filled with oppression. But that doesn’t mean people didn’t fight back. There was plenty of resistance from activists across the country pushing for change.
Here is a countdown of the top five groundbreaking movements that rocked the boat this year.
5. The fight for net neutrality rages on. In January 2014, a court decision ruled in favor of Verizon, which had challenged the Federal Communication Commission’s ability to enforce net neutrality. The decision has sparked a yearlong fight to demand an Internet that is open and equal for all. Protesters set up camp outside FCC headquarters and followed up months later with actions in multiple cities after word got out that the FCC was considering a shoddy solution.
But the most effective use of people power was illustrated by citizens’ responses to the commission. The FCC website even crashed at one point following a hilarious plea by John Oliver to flood the site with comments. In the end, the FCC received a record of 3.7 million responses. In an analysis of the first 800,000, only one percent were against net neutrality. The FCC will likely make a decision on net neutrality at the beginning of 2015.
4. The year of minimum wage victories. The federal minimum wage remains a measly $7.25—a 25 percent decrease in worth since it peaked in 1968. Workers have had enough. People across the nation came together to make 2014 an historic year for minimum wage victories. Both Seattle and San Francisco passed the country’s highest minimum wage bills that will phase in $15. The Chicago City Council voted to raise the city’s minimum wage to $13, and voters in Oakland passed a November ballot initiative raising the wage to $12.25. Four red states also passed minimum wage increases during the midterm elections. Early in the year, President Obama raised the minimum wage to $10.10 for all 2 million federally contracted workers.
Low-wage workers are playing a crucial role in sparking a national conversation around fair pay and labor practices. Fast-food workers continued strikes throughout the year, holding their largest action this December with workers in 190 cities participating. Walmart workers also took to the streets for various direct actions, including their third and largest Black Friday strike to date. (Walmart CEO announced plans to raise workers' wages so that no worker makes the federal minimum wage.) And federally contracted workers walked off their jobs, insisting that $10.10 is not enough.
3. The struggle for ending deportations sees success. Dubbed by some as the “deporter-in-chief,” Obama has deported 2 million undocumented immigrants during his time in office, more than any other president in history. For years, organizers have called for an end to deportations, and their actions certainly didn’t slow down this year. Instead, organizers with Not1More, one of the most influential campaigns in the immigrant rights movement, held sit-ins, stopped deportation buses and went on hunger strikes.
Locally, immigrant rights groups nationwide worked on ending the Secure Communities program, in which U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement works together with local law enforcement to deport undocumented immigrants. More than 140 local jurisdictions have passed ordinances or executive orders stating that they will no longer comply with the program. In November, Obama announced plans to shield about 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, a huge success for the movement. The movement plans to continue its fight to end deportations for all.
2. The world erupts in support of Palestinians. After Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza in July, the global community erupted in support of Palestinians facing terror. Images of dead Palestinians, bombed hospitals and schools, and a city demolished outraged people worldwide. Israel killed more than 2,100 Palestinians in a few short weeks, including 519 children. About 50,000 people rallied in South Africa, 20,000 rallied in London, and hundreds in Paris defied a protest ban to demonstrate. In the U.S., thousands took to the streets in New York City, Washington, DC, San Francisco and other major cities. Jewish activists against the war on Gaza, like one group that organized a sit-in at the NYC office of the Friends of Israel Defense Forces, were also very vocal. In Palestine, tens of thousands in the West Bank marched to Jerusalem in protest.
Activists on the West Coast held one of the most powerful protests in defiance of Israel’s occupation of Palestine when they successfully blocked an Israeli ship from docking on the coast. These “Block the Boat” actions were part of a larger boycott, divestment and sanctions movement to hit Israel where it economically hurts. Organizers in Oakland, CA, continued these actions, including one in October, when a ship was forced to sail all the way to Russia to unload.
1. Police killings spark Black Lives Matter movement. After Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in August, the town exploded, spurring a global call for racial justice. The young black protesters in Ferguson sustained actions for weeks on end, forcing Americans to confront the racism and injustice that plague our country. They also exposed the world to the ruthless results of police militarization in the U.S., as they faced tanks, tear gas and rubber bullets.
After the grand jury investigating the case decided not to indict Wilson in November, huge protests broke out nationwide again, with actions in more than 150 cities. A week later, a grand jury similarly decided not to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo for the murder of Eric Garner, despite the fact that Pantaleo’s use of a banned chokehold was caught on tape. From NYC to Tokyo, people across the world held actions calling for justice and supporting the message that black lives matter.
As well as taking over the streets, young black activists are experimenting with different tactics to stop “business as usual.” Nationwide, they have interrupted speeches, shut down public transportation systems and major highways, interrupted holiday shoppers, and shut down a police department. Activists have also incited national conversations on the meaning of violence as well as how non-black allies can show solidarity with the movement. They are forming groups focused on long-term organizing to be sure the world will be hearing from them for years to come. The Black Lives Matter movement has defined 2014 as the beginning of a political moment that could truly transform America’s lethal combination of deeply rooted racism and police violence.