Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Getting Ready: Civil Disobedience Training Nov. 7

For all interested:  as our people's movement is growing, we will be offering an upcoming CD Training (see email below) in Springfield on Monday November 7th at 6:30pm.  The place is still being worked on.  Let me know if you are interested so we can get a sense of the numbers.  These trainings are good for all of us to go through, no matter our ability to risk arrest. 

Also, from Lara:
This Saturday, Oct. 29 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Steve Thornton will conduct a training in nonviolent CD in Hartford at the King-Davis Labor Center (or at Turning Point Park… I’m trying to find out which). We’ll make it back with plenty of time to spare for the Springfield General Assembly from 5-6pm. Please send me a message (at larasb@hotmail.com) or call me at 413-218-4496 if you’d like to carpool with me and Joe to the training. Steve has a long history in labor and other social justice organizing, and I was proud to get arrested with him as part of the “Park Place 21” for striking workers last year. Participating in Saturday’s training doesn’t commit you to doing CD with them. Local activists are also discussing incorporating CD in upcoming actions. The more of us who are trained and ready, the better. Occupy Hartford is asking training participants to register at occupyhartfordct.com. i just did!

And, finally - REMINDER: we will be gathering for the 3rd time in the (un)Occupy Springfield Movement.  We are building momentum.  Please come join us this Saturday, October 29th, a day of national action - in Springfield's Court Square (intersection of Court St. and Main St)  from 12noon - 6pm, with a General Assembly from 5-6pm.  We are doing outreach to the homeless community and inviting folks to join us. Bring food if you can as we will be meeting through supper at the shelters and people need to eat!

For peace and justice,
Holly Richardson

Hello all,
This is Catherine Ady-Bell, I've been organizing the legal observers for Occupy Springfield actions.  I had the chance to speak with a few of you about the National Lawyers Guild's plan to host a Civil Disobedience training in the area.  I now have some details of the event and I would love it if you could circulate this info to the broader Occupy Springfield movement and any other groups/individuals who might find it of use.
 
The training will be on Monday November 7th at 6:30 pm at a Springfield location TBD.  As soon as I know the location I will get in touch again but I hope having the date known will make it possible to spread the word asap.
 
Sol,
Catherine

Print Friendly and PDF

Monday, October 24, 2011

Homeless: Throw Them Out With the Trash

We don't usually post entire articles on our blog, but the following article is so important, I wanted the whole thing.  So many people are homeless in Springfield, or about to be homeless, and, as Ehrenreich sums up, 70% of us are headed toward homelessness if our revolution does not succeed.

Throw Them Out With the Trash
Why Homelessness Is Becoming an Occupy Wall Street Issue

By Barbara Ehrenreich
As anyone knows who has ever had to set up a military encampment or build a village from the ground up, occupations pose staggering logistical problems. Large numbers of people must be fed and kept reasonably warm and dry. Trash has to be removed; medical care and rudimentary security provided -- to which ends a dozen or more committees may toil night and day. But for the individual occupier, one problem often overshadows everything else, including job loss, the destruction of the middle class, and the reign of the 1%. And that is the single question: Where am I going to pee?
Some of the Occupy Wall Street encampments now spreading across the U.S. have access to Port-o-Potties (Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C.) or, better yet, restrooms with sinks and running water (Fort Wayne, Indiana). Others require their residents to forage on their own. At Zuccotti Park, just blocks from Wall Street, this means long waits for the restroom at a nearby Burger King or somewhat shorter ones at a Starbucks a block away. At McPherson Square in D.C., a twenty-something occupier showed me the pizza parlor where she can cop a pee during the hours it’s open, as well as the alley where she crouches late at night. Anyone with restroom-related issues -- arising from age, pregnancy, prostate problems, or irritable bowel syndrome -- should prepare to join the revolution in diapers.
Of course, political protesters do not face the challenges of urban camping alone. Homeless people confront the same issues every day: how to scrape together meals, keep warm at night by covering themselves with cardboard or tarp, and relieve themselves without committing a crime. Public restrooms are sparse in American cities -- "as if the need to go to the bathroom does not exist," travel expert Arthur Frommer once observed.  And yet to yield to bladder pressure is to risk arrest. A report entitled “Criminalizing Crisis,” to be released later this month by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, recounts the following story from Wenatchee, Washington:
"Toward the end of 2010, a family of two parents and three children that had been experiencing homelessness for a year and a half applied for a 2-bedroom apartment. The day before a scheduled meeting with the apartment manager during the final stages of acquiring the lease, the father of the family was arrested for public urination. The arrest occurred at an hour when no public restrooms were available for use. Due to the arrest, the father was unable to make the appointment with the apartment manager and the property was rented out to another person. As of March 2011, the family was still homeless and searching for housing."
What the Occupy Wall Streeters are beginning to discover, and homeless people have known all along, is that most ordinary, biologically necessary activities are illegal when performed in American streets -- not just peeing, but sitting, lying down, and sleeping. While the laws vary from city to city, one of the harshest is in Sarasota, Florida, which passed an ordinance in 2005 that makes it illegal to “engage in digging or earth-breaking activities” -- that is, to build a latrine -- cook, make a fire, or be asleep and “when awakened state that he or she has no other place to live.”
It is illegal, in other words, to be homeless or live outdoors for any other reason. It should be noted, though, that there are no laws requiring cities to provide food, shelter, or restrooms for their indigent citizens.
The current prohibition on homelessness began to take shape in the 1980s, along with the ferocious growth of the financial industry (Wall Street and all its tributaries throughout the nation). That was also the era in which we stopped being a nation that manufactured much beyond weightless, invisible “financial products,” leaving the old industrial working class to carve out a livelihood at places like Wal-Mart.
As it turned out, the captains of the new “casino economy” -- the stock brokers and investment bankers -- were highly sensitive, one might say finicky, individuals, easily offended by having to step over the homeless in the streets or bypass them in commuter train stations. In an economy where a centimillionaire could turn into a billionaire overnight, the poor and unwashed were a major buzzkill. Starting with Mayor Rudy Giuliani in New York, city after city passed “broken windows” or “quality of life” ordinances making it dangerous for the homeless to loiter or, in some cases, even look “indigent,” in public spaces.
No one has yet tallied all the suffering occasioned by this crackdown -- the deaths from cold and exposure -- but “Criminalizing Crisis” offers this story about a homeless pregnant woman in Columbia, South Carolina:
"During daytime hours, when she could not be inside of a shelter, she attempted to spend time in a museum and was told to leave. She then attempted to sit on a bench outside the museum and was again told to relocate. In several other instances, still during her pregnancy, the woman was told that she could not sit in a local park during the day because she would be ‘squatting.’ In early 2011, about six months into her pregnancy, the homeless woman began to feel unwell, went to a hospital, and delivered a stillborn child."
Well before Tahrir Square was a twinkle in anyone’s eye, and even before the recent recession, homeless Americans had begun to act in their own defense, creating organized encampments, usually tent cities, in vacant lots or wooded areas. These communities often feature various elementary forms of self-governance: food from local charities has to be distributed, latrines dug, rules -- such as no drugs, weapons, or violence -- enforced. With all due credit to the Egyptian democracy movement, the Spanish indignados, and rebels all over the world, tent cities are the domestic progenitors of the American occupation movement.
There is nothing “political” about these settlements of the homeless -- no signs denouncing greed or visits from leftwing luminaries -- but they have been treated with far less official forbearance than the occupation encampments of the “American autumn.” LA’s Skid Row endures constant police harassment, for example, but when it rained, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had ponchos distributed to nearby Occupy LA.
All over the country, in the last few years, police have moved in on the tent cities of the homeless, one by one, from Seattle to Wooster, Sacramento to Providence, in raids that often leave the former occupants without even their minimal possessions. In Chattanooga, Tennessee, last summer, a charity outreach worker explained the forcible dispersion of a local tent city by saying, “The city will not tolerate a tent city. That’s been made very clear to us. The camps have to be out of sight.”
What occupiers from all walks of life are discovering, at least every time they contemplate taking a leak, is that to be homeless in America is to live like a fugitive. The destitute are our own native-born “illegals,” facing prohibitions on the most basic activities of survival. They are not supposed to soil public space with their urine, their feces, or their exhausted bodies. Nor are they supposed to spoil the landscape with their unusual wardrobe choices or body odors. They are, in fact, supposed to die, and preferably to do so without leaving a corpse for the dwindling public sector to transport, process, and burn.
But the occupiers are not from all walks of life, just from those walks that slope downwards -- from debt, joblessness, and foreclosure -- leading eventually to pauperism and the streets. Some of the present occupiers were homeless to start with, attracted to the occupation encampments by the prospect of free food and at least temporary shelter from police harassment. Many others are drawn from the borderline-homeless “nouveau poor,” and normally encamp on friends’ couches or parents’ folding beds.
In Portland, Austin, and Philadelphia, the Occupy Wall Street movement is taking up the cause of the homeless as its own, which of course it is. Homelessness is not a side issue unconnected to plutocracy and greed. It’s where we’re all eventually headed -- the 99%, or at least the 70%, of us, every debt-loaded college grad, out-of-work school teacher, and impoverished senior -- unless this revolution succeeds.
Barbara Ehrenreich, TomDispatch regular, is the author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (now in a 10th anniversary edition with a new afterword).
Print Friendly and PDF

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A request from Bill McKibbon

(Just a reminder: The known climate scientist James Hansen emphasizes that the extraction of tar sands would increase the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere by 50%. ‘When the development of the tar sands continues, then it means “game over for the climate,’ says Hansen.”)

Friends,
I'm writing to ask for a favor.
We've done everything we can think of in the last few months to make this Keystone XL tar sands pipeline a national issue, including sending 1253 people off to jail. I want to make their sacrifice count; and though the odds are still against us, they're improving daily.
On November 6, when we circle the White House, we can make the odds better still. But we need you to be there.
Click here to sign up to join us in DC on November 6 to encircle the White House.
Here's what momentum feels like: the Washington Post just put a big story on the front page making it very, very clear that we've got the president's attention. Hours later the Baltimore Sun came out with a powerful editorial against the pipeline. Everyone from the Dalai Lama to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (what a team!) have been pitching in during the last few days.
And yesterday a new video arrived, courtesy of our friends at NRDC, from Robert Redford, who's done as much good environmental work as anyone in the country. It sums up the case. If you get a chance, watch it.
After you watch the video, please sign up here to join in on Nov. 6, hopefully with lots of friends in tow. We don't know exactly how many people it will take to circle the White House, but we know we need you.
Thanks,
Bill McKibben
P.S. No need to worry about getting arrested this time. It's going to be legal, and lovely. All the signs will carry quotes from Obama in 2008: sentiments like,  "It's time to end the tyranny of oil." It's time to see if we can bring that old Barack Obama out of hiding!
P.P.S. We've been busy fighting the pipeline, but we're also carving out some time to join the amazing #Occupy movement -- you can get more info at www.350.org/occupy

INFO AND ARTICLES
"Obama allies’ interests collide over Keystone pipeline" - The Washington Post
"No to Keystone XL" - The Baltimore Sun
Senators Raise ‘Serious Concerns’ About State Department Study on Tar Sands Oil Pipeline
Nine Nobel Peace Laureates Urge Obama to Reject Keystone XL

350.org is building a global movement to solve the climate crisis. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter, and sign up for email alerts. You can help power our work by getting involved locally and donating here. Print Friendly and PDF

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Coming home from Iraq: Give Peace a Chance - John Lennon & Yoko Ono

OK, I don't. care why we're leaving Iraq.  Soldiers home for the holidays and the New Year; Iraqis finally left to figure it out for themselves-- sounds good to me..

Activism makes a difference.  We shortened the war in Vietnam.  This time, it's been harder.   But here's a dose of the culture and the activism that existed in the Sixties-- the way it was.  And what comes next?

Print Friendly and PDF

Occupy Springfield - Monday, October 24th * 3 PM - 6 PM * Court Square

 *********************** Please Forward Widely! ******************************

The Occupy Wall Street movement has spread to Springfield MA and it is building momentum.  This past Monday, October 17th, from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm - several dozen people converged on Court Square in downtown Springfield.  With signs such as "We are the 99%" "64 Million in Poverty," "Hey Bank of America: Suck my Debt," and "No More Displacement," among others - students, toddlers, nurses, mothers and fathers, teachers, and community activists joined together to proclaim: 

WE'VE HAD ENOUGH! NO MORE CORPORATE GREED!  WE ARE TAKING OUR COUNTRY and OUR DEMOCRACY BACK!

Please join us this Monday to grow the Occupy Springfield movement!  Tell your friends, your relatives, your co-workers, your classmates!  Bring your bodies, your signs, your outrage and your love!  

Monday, October 24th * 3 PM - 6 PM * Court Square 

We will gather for both a rally and a general assembly.  General assemblies are the decision-making bodies of the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Based on a model of non-hierarchy, consensus, and mutual respect, the general assemblies have become a source of strength and empowerment for our burgeoning movement.  To learn more about the Occupy Wall Street movement in general, check out www.occupywallst.org.  To find out the latest about Occupy Springfield, check out our facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Occupy-Springfield-MA/126281187474760?ref=ts 


With respect,
Dan Keefe
Resource Developer, Out Now! 

P.S. Just to be clear: I in no way speak on behalf of the Occupy Springfield participants.  It just so happened that Holly (also of Out Now!) and I decided to circulate a contact list this past Monday.  Hopefully at this week's General Assembly, we can develop a real outreach committee tasked with mobilizing for the next event.  In the meantime, however, a disorganized handful of folks have been doing what must be done to get the word out - using emails, fliers, personal outreach, facebook, etc. 
Print Friendly and PDF

Friday, October 21, 2011

Some day there may be an army of the homeless

Hundreds demonstrated against the growing criminalization of homelessness in Budapest

On 17 October, The City is for All (AVM) held a major demonstration against a government proposal to impose a €500 fine or imprisonment on people who are found “residing in public places” twice over the course of 6 months. According to AVM, the proposal is unconstitutional and inhumane, since it punishes homeless people for not having appropriate housing.

A whole series of repressive measures against homeless people preceded the proposal in the past year. In December 2010 the Ministry of Interior introduced legal amendments that made it possible for local mayors to punish “residing in public places”. Istvan Tarlós, the mayor of Budapest did not wait long to come up with an order that forbade “residing in public places” in the capital. The fine imposed by the local ordinance was €180. Despite the fact that the ombudsperson found the local ordinance unconstitutional, district mayor Máté Kocsis started to enforce it vehemently in the 8th district of Budapest, arresting hundreds of homeless people in the course of a few weeks in October, 2011. Clearly, Kocsis’s aim was to harass homeless people until they leave his district. Kocsis was also among the signatories to the aforementioned proposal to imprison homeless people, which was discussed by the Parliament on October 17.

500-1000 people attended the Monday demonstration, which was also closely followed by Hungarian and international media. The participants were quite diverse proving that the criminalization of homelessness is an issue that concerns all, not only homeless people. The demonstration started with a young Hungarian poet reading out her piece inspired by the repressive anti-homeless measures of the past months. This was followed by a performance that demonstrated the consequences of the new criminalization proposal if it enters into law. Hundreds of participants lay down on the ground in front of the Parliament, while activists dressed as representatives of the police tried to take them to jail.

After the spectacular performance, Csaba Papp, a homeless member of The City is for All posed some yet unanswered questions: “We have already been swept out of the inner city, the underground stations, the forests and the 8th district. Do they want to sweep us out of the country? Where can we run?” He also pointed out that Kocsis was commissioned “rapporteur on the homeless” by the ruling party Fidesz a few days before, which basically means that the very person who wants to put homeless people into jail will have a major impact on all the government policies regarding homelessness. “We all know that homelessness is not a criminal issue but the manifestation of extreme poverty, and the solution requires effective government policies” – stated Papp.

The criminalization of homelessness is on the rise in Hungary. The proposed law to imprison homeless people is expected to be passed by the Parliament where the ruling party has two-thirds majority. In December, 2011, the government is going to open three new shelters in Budapest that will partly function as detention centers for those found “residing in public spaces.” At the same time, a number of forced evictions took place in the 14th district of Budapest where homeless people used to live in self-made huts for years. No appropriate alternatives have been offered to the evictees. The City is for All continues to struggle for affordable, safe and healthy housing for all and calls on all homeless citizens and allies to support our efforts.

For more news on this action, as well as other anti-eviction actions, see the International Alliance of Inhabitants. 

Print Friendly and PDF

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Emergency Arise Membership Meeting - Weds, 26th, 5:30 pm.

homeless kids
Where to start?

We've had a huge crisis in housing and homelessness for years, exacerbated by the recession, unemployment and the June 1 tornado.

Now,.unless we fight back HARD and IMMEDIATELY, thousands of families balancing precariously on the edge of homelessness will find themselves on the streets, and their children will be snatched away by DCF. But of course there are thousands of families already homeless, and single people too many to count, sleeping on the library steps, under the bridge and in abandoned buildings..

Emergency Arise Membership Meeting
Wednesday, October 26, 5:30 pm.
Arise, 467 State St., Spfld

Background: For months, we at Arise and other allies across the state have been fighting to improve regulations for a new program, HomeBase, which is supposed to help prevent family homelessness, bring homelessness to an end more quickly, and improve the chances for families to keep from becoming homeless again.  I've written about it here and here, and we've done trainings for members and gotten folks down to the welfare office as often as possible, to let homeless and nearly-homeless families know about the program. The program finally went into effect August 1st.  

 Last week, reading minutes from the Family Services Committee meeting, I saw that the Dept. of Housing and Community Development, which oversees the HomeBase program, was saying that the eligibility and need for HomeBase was three to four times what was expected across the state.  Well, we could have told them that-- doesn't imbue me with confidence in their statistical data and ability to plan.

TODAY, got an email from Mass. Law Reform Institute saying that as of end of day tomorrow, DHCD is not accepting any new applicants for the HomeBase program-- AND, even worse,  they are proposing families' access to emergency shelter through the Emergency Assistance program (which DHCD alaso runs) be limited to three, narrow categories: families under 21, families displaced by natural disaster, and families fleeing domestic abuse. In fact, this policy change was due to begin today, but advocates' phone calls and discussions with legislators and the Governor's office has held the change off temporarily.  (Written into the HomeBase law is that DHCD must give 60 days' notice to the Legislature before changing Homebase or EA regulations.  But DHCD plans to beat that in the short-term by still approving people-- not changing the regs-- but just not actually providing them with shelter.  What a cynical game.)

At the end of this post are phone numbers for the Governor and legislators for you to call and say that the Governor MUST not allow families to be homeless on the street.

But the real question, for all Arise members and our allies, is, What are we going to do about this?

Come to the Emergency Membership meeting, put out your ideas, and take up your responsibility.  
Bring some food if you can.

The Governor's office can be reached by phone at 1-888-870-7770 or 617-725-4005.
Legislators can be reached through the State House switchboard: 617-722-2000, or directly through the numbers listed here: Directory of Representatives and Directory of Senators. To search for your legislator based on your address, please go to www.wheredoivotema.com.

Print Friendly and PDF

Why we Occupy #2

Print Friendly and PDF

Monday, October 17, 2011

Occupy/Take Back Springfield

No One Leaves and others start the rally

Too tired to write much text tonight, but Occupy Springfield did happen...about 35 people...more if you count the ones who came and went.  And at the Take Back Springfield rally tonight, Occupy folks joined in and swelled the crowd to about 150 people.  many people were then headed in to a Springfield City Council meeting, and I don't know what happened there, because I had another meeting.  But I'll post when Ido know.  Basically, there were three big issues propelling ralliers to the meeting:


  • protecting the recently passed  ordinance requiring banks to put money in escrow (most of which they'll get back) whenever they foreclose on a property;
  • a non-binding resolution urging the City of Springfield to remove its funds from Bank of America;
  • encouraging city councilors to protect their vote revoking Palmer Renewable Energy's special permit to construct a biomass plant by appealing the building permit PRE seems likely to receive!



Jesse Lederman, speaker from Stop toxic Incineration in Spfld



Patti and Bill, Arise/STIS

Arise members: Ellen (recently pepper-sprayed in D.C) & Christina, founder of 2004's Sanctuary City

By the way, at a General Assembly meeting today, Occupiers decided to be back next Monday, Court Sq., from 3 to 6 pm.  Yippee! Print Friendly and PDF

Today! Take Back Springfield rally at 5:30

 hey, I'm reposting about today's event...the Springfield police have much of the access to city hall blocked off to traffic, but the rally will go on!  Hope to see everyone there.










In June Springfield revoked a permit for a bio-mass plant that would damage our environment:
       Now Palmer Renewable Energy is attempting to build the air polluting biomass plant anyway!

In August Springfield passed the strongest anti-foreclosure legislation in the country:
       Now Bank of America and the Mass Bankers Association are threatening a lawsuit against the city.

Big Banks and Big Business are destroying our communities, killing our  jobs and damaging our environment! Its time to take back our city!



RALLY TO TAKE BACK SPRINGFIELD!
Monday, October 17 @ 5:30PM
Springfield City Hall Steps






We won’t be silent while big banks and big businesses continue to make profits at 


the expense of the people.
We won’t allow big banks and businesses to destroy our communities 


while taxpayers pick up the tab!
Stand up and fight back to take back control of our city and support policies that 


put people, not profits, first!


Arise for Social Justice • SEIU Local 1199 •
Springfield No One Leaves/Nadie Se Mude • City Councilor Amaad Rivera  •  Western Mass Jobs w/ Justice • Progressive Democrats of America   WMass American Friends Service  Committee • Stop Toxic Incineration • Pioneer Valley Young Democrats • Out Now!




Print Friendly and PDF

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Occupy Springfield?



Something is happening around the world-- is it ready to happen in Springfield?  We'll find out at least some of the answer  tomorrow.

Thursday I went down to the Loaves and Fishes Soup Kitchen with Ruben and Christina to pass out flyers.  I haven't been down in about four months, and I've never seen it so crowded.  I had conversations with a lot of people, including folks who volunteer at the kitchen and who told me that people who were homeless were sleeping in doorways and abandoned buildings all over the city.

"They go up to Worthington St. Shelter and they're told there's no room, even though the shelter promosed to always make room for them," one woman said.  This didn't surprise me; I've heard it before,  and made calls to Worthington St. on their behalf where I've been told it was "all a mistake" and to send them back.  But what about the people we don't hear about?

I saw my friend Ahmed come in for lunch.  We nodded to each other. He and his two daughters are refugees from Iraq and had been  living in an apartment in West Springfield before it was destroyed by the June 1 tornado. He's going to Springfield Technical Community College, right across the street from Arise, and a few times a week he comes in with a bag of bread and vegetables that he's scrounged from somewhere, leaves it in our office, and then he or one of his daughters comes back to pick it up later in the afternoon.

The flyers we were passing out were about a rally, this Monday  at 5:30 on city hall steps, called "Take Back Springfield."  Arise, as members of the No One Leaves coalition and as founders of Stop Toxic Incineration in Springfield,  is involved in two areas where corporate control in our city is hurting our people: the foreclosure crisis, typified by Bank of America, and the effort to stop a biomass plant being built in our already asthma-plagued city by Palmer Renewable Energy.  Empty houses, polluted air-- if we don't fight back, we don't stand a prayer.

But on the back of the flyer, we let people know that there has been a call to Occupy Springfield on the same day, starting at 8:30 in the morning at Court Sq.!  We don't know any of the people organizing it, and the timing of the event is not what I would have chosen-- but there you go, it's happening.

In some other cities with an Occupy presence, I know there has been great solidarity between college students, the un- or under-employed and the homeless people who have joined them-- sometimes with political understanding and sometimes because it's safer to sleep out with a crowd than under the bridge.  I can't say I see the potential for that kind of solidarity in Springfield, however.  Maybe I'm not dreaming big enough.  But I think the average person in Springfield still sees homeless families and individuals as lazy, stupid or drug-addicted cheaters.  Yup, some people fit that category--just as there are non-homeless people who cheat on their taxes, treat sick days as vacation days, pad their mileage accounts and get over on the system in every way possible.  but that's not most of us, and never has been.




The Occupy movement has a slogan: We are the 99%.  It's true that if you earn less than $1,137,684 a year, you are in the bottom 99%.  But really, it's the top ten percent that hold more than two-thirds of this country's wealth.  The median income in Springfield is $36,235.  So the median income for Springfield puts us in the bottom 20%!!




I remember the days when I could stop at Savers every couple of months and look for clothing bargains.  I remember the days when I could buy an occasional  book without trepidation of its impact on my utility bills..  I remember when I didn't have to take my medication every other day in order to make it last.  A lot of us remember those days, right?  We don't want much, just enough.  And these days, we're not getting it.  Why is that?  Because wealth is being distributed upward at an astounding rate, and it's been going on for thirty years.  Yet many of us continue to think that if we're not making it, it's our own damn fault.  We continue to think as individuals rather than as members of a society whose strings are being pulled by the elite few.  We work harder and longer for less money, and we stand in line at the convenience store for a chance at MegaMillions.



 
So here we are.  People all over the country are starting to get it.  Are we ready in Springfield?  I don't know.  Maybe Occupy Springfield will be small in numbers and easily dismissed or maybe tomorrow will be the opening gambit in a movement that will grow over time until we have built the power we need to make change.  That's up to us-- me, and you, and the guy sleeping in the doorway and our neighbor across the street.  Hope to see you there. Print Friendly and PDF

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Eviction pending for Wall St. protestors? Make a few calls!



According to the New York Times, NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg is telling protestors they will have to clear out Friday so the park can be "cleaned" for the enjoyment of all.

Yeah, I'm sure his 1% Wall St. buddies would like to be able to look out the window without seeing the unintended fruit of Wall Street's sowing.

rgent -- tomorrow at 7 am, the New York City police plan to evict the Occupy Wall Street protesters.

The only way to stop the eviction is a roaring outcry to New York's billionaire mayor, Mike Bloomberg, and to the owners of the protest park. We must show them that their global reputations are on the line.

Let's flood their offices with phone calls! Avaaz will tell the media about the numbers of calls made, multiplying their impact on the public image of Bloomberg and Richard B. Clark -- the CEO of the company that owns the park. If enough of us call now, we could turn the tide and stop the eviction--but only hours are left!

Call the Mayor and Brookfield Properties Here:
After calling, post a message about how the call went -- to help Avaaz count the number of calls made, and demonstrate the wave of worldwide support for the protesters.

http://www.avaaz.org/en/emergency_callin_to_stop_eviction/?vl

Suggestions for your call:
  • Say that you have a message for Brookfield CEO Richard Clark or NYC Mayor Bloomberg (depending on who you are calling)
  • Stop the eviction of Zuccotti Park
  • We have a constitutional right to protest.
  • This is one of the biggest shows of public outrage in decades and these people represent hundreds of thousands across the world who stand with the protesters and the movement for real democracy.
  • The protesters are cleaning up the park, keeping it clean and safe
http://www.avaaz.org/en/emergency_callin_to_stop_eviction/?vl

We can help make sure the thousands of protesters rights to freedom of speech and assembly are respected by calling Billionare Bloomberg and Brookfield. Forward to everyone!

Emma, Morgan, Maria Paz, Alice, Ben, Rewan and the whole Avaaz team

SOURCES:

Occupy Wall Street protesters fear eviction from park
http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/10/13/occupy-wall-street-protesters-fear-eviction-from-park/

Update: Occupy Wall Street Responds to Bloomberg’s Cleaning ‘Eviction Notice’
http://www.observer.com/2011/10/occupy-wall-street-responds-to-bloombergs-eviction-notice/ Print Friendly and PDF

SAY NO TO CORPORATE CONTROL OF OUR CITY! RALLY MONDAY!

In June Springfield revoked a permit for a bio-mass plant that would damage our environment:
       Now Palmer Renewable Energy is attempting to build the air polluting biomass plant anyway!

In August Springfield passed the strongest anti-foreclosure legislation in the country:
       Now Bank of America and the Mass Bankers Association are threatening a lawsuit against the city.

Big Banks and Big Business are destroying our communities, killing our jobs and damaging our environment! Its time to take back our city!


RALLY TO TAKE BACK SPRINGFIELD!
Monday, October 17 @ 5:30PM
Springfield City Hall Steps


We won’t be silent while big banks and big businesses continue to make profits at 
the expense of the people.
We won’t allow big banks and businesses to destroy our communities 
while taxpayers pick up the tab!
Stand up and fight back to take back control of our city and support policies that 
put people, not profits, first!

Arise for Social Justice • Alliance to Develop Power • Pioneer Valley Project • SEIU Local 1199 •
Springfield No One Leaves/Nadie Se Mude • City Councilor Amaad Rivera  •  Western Mass Jobs w/ Justice • Progressive Democrats of America   WMass American Friends Service Committee • Stop Toxic Incineration • Pioneer Valley Young Democrats • Out Now!


Print Friendly and PDF

Sunday, October 9, 2011

I was always an Indian

Photo from Canku Ota
I didn't actually write this for our blog but I decided to put it up here anyways.

There are many kinds of learning. Sometimes we struggle to learn. Other times it’s as if we learn by osmosis. Sometimes it’s as if a light goes on and you can finally really see. Those are the things that stick with you. The things that no matter how much you wish it never go away. The things that make you look at the whole world in a different light. For me one of those light bulbs went on in 1973 and it’s gotten brighter every day since.
I grew up in a white middle class neighborhood. Mom stayed home while dad worked. Mom was always talking about her Irish/English/Scot heritage. She was tolerant of our dads French/English/Norwegian heritage but the part we rarely heard about was our Native American heritage. Oh we always knew we had some Indian blood. I remember hearing my Grandmother call me a little Indian but not in a nice way. Or Aunt Clara saying I had the feet of an Indian tough as leather and better off unshod. That was a compliment at least I like to think so. And I was always an Indian when we played “cowboys & Indians”.
My dad had worked his way up to Town Superintendent but you were just as likely to see him roll his sleeves up and jump into the ditch and help out. He always got up an hour before anyone else in the house. He said he liked the quiet first thing in the morning. I came down early one morning to find my dad watching the news. He was quiet, just sitting there, his coffee getting cold. I sat down on the floor and leaned back on his knee the FBI, US Marshals and law enforcement had surrounded Wounded Knee in S. Dakota, forcing an armed standoff with AIM members. My dad didn’t say much at all that morning but what he did say has stayed with me for almost 40 years. What he said was “They have no right.” I didn’t have to ask “who?” I knew who. No one told me but somewhere inside the answer was there. My dad died 13 months later at 52 but dammed if that light bulb isn’t still burning.
These days I can’t watch a John Wayne western or a Mel Gibson movie. The phrase “going off the reservation” drives me crazy. Columbus discovered my behind. Mohawk Carpets aren’t made or owned by Mohawks. Thanksgiving is the celebration of the mass murder of 300 Native American men, women and children. And it doesn’t stop there…class wars, drug wars, the war on poverty, economic justice, environmental justice, social justice. Foreclosure protests, eviction blockades, peace marches and the poor marching on Washington D.C.
The battle rages on, it’s everywhere and if I listen closely I still can hear my father. “They have no right”
Print Friendly and PDF

Occupy Wall St. - if you can't be there, you can still be counted

An Occupy Wall Street meeting
During the last couple of weeks, the possibilities of an Occupy Springfield have been floating around on email.  The sentiment at the moment seems to be that the timing's not quite right for community organizations: lots of projects already committed to, like the No One Leaves Campaign, and major outreach to the area's homeless people.  But conditions may change; who knows?

In the meantime, you can go here, to Avaaz.org, where by clicking on a petition, your support will register on  a giant counter erected on Wall St.  The tally's gone up by nearly a thousand just since I started this post.

Lots of readers of this blog will be pretty savvy about Occupy Wall St, and where to get up to date information, but for others who are not, here's some starting points.

First, the group that started it all-- Adbusters Media Foundation.  "“We basically floated the idea in mid July into our [email list] and it was spontaneously taken up by all the people of the world,” said Adbusters senior editor Micah White.  Live streaming, live Twitters.

Occupy Wall St. -- Describing itself as the unofficial organizing site, it has latest news, streaming video, minutes of every assembly meeting, and much more.

Occupy Together is tracking and coordinating Occupy movements across the country-- and world!

Check out We Are the 99% -- a photo essay you can contribute to.

Daily Kos has a comprehensive list of more than 200 cities where Occupy actions are taking place. 

More to come.

Photo from Mat McDermott's photostream at Flickr.



Print Friendly and PDF

Woody Guthrie - Do Re Mi

Couldn't be any truer today.   Catch the words.

Print Friendly and PDF

Saturday, October 8, 2011

What kind of Springfield do YOU want to live in?

OK, so the following is a press release, and as cynical as I feel sometimes, I do believe it's absolutely urgent to participate in this process to Rebuild Springfield.  if our voices are not heard, at least we know we did not remain silent, and we can go from there.  Sign up for the online discussion, and go to the meetings! 

Springfield Residents Urged to Show up and Be Heard at Neighborhood and Citywide MeetingsRebuild Springfield Planning Meetings begin week of October 11
Springfield, Mass., October 6, 2011—Rebuild Springfield, an initiative of DevelopSpringfield and the Springfield Redevelopment Authority, kicks into high gear with the first series of three neighborhood meetings during the week of October 10th, followed by a citywide meeting on Saturday morning, October 15th. Residents and stakeholders are asked to help create a vision for Springfield that will ultimately help form the master plan for both the tornado-impacted and related areas of the City of Springfield.

According to Bobbie Hill of Concordia, the firm retained to lead the master planning effort, “These meetings are critical to the planning process. We need to hear, firsthand, from a diverse array of residents from the impacted neighborhoods as well as the City at large. A successful plan is one that meets the needs and hopes of the city’s residents and stakeholders.”

Concordia is a 28-year old firm at the forefront of research and best practices related to planning for disaster recovery. They have applied their model to facilitate the collaborative design of neighborhoods and buildings for cities, most recently post-Katrina New Orleans.

The first round of neighborhood meetings will be held next week:

Sixteen Acres, East Forest Park
Tuesday, October 11, 2011, 6:30pm-9:00pm
Holy Cross Gymnasium, 221 Plumtree Road

Six Corners, Upper Hill, Old Hill, Forest Park
Wednesday, October 12, 2011, 6:30pm-9:00pm
J.C. Williams Center, 116 Florence Street

Metro Center (Downtown) & South End
Thursday, October 13, 2011, 6:30pm-9:00pm
Gentile Apartments Community Room, 85 William Street

The week will end with a city-wide meeting—all residents and stakeholders are encouraged to attend—on Saturday, October 15 from 8:30am-11:30am at the MassMutual Center. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss issues and opportunities that affect the city as a whole.

Residents are also encouraged to learn about Rebuild Springfield and to submit their ideas at the online conversation at
http://www.rebuildspringfield.com. For information, residents can call 413-209-8808.

There are two more rounds of meetings planned in November and December respectively, the dates and times are to be announced. The final meeting in January will be the presentation of the master plan for Springfield, incorporating the ideas and needs of the residents and stakeholders.

Nick Fyntrilakis, Chairman of DevelopSpringfield stressed the importance of community engagement. “Working together, we have an opportunity to create a vision for a stronger Springfield that builds upon our rich history while focusing on our future.”
Print Friendly and PDF

Full circle

 I went over to Arise this morning to let in the No One Leaves canvassers.  Some students were among the crew and one young woman asked me my name.  When I told her, she said that her father,  Bjorn Claeson, said to say hello!  

Bjorn was an intern with Arise more than 15 years ago.  The last time I saw his daughter, Hannah, she was just a little girl.  Now here she is, standing in our office, an activist in her own right.  Bjorn works for SweatFree Communities/Clean Clothes Alliance chapter in Maine.  So he hasn't faded away, either.


One enjoyable facet of our longevity as a community organization is seeing the children of our early members carrying the banner.


There is a mysterious cycle in human events. To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Print Friendly and PDF

Thursday, October 6, 2011

When a father cries

The last couple of weeks we've been doing a lot of outreach at the welfare office, making sure families that are homeless or about to be homeless are getting the help they're supposed to be getting. 

Yesterday, a young man came to see us with one of our flyers in his hand.  He was desperate and didn't know what to do because he and his three year old son were homeless.

Tony was in jail when he received word that his wife had died and his son placed in foster care.  As soon as he was released, he moved in with his mother and got custody of his son back.  He started looking for a job, but as tough is that is for everyone right now, it's even tougher for a guy with a record.

His mother lives in subsidized housing and her own tenancy was soon at risk.  Tony moved in with his sister, where eleven people already lived in a three bedroom apartment, a quickly untenable situation.  His sister asked him to leave but Tony begged her to let his son stay.  That was four days ago.  He's worried that his son, who has scarcely known a truly secure moment in his life, is unwanted in his sister's household.

He sat at the table and his eyes filled with tears which spilled down his cheeks.  He'd wipe them away absently as he told his story.

I hope we pointed him in the right direction.  According to our compassionate bureaucracy, he and his son should be eligible for shelter.  He might be able to join the more than 5,000 Massachusetts families now living in congregate shelters, scattered site shelters or motel rooms.  He might even be eligible for a new program, HomeBASE, which aims both to intervene before homelessness and to place homeless families in temporarily-subsidized apartments so they can get back on their feet. 

I'm worried, though, for a couple of reasons. First, some caseworkers seem to be using the new program to reinterpret the rules for the older and still existing program, Emergency Assistance, telling families that shelter no longer exists except for a few narrow categories of homelessness.

But more than that, the HomeBASE  program itself was conceived in a spirit of optimism saturated with denial about the economic realities of our lives. Thousands more families and individuals are teetering on the edge of  homelessness right this very minute.

How we build political power out of this chaos is a question for another post but at least one piece of the answer has to be: don''t fade away in despair, don't give up out of fear. 

On Tuesday,  I got a call from a woman in management at the Liberty St. welfare office.

"Michaelann," she said, "there are two Arise people in our waiting room right now, talking to people while we're trying to help them qualify for emergency assistance."

"That can't be true," I said, "because they were both just here."

"No, my caseworkers say they're out in the waiting room right now."

'Hold on a minute," I said, and ran to see if I could catch one of them before he pulled out of the parking lot.  When I got back, the call was broken.   the next morning, I sent her the following email.



We were disconnected yesterday and it took me a long time to find a number to get back to you.  I was definitely feeling frustrated because I KNEW our outreach people were not still at the DTA office when you said they were; they'd been standing right in front of me five minutes before you called.  Sorry that I was cross in my phone message.  I don't like to see Arise accused of something we didn't do.
Today I checked with both members and they told me that they NEVER, not once, went inside the DTA office.  One said, "90% of the time we were outside and then some of the time in the foyer when it got too cold."  I completely believe him because that has always been our rule.

Maybe what you (or was it someone else, who told you?) saw was people in the waiting room, looking at and discussing the information we gave them.  Seeing as Arise folks look pretty much the same as people who go to the DTA office for help, it might have been easy to think that one of them was one of us.  (Actually, that's completely true, on an economic and spiritual level.)  But we were never physically in your office.

Maybe you could check back with the person who told you this, if you didn't see it yourself, and let her know.
 We're looking for people to help us cover the welfare offices and make sure the right information gets out to people in need.  We have a training scheduled for next Wednesday at 11 am.  If you want to help, give the office a call at 734-4948.

Photo from Allie's Dad's photostream at Flickr. Print Friendly and PDF

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Change is Gonna Come - Sam Cooke

I could not find a single montage of this song that did not end with the election of Barack Obama.  So for those of us who are disillusioned (or who did not have illusions in the first place), let us remember the powerful significance of the election of a Black man as President if the United States.  (And if you look at the faces near the end, you'll be reminded of how much we all want change.)

Enjoy!
Print Friendly and PDF

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Right to the City - anti-foreclosure activists protest in Boston

No One Leaves in Boston (photo Joe Oliverio)

Yesterday forty of us from Springfield hopped on a schoolbus and drove to Boston under the No One Leaves banner to join 3,000 other activists to protest the brutality of Bank of Boston's foreclosure policy.  Here's a link to a MassLive article which talks about the rally and the arrest of protesters, and a link to Right to the City, the conveners/organizers, and here's a photo history of our day.

We had a short protest at BofA in Springfield before loading

Candejah Pink Bank Tenants leader, goes over the logistics of the day

City Life/Vida Urbana gets ready

Rally at Boston Commons


people block entrances of the Bank of America




Add caption



Ruben (red on the right) rallies us in front of the bank
Print Friendly and PDF

Biomass: We won't give up-- on any front!

Janet Sinclair hands over petitions - Stephan Savoia - AP
Stop Toxic Incineration in Springfield is meeting this Monday and we have a lot on our agenda.  We're appealing the air permit that the Dept. of Environmental Protection gave Palmer renewable Energy, we're gearing up to fight the issuing of a building permit to PRE, and we're getting ready to remind the voters in our city how our mayoral and at larege council candidates stand on biomass.

On September 19, groups from across Massachusetts gathered at the State House to let Governor Patrick and Lieutenant Governor Murray we want the strongest regulations possible when it comes to biomass. Here's a link to a story about the rally and press conference on Stop Spewing Carbon.  And be in touch if you want to be involved! Print Friendly and PDF

Buffy Sainte Marie - No No Keshagesh



Buffy Saint-Marie - No No Keshagesh, taken from the album "Running For The Drum" Out now on Cooking Vinyl Records, http://cookingvinyl.com/ Print Friendly and PDF