Brett, speaking only for myself, I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLK, Gandhi, Mandela and all great opposition leaders throughout history have always preached this precept. Further, it is critical that in any democracy, investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible.
That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.
The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans. -- Baltimore Orioles Executive Vice President and COO, John P Angelos, CBSDC, April 27, 2015.
His (Bernie Sanders') issue is inequality and unfairness, and it has been from the start.
And for those of us who do work mostly on the environment, that's just the kind of ally we need. Because it's a constant reminder that this battle is for people, who need renewable energy so they can break the constant cycle of struggling to pay the fuel bill, and because it will be the source of good jobs. And because it will be one of the chief ways we break with the plutocrats, many of them in the fossil fuel industry, who are ruining both our atmosphere and our democracy. -- Bill McKibbon, 350.org., April 30, 2015
Brown explained that Baltimore's history of "forced segregation and displacement"—through racial zoning laws and segregated public housing, to highway construction through black neighborhoods—drove "discriminatory wealth that disinvested the black community." -- Sarah Lazare, Commondreams.org, April 26, 2015
Why the Planet Is Happy That Bernie Sanders Is Running for President
After lunch, right about the time that Bernie Sanders was actually announcing his run for president, I went for a walk in the woods, and polled three chickadees, two wild turkeys, one vernal pool of chirping wood frogs and a random sample of several tree species. You have to bear in mind that this is in Vermont, so there may be a favorite-son effect, but all of them were overjoyed that Sanders was in the race.
And I think I might speak for at least a few other environmentalists who feel the same way. Here's why.
First, he's a stand-up guy. When we told him about the Keystone Pipeline in the summer of 2011, he immediately set to work helping us block it. He strategized, he used his bully pulpit in the Senate to spread the word, and he devoted staff time to pressuring the State Department. Contrast that with, say, Barack Obama who was mostly silent about climate change his whole first term, and managed to make it all the way through the 2012 campaign without discussing it. Or Hillary Clinton, who after initially saying she was "inclined" to approve Keystone has gone entirely mum on the most iconic environmental issue of our time. Who showed up in New York for the People's Climate March? Bernie Sanders. Who said, straightforwardly in today's official announcement, "the peril of global climate change, with catastrophic consequences, is the central challenge of our times and our planet." That would be Bernie Sanders.
But what makes that really remarkable is, it's not his defining issue. Everyone in Vermont knows Bernie pretty well (it's that kind of state) and so I can say he fits no one's stereotype of an enviro. He doesn't put on a spandex suit and go cross-country skiing; he doesn't, I'm guessing, meditate to reduce his stress levels. He doesn't go on and on about the woods and the rivers -- he goes on and on about working class Vermonters who can't afford health care and heating oil. His issue is inequality and unfairness, and it has been from the start.
And for those of us who do work mostly on the environment, that's just the kind of ally we need. Because it's a constant reminder that this battle is for people, who need renewable energy so they can break the constant cycle of struggling to pay the fuel bill, and because it will be the source of good jobs. And because it will be one of the chief ways we break with the plutocrats, many of them in the fossil fuel industry, who are ruining both our atmosphere and our democracy.
Make no mistake -- Bernie Sanders isn't really running against Hillary Clinton. He's running against the Koch Brothers, and all that they represent: taken together they're the richest man on earth. They've made their money in oil and gas (they're the largest leaseholders in the Alberta tar sands, on the far end of the Keystone Pipeline). They spend their money to break unions, to shut out solar power, to further concentrate America's wealth. They'll spend at least $900 million on the next election, and my guess is that if Bernie Sanders catches fire they'll spend far more than that -- because he knows he's got their number. They know, in their heart of hearts, that there's two of them and hundreds of millions of us, and that's got to be a little scary.
According to my small survey, America's wildlife loathe the Koch Brothers. And like vulnerable people across the country, they're awfully happy to have a loud Brooklyn-accented voice demanding real, fundamental change. Run Bernie run!
© 2014 350.org
Bill McKibben is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and co-founder of 350.org. His most recent book is Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.
'Structural Looting' of Black Communities Driving Protesters to Baltimore Streets
As media and police spin narrative of 'protester violence,' grassroots voices urge US society to focus on root causes of uprisings
As people across Baltimore prepare for another day of mobilizations to demand justice for the late Freddie Gray, voices from the city's grassroots are calling for broader U.S. society to dig beneath the police and media spin of "looting" and "protester violence" and listen to expressions of outrage and demands for deep change emanating from the streets.
"The systemic oppression we're seeing is the result of decades of people ignoring the cries of black people in Baltimore," Adam Jackson of the Baltimore-based grassroots organization and think tank Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle told Common Dreams over the phone. "People are moralizing about trash cans getting burned. But you should moralize on why black people are being killed by police. Talk about structural oppression."
"Property destruction is not as important as black life," Jackson added.
Thousands of people took to the streets of Baltimore on Monday following the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died after his spine was mostly severed while in police custody earlier this month. The mobilization erupted into an expression of outrage in a city with a troubling history of police violence against black people, including a high rate of killings by police. The Baltimore Sun reported last year that the city has paid "about $5.7 million since 2011 over lawsuits claiming that police officers brazenly beat up alleged suspects," most of them black.
It was that police force that was heavily deployed against protesters on Monday, joined by U.S. military service members with the National Guard. Late Monday, nation-wide news outlets quickly spread stories of "protester violence." They were aided by questionable—and widely circulated—claims by police that an alleged gang truce posed a "credible threat."
But witnesses told a different story: of police violence and targeting of protesters, including children. Brian Arnold, a former Baltimore City high school teacher, shared a counter-narrative on Facebook that quickly went viral:
I want to make this as clear as possible:
Step 1: the police created a "credible threat" about some high school students gathering at Mondawmin to start trouble.
Step 2: the police showed up in force and riot gear before the students got out of school at Mondawmin, which is a major public transit hub, and SHUT DOWN THE TRANSIT, guaranteeing the kids couldn't leave.
Step 3: the police started macing people and brandishing tasers.
Step 4: the kids understandably responded to being stranded and maced by throwing rocks.
Step 5: the media starts reporting it as "a riot" and "violent protesters.
This is 100% bought and paid for by the police department. This is absolutely vile.
"The cynicism inherent in trapping school kids is a reflection of police attitude towards those kids," Arnold told Common Dreams, adding that, as a former teacher, he saw firsthand that police violence against children "is a prevalent issue in the community."
Numerous accounts of police brutality emerged on Monday, including reports of law enforcement throwing rocks at protesters. But many from within this city, which is 64 percent black, charge that the violence goes far deeper.
Laurence Brown, assistant professor at Morgan State University and member of theBaltimore Redevelopment Action Coalition for Empowerment told Common Dreams, "The narrative now is on the looting and rioting taking place. People miss the underlying structural issues that are happening everyday. I would call it structural looting in form of policy."
Brown explained that Baltimore's history of "forced segregation and displacement"—through racial zoning laws and segregated public housing, to highway construction through black neighborhoods—drove "discriminatory wealth that disinvested the black community."
Police killings of unarmed black people are part of this larger picture, he said. "And now you have this national movement, but you also have a national outrage. Seemingly every week we see a new video of an unarmed black person shot and killed by police in America. If we don't see a video, we hear a report. In this moment of national outrage, we're at a crescendo where folks are fed up."
"In this moment of national outrage, we're at a crescendo where folks are fed up."
—Laurence Brown, assistant professor at Morgan State University
The Baltimore-based human rights organization United Workers said in a press statement released Tuesday that the racism and poverty plaguing Baltimore have reached a "breaking point."
"Why do 40,000 properties sit vacant while 4,000 are homeless, and another 154,000 face foreclosure and eviction annually?" asked the organization. "Why do 62 percent of job seekers report that they are unable to find a job that offers a living wage, and almost one in four cited their own criminal histories as a barrier to employment? Why do we utilize economic development subsidies to downtown developers that result in less tax revenue for city schools? Why does our Mayor champion a toxic trash burning incinerator project for Southwest Baltimore, already home to dangerous levels of lead, mercury and other toxic pollutants? And why after 16 days is there still no answer to the question why was Freddie Gray arrested or how is spine was broken?"
"Our communities have dignity," said United Workers youth leader Destiny Watford. "When we see our human rights being violated we have acted and will continue to push for our rights to be secured—the rights to breath clean air, have access to safe and affordable housing and a job with dignity."
Jackson of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle emphasized that "the atmosphere in Baltimore is positive, if extremely hectic. People are concerned about being positive, moving forward as a city, and moving forward to win justice for Freddie Gray."
Baltimore communities have organized street medic crews to tend to those wounded in the protests, as well as legal support—including a bail fund—for those detained and arrested by police. Community clean-up efforts took place throughout the city on Tuesday, and some establishments—including the cooperative bookstore and restaurant Red Emma's—are serving free lunch to students who face school closures. Grief counselors are making themselves available to those in need of support.
Meanwhile, solidarity actions are planned across the country, from New York to Ferguson, including Chicago, where the police officer who shot and killed unarmed black woman Rekia Boyd was recently found "not guilty" by a judge.
"This is part of larger dialogue and conversation about justice for black people," said Jackson. "People are dissatisfied with their conditions and are speaking up because they're sick and tired."