by Bill Onasch
As the second place finisher in the popular vote took a victory lap through the battleground states that helped him to game the system as the sole graduate from the Electoral College Class of ’16, our side was still fighting back
The Coming Showdown at Standing Rock
On the morning of November 15, as thousands of us were preparing to demonstrate at Federal Buildings across the country in solidarity with the Water Protectors at Standing Rock we heard the news that President Obama had ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to suspend the permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). It was a delaying tactic by a lame duck President hoping to pass along unpleasant confrontations to the next guy in the Oval Office. It failed to deter the solidarity actions and had only partial success with the Corps.
The Army, of course, complied with the letter of a direct order from the Commander-in-Chief. But, at the same time, they served notice that the front lines of the Water Protectors were on Federal land and ordered them to withdraw post haste. That emboldened the Governor of North Dakota to declare the main Oceti Sakowin (aka Sioux Nation) camp—where thousands of indigenous from many Tribes had come together in the biggest assembly of Native Americans in more than a century—was criminal trespassing and those who didn’t evacuate would be subject to arrest and prosecution.
The Tribes justly maintain they not only have a moral obligation to be guardians of the disputed and threatened land and water but also the legal right under the Ft Laramie Treaty of 1851. Such conflicting claims usually require years of litigation to settle. But the Army and the Governor understand this is a crisis that requires urgent bold action–to get fracked oil flowing through the DAPL. They certainly also know that the investment portfolio of the President Designate includes a stake in the parent company of Energy Access Partners that are champing at the bit to start digging.
The Tribes running the camps have strict rules for those wishing to join them. These include not only a total ban on drugs and alcohol that could impair judgment but above all commitment to nonviolent struggle. These have been maintained even after earlier violent attacks that inflicted some severe injuries to the Protectors.
By next week, hundreds of veterans of service in the U.S. armed forces are expected to be deployed as a nonviolent “human shied” defense of the camps. It is a situation fraught with danger. But like brave First Responders who run toward, not away, from fires, more are heading to Standing Rock. Among them is a contingent of students from Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas. There was a time when I would have joined as an ally but with my 74th birthday coming up this week I would be more of a burden than a help. I’m sure other solidarity actions will be called around the country—and world—that we can all participate in. If you are in to petitions, the ACLU is circulating one here. If you want to donate money to the Camp you can send it through this PayPal link.
Bill McKibben had an opinion piece in the Guardian last week entitled Standing Rock is the civil rights issue of our time – let’s act accordingly. He urges President Obama to send Justice Department observers to North Dakota. This hardly seems an adequate response.
During the mass, nonviolent Civil Rights movement of the 1950-60s, the Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson administrations at times sent armed Marshals, and sometimes troops, to protect rights activists from violence by racist local cops and the Klan. Obama has acknowledged that he could have never been elected to the highest post in the land without that movement.
But the current President doesn’t support the movement around Standing Rock. He favors completion of the DAPL and is only open to minor adjustments in its path. He may be praying there will be no bloodshed on his watch but has not yet shown any inclination to take meaningful steps to prevent that.
As we have noted from the beginning, the struggle around Standing Rock is a combination of defending Native rights over use of their land with climate and class justice issues. That means all hands on deck—wherever we may be–in the coming showdown around Standing Rock.
Workers Stand Up Together
The most important and inspiring ongoing worker struggle in the USA has been the fight of low wage workers around the demand of 15 Dollars and a Union. It began four years ago among Fast Food workers and has since embraced Home Care, Child Care, and Airport Service Workers and even adjunct college faculty. Nurtured by the Service Employees International Union, it has earned support of other sectors of the labor movement, Faith justice activists, and individual sympathizers in working class communities. Their tactics include one-day strikes, picket lines by supporters, and sometimes nonviolent civil disobedience.
Local groups pursue their own agendas but a couple of times a year there are nationally coordinated efforts. Kansas City has been prominent in both and I have had an opportunity to be involved in nearly all of them, usually along with some other ATU retirees who are also Labor Party Advocates.
Overall, the November 29 actions in KC were likely the biggest yet. In addition to the usual strikes at Fast Food stores in the KCMO-KCK urban core there were walkouts throughout more prosperous suburban Johnson and Clay Counties as well. The Kansas City Star had run a lengthy, sympathetic story that morning. One local TV station was later reporting that 2,000 workers were on strike.
The grand finale of events was a 5PM rally-march-CD action beginning at 63&Paseo—near the defacto Black/white dividing line in that part of the city.
I would estimate at least 500 were on hand for the rally. The crowd was majority African-American with a strong Latino contingent. Most whites present were trade unionists showing solidarity, many of them Jobs with Justice activists.
In a departure from past practice, there were no elected officials on the speakers list. Those addressing the crowd included two Fast Food workers–an African-American woman and a Latina speaking in Spanish with translation. Also on the stage was a stem-winding Black preacher with many MLK quotes; a soft-spoken Rabbi; and a fiery woman Episcopal priest.
The unifying theme of all remarks was Workers Stand Up Together, specifically rejecting racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, Islamaphobia. There were, of course, many barbs directed at Trump—but no kind words, or even direct references to the Democrats. There were frequent spontaneous bursts of applause and cheering from the crowd and almost constant sympathetic honking of horns from passing cars and buses.
After a short march of a few blocks to a McDonald’s property, those who had received Civil Disobedience training sat down to block the busy intersection of Meyer&Troost. The KCPD had deployed mounted cops and had a drone overhead but seemed completely unprepared for mass arrests. It took more than an hour to remove 110 sit-downers.
One consequence of the Fight for 15 was a card-check organizing victory by SEIU Local 26 for 600 workers at a service subcontractor with Delta Airlines at Minneapolis-St Paul Airport.
A common slogan heard at all the November 29 events was—We;re Not Going Away! Their actions were even more powerful than those words.
That’s all for this week.
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