DAY 75 -Killing the Black Snake

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NEAR CANNON BALL, STANDING ROCK SIOUX NATION – Thousands of Native American people and their allies have gathered in the hills 40 minutes south of Bismark to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. Many have flown in, but just as many have been driving for days to reach this place. It takes two days to drive here from Denver, most of it via county roads without cell phone service.

Coming from the south towards Cannon Ball, signs protesting the pipeline begin to show themselves as soon as one enters the Standing Rock Reservation. Sitting Bull, the great Lakota leader and freedom fighter who resisted the United States for decades, was murdered nearby and once interred here. Like Nat Turner, Sitting Bull was moved by a vision to take up arms against his oppressor.

But there are no weapons allowed here at Red Warrior Camp. Security at the entrance to the camp from ND-1806 says weapons, along with drugs and alcohol, are prohibited. People here are gathering to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline with just their bodies – by chaining themselves to machines or simply standing in front of them. They are here to demand sovereignty over their water, and are attacked by dogs, mace and mass arrest in reply.

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The weather is warm and the wind dry up on the only hill that gets cell phone service in the camp. People ride horses bareback and drum and sing long into the night. Hot food is prepared and served by the Standing Rock Sioux, and the donation tents are busy sorting cold-weather clothes for the months ahead. There are no plans to leave any time soon. People are winterizing their tents and tipis and chopping wood for fires.

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166 flags stand at the entrance to the camp, representing the 166 Native American Tribes and Organizations present, as well as other flags from solidarity activists from Palestine, Russia, Laos, Brazil, Honduras and elsewhere. There are First Nations people from British Columbia, Quechua people from Peru, Native Americans who drove from North Carolina or New York or San Diego.

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Thousands of people are present at Standing Rock, united around the idea of national sovereignty and the desire to save the earth from what activists here call The Black Snake.

Near Red Warrior Camp, performers rap over a PA system about Standing Rock, Sitting Bull, the Black Hills and growing up on reservations. They rap about jail, the US government and opiate addiction. People wear t-shirts that have BLACK SNAKE KILLA emblazoned in spray paint.

Here’s what some of them had to say:

LISTEN / 18:55 / MP3 direct link

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DAY 55 – Halfway in LA

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LOS ANGELES – It’s been a pretty long drive, but I made it to the Pacific. A dear friend of a dear friend took me to the beach. The waves are different out there – bigger and far more aggressive. They made me feel like I was three feet tall again.

I gathered a lot of material when I was in Los Angeles, a lot of which I’m still editing together. But I also wanted to take a moment and gather my thoughts about what I’d seen so far. It’s easy to lose track of time when you don’t have any weekends.

Thankfully, René agreed to interview me. So, one night, parked in a side street in South Los Angeles, we drank a few beers and he asked me what I thought of NO PLATFORM now that I was halfway through.

We discuss people, movements and challenges encountered, geography, the bane of settler colonialism and white supremacy, and what the prognosis for the United States reads like on day 55.

LISTEN / 47:07 / MP3 direct link

 

DAY 49 – Battling Kafka in Phoenix

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PHOENIX – To the rest of the country, Joe Arpaio is the most notorious resident of Maricopa County. He runs a prison famous for being criticized as violating international human rights, housing incarcerated people in tents while temperatures regularly climb in Salt River Valley to more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit  (38 Celsius). So far, in 2016, there have been more than 30 days that clocked in at over 110f  (43c). The spokesperson at Maricopa County Jail says there are 783 people living in these conditions.

They and the other 7,025 people currently incarcerated here wear pink clothes as an effort to humiliate them. Many of the questions on the FAQ page such as “What does MCSO do for kids?” and “Does the Sheriff really have a chain gang?” lead to 404 error pages. A blog post on “How to Survive Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Jail System” includes tips like:

7 If you must do drugs, clean the works. There are hundreds of men sharing one dirty syringe throughout Arpaio’s jail system. Hepatitis C is rampant, and TB not uncommon. The way Arpaio runs the jail constitutes a public-health risk.

13 Don’t tell the guards you are feeling suicidal or they will four-point you, meaning all four of your limbs will be shackled to a bunk and you will have to urinate and defecate where you lay.

17 Stock up on the free toothpaste, AmerFresh, in case you end up in a cockroach-infested area. It effectively blocks the cracks the cockroaches swarm from when the lights are turned off.

Arizona is also famous for SB 1070, which requires all persons suspected of being foreign to produce proof of residency when stopped by police. Naturally, these stops are of people of color, not people who look like me. I am waved through immigration checkpoints all across the US Southwest, even driving with out-of-state license plates.

Arizona House Bill 2281 bans curriculum that teaches ethnic studies courses, most notably Mexican American Studies. Educators and students are forbidden from speaking Spanish in schools.

Where does this mean-spirited and hostile legislation come from?

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For many people living in Arizona, as do others across the country, life can seem like something out of Kafka, or Philip K. Dick’s famous tomb world. Things seem to go wrong for no reason. A single oversight can result in massive delays or incarceration. Reality seems constructed, but certainly not by the people who are sleeping rough in a tent behind razor wire.

I spoke with two people in Arizona, Ben and Noemi.

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Ben has been working in migrant justice with People United for Justice. They’re trying to get Joe Arpaio out of office in the upcoming election. Ben is from rural Iowa and they’re angry about how immigrants and people of color are used as scapegoats. Ben offers some background to the situation in Arizona.

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Noemi represents the human cost of these racist, oppressive policies. She works for The Puente Movement, an advocacy organization that serves the undocumented population of Arizona. They challenge raids, detentions, ICE and try and teach community self-defense. Noemi knows about these challenges first-hand because she and her family are undocumented.

Noemi arrived in the US at the age of 3 and didn’t realize her immigration status until she was 16. She did odd-jobs after high school, as she would have to pay international tuition rates for her local community college otherwise. When DACA was launched in 2012, Noemi was thrilled, thinking this new status might help her attend college and become a nurse. But, since her father had lost his job because of Arizona’s E-verify policies, she would need to find the money for the application herself…

LISTEN TO: 
NO PLATFORM RADIO – DAY 49 (25:21)

 

 

DAY 23 – Off the sidewalks, into the streets

PHILADELPHIA – From the intersection of Broad and Diamond, a group of several hundred people march six miles to the Wells Fargo Center, chanting: “Don’t elect Hillary! She’s killing black people!” and “From Palestine to Mexico, these racist borders got to go!”

This is an anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, anti-racist march that draws a connection between all three issues. Many of those who the march represents do not share the economic privilege as other protesters who were bussed in from all over the country. They were not able to travel, take off work, or have someone watch their children. Many of those who are leading this march are from Philadelphia. They carry the message for those who cannot attend.

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Rasheed and Sagal, both from Philadelphia, attend the Black DNC Resistance March against Police Terrorism & State Repression

After the march, Rasheed stands at the metal fence and says that when he sees the fence, the cops on horseback, the riot police standing and waiting behind, all protecting the Wells Fargo center nearly a mile away, he feels hopeless. After all, as the mostly-white crowd around the convention keeps chanting, “This is what democracy looks like!”

Elsewhere, different groups meet at Socialist Convergence, a collection of talks and panel discussions. I attended a panel entitled: Political revolution: How do we overthrow a corrupt system?

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Laura Cáceres (white dress), daughter of slain Honduran indigenous activist Berta Cáceres, addresses the audience gathered at the Friends Center while they wait for the next panel.

Here’s an audio podcast (45 minutes) with interviews from the streets, and selected clips edited from Socialist Convergence, including a panel entitled: “Political revolution: How do we overthrow a corrupt system?” featuring Dr. Jill Stein, Bhaskar Sunkara, Lev Hirschhorn, Steve Williams and journalist Chris Hedges. You can listen for yourself to hear the connections (or lack thereof) between what’s happening in the streets and what’s said on the panel.

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LTR: Chris Hedges, Jill Stein, Bhaskar Sunkara, Lev Hirschhorn, Steve Williams in front of a “People Before Profits – Another World is Possible” banner.