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KPFK Earth Minute: Occupy in 2012 and Indigenous Response to the Occupy Movement

This week’s Earth Minute addresses the Occupy Movement mobilization in Oakland, California last weekend, as well as a gathering of Indigenous leaders in Toronto on January 23rd in which the meaning of the word “occupy” to Indigenous People was discussed.

To listen to the Earth Minute, go to the link below and scroll to minute 40:07

Earth Minute 1/31/12

Global Justice Ecology Project partners with Margaret Prescod’s Sojourner Truth show on KPFK–Pacifica Los Angeles radio show for a weekly Earth Minute on Tuesdays and a weekly 12 minute Environment Segment every Thursday.

Text from this week’sEarth Minute:

Earth Minute for Tuesday, January 31, 2012

This past weekend, Occupy Oakland rose up to take over a vacant building and transform it into a new community center.  They were met with brutal police repression.  Four hundred people were arrested.

One week ago, in Toronto, Indigenous leaders came together for an event called “Occupy Talks: Indigenous Perspectives on the Occupy Movement.”  During this event they acknowledged the crucial role this movement is filling.  But they also questioned use of the word “occupy” in its name; pointing out that for indigenous Peoples fighting the occupation of their homelands, Occupy implies injustice.

Tom Goldtooth of Indigenous Environmental Network explained that economic injustice is perpetuated by the same system that is marginalizing and oppressing Indigenous Peoples; and that far from being broken, this system is functioning exactly as it was intended.  Understanding this allows us to build a movement that will fundamentally change this deadly system of inequality into one that serves not just all people, but all living things.

For the Earth Minute and the Sojourner Truth show, this is Anne Petermann, from Global Justice Ecology Project.

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Filed under Climate Change, Earth Minute, Indigenous Peoples

Report Back from Durban, South Africa: Grassroots vs. the 1% at the UN Climate Negotiations

The March outside of the Conference of Polluters in Durban. Photo: Petermann/GJEP-GFC

Burlington, VT–Global Justice Ecology Project’s Anne Petermann,  Orin Langelle and Jeff Conant along with Keith Brunner and Lindsey Gillies will give a report back from last month’s controversial UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa on Wednesday, January 11, at the Fletcher Free Library Community Room in Burlington, Vermont from 6:30 to 8:30 pm.  All five presenters were in Durban for the climate negotiations.

Fletcher Free Library is located at 235 College Street in Burlington, VT.  Burlington Action Against Nukes and the Environmental Action Group of Occupy Burlington are sponsoring the event, which is free and open to the public.

“The Durban disaster marks the lost decade in the fight against climate change,” said Anne Petermann, Executive Director of GJEP, whose international office is in Hinesburg, VT. “These talks accomplished nothing except to delay any implementation of a UN plan to stop climate change until 2020,” she stated.

Both Petermann and Brunner were carried out of the talks by UN security, ejected from the UN grounds and turned over to the South African police for staging an unpermitted sit-in protest of the corporate take-over of the negotiations. [1] Gillies was also ejected.

Earlier that week, photojournalist Orin Langelle, on assignment for Z Magazine, had his camera shoved into his face by a UN security officer because Langelle was taking a photograph of the officer ejecting a person who was giving an interview to the media following a UN-approved Global Justice Ecology Project press conference. This incident led Langelle to file a formal complaint against UN security. [2] Langelle will show his documentary photographs of the “Durban Disaster” at the upcoming event.

Jeff Conant, Global Justice Ecology Project’s Communications Director who was also present in Durban, will take part via live-stream from the GJEP Oakland, CA office to discuss the perspectives of other climate justice groups on the Durban negotiations.

The entire two weeks in Durban were marred with controversy, which included the corporate takeover of the UN climate talks, heavy handed security measures to prevent civil society participation in the talks, and the attempt by “Big Green” Non Governmental Organizations (i.e. Greenpeace and 350.org) to control a major “Occupy” protest there.  This attempted control of dissent prompted Petermann to write a controversial critique of the big NGOs, titled “Showdown at the Durban Disaster: Challenging the Big Green Patriarchy.” [3]


[1] Global Justice Ecology Project Director Anne Petermann Ejected from COP17   http://wp.me/pDT6U-3hX

[2] Formal Complaint Filed Against UN Security Actions in Durban  http://wp.me/pDT6U-3jy

[3] Showdown at the Durban Disaster: Challenging the ‘Big Green’ Patriarchy   http://wp.me/pDT6U-3iE

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Carbon Trading, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, UNFCCC

Showdown at the Durban Disaster: Challenging the ‘Big Green’ Patriarchy

By Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project

Dedicated to Judi Bari, Emma Goldman, my mother and all of the other strong women who inspire me

An action loses all of its teeth when it is orchestrated with the approval of the authorities.  It becomes strictly theater for the benefit of the media.  With no intent or ability to truly challenge power.

I hate actions like that.

GJEP's Anne Petermann (right) and GEAR's Keith Brunner (both sitting) before being forcibly ejected from the UN climate conference. Photo: Langelle/GJEP

And so it happened that I wound up getting ejected from one such action after challenging its top-down, male domination.  I helped stage an unsanctioned ‘sit-in’ at the action with a dozen or so others who were tired of being told what to do by the authoritarian male leadership of the “big green’ action organizers–Greenpeace and 350.org.

I had no intention of being arrested that day.  I came to the action at the UN Climate Convention center in Durban, South Africa on a whim, hearing about it from one of GJEP’s youth delegates who sent a text saying to show up outside of the Sweet Thorne room at 2:45.

So GJEP co-Director Orin Langelle and I went there together, cameras at the ready.

We arrived to a room filled with cameras.  Still cameras, television cameras, flip cameras–whatever was planned had been well publicized.  That was my first clue as to the action’s true nature.  Real direct actions designed to break the rules and challenge power are generally not broadly announced.  It’s hard to pull off a surprise action with dozens of reporters and photographers milling around.

Media feeding frenzy at the action. Photo: Petermann/GJEP

After ten or so minutes, a powerful young voice yelled “mic check!” and the action began.  A young man from 350.org was giving a call and response “mic check” message and initiating chants like “we stand with Africa,” “We want a real deal,” and “Listen to the people, not the polluters.”  Many of the youth participants wore “I [heart] KP” t-shirts–following the messaging strategy of the ‘big greens,’ who were bound and determined to salvage something of the Kyoto Protocol global warming agreement, regardless of whether or not it would help stop climate catastrophe.

The messaging and choreography of the action were tightly controlled for the first hour or so by the male leadership. The growing mass of youth activists and media moved slowly down the cramped corridor toward the main plenary room and straight into a phalanx of UN security who stood as a human blockade, hands tightly gripped into the belts of the officers on either side.  I found myself wedged between the group and the guards.

Pink badges (parties) and orange badges (media) were allowed through the barricade, but yellow badges (NGOs) were strictly forbidden–unless one happened to be one of the ‘big green’ male leadership.  They miraculously found themselves at various times on either side of the barricade.  The Greenpeace banners, I might add, were also displayed on the non-blockaded side of security, providing a perfect visual image for the media: Greenpeace banners in front of the UN Security, who were in front of the mass of youth.  This was another indication that the “action” was not what it appeared to be.  No, the rising up of impassioned youth taking over the hallway of the climate convention to demand just and effective action on climate change was just a carefully calculated ‘big green’ photo op.

There was wild applause when Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace (at that moment on the protester side of the security barricade) introduced the Party delegate from The Maldives–one of the small island nations threatened with drowning under rising sea levels.  He addressed the crowd with an impassioned plea for help.  Later, the official delegate from Egypt was introduced and, with a great big grin, gave his own mic check about the power youth in his country had had in making great change.  He was clearly thrilled to be there in that throbbing mass of youthful exuberance.

Youth confront security during the protest. Photo: Petermann/GJEP

But as with many actions that bring together such a diversity of people (youth being a very politically broad constituency), at a certain point the action diverged from the script.  The tightly controlled messaging of the pre-arranged mic checks, began to metamorphose as youth began to embody the spirit of the occupy movement, from which the “mic check” had been borrowed.  New people began calling mic check and giving their own messages.  Unsanctioned messages such as “World Bank out of climate finance,” “no REDD,” “no carbon markets” and “occupy the COP” began to emerge as repeated themes.  At first, the action’s youth leaders tried to counter-mic check and smother these unauthorized messages, but eventually they were overwhelmed.

After a few hours of this, with no sign of the energy waning, the “big green” male leadership huddled with security to figure out what to do with this anarchistic mass. Kumi, or it might have been Will Bates from 350.org, explained to the group that they had talked it over with UN security and arranged for the group to be allowed to leave the building and continue the protest just outside, where people could yell and protest as long as they wished.

This is a typical de-escalation tactic.  A group is led out of the space where it is effectively disrupting business as usual to a space where it can easily be ignored in exchange for not being arrested.  In my experience, this is a disempowering scenario where energy rapidly fizzles, and people leave feeling deflated.

I feared that this group of youth, many of whom were taking action for the first or second time in their lives, and on an issue that was literally about taking back control over their very future, would leave feeling disempowered.  I could feel the frustration deep in my belly.  We need to be building a powerful movement for climate justice, not using young people as pawns in some twisted messaging game.

There was clear dissention within the protest.  People could feel the power of being in that hallway and were uneasy with the option of leaving.  Finally I offered my own ‘mic check.’  “While we are inside,” I explained, “the delegates can hear us.  If we go outside, we will lose our voice.”

But the ‘big green’ patriarchy refused to cede control of the action to the youth.  They ratcheted up the pressure.  “If you choose to stay,” Kumi warned, “you will lose your access badge and your ability to come back into this climate COP and any future climate COPs.”  Knowing this to be patently untrue, I cut him off. “That’s not true! I was de-badged last year and here I am today!”  This took Kumi completely by surprise–that someone was challenging his authority (he was clearly not used to that)–and he mumbled in reply, “well, that’s what I was told by security.”

Crowd scene in the hallway. Photo: Langelle

Will Bates, who was on the “safe” side of the security line, explained that UN security was giving the group “a few minutes to think about what you want to do.” While the group pondered, Will reminded the group that anyone who refused to leave would lose their badge and their access to the COP.  “That’s not letting us make up our minds!” yelled a young woman.

I felt compelled to give the group some support. I mic checked again, “there is nothing to fear/ about losing your badge,” I explained, adding, “Being debadged/ is a badge of honor.”

After the question was posed about how many people planned to stay, and dozens of hands shot up, the pressure was laid on thicker. This time the ‘big green’ patriarchy warned that if we refused to leave, not only would we be debadged, UN security would escort us off the premises and we would be handed over to South African police and charged with trespass.

At that a young South African man stood up and defiantly raised his voice.  “I am South African.  This is my country.  If you want to arrest anyone for trespass, you will start with me!” he said gesturing at his chest.  Then he said, “I want to sing Shosholoza!”

Shosholoza is a traditional South African Folk song that was sung in a call and response style by migrant workers that worked in the South African mines.

The group joined the young South African man in singing Shosholoza and soon the entire hallway was resounding with the powerful South African workers’ anthem.

Once consensus was clearly established to do an occupation and anyone that did not want to lose his or her badge had left, Kumi piped up again.  “Okay. I have spoken with security and this what we are going to do.  Then he magically walked through UN security blockade.  “We will remove our badge (he demonstrated this with a grand sweeping gesture pulling the badge and lanyard over his head) and hand it over to security as we walk out of the building.  We do not anyone to be able to accuse of us trying to disrupt the talks.”

That really made me mad.  The top down, male-dominated nature of the action and the coercion being employed to force the youth activists to blindly obey UN security was too much.  I’d been pushed around by too many authoritarian males in my life to let this one slide, so I mic checked again.  “We just decided/ that we want to stay/ to make our voices heard/ and now we are being told/ how to leave!”  “I will not hand my badge to security.  I am going to sit right here and security can take it.”

And I sat down cross-legged on the floor, cursing my luck for choosing to wear a skirt that day.  Gradually, about a dozen other people–mostly youth–sat down with me, including Keith and Lindsey–two of our Global Justice Ecology Project youth contingent.

But still the male leadership wouldn’t let it go.  I’ve never seen activists so eager to do security’s work for them.  “Okay,” Kumi said, “but when security taps you on the shoulder, you have to get up and leave with them.  We are going to be peaceful, we don’t want any confrontation.”  Sorry, but in my experience, civil disobedience and non-compliance are peaceful acts.  And I find it impossible to imagine that meaningful change will be achieved without confrontation.

At some point from the floor, I decided I should explain to the crowd who I was.  I mic checked.  “I come from the United States/ which has historically been/ one of the greatest obstacles/ to addressing climate change.  I am sitting down/ in the great tradition/ of civil disobedience/ that gave women the right to vote/ won civil rights/ and helped stop the Vietnam War.”

Karuna Rana (left), sits in at the action. Photo: Langelle

About that time, a young woman named Karuna Rana, from the small island of Mauritius, off the southeast coast of Africa, sat down in front of me and spoke up.  “I am the only young person here from Mauritius. These climate COPs have been going for seventeen years!  And what have they accomplished?  Nothing!  My island is literally drowning and so I am sitting down to take action–for my people and for my island.  Something must be done.”  Her voice, from such a small person, was powerful indeed.  An hour or two later, while standing in the chilly rain at the Speakers’ Corner across the street after we’d been ejected from the COP, she told me that it was my action that had inspired her to sit down.  “You inspired me by standing up to the people that wanted us to leave.”  I told her that her bravery had similarly inspired me.

Kumi led a group of protesters down the hall, handing his badge to UN security. Those of us who remained sitting on the floor were next approached by security.  One by one, people were tapped on the shoulder and stood up to walk out and be debadged.  Keith, who was sitting next to me said, “Are you going to walk out?”  “No.”

Security tapped us and said, “C’mon, you have to leave.”  “No.”  Keith and I linked arms.

Then the security forcibly removed all of the media that remained.  I watched Orin, who was taking photos of the event, as well as Amy Goodman and the crew of Democracy Now! be forced up the stairs and out of view.  As they were removed, Amy yelled, “What’s your name?!”  “Anne Petermann. I am the Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project.”

I was familiar with the unpleasant behavior of UN security from previous experiences, and so I was somewhat unnerved when security removed the media.  Earlier in the week a UN security officer had shoved Orin’s big Nikon into his face when he was photographing the officer ejecting one of the speakers from our GJEP press conference who was dressed as a clown.   Silly wigs are grounds for arrest at the UN.

One of the reasons that media have become targets of police and military violence all over the world is because they document the behavior of the authorities, and sometimes, depending on their intentions, the authorities don’t want their behavior documented.  Not knowing what UN security had in store for us, I decided I should let the remaining people in the hall–who could no longer see Keith and I since we were sitting and completely surrounded by security–know what was happening.  I explained at the top of my voice that that the media had been forced to leave, and encouraged anyone with a camera to come and take photos.  The photos on this blog post by Ben Powless of Indigenous Environmental Network are some of the only ones I know of that document our arrests.

Keith Brunner is hauled away by UN security during the sit-in outside of the plenary at the UN Climate Convention. Photo: Ben Powless/ IEN

They took Keith first, hauling him away with officers grabbing him by his legs and under his arms and rushing him into the plenary hall–which, we found out, had been earlier emptied of all of the UN delegates so the racket outside would not disturb them.  I was then loaded into a wheelchair by two female security guards.  A male guard grabbed my badge and roughly yanked it, tearing it free from the lanyard, “I’ll take that,” he sneered.   I was then unceremoniously wheeled through the empty plenary, past the security fence and into the blocked off street, where I was handed over to South African police.

“They’re all yours,” said the UN security who then left.  The South African police discussed what to do with us.  “What did they do?” asked one.  “They sat down.”  “Sat down?”  “Yes, sat down.  They are environmentalists or something.”  “Let’s just take them out of here.”  So I was loaded into the police van, where Keith sat waiting, and we were driven around the corner, past the conference center and to the “Speakers’ Corner” across the street, where the outside “Occupy COP 17” activists had been having daily general assemblies during the two weeks of the climate conference.  “Hey, that’s cool,” said Keith.  “We got a free ride to the Speakers’ Corner.”

I was told later that Kumi was the first arrested and had been led out of the building in plastic handcuffs, offering a beautiful Greenpeace photo op for the media. I rolled my eyes.  “You’ve GOT to be kidding me.  They used HANDcuffs???  Gimme a break.”  More theater.  Greenpeace is nothing if not good at working the media with theatrical drama such as pre-orchestrated arrests. Kumi may not have wanted to lose his badge, but he made the most of it.  At the Speakers’ Corner following our arrests, the media flocked to him while I stood on the sidelines.  The articles about the protest in many of the papers the next day featured Kumi speaking at the protest, Greenpeace banners prominent.  The fact that it was a COP 17 occupation that he had repeatedly attempted to squelch somehow did not make it into the news.

I lost a lot of respect for Greenpeace that day.

But many of the youth also saw how it went down.  I was thanked by several participants in the protest for standing up to the ‘big green’ male leadership and defending the right to occupy the space.  I, myself was deeply grateful for the opportunity to do something that felt actually meaningful in that lifeless convention center where the most powerful countries of the world played deadly games with the future.


Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, Posts from Anne Petermann, UNFCCC

First Occupy COP 17 UN Climate Conference General Assembly Held Today in Durban (photos and article)

#OccupyCop17: Climate Justice General Assembly

All photos by Orin Langelle/GJEP

Durban, South Africa—On Monday, November 28th, as representative from 192 nation-states begin their talks, Occupy COP 17 met this morning in a general assembly. Another assembly will be held tomorrow after a rally demanding climate justice and saying no to false solutions.

Kevin Buckland from 350.org makes a point

The following a article is cross-posted from Occupy COP 17

Governments of the world are, for the 17th time, assembling to discuss how we react on an international scale to a changing climate. During these last 16 years a sane response to an unsustainable global culture has not been found.

Inside their assembly and inside their declarations the needs of the 99% are not being heard. Private corporations are occupying our seats in the UN climate talks and governments corrupted by corporate influence are claiming to represent our needs. They are abusing and pillaging the consensus process, once put in place to ensure even the smallest and most vulnerable had a say.

Patrick Bond, political economist and senior professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal School of Development Studies in Durban, talks to reporters

We, as a planet, have been shown we can no longer rely on the same structures that have allowed for famines, floods, hurricanes and massacres to escalate relentlessly. There is a historic responsibility, and a global necessity for action.

Pablo Solón, former Ambassador to the UN from the Plurinational State of Bolivia, talks to a journalist

Here in Durban, where Nelson Mandela cast his first vote and Gandhi held his first public meeting, we’re putting out an invitation to anyone who wishes to have their voice heard: to join a dialogue of how we must react to ensure the present culture of 1% of the worlds population does no injustice to the future of the 99%.

Ivonne Yanez from Ecuador is part of the keep the oil underground and Yasuni/itt. She is a campaign member of OilWatch International

This is what democracy looks like.

Consensus reached for tomorrow's general assembly

It is time our voices were heard.

It’s time to #OccupyCop17

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Corporate Globalization, False Solutions to Climate Change

The Shocking Truth About the Crackdown on Occupy

Note: This article offers some excellent background information on how the violent crackdown on the Occupy movement in the United States was coordinated from the top by way of the Department of Homeland Security–because of its threat to the personal profits of the 1% in congress and their puppet masters.  However, Global Justice Ecology Project has a broader analysis of the threat of the Occupy movement.  The Occupy movement has the potential to fundamentally transform what GJEP calls “an unjust and suicidal system” that is literally destroying the Earth’s web of life.  Yes this is about money in politics, but is is also about whether or not we or our children–or any other species for that matter–will have a future on this delicate life-giving planet.  That is why GJEP is at the UN climate conference in Durban, South Africa–not because we think the 1% dominated negotiations have a snowball’s chance in hell of accomplishing something useful–but because this is where the climate justice movement is taking a stand for the Earth–for system change not climate change.  There are plans tomorrow for a general assembly to discuss the formation of occupy COP 17.  [After article see photo and additional GJEP note]

–The GJEP Team

The shocking truth about the crackdown on Occupy

The violent police assaults across the US are no coincidence. Occupy has touched the third rail of our political class’s venality

by Naomi Wolf

Cross-Posted from The Guardian, 25 November

US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women – targeted seemingly for their gender – screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.

But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that “New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers” covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, andpenned far from the site in which the news was unfolding. Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that “It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk.”

In New York, a state supreme court justice and a New York City council member were beaten up; in Berkeley, California, one of our greatest national poets, Robert Hass, was beaten with batons. The picture darkened still further when Wonkette andWashingtonsblog.com reported that the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on “how to suppress” Occupy protests.

To Europeans, the enormity of this breach may not be obvious at first. Our system of government prohibits the creation of a federalised police force, and forbids federal or militarised involvement in municipal peacekeeping.

I noticed that rightwing pundits and politicians on the TV shows on which I was appearing were all on-message against OWS.Journalist Chris Hayes reported on a leaked memo that revealed lobbyists vying for an $850,000 contract to smear Occupy. Message coordination of this kind is impossible without a full-court press at the top. This was clearly not simply a case of a freaked-out mayors’, city-by-city municipal overreaction against mess in the parks and cranky campers. As the puzzle pieces fit together, they began to show coordination against OWS at the highest national levels.

Why this massive mobilisation against these not-yet-fully-articulated, unarmed, inchoate people? After all, protesters against the war in Iraq, Tea Party rallies and others have all proceeded without this coordinated crackdown. Is it really the camping? As I write, two hundred young people, with sleeping bags, suitcases and even folding chairs, are still camping out all night and day outside of NBC on public sidewalks – under the benevolent eye of an NYPD cop – awaiting Saturday Night Live tickets, so surely the camping is not the issue. I was still deeply puzzled as to why OWS, this hapless, hopeful band, would call out a violent federal response.

That is, until I found out what it was that OWS actually wanted.

The mainstream media was declaring continually “OWS has no message”. Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online “What is it you want?” answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100 answers. These were truly eye-opening.

The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.

No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.

When I saw this list – and especially the last agenda item – the scales fell from my eyes. Of course, these unarmed people would be having the shit kicked out of them.

For the terrible insight to take away from news that the Department of Homeland Security coordinated a violent crackdown is that the DHS does not freelance. The DHS cannot say, on its own initiative, “we are going after these scruffy hippies”. Rather, DHS is answerable up a chain of command: first, to New York Representative Peter King, head of the House homeland security subcommittee, who naturally is influenced by his fellow congressmen and women’s wishes and interests. And the DHS answers directly, above King, to the president (who was conveniently in Australia at the time).

In other words, for the DHS to be on a call with mayors, the logic of its chain of command and accountability implies that congressional overseers, with the blessing of the White House, told the DHS to authorise mayors to order their police forces – pumped up with millions of dollars of hardware and training from the DHS – to make war on peaceful citizens.

But wait: why on earth would Congress advise violent militarised reactions against its own peaceful constituents? The answer is straightforward: in recent years, members of Congress have started entering the system as members of the middle class (or upper middle class) – but they are leaving DC privy to vast personal wealth, as we see from the “scandal” of presidential contender Newt Gingrich’s having been paid $1.8m for a few hours’ “consulting” to special interests. The inflated fees to lawmakers who turn lobbyists are common knowledge, but the notion that congressmen and women are legislating their own companies’ profitsis less widely known – and if the books were to be opened, they would surely reveal corruption on a Wall Street spectrum. Indeed, we do already know that congresspeople are massively profiting from trading on non-public information they have on companies about which they are legislating – a form of insider trading that sent Martha Stewart to jail.

Since Occupy is heavily surveilled and infiltrated, it is likely that the DHS and police informers are aware, before Occupy itself is, what its emerging agenda is going to look like. If legislating away lobbyists’ privileges to earn boundless fees once they are close to the legislative process, reforming the banks so they can’t suck money out of fake derivatives products, and, most critically, opening the books on a system that allowed members of Congress to profit personally – and immensely – from their own legislation, are two beats away from the grasp of an electorally organised Occupy movement … well, you will call out the troops on stopping that advance.

So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for now, only one side is choosing violence. It is a battle in which members of Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organised suppression against the people they are supposed to represent. Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams. Even though they are, as yet, unaware of what the implications of their movement are, those threatened by the stirrings of their dreams of reform are not.

Sadly, Americans this week have come one step closer to being true brothers and sisters of the protesters in Tahrir Square. Like them, our own national leaders, who likely see their own personal wealth under threat from transparency and reform, are now making war upon us.

Burlington Police Chief Michael Schirling in the shut down Occupy Burlington encampment. Photo: Langelle/GJEP

Additional GJEP Note:  The Occupy Burlington (VT-US) encampment was shut down last month by the Burlington Police Department. The excuse they used was the November 10th suicide at the camp of a homeless young man named Josh Pfenning who once served in the military.

Later that same day, the police and mayor invited Occupy Burlington participants into City Hall to discuss next steps. While the protesters were in the meeting, police cordoned off the entire camp as a crime scene and would not let participants return to their tents.

A statement from Burlington city officials and Police Chief Michael Schirling to Occupy Burlington explains, “In the wake of the tragic death of Josh Pfenning, Burlington Police have an active criminal investigation that involves serious and complicated work to ensure that all aspects of this investigation are conducted thoroughly and professionally. Among the issues this raises is the need to maintain control of the “crime” scene while investigation continues. Until we are fully confident that all possible investigative avenues have been expended we must maintain control of that area of the park and it remains closed until further notice.”

This photograph shows Burlington Police Chief Michael Schirling’s idea of “serious and complicated work” at the crime scene on Saturday, November 12th, two days after the suicide. His “thorough and professional” effort involved dismantling parts of the camp prior to the official investigation. A Burlington police officer explained that the detective charged with investigating the crime scene had Saturday day off and would not complete his investigation and release the “crime scene” until Sunday the 13th.

The Burlington Free-Press reported that: “Police Chief Michael Schirling… said the shooting [Pfenning killed himself with a gunshot to the head] … had convinced him that the public’s safety cannot be assured unless the encampment is disbanded.”

Did the shooting convince him or did Homeland Security? Photo: Langelle/GJEP

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Earth Minute: Daily Live Interviews from the UN Climate Talks in Durban, South Africa

Global Justice Ecology Project partners with Margaret Prescod’s Sojourner Truth show on KPFK–Pacifica Los Angeles radio show for a weekly Earth Minute on Tuesdays and a weekly 12 minute Environment Segment every Thursday.

This week’s Earth Minute discusses the connection between the financial crisis and the climate crisis, and the emergence of a call to occupy the UN Climate Conference in Durban, South Africa.  GJEP will be teaming with KPFK Los Angeles’ Sojourner Truth show to bring daily live 15 minute interviews from the UN Climate Conference from November 28 through December 9.

To listen to this week’s Earth Minute, click on the link below and scroll to minute 4:04:

Earth Minute 11/22/11

Text from this week’s Earth Minute:

As the power of the Occupy Movement continues to grow around the world, the UN climate convention is scheduled to begin next Monday in Durban, South Africa. The UN Climate Convention–the global body charged with addressing climate change–is also controlled by the 1%.

Indeed, the 1% who crashed the economy are the same ones who’ve trashed the atmosphere–clogging it with pollution that threatens all life on earth. So an Occupy movement is building there too.

We the 99% stand at a crossroads.  The Earth is fast approaching a tipping point.  Forests are falling faster than ever, oceans are poisoned, species are lost every day.  The web of life is literally falling apart.  But the power to transform this unjust and suicidal system lies with all of us.

Global Justice Ecology Project is once again partnering with The Sojourner Truth show to highlight community voices who have solutions at the UN climate convention in Durban, with daily live interviews for two weeks starting next Monday.

Please join us.

For the Earth Minute and the Sojourner Truth show this is Anne Petermann from Global Justice Ecology Project.

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Occupy: Behind the Movements for Change in Burlington and Around the World

Immediate Release                      November 17, 2011

 Because The System of Debt is the System of Death

Behind the Movements for Change in Burlington and Across the World

“Government officials … use their own refusal to provide basic public services to justify raids against Occupations.”

–Author Ted Rail

Global Justice Ecology Project Press Conference on the National Occupy Day of Action. Photo: Langelle/GJEP

Burlington, VT–Two days after a late-night raid of the Occupy Wall Street encampment and one week after the Occupy Burlington camp was shut down, Global Justice Ecology Project held a press conference with members of Occupy Burlington at the site of the shut down Occupy Burlington encampment, to speak about protests being held in cities all over the world to stand up against the unprecedented consolidation of wealth by the 1% and its resulting devastation of people and the earth.

“Occupy Burlington was established to provide food and shelter and a space for people to self-organize, explained Cecile Reuge, a Senior at the University of Vermont and a member of Occupy Burlington.  “We never claimed City Hall Park as our own.  It sits on the traditional land of the Abenaki people, who never ceded it.  And more recently it has been the home for homeless people who were otherwise made to feel unwelcome in public and private spaces downtown. Occupy Burlington transcended class backgrounds, for the first time I could see on such a grand scale.”

“This is the heart of the Occupy movement: building a society that manages itself, democratically, towards real solutions instead of platitudes, campaign promises, and empty “outcomes” determined by the 1%,” added Ian Williams, a Burlington-based community organizer. “We’re trying, quite simply, to deal with real problems right here and right now. ”

Puja Gupta, a member of the Vermont Workers’ Center stated, “We, the 99%, are all striving for a livable and peaceful life. Rather than relying on politicians, we are relying on ourselves for real change; we are organizing; we have the answers.”

“We stand at a crossroads,” said Anne Petermann, Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project.  “The Earth is fast approaching a tipping point.  Forests are falling faster than ever, the oceans are being poisoned, species are going extinct at a rate not seen since the dinosaurs.  The web of life is literally falling apart.  But the power to transform this unjust and suicidal system lies with all of us.  It lies in the Arab Spring; and it lies with the Occupy movements.  You cannot arrest an idea, and this is an idea whose time has come.”

[Complete statements by the above speakers follow this release.]

Occupy Burlington events are planned throughout the evening, beginning with a march at the Burlington Post Office at 5:30pm.  There will also be a teach-in about labor issues at Edmunds Middle School at 6pm and a workshop at the Vermont Workers’ Center at 7:30.

Global Justice Ecology Project will be blogging daily and issuing press releases from the UN Climate Conference in Durban, South Africa.  They will be covering the official negotiations and the massive climate justice protests planned outside of the UN Climate Conference.

Contact: Orin Langelle, Global Justice Ecology Project, 802-578-6980


Complete statements by the above press conference speakers:

Statement by Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project

Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project. Photo: Langelle/GJEP

Today, November 17th, the two-month anniversary of the launch of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, people around the world are rising up to say no more to the 1%.  Huge protests are planned or are underway in New York, Seattle, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston, Portland, Miami, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Washington, and there is a national call to occupy college campuses.

This is a lesson the 1% never seem to remember.  The more people are put down, the more they are repressed, the more they will stand up to power.

And it is not only in the United States that people are rebelling against injustice.  There are also protests in Greece, London and other cities across the world.

The 1% are the ones who’ve kicked millions of families out of their homes, they’re the ones who’ve left millions of Americans with no health care, they’re the ones who’ve cut social services to the point where children are going hungry and college students are graduating tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

But it is not just economic injustice; it is ecological injustice as well.  In a few days, Orin Langelle and I will travel to Durban, South Africa for the UN Climate Conference.  There is an Occupy movement building there too because the UN Climate Convention is another institution co-opted by the 1%.

This is because the 1% and their predecessors are also the people who’ve trashed the atmosphere–who’ve clogged it with pollution and greenhouse gas emissions so that here in Vermont we now get hit by hurricanes.

But in other parts of the world the impacts are much worse.  In Africa, there are large regions that have not seen rain in years.  The people there have lost their livelihoods.  All of their animals have died and many people are starving.  But the 1% have decided that food crops–like corn–grown here in the US, are better suited to make ethanol to feed cars than to feed starving people.

And now the 1% are in search of new riches–this time in the form of land.  They are using climate action as the excuse to grab the forested lands of Indigenous and forest peoples all around the world–but especially in Africa and Latin America.  Entire communities are being displaced, their cultures destroyed so that the carbon stored by their forests can be used to “offset” greenhouse gas emissions from industries run by the 1%.  This way they can claim to be reducing carbon emissions while their industries go right on polluting and poisoning poor neighborhoods nearby.  Meanwhile climate chaos is causing increasingly violent weather worldwide–and there are now more climate refugees than refugees from armed conflict.

We, the 99%, stand at a crossroads.  The Earth is fast approaching a tipping point.  Forests are falling faster than ever, the oceans are being poisoned, species are going extinct at a rate not seen since the dinosaurs.  The web of life is literally falling apart.  But the power to transform this unjust and suicidal system lies with all of us.  It lies in the Arab Spring; and it lies with the Occupy movements.

The authorities will try to discredit us, they will try to crush our movement.  They will use every excuse to try to shut us down.  But you cannot arrest an idea.  And this is an idea whose time has come.

Statement by Cecile Rouge, University of Vermont Senior & Occupy Burlington Participant

Cecile Reuge, member, Occupy Burlington. Photo: Langelle/GJEP

My involvement with Occupy Burlington began when I attended the first rally outside of Citizen’s Bank that happened to coincide with a free meal distribution by Food Not Bombs, which I was, at the time, coordinating with my friend Sydney. The Occupy Burlington movement was then made up of folks with different employment statuses, academic backgrounds, political stances, etc. but very few that I recognized from the many summer months I spent serving free food in the park. Although Food Not Bombs attracted a wide array of community members, never had I met so many people who were living without a home or had spent a period of time being homeless in the past. This contingent seemed to be missing from the 99% movement that I stood otherwise so firmly behind.

Just a couple weeks after the general assembly process was introduced into the group, the idea of a downtown occupation seemed imminent. On October 29th, 2011, this widespread sentiment culminated in the construction of a tent city on the south side of the park. Immediately, there was an outpouring of community support that took the form of donations of tents, sleeping bags, coats, sweaters, tarps, wood pallets, and many other materials we had requested on bulletin boards at the camp, through working groups and simply by word of mouth. As several general assembly and occupy participants noted, this land did not ever belong to Occupy Burlington group, but to the Abenaki people, who never ceded their territory, and more recently to the homeless who were otherwise made to feel unwelcome in public and private space downtown. The promise of food, shelter and space to talk and organize created an environment that transcended all class backgrounds, for the first time I could see on such a large scale. The 99% movement does not tolerate discrimination or stigmatization.

When Mayor Bob Kiss, less than one week ago, cited tents as a public safety concern, I could not help but question the legitimacy of this argument when I have met several individuals who cannot access temporary shelter or receive the health assistance they need in Burlington. How have these issues endured for so long and remained unaddressed?  In addition, a recent study released by the Department of Mental Health stated that the rate of suicides in the state of Vermont has increased by 13 percent in just the last two years. Why is this not a public safety concern?

I am here today as not only an individual troubled by homelessness and the lack of access to adequate health care, but as a student fighting for an affordable education and fair pay for the educators and maintenance workers at my University; and as a gardener perplexed by the inability of farmers to make a sufficient living in our current society. This is why the occupy movement appeals to me and to so many others. For the first time, I can express my urgent concern about these issues simultaneously with many others who are also expressing their concerns, because rather than being a competition over priorities, we acknowledge that all of these issues are interconnected.

The system is broken and must be transformed.

Statement by Ian G. Williams, Burlington Community Organizer and Participant of Occupy Burlington

Ian Williams, member, Occupy Burlington. Photo: Langelle/GJEP

I’ve been involved with the Occupy movement since the end of September, when I attended one of Occupy Boston’s first general assemblies while attending a conference of community organizations fighting for neighborhood self-management in cities throughout the US. I saw a natural alliance between the two, and after visiting Liberty Square in New York I was compelled to help develop the general assembly process in Burlington. I’ve recently been working in the nonprofit sector with immigrants and refugees.

The beauty of the Occupy movement is that it shifts public discourse from what’s “possible” to what actually matters. Crucial to this are assemblies, working groups, and the cultivation of democratic practices in everyday life. The occupation of City Hall Park was very much a part of this, creating a public space for ongoing dialogue. Occupying challenges us to push against the top-down repression by the wealthiest and most powerful, the 1%, be it through austerity measures cutting basic public services, while increasing war spending, increasing corporate bailouts as a reward for economic irresponsibility, or the recent surge in police violence against peaceful assemblies.

Here in Vermont, we have some wonderful things: Chittenden County contains the highest number of non-profits per capita in the United States, and is currently designated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement as one of the best regions for placement due to its relatively low unemployment, low crime rate, and general availability of essential services. Burlington has some of the most innovative community justice programs in the country. Vermont receives the most Federal funding for social programs. This paints a picture of a state with a vast array of social services, and many people who are committed to social change. It’s the Vermont many of us love, the progressive, open-minded state that’s paved the way for the nation to move forward with marriage equality and most recently, single-payer healthcare.

Amidst this rosy picture, however, are some grim facts. 81% of Vermonters cannot afford a median priced home. A recent analysis shows Burlington’s middle class shrinking faster than nearly anywhere else in the country. Over the last 15 years New England saw the fastest growth in income inequality of any region in America and the wealth gap grew faster in Vermont than in every other state but one. The wealthiest 1% of Vermonters saw their share of our income almost triple between 1970 and 2005. Put simply, the wealthy got more while most Vermonters saw their real incomes stay the same or go down.  In 2011 Vermont median household median income dropped 6.1%, more than any other state, a trend repeated in 2007 and 2008.

Meanwhile, as the gap between the rich and the poor widens, demand for services increases. State agencies faced a massive overhaul under former Governor Jim Douglas. Right now, nonprofits and social services face drastic funding cuts and must make difficult decisions about their futures. More Vermonters are in need of essential services while there is less funding available to provide them. Funding for essential services has further decreased under Governor Peter Shumlin, who in 2010 reported an estimated net worth of $10 million. Many of my friends working in nonprofits, frustrated with their situations, say they they feel inspired by Occupy Burlington to move their own issues from offices to the streets.

In the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, the state of Vermont is in an even worse crisis. Many state offices are closed or severely impaired, and the Vermont State Hospital was permanently shuttered. Relief programs are already underfunded, so disaster “recovery” has largely focused on private fundraising efforts. Public policy mouthpieces of the 1%, such as Bruce Lisbon, a retired JP Morgan Chase executive, and recent founder of the “Campaign for Vermont”, are using this crisis to argue for further cuts in public spending and a freeze on initiatives such as universal healthcare and alternative energy development,. This serves to remind us, the 99%, that politicians have failed us.  While the 1% who control politics in Vermont and DC battle over how best to further disempower everyday people and marginalize and dismantle the Occupy encampments, we are left with a question: do we wait for things to crumble around us, or do we try and solve our problems on our own terms, collectively, before it’s too late?

This is the heart of the Occupy movement: building a society that manages itself, democratically, towards real solutions instead of platitudes, campaign promises, and empty “outcomes” determined by what the 1% is willing to fund. Instead of offloading and outsourcing social problems, we’re trying, quite simply, to deal with them right here and right now. It’s messy, it’s imperfect, but it’s a process that’s run by those most affected by the decisions, and one that takes seriously their concerns and objections. The 1% will say that we’re too messy–that we can’t possibly handle these complex problems. This misses the point: we don’t need experts to solve our problems for us. We need ourselves, in unity.

I invite Vermont’s civil servants, community organizers, and nonprofit workers to join us in directly addressing the rise in poverty, and the growing wealth gap here in Vermont.

Come out to the streets and join us. The time to act is now; there has never been a more urgent time in the struggle for justice.

Statement by Puja Gupta, member of the Vermont Workers’ Center and Participant of Occupy Burlington

Puja Gupta, member, Occupy Burlngton. Photo: Langelle/GJEP

Hi, my name is Puja Gupta and I am member of the Vermont Workers’ Center.  I am a participant in the Occupy Burlington movement.  The abuses of power that the Occupy Movement has brought to the forefront of the national discussion are the same oppressive forces that push down the labor movement.  In the US, we are seeing unprecedented wealth taken away from the working class and delivered to the top 1% over the past forty years.  Labor laws are stripping working people of the right to organize in Wisconsin, a reflection on the current political landscape for labor, nationally.  While the top 1% is reaping political and economic benefits over our country, the 99%, the workers, everyone else are subject to their whims.  The Wall Street created crisis is only making it harder for working class Vermonters, who are struggling, often working two jobs to make ends meet.  We are facing an economic crisis at a scale never before seen in Vermont. Surely this merits at least as much discussion as tent stakes from the media and politicians.

The Occupy Movement and labor are organizing locally in Vermont and at the national level to demand systemic changes to our broken system.  The Occupy movement values a diversity of tactics, including organizing. Organizing is a strategy that works.  The Vermont Workers’ Center Healthcare is a Human Right campaign is an example of organizing success.  The campaign is a grassroots effort amongst Vermonters that resulted in universal single payer healthcare legislation being passed at the state level.  We hold the principles of universality, transparency, participation, equity, and accountability at high priority as we continue to pressure our legislators through the implementation process.  The resurgence of energy that the Occupy Movements have initiated around economic and political injustices will fuel more efforts like these throughout Vermont and the country. Community and labor organizing are the democratic and empowering answer to the suffocated and ineffective system.  We, at the Vermont Workers’ Center and the Occupy Movement, the 99%, are each working to educate and organize ourselves and the entire state of Vermont.

Today, November 17th, is a day of solidarity and the two-month anniversary of the Occupy Movement.  In cities across the U.S, labor unions, community groups and the Occupy Movement are holding marches, rallies and protests to highlight the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and to demand economic justice. The national call to action comes from Occupy Wall St., the AFL-CIO, Move On, and SEIU, and from several major unions based in NYC. Occupy Burlington and a number of community and labor organizations are hosting a march, teach-in, and speak-out.  We are coming together to Resist austerity, Reclaim the economy and to Recreate our democracy.  The event will start at 5:15 with a march from the Burlington Post Office in solidarity with the Postal Workers, to Edmunds Middle School at 6:00 for a teach-in with workers issues and labor struggles.  Then at 7:30 the Vermont Workers’ Center is hosting it’s Put People First Community Meeting in which Vermonters will learn how to organize for their human rights, including the right to a livable wage, healthy food, affordable housing, public transportation, childcare, education, and healthcare.  As Vermonters, we are coming together and standing up locally for our human rights.

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Mourning for suicide victim at Occupy Burlington

Photo: Langelle/GJEP

Burlington, VT–Occupy Burlington and their supporters, to pay their respect to Joshua Pfenning, a homeless man and a participant of Occupy Burlington, who once served in the military, held a candlelight vigil and memorial tonight.  Pfenning committed suicide yesterday.

At this point the Occupy Burlington encampment is cordoned off by by police tape.  No one is allowed to stay in their tents.

The Burlington Free-Press reported that earlier in the day:  “Police Chief Michael Schirling, speaking at a press briefing at the police department’s North Avenue headquarters, said the shooting Thursday afternoon and the near-riot later that night had convinced him that the public’s safety cannot be assured unless the encampment is disbanded.”

Tina Goldman an Occupy Burlington supporter said later, ” So I guess this means if a homeless person commits suicide at a homeless shelter, officer Shirling would have everyone in the shelter thrown out on the street and have the shelter shut down.  This is utterly ridiculous.”

Occupy Burlington, now all homeless, will discuss their next steps tomorrow.

–Orin Langelle

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