Love for Tristan, Solidarity for Ni’lin Against the Wall

This past Friday afternoon, my friend and comrade Tristan Anderson was shot in the forehead by Israeli occupation forces at a demonstration against the wall they are building across the West Bank. The International Solidarity Movement reports,

Another resident from Ni’lin was shot in the leg with live ammunition. Four Ni’lin residents have been killed during demonstrations against the confiscation of their land.

Ahmed Mousa (10) was shot in the forehead with live ammunition on 29th July 2008.  The following day, Yousef Amira (17) was shot twice with rubber-coated steel bullets, leaving him brain dead.  He died a week later on 4 August 2008. Arafat Rateb Khawaje (22), was the third Ni’lin resident to be killed by Israeli forces.  He was shot in the back with live ammunition on 28 December 2008.  That same day, Mohammed Khawaje (20), was shot in the head with live ammunition, leaving him brain dead.  He died three days in a Ramallah hospital.

Residents in the village of Ni’lin have been demonstrating against the construction of the Apartheid Wall, deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004. Ni’lin will lose approximately 2500 dunums of agricultural land when the construction of the Wall is completed. Ni’lin was 57,000 dunums in 1948, reduced to 33,000 dunums in 1967, currently is 10,000 dunums and will be 7,500 dunums after the construction of the Wall.

The campaign against the construction of an apartheid wall across the West Bank is a crucial part of changing the dynamics of occupation in Palestine. The wall is the greatest manifestation of the policies of confiscating land, turning the occupation into annexation, and maintaining a logic of social separation between Jews and non-Jews in the occupied West Bank. It is also the key place where international law, solidarity from around the world, Palestinian civil society cooperation, and nonviolent direct action are being experimented with as tools for liberation. It does not surprise me, but does make me proud that Tristan placed himself in this crucial location.

Gabrielle Silverman, an activist, eyewitness and Tristan’s girlfriend, described the scene:

We were at a demonstration against the wall, against the Israeli apartheid wall in the West Bank village of Ni’lin, which is about twenty-six kilometers west of Ramallah. I was very close to him when he was shot. I was only a few feet away. The demonstration had been going for several hours. It was wrapping up; it was almost over. Most people had already gone home.

We were standing on some grass nearby a village mosque, and Tristan was taking pictures. He likes to take pictures and post them on Indymedia, sometimes under assumed names. And he was taking pictures, and he was shot in the head with the extended range tear gas canister. He fell to—nothing was happening immediately around us, by the way, I should mention. No one was throwing rocks around us. Nothing was happening. We were standing there.

He fell to the ground, and immediately medics from the Palestinian Red Crescent responded, came running over. And more people came running over. It was very clear that he was—that there was a seriously injured person on the ground. The medics are impossible to mistake. They wear neon uniforms. They have bright yellow stretchers. The medics were working on him, were getting him onto the stretcher, and as we’re doing so, the army continues to tear gas all around us. As we’re carrying him off on the stretcher, there’s tear gas falling, tear gas canister after tear gas canister falling at our feet.

Finally, we get him to the ambulance. The ambulance is very good. The Palestinian medics were excellent. And we get into the ambulance. We drive in the ambulance to the checkpoint at the beginning of town, and we are stopped there at the checkpoint for about fifteen minutes. For about fifteen minutes, the army, the Israeli army, refuses to let us through, even though we have a critically injured person in the ambulance. And the reason why is because under no circumstances are Palestinian ambulances ever allowed to enter Israel from the West Bank. And so, with Tristan being critically injured and getting worse and worse and worse and worse and falling deeper into this abyss, the soldiers are holding us up and waiting—we had to wait there for an Israeli ambulance to come from who knows where and then transfer him into that ambulance. All of this is taking precious time.

Finally, we drive to the hospital in Tel Aviv. I should add also, once the Israeli ambulance did finally show up, there was a soldier who stood in the doorway smirking and wouldn’t move and wouldn’t let the ambulance through until finally another international activist grabbed this soldier and we slammed the door shut, and then the ambulance was first able to start moving towards the hospital. When he got to the hospital, they started doing surgeries on him. (Democracy Now!, March 16)

Solidarity demonstrations have been held in London and San Francisco. A demonstration will be held in New York on Friday. It will be at the Israeli consulate, 800 2nd Ave, 4:00pm – 6:00pm. More than 4,000 people have joined “Solidarity with Tristan Anderson” on Facebook.

Tristan has been transferred to intensive care and his condition remains serious.

Tristan is unconscious, anesthetized and artificially respirated, has
sustained life-threatening injuries to his brain (as well as to his
right eye), and is expected to undergo several operations in the
coming days.

Change will come from us, when and where it comes…

It’s 19° here in DC this morning, where I will be joining some six or seven digit number of people outside for the inauguration. Washington is an old hometown to me, but it does have a different feel when it’s claimed as a front yard by people from across the country. Walking around last night, I saw more people on the street than I ever have, black folks selling “I was there” sweatshirts, and other black folks dressed to the nines out partying, a big time reception or three in different night spots, people dressed to be dropped off in limos (and clearly used to that too) walking through the cold because of the security perimeter, and a cleared out and brightly lit Pennsylvania Ave. surrounded by security fencing but nonetheless open to the public.

And in the past month, I’ve seen a disastrous war, bought, paid for, armed, and endorsed by my country but carried out in Gaza. I’ve called my black, Democratic Congressman from Brooklyn, Ed Towns, only to hear the exact Israeli line from his legislative aide, calling the deadliest assault in Palestine in three decades an act of “self defense.” Now over 1300 people are dead, and 50,000 are homeless.

I’ve also seen on video a black man shot in the back in Oakland, while waiting to be cuffed by BART police. And Oakland was my city, and New Year’s is my holiday in the Bay, and I had helped break up a fight earlier in the week, so I can sure imagine being swept up when the cops arrived. Oscar Grant could have been me.

These causes for despair can be healed, but it will be us, our actions that heal them by standing up and challenging injustice. I’m proud of so many people for standing up to these two in recent weeks (on Gaza | on Oscar Grant). They are what I have to celebrate today.

A couple months ago, I signed on to a call for a Bloc to be present at today’s inauguration called “Celebrate People’s History, Build Popular Power.” Given today’s mega-concert like feel, it might not be the action with the greatest impact. But I’m grateful for a way to set myself a bit apart today, to say the words “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” in a way that can never be the same as listening to the same words. To make the future we want, we all need to produce rather than consume our politics. See you in the streets, celebrating and fighting.

Politicians, Wobblies pile on to support Chicago workers; BoA caves

The Republic Windows and Doors factory occupation turned out to be the right action at the right time. It attracted solidarity from Jobs with Justice, congresspeople, President Elect Obama, and from the New York City IWW (Industrial Workers of the World, a longstanding union built on anarchist principles). The NYC solidarity action visited 3 Bank of America offices:

The net result…

The 240 workers who had occupied the factory since its abrupt closing Dec. 5 voted unanimously Wednesday night to accept a deal to pay them severance, vacation time, and temporary health care benefits. The $1.75 million agreement was negotiated over three days with the workers’ union, Republic owners and lender Bank of America.

Union negotiators were unable to obtain a commitment from the parties to reopen the Goose Island plant, said United Electrical Workers organizer Mark Meinster. So the union has decided to forge ahead to find someone new to run the plant, he said, using some of the money donated from around the world during the sit-in. (Chicago Tribune)

The settlement, happily coming on my birthday, includes the following:

The settlement totals $1.75million. It will provide the workers with:

– Eight weeks of pay [workers] are owed under the federal WARN Act;
– Two months of continued health coverage, and;
– Pay for all accrued and unused vacation.

JPMorgan Chase will provide $400,000 of the settlement, with the balance coming from Bank of America. Although the money will be provided as a loan to Republic Windows and Doors, it will go directly into a third-party fund whose sole purpose is to pay the workers what is owed them. In addition, the UE has started the “Window of Opportunity Fund” dedicated to re-opening the plant. (Jobs with Justice)

Of course, larger success will come (or not come) as these tactics are taken up across the country, as they change agenda and form of contest, and if they make workers (and, yes, that’s us) think of themselves as owning the economy instead of just working for it.

For now the threat alone may have an impact as well, as U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) put it, “This Republic Windows saga, I’m sure, is reverberating throughout boardrooms in America.”

Bitch, Ph.D. notes insightfully:

The last time American workers resisted mass layoffs this way, we ended up with a middle class.
And that’s change you can believe in.

Laidoff Green Economy Workers Occupy Factory in Chicago

[Yes, more of an overview update is coming soon; there’s been big news in the past two months. The bailout has morphed into something bigger, with both interesting and scandalous implications (some times at the same time); we have a new president; anti-authoritarians have some interesting things to think through around grassroots political campaigning, public works projects and an economic crisis, etc. Plus, Thai mass direct action just brought down a government. But everything starts somewhere, so let’s start with a new kind of protest..]

In Chicago, the economic crisis hit the road in the form of worker suddenly cut off from their jobs at Republic Windows and Doors (company website here). Republic’s (apparently one and only) factory closed Friday, three days after its 260 workers were notified. Standard notice is sixty days. Severance and unused vacation for the workers have not been paid. In response:

Members of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers, which represents 260 workers at the company’s Goose Island plant, have taken shifts at a sit-in at the plant, 1333 N. Hickory Ave., since Friday. (Chicago Tribune)

Scores of workers laid off from a factory here that makes windows and doors have refused to leave, deciding to stage a “peaceful occupation” of the plant around the clock this weekend as they demand pay they say is owed them.

[…]

The workers, many of whom were sitting on fold-up chairs on the factory floor Saturday afternoon, said they would not leave.

“They’re staying because the fact is that these workers feel they have nothing to lose at this point,” said Leah Fried, an organizer for the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Local 1110, who said groups of 30 were occupying the plant in shifts. “Telling them they have three days before they are out on the street, penniless, is outrageous.” (NYT)

Clearly, this is the face of the overall downturn: we saw 533,000 lost jobs in November, bringing the total ot 1.9 million in the current recession. It’s also the front end of the bailout: Bank of America, backed up by our bailout, is Republic Windows and Doors’ creditor, and is accused by workers of not releasing the funds for the company to meet its obligations. Bank of America, by the way now includes ABN AMRO North America, FleetBoston, LaSalle Bank, NationsBank, predatory lender Countrywide Financial, Merrill Lynch, credit card giant MBNA. As of July, after taking on Countrywide, the company controlled between 20 to 25 percent of the home loan market. As Jobs with Justice reminds us, “Bank of America has received $25 billion in bailout funds, ostensibly in order to extend credit to companies that need it.”

You can back up their protest with letters to Bank of America here.

Bailout Protest on Wall Street

Responding to an open call circulating in the city, some 300 protesters against the bailout plan gathered in New York’s financial district and marched to the New York Stock Exchange at Wall St. and Broad yesterday afternoon. The crowd was loud, diverse and fed up. Video coverage of the rally is part of today’s Democracy Now! The Indypendent has a live blog archive of the protest. Click on the picture below for more Indymedia photos.

Facing the New York Stock Exchange, protesters filled the intersection and the steps of Federal Hall
Facing the New York Stock Exchange, protesters filled the intersection and the steps of Federal Hall

Apparently, we weren’t the only people pissed off, either. TrueMajority.com is hosting a bulletin board for coordinating protests, with over 250 planned or carried out already, as covered her by CNN.

Being on the streets, there was a happy thrill to be back in force, in a protest taking over Wall Street for my first time since the J18 protest against the G8,* when a Reclaim the Streets protest flooded that intersection for nearly an hour. Of course, this time, our connection to most Americans was much more organic, as everyone from New York anarchists to Montana’s governor are raising big questions about this handover of government loans for junk securities.

What was strange, though, was to look so many Wall Street traders in the eyes. While many waded into the crowd to snap photos with their IPhones, others were visibly unnerved at the display of public opposition. And is the unfortunate nature of public protests we weren’t being the most articulate in our chants (see Tom Tomorrow from 1992 below), even if we were some times hillarious saying things like: “You break it, you bought it” and “You fucked up. Suck it up.” Above all, we needed to be loud and unequivocal in just the right physical space. Thankfully the media was the outlet for my desire to be articulate, and apparently for others desire if you listen to Democracy Now!

How we have to protest when the media and the two parties speak in unison
How we have to protest when the media and the two parties speak in unison

*Some of you may remember I worked on another more recent protest there, but I spent the morning working phones off-site.

$700B! WTF? New York to talk back to Wall Street THURSDAY

A do-it-yourself protest is gathering to counter the rush “do something” by bailing out Wall Street. More thoughts from me soon on how “we” got into this mess, and what options there are, but here’s one place to pull the emergency brake on the train to spending $700 billion of our money to buy bad debt. Seems to me all the times we’ve asked for our money for something useful, we’re told there isn’t any…

When: 4pm Thursday, September 25!
Where: Southern end of Bowling Green Park, in the plaza area
What to bring: Banners, noisemakers, signs, leaflets, etc.
Why: To say we won’t pay for the Wall Street bailout
Everyone,

This week the White House is going to try to push through the biggest robbery in world history with nary a stitch of debate to bail out the Wall Street bastards who created this economic apocalypse in the first place.

This is the financial equivalent of September 11. They think, just like with the Patriot Act, they can use the shock to force through the “therapy,” and we’ll just roll over!

Think about it: They said providing healthcare for 9 million children, perhaps costing $6 billion a year, was too expensive, but there’s evidently no sum of money large enough that will sate the Wall Street pigs. If this passes, forget about any money for environmental protection, to counter global warming, for education, for national healthcare, to rebuild our decaying infrastructure, for alternative energy.

This is a historic moment. We need to act now while we can influence the debate. Let’s demonstrate this Thursday at 4pm in Wall Street (see below). We know the congressional Democrats will peep meekly before caving in like they have on everything else, from FISA to the Iraq War.

With Bear Stearns, Fannie and Freddie, AIG, the money markets and now this omnibus bailout, well in excess of $1 trillion will be distributed from the poor, workers and middle class to the scum floating on top.

This whole mess gives lie to the free market. The Feds are propping up stock prices, directing buyouts, subsidizing crooks and swindlers who already made a killing off the mortgage bubble.

Worst of all, even before any details have been hashed out, The New York Times admits that “Wall Street began looking for ways to profit from it,” and its chief financial correspondent writes that the Bush administration wants “Congress to give them a blank check to do whatever they want, whatever the cost, with no one able to watch them closely.”

It’s socialism for the rich and dog-eat-dog capitalism for the rest of us. Let’s take it to the heart of the financial district! Gather at 4pm, this Thursday, Sept. 25 in the plaza at the southern end of Bowling Green Park, which is the small triangular park that has the Wall Street bull at the northern tip.

By having it later in the day we can show these thieves, as they leave work, we’re not their suckers. Plus, anyone who can’t get off work can still join us downtown as soon as they are able.

There is no agenda, no leaders, no organizing group, nothing to endorse other than we’re not going to pay! Let the bondholders pay, let the banks pay, let those who brought the “toxic” mortgage-backed securities pay!

On this list are many key organizers and activists. We have a huge amount of connections – we all know many other organizations, activists and community groups. We know P.R. folk who can quickly write up and distribute press releases, those who can contact legal observers, media
activists who can spread the word, the videographers who can film the event, etc.

Do whatever you can – make and distribute your own flyers, contact all your groups and friends. This crime is without precedence and we can’t be silent! What’s the point of waiting for someone else to organize a protest two months from now, long after the crime has been perpetrated?

We have everything we need to create a large, peaceful, loud demonstration. Millions of others must feel the same way; they just don’t know what to do. Let’s take the lead and make this the start!

When: 4pm Thursday, September 25!
Where: Southern end of Bowling Green Park, in the plaza area
What to bring: Banners, noisemakers, signs, leaflets, etc.
Why: To say we won’t pay for the Wall Street bailout
Who: Everyone!

Antiwar GI’s go on Denver’s streets today

Iraq Veterans Against the War, an organization of more than 1,200 soldiers who survived tours in Iraq, is joining this week’s protests outside the Democratic National Convention. IVAW is demanding that Barack Obama sign on to their three-point vision of a responsible withdrawal:

1. The immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces from Iraq. 2. Full and adequate health care and benefits to all returning service members and veterans. 3. Reparations made to the Iraqi people for the destruction caused by the U.S. war and occupation.

One aspect of their presence is Operation First Casualty, a public re-enactment of daily life in US-occupied Iraq on the streets. You can see in this video what OFC looked like here on the streets of New York City. 

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The video is a creation of the Meerkat Media collective. Meerkat encourages collaborative video production among activists/artists, and hosts a monthly community mixer to help nurture that collaboration and show off the results.

Ongoing protests against war in San Francisco, Washington

New York: At least seven people blockading the entrance to L-3, a military and intelligence contractor which had interrogators at Abu Ghraib, were arrested this morning, in a protest that had the support of a couple dozen early morning antiwar protesters.Larger actions are happening in the national capital and the capital of the Left Coast…Washington: Civil disobedience at the IRS, multiple locations to follow.San Francisco: A network of mobile protests, office blockades, and a die-in closing Market St. at the moment is going on. News is available by radio at 102.5 FM in SF, and online at radio.indybay.org and the SF Bay Independent Media Center. Read the plan from Direct Action to Stop the War.Was it worth it?