Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Starhawk's RNC post 8: Peace Island and Poor Peoples’ March
We’re asking people to continue to call three people:
Mayor Chris Coleman 651-266-8510
Sheriff Bob Fletcher 651-266-9333
Ramsey County Chief Judge Gearin 651-266-8266
Head of the Ramsey County Jail: Ryan O’Neill 651-266-9350
On the good side, some progress is being made toward getting the bus back. Update on all that later. Thanks for all the calls and support, Starhawk
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Peace Island and Poor Peoples’ March
Tuesday, September 2:
I begin the day at a very different kind of action, the conference called Peace Island, for which my old friend Susu is a major organizer. The conference aims to bring together the peace and environmental communities to look at solutions to our problems. I’m speaking on the panel about transforming our food system. The main speaker, Jim Harkness of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, does a great job of tying the current food crisis to two overarching systems—the industrial agriculture that destroys soil and local subsistence farming, and global trade policies and institutions that have forced developing countries to sell their food reserves and produce for export, not for home consumption. China, with its history of famine, resisted these pressures, subsidizes its own grain production and maintains deep reserves, and it has not seen huge rises in the price of grain.
I speak about soil as sacred, and as a potential sink for carbon. When we compost, when we manage grasslands holistically and graze them skillfully, when we plant and nurture forests, we can actually sequester carbon and create healthy, resilient systems that can provide the basis for real prosperity. It felt good to step out of the chaos of the streets for a bit, and think about the world that can be, and all the other forms of activism and organizing that can bring it about. I also talked about the Transition Town movement in Britain and similar movements in the U.S. where people are getting together to organize their communities, making energy descent plans, strategizing on how to use the resources we have today to prepare for a zero-carbon future. While these accounts focus on the actions in the streets (because, frankly, it just makes much more exciting reading!) I’m actually spending most of my time these days in efforts to build the world we want and to teach the skills of sustainability, and that’s the focus of my longer-term writing.
In the afternoon, I listened to my old friend Terry Gips from the Alliance for Sustainability speak about the Natural Step Program, and the ways he is working with businesses and cities to plan for sustainability. He was very encouraging about the efforts being made by even huge corporations to shift, and the speed of change which has been rapid in the last year.
I’m glad to hear his talk, because I have come to believe that we need rapid, large-scale change as well as grassroots empowerment. It’s something I learned from the last hurricane to hit the Gulf, when I went to New Orleans to volunteer after Katrina. I went partly to see if our directly democratic organizing style had anything to offer in a crisis. I found that it did—indeed, in the first weeks after the hurricane, all the official systems were dysfunctional, the National Guard and military either absent or oppressive, FEMA disastrously incompetent, the Red Cross bound up in red tape. But the activist group Common Ground Relief, drawing on the skills of many of these people I see in the streets around me, and many of the same medics who staff our clinic here, was up and functioning within days, seeing patients, offering medical care and counseling and doing it all in a warm and welcoming way. Common Ground Relief organized distribution of supplies, volunteers to gut houses and clean out toxic mold, a bioremediation project to help heal soil, and many other programs. I found that our activist organizing style had a lot to offer in emergencies.
But I could also see its lacks. We were a tiny effort, compared to what needed to be done. We could have used a thousand Common Ground Reliefs, or some big agency that could go into every parish, every county, assess the damage, bring in help and medical care and resources. And I found myself thinking, hmmn, we’re supposed to have such an agency—it’s called FEMA. We’re supposed to have such an institution, it’s called government, which we the people are supposed to control. And for a problem on this scale, we need an answer on a large scale. So I do believe we need government—that works, that’s accountable to the people, and that helps us to collectively provide for each others’ needs and mitigate the losses and wounds of life.
Tuesday afternoon: I leave the conference to go meet our cluster, to walk together in the March for Our Lives organized by the Poor People’s Movement. The March had been permitted originally, has had its permit withdrawn, reissued and changed so many times I’d lost track of whether it was going to be legal or illegal. We gather in a small park, and the organizers ask everyone there to commit to honoring their nonviolent principles. Everyone raises their hand and promises to act nonviolently.
Just after that, there’s a disturbance in one corner of the park. We run over, and someone runs toward us and tells us that Jason and Riyanna, two of our cluster, have been arrested. They were scouting, roaming the edges of the crowd, when an undercover cop grabbed Jason and threw him on the ground. Later we get the full story: he was tasered seven times with several different devices. Barbs from one of the tasers were left in his hip until he reached the jail, much later, and today, a day later, he’s still removing pieces of copper. He has a deep gash on his leg which has only now, after twenty-four hours, stopped bleeding. He was beaten up—we have a cell phone recording of it, and his face is bruised, he has a black eye and his mouth is hurt. Video of his arrest is at:
I’m going to just jump to the jail stuff and just say that the march was lively, completely nonviolent, but for us, tense. Undercover cops were everywhere, and I was especially concerned for Lisa who we know is on their lists. Several of us stuck close to her throughout the march. At the end, near dark, we left while many people went into the caged area near the convention that was designated the Free Speech Zone. Shortly after we left, the police fired flash bombs, pepper spray and tear gas into the crowd which included women and children.
He was badly beaten when the cops knocked him off his bicycle. They stepped on his chest, and he was coughing blood all night but received no medical treatment. The guards were calling him ‘Princess’ and making homophobic remarks. We heard from Jason that last night, Elliot was making noises to protest not receiving any food for more than twelve hours. Twelve officers entered his cell. Screams were heard for over five minutes. He was tasered three times, maced, and beaten, then removed and the men were told he was being taken to a restraint chair. We have heard, now, that he is being released and are trying to confirm this. Riyanna is still in jail—when last we heard, she was okay and with the other women. Many others have been arrested and are being badly treated and denied medical care—so please include them all in your prayers and energy.
Good news now—Elliot has been released, and is being taken to the wellness center. We’re off to a march against police brutality—I will write more later, Starhawk
Below are all of the DemiOrator posts containing Starhawk's reports from the 2008 Republican National Convention:
Starhawk's RNC post 1: On the Bad Side of Town
Starhawk's RNC post 2: Raid on the Convergence Center
Starhawk's RNC post 3: New Moon Ritual
Starhawk's RNC post 4: Police Seize Permibus
Starhawk's RNC post 5: A Spiral Dance in the Streets
Starhawk's RNC post 6: Emergency Calls Requested
Starhawk's RNC post 7: Dancing with Delegates
Starhawk's RNC post 8: Peace Island and Poor Peoples’ March
Starhawk's RNC post 9: Updates on Thurs, 4 Sept 2008
General Info about Starhawk's RNC Posts