Dallas and symptoms of injustice

The details of what happened in Dallas are sketchy right now. It seems that people have jumped to conclusions and then retracted them just as fast. That there is ever-more brutality between police and civilians should not be surprising in America. Continuing injustice will always cause an escalation in violence. The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians comes because there has been no solution at the root. No healing. Everything is in retaliation to actions of the present, and the cycle repeats.

Last November white men opened fire on a Black Lives Matter protest in Minnesota. The vast majority of casualties in the past few years have been people of color (in initial killings) and in the subsequent protests. There will be a fight going forward, and I think the two major arguments- “not all protestors” and “BLM wants to kill police” that will show up are both flawed. National injustice creates a social movement, and these marches and events are symptoms of injustice. Protestors, both in San Diego and everywhere, chant “no justice, no peace.” That can be interpreted (and often is), but it’s more of a statement about the present. As long as injustice exists- and is rarely punished- there will be a space for further violence.

So it’s not that I reject or endorse violence against police officers. I personally use nonviolence in my activism. But we should not be shocked that something like the Dallas shooting happens, just as we should not be shocked at the Minnesota shooting. The system is rotten, and the aggregate will be rotten as well.

I wish safety going forward, as future protests will grow even tenser. Take care.




Black Lives Matter: San Diego in solidarity

Protestors stage a die-in in Balboa Park, San Diego. December 13, 2014. Photo by Andrew Mackay
Protestors stage a die-in in Balboa Park, San Diego.
December 13, 2014.
Photo by Andrew Mackay

Saturday afternoon brought a couple hundred activists together in San Diego, in solidarity with the much larger Millions March NYC, which had in 50-60,000 protestors in Manhattan. What has been happening is a crescendoing grassroots movement against police violence and racial injustice. The killing of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and many others have stuck together and strengthened a social movement. It is encouraging to see people connecting these incidents into a broader realization: that the justice system in this country isn’t giving justice to communities of color.

The march was long, probably too long for those that aren’t cut out for extended walking. Turnout was good, larger than a similar event last week in a different part of downtown. I came in solidarity and part of Socialist Alternative– we ended up having eight members involved, which is a great showing given the newness and size of the San Diego operation. We provided water and distributed information about our public meeting in Ocean Beach on the 19th. It was exciting to see Stephane, a member who is also an immigrant from Belize and a Marine vet, asked to speak at the rally.

Stephane speaks to the rally in Balboa Park. December 13, 2014. Taken by Andrew Mackay
Stephane speaks to the rally in Balboa Park.
December 13, 2014.
Taken by Andrew Mackay

What was less exciting was a woman interrupting his speech repeatedly, which caused him to lose his place and ultimately not give the end of his planned remarks. That a black man speaking to a rally that says Black Lives Matter would get heckled, it was unbelievably rude and insulting. It was heartening to see many people, including other speakers, come to him later in the march and talk, and to sympathize. Staying united is vital, and it was good to see cross-group support.

Several die-ins occurred, including in front of a highway ramp (the Patrol were out in legion to make sure the march did not attempt to block the freeway) and on the trolley tracks in downtown. Community support was strong- most were at least curious if not interested or supportive. It shows the value of street protest- sometimes issues have to be brought in person to the population at large.

The most powerful image for me was this picture below. I missed it initially, and only saw it later when going over these pictures. In this mass die-in at an intersection that led to I-5, two men, one white and one black, hold hands high in unity. That is solidarity- standing together, and seeing the power that each of us can give to the movement- if we rise above ego and self-interest. This is a fight for black Americans to assert their rights and strength. Let them lead the way.

A die-in before an on-ramp to I-5. December 13, 2014. Photo by Andrew Mackay
A die-in before an on-ramp to I-5.
December 13, 2014.
Photo by Andrew Mackay

Berkeley protests: violence against people vs. violence against property

South Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, CA filled with smoke after police clashes with protestors.
South Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, CA filled with smoke after police clashes with protestors.

In light of the huge police buildup and subsequent crackdown in Berkeley tonight, it is clear from the media footage that one mantra is clear:

Corporate media always values footage of protestors attacking property above footage of police attacking protestors. Crimes against things are put above crimes against people.

Great injustice requires great sacrifice to defeat

The state of the anti-solitary hunger strike
The state of the anti-solitary hunger strike

During the height of visible Occupy activism in the fall and winter of 2011-12, several left-wing media outlets warned against co-option by Democratic front groups like MoveOn.org, who wanted to take raw anger and direct it away from Democrats and towards Republicans. In my opinion, these warnings were correct- I witnessed meetings and attempts from small groups of activists to work with Democrats without the consent of the larger assembly. The party is sometimes called “the graveyard of social movements.”¬†Powerful and passionate groups looking for fundamental change throw in their lot with a mainstream party, and see their demands systematically ignored.

MoveOn is well known for what you might term “armchair activism.” Most of their emails deal with online petitions that take a few seconds to sign, or real world actions in which slogans and signs are provided. Essentially, there is no cost for this type of activism- except that people may feel like they’ve accomplished something when they probably haven’t.

What has been going on since July 8th in the California prison system is the opposite. Hunger strikes are difficult and if held for long enough seriously dangerous. One inmate death has been attributed to the strike, and others may soon follow. As the status update says, almost fifty prisoners have refused food for well over a month. A legal fight over whether authorities can engage in the disgusting practice of force-feeding seems to be going against the prisons- even if they have valid do-not-resuscitate orders. Much like euthanasia, the government has forced people to die in a certain approved manner.

But great injustice requires great sacrifice. Signing a Change.org petition will not end the cruel and arbitrary practice of long-term solitary confinement. Inmates stand up for their dignity, and people outside have to stand up for them. Many people who marched and fought for civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s felt that it was worth bleeding for. Dying for, even.

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, there will be a rally and march in solidarity with the hunger strikers on Saturday the 25th of August at 5:00, right next to the 12th street BART station in downtown Oakland. Please come and bring your passion and signs, if you feel this is truly important.