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Jan 10, 16

All the News You Didn’t Even Know Was Going Down

Originally posted to It’s Going Down

While racist militia members grabbed headlines for taking over a wildlife refuge building, people in New York took action and faced arrests after blocking streets against ICE (immigration police) who earlier this week rounded up over 100 people in coordinated raids. Andre Damon wrote:

The White House began the New Year with a series of nationwide raids targeting immigrants at their homes. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said 121 children and adults were taken into custody over the weekend in Georgia, North Carolina and Texas.

Children as young as four years old were separated from their families and locked up prior to deportation. “They took away children so young they would’ve needed car seats in their vehicles for them,” said Adelina Nicholls, executive director of Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR).

The targets of the most recent raids were families seeking refugee status after fleeing their homes in Central America, where many said they had received death threats stemming from the rampant gang violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Most of those swept up in the raids had turned themselves over to border patrol agents upon entering the US, submitted paperwork requesting refugee status, and complied with court instructions, but were denied asylum.

The operations were reminiscent of the workplace raids carried out under the Bush administration in the mid-2000s. But Obama, the candidate of “hope” and “change” added his own touch by targeting children at their family homes.

In New York, people were arrested after they blocked traffic. Protests also took place in New Jersey, Washington DC, and San Francisco. In South Carolina, Marco Rubio, a Republican running for US President, also had his speech disrupted by immigration protestersAnti-Muslim and anti-immigrant demonstrators were also out in force in support of the raids.

In many ways, the raids represent a very real tension that autonomous rebels should become engaged with and act against. While it is clear that Trump has been playing up anti-immigrant fears among the white working class, it was Obama and the Democrats who launched the recant raids and who have already deported thousands. Pushing for a break between the Democrats and all working and poor people is a key task for all those looking to move beyond the current political circus. The recent attacks on migrant workers show not only the ever deepening reactionary politics of the current regime but also the need to attack and move beyond the electoral spectacle once and for all. Hopefully, people can be creative and work to form alliances; pushing the boundaries of simply protesting and towards actual physical resistance.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, demonstrators were also arrested by riot police as pro-development and gentrification Mayor Ed Lee was sworn in for a another term. Demonstrators were furious over the recent killing of Mario Woods, a African-American resident of the poor and working-class Bay View District. The arrests come hot on the heels of a recent march that brought together black and brown communities and also the families of Woods and Alex Nieto, an off duty security guard killed on Bernal Hill near the Mission District. Protests in other places against police brutality and murder remain ongoing.

In Sacramento, California, police made arrests of homeless demonstrators that were protesting at the capitol building against camping bans.

In Flint, Michigan, a state of emergency has been declared in response to the poisoning of the town’s drinking water and the wider county. One resident stated:

“This is a catastrophe. We have a clearly demarcated area of exposure… It wasn’t a natural disaster. It was a human-made disaster and it caused significant consequences that we will be seeing for generations to come… Our whole community has been traumatized and they need hope and they need resources. The water is not safe yet… And families don’t have the help they need.”

Across the US, as poor and working people put their hope in winning the ever increasing lotto, drug use, especially with opioids, continues to skyrocket. Pointing to a recent reportDouglas Lyons writes:

With nearly 48,000 drug overdose deaths, 2014 has eclipsed all other recorded years as the most deadly. From 2013 to 2014, opioid overdose deaths increased by 14 percent, while overall drug overdose deaths increased by 6.5 percent.

In a public statement on issuing the report, CDC Director Tom Frieden said, “The increasing number of deaths from opioid overdose is alarming.” He added, “The opioid epidemic is devastating American families and communities. To curb these trends and save lives, we must help prevent addiction and provide support and treatment to those who suffer from opioid use disorders.”

The authors begin the report: “The United States is experiencing an epidemic of drug overdose (poisoning) deaths. Since 2000, the rate of deaths from drug overdoses has increased 137 percent, including a 200 percent increase in the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids (opioid pain relievers and heroin),” totaling almost half a million deaths.

Over half of all these overdoses resulted from drugs that are classified as opioids, including heroin. Most of the states with the highest rates and sharp increases of drug overdoses lie within the Rust Belt and the coal mining region of Appalachia—West Virginia (35.5 deaths per 100,000), New Mexico (27.3), New Hampshire (26.2), Kentucky (24.7) and Ohio (24.6). States that experienced a sharp increase in the rate of drug overdoses from 2013 to 2014 include: Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

The increase in drug use is linked to the “recovery” of the economy since 2007-8, which has placed millions of American more squarely into poverty, working more and more hours for less and less money, all the while the cost of living has skyrocketed. Across the US and the world, major cities are under going gentrification and redevelopment, which has pushed out millions of homeless, poor, and working people through rising rents. At the same time, wages have stagnated while the low-paying service job sector has grown in size. Despite the cheering of a ‘comeback’ from the Obama administration, in reality, the wealth gap between rich and poor, and between racial groups, has only grown as cities are remade and class and racial divisions are strengthened. In the background, another financial crisis looms in the face of the crash of China’s markets.

In Canada, at the Regina Provincial Correctional Center, a hunger strike is now over after inmates began a protest of “gross food.” One report read:

A group of inmates inside a Regina jail are refusing to eat the “gross” meals served to them sending back oatmeal at breakfast and bologna sandwiches at lunch Thursday.

It’s believed the hunger protest is secluded mainly to one section of the Regina Correctional Centre’s remand wing where about 70 inmates are demanding better quality food they say is often old and stinky according to inmate Kenneth Morrison, 27, originally from the Muscowpetung First Nation in Saskatchewan.

Morrison said all but one person, a diabetic, is taking part from his unit, 1C, and many are Aboriginal.

“We haven’t eaten. We have sent the breakfast trays back and we have sent the lunch trays back,” said Morrison who is awaiting trial for assault, possession of stolen property and breaches in March.

Another stated at the end of the hunger strike:

That comes after several concessions were made, including giving inmates $10 more per week to spend on canteen items. A microwave has also been added to the unit where the protest took place.

Inmates still won’t be allowed to use gym equipment or go outdoors. However, they will soon be allowed to smudge in a special unit that was planned well before the protest.

In other prison news, one of the largest solar companies in the US apperently has ties to prison labor. According to Panagioti Tsolkas

Prisoners at the Federal Correctional Institution in Sheridan, Oregon are making solar panels at a UNICOR factory for 93 cents an hour under a tax-break incentivized contract that claims to favor local manufacturing for a large photovoltaic system installed at two Oregon university campuses. The project was launched in 2012 by SolarCity, one of the most well-known solar energy installation companies in the country, founded by “cleantech” business magnate and poster-child for green capitalism, Elon Musk.

Instead of generating green jobs to boost the regional economy, as was intended by the Oregon Department of Energy’s $11.8 million in tax credits connected to the universities’ $27 million solar plan, the state simply bolstered corporate profits by allowing SolarCity to purchase through a vender, Suniva, which uses federal prisoners forced to work for sweatshop wages to manufacture solar panels.

According to the online environmental news outlet Grist, Suniva never responded to queries nor would UNICOR provide copies of contracts between the two, citing confidentiality provisions.

In an email to Grist, UNICOR spokesperson Marianne Cantwell claimed that the arrangement “provides inmates with meaningful training and job skills.” But the Sheridan prison is not certified under the Department of Justice’s Prison Industry Enhancement (PIE) program. In fact, UNICOR has only two PIE programs in place for manufacturing where prisoners even have a chance at earning a wage comparable to that of freeworld labor.

The prisoners who made the panels for Suniva, which were later sold to SolarCity, saw none of the financial benefits associated with the incentives and tax credits from which Musk benefited. And while UNICOR can claim to provide training for future employment after prisoner workers are released, there is certainly no guarantee in that.

Companies hire prisoners for one reason: because they are cheaper than non-incarcerated workers. In this case, using prison labor was less expensive than buying panels from a factory in Hillsboro, Oregon, where workers make above minimum wage.

In Native news, RCMP pigs have also come down hard in search of moose meat in the Pine Creek First Nation. Protests have also begun against the construction of a dam in Northern so-called British Columbia. One report reads:

A small number of Indigenous protesters have been trying since late December to halt Site C  by occupying land near the construction site. Construction on the $9 billion dollar project has been underway for four months.

Confrontation at the work site has been building.

In a video exchange dated Jan. 2 and posted on social media, First Nations protesters speak on a snowy bridge with a man who identifies himself as a construction site security guard. The man tells them they have to leave “the active work site.”  The women notify him he is “trespassing” on Treaty 8 land.

The Site C dam project will flood a valley 77 kilometres long. It’s long been controversial in the region and is fiercely opposed in some quarters. Until now, non-indigenous ranchers were at the forefront of anti-Site C activism.

In far-Right news, the land of White nationalist and ‘Alternative Right’ podcasting is growing, and also expanding beyond the trappings of previous generations of Neo-Nazis and KKK groups. As Anti-Fascist news writes:

People assume that a huge part of this increase is the candidacy of Donald Trump, and it certainly is, as well as white reaction to changing demographics, refugee immigration, recent crimes from Islamic participants, and Black Lives Matter.  The real issue, however, is less that there is just a “spark” that has caused it, and rather than this new generation of the radical right is just more effective at targeting and growing their base.  They have crafted a message that is more effective than the KKK ever had, and now they have grown to a point that their community has an echo chamber through social media that allows them to continue growing their reach.  In this way, it is less that new converts are being made through events and arguments, and instead that the already-racist are simply being “activated.”

For anti-fascists, this presents an incredible challenge, which means effectively targeting their outlets when possible while continuing to shine a light on the way that they code their messages.  An example of this is their use of iTunes is almost monolithic, and Soundcloud has already proved that it is not going to accept open racialist content.  What anti-fascists and anti-racists cannot do is continue to ignore this faction of the racist community, assuming that they are only an irrelevant fringe.  Instead, their growth signals a real shift in the thinking, and it is going to be critical to grow anti-racist work, confront their organizing directly, and to develop strategies that go far beyond liberal anti-racists narratives so that the very structures of racial inequality can be dismantled.  “No Platform” is critical in this context, and now we are heading to the digital world of confrontation as well as meeting them in the streets.

In ecological news, many are proclaiming that global warming has made normal weather a “thing of the past.” One report read:

Some of the most vivid evidence of altered weather patterns came at year’s end. Storms with hurricane-force winds lashed and flooded Northern Europe. Tornadoes typical of spring came through the South’s tornado alley in early winter. The Mississippi River, usually low in winter, is so swollen from relentless rain that it is flooding parts of the Mississippi Valley.

The Zapatistas recently held a gathering and invited members of the families of the 43 disappeared Normalista students. One article stated:

The Zapatista rebels in Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas marked the anniversary of their 1994 New Year’s Day uprising by hosting a national activist gathering in their territory.

Guests of honor at the proceedings in the small pueblo of Oventic were a group of parents and other family members of the 43 students who disappeared in September 2014. The students are said to have been abducted by corrupt local police and turned over to a murderous narco-gang—but surviving kin and their supporters increasingly charge Mexico’s government with a cover-up in the case.

The Zapatistas’ Sub-Commander Moises, joined by 43 masked rebels (one for each missing student), oversaw the ceremony and each embraced the family members. Moises expressed his own skepticism of the official investigation.

“The Zapatistas believe that we cannot trust the bad governments anymore, they are the servants of capital, stewards of big capitalist business,” he said, according to TeleSur. “The one calling the shots is global capitalism, that is why we cannot believe them.”

Elsewhere in Chiapas, street battles with law enforcement ensued, as corporate media reports:

More than 50 policemen injured, 15 houses and seven vehicles burned was the toll taken by a clash between security forces and residents of the municipality of Oxchuc demanding the dismissal of Mayor Maria Gloria Sanchez Gomez (PVEM), officials said.

That’s gonna wrap it up for us this week folks. Thanks for staying patient for the upcoming crowd-funding announcement and all the warm words of support from friends. The magazine announcement will be coming out soon! Until then, show our friends at the Earth First! Journal some love.

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