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May 14, 20

This Is America #116: Against the Economy of Death

Cover Photo: Familias Unidios

Welcome, to This Is America, May 13th, 2020.

In this episode, first we speak with people involved with Appalachians Against Pipeline and the Yellow Finch Treesit in the Hellbender Autonomous Zone, which has been at the heart of active resistance to blocking the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in so-called West Virginia for over a year. We talk about how the campaign is going and how it has been impacted by the COVID-19 epidemic.

We then speak with folks involved in an autonomous community grocery program in so-called Tucson, Arizona. We discuss how the project is organized, how it has grown to involve members of the community, and how similar projects might be replicated in other areas.

We then switch to our discussion, where we discuss the push by the Trump administration and the elites to “re-open” the economy.

All this and more, but first, let’s get to the news.

Living and Fighting

Aquí en HUELGA con trabajadores de la bodega de Jack Frost – demandamos justicia para los trabajadores esenciales

Posted by Dulce Gutierrez on Tuesday, May 12, 2020

  • Payday Report reports that immigrant workers at three sites in Washington state walked off the job after a dozen workers tested positive for COVID-19, sanitation workers in New Orleans entered the second week of their strike for better pay and PPE, and in Mississippi workers walked out off the job at a pillow factory after one worker tested positive for coronavirus.
  • According to Payday Report: “Hackers attacked the Ohio unemployment website after it launched an app for employers to report workers for collecting unemployment while refusing to work often in unsafe conditions.” According to VICE, since the hack,” The state of Ohio won’t deny unemployment benefits to people who refuse to work during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

  • Students at NYU and Columbia are pushing for work-stoppages and rent strikes. Meanwhile thousands of New York tenants are still on rent strike across various buildings in various neighborhoods. In Oakland, a new rent strike of 250 tenants has kicked off.
  • Starting this week, Doctors for Camp Closure will be holding demonstrations across the US demanding the closure of ICE detention facilities as the COVID-19 outbreak has claimed its first victim inside, Carlos Ernesto Escobar Mejia, 57, along with two guards who also contracted the virus.
  • A new report found that 35 of the 40 people arrested during recent police crack downs on “social distancing” were black, as police targeted black and brown communities over the past several weeks. As The New York Times wrote:

The arrests of black and Hispanic residents, several of them filmed and posted online, occurred on the same balmy days that other photographs circulated showing police officers handing out masks to mostly white visitors at parks in Lower Manhattan, Williamsburg and Long Island City. Video captured crowds of sunbathers, many without masks, sitting close together at a park on a Manhattan pier, uninterrupted by the police.

  • In Los Angeles, members of the LA Tenants Union and community members were able to get a tenant who was illegally locked out of their home back into the dwelling.

  • Following the release of footage showing the shocking killing of Ahmaud Arbery, protests broke out at the State capitol in Georgia and in the city of Brunswick, in the neighborhood where Arbery was gunned down in February earlier this year, as protesters, some armed, marched on the home of his killers. Back in the capitol, people took the streets, defying police attempts to remove crowds. Following the protests, authorities announced that Ahmaud killers would face a grand jury, only to then buckle under further pressure and issued arrest orders.

  • In Indianapolis, people took to the streets after police killed three people over the span of two days. This included Sean Reed following high speed chase, where an officer was recorded joking, “Looks like its gonna be a closed casket homie,” a pregnant woman, who was hit by a police officer in their car, and another individual who was killed as police responded to a burglary call. Protests broke out in the downtown and at the intersection where Sean Reed was killed, where over the next several days, people shut down streets and held the intersection from the police. Law enforcement responded to the protests by making aggressive arrests and shooting projectile weapons.

Arbery’s horrific murder tells us everything we need to know about “justice” in so-called America. It tells us that to be born with black skin in this country means you exist within a state of exception where death can be reigned down upon you at any time while out in public. It means that those that carry out such violence will be largely supported by the State and sparred from arrest, trial, and detention as much as possible. This is the result not of a broken system, but one working just as it was designed to; operated by bureaucrats fully aware that they are allowing a murderous ex-cop and his son to walk freely while a young man is dead.

The fact that there is even talk of putting this before a grand jury is because the State is terrified of potential riots and rebellions now that the video has surfaced. Cases like these show that these systems; modern versions of their fore-bearers which were born out of slavery and colonization, cannot be reformed – they must be abolished and thrown to the dustbin of history.

ReOpening of Economy Begins as Thousands Continue to Die Everyday in the US

As Trump moves to shut down the “coronavirus task force” and state governments begin to “reopen,” a new internal report produced from within the Trump administration and made public by the New York Times predicts that as many as 3,000 people a day will die due to infections from the coronavirus by June of this year, up from the current 2,000 or so daily deaths. Currently, over 83,000 people have died in the US from the virus and the same White House backed model mentioned earlier forecasts up to 134,000 deaths by the end of the pandemic.

According to one report:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) last month “placed orders for well over 100,000 new body bags to hold victims of COVID-19.” The Department of Homeland Security, of which FEMA is part, placed a $5.1 million purchase order with a California company.

The Center for Disease Research and Policy in Minnesota projected Thursday that COVID-19 would likely spread in a series of outbreaks over the next year, until 60 to 70 percent of the population is infected. This would drive the death toll into the millions.

In some rural areas, the virus is starting to finally hit hard. As the New York Times wrote:

Rural towns that one month ago were unscathed are suddenly hot spots for the virus. It is rampaging through nursing homes, meatpacking plants and prisons, killing the medically vulnerable and the poor, and new outbreaks keep emerging in grocery stores, Walmarts or factories, an ominous harbinger of what a full reopening of the economy will bring.”

It’s within this context that workers in key industries are being pushed back to work. “Boeing calling 27,000 workers back to their jobs in the Seattle, Washington area despite state restrictions, and plans to reopen auto plants in Michigan.” Moreover, Trump has also recently decreed the meatpacking industry, under the Defense Production Act, to be “critical infrastructure,” and must thus remain open; shielding its corporate owners from potential lawsuits, despite workers across the industry contracting the coronavirus. Thus, the largely immigrant work force must not only live with the threat of deportation from ICE, but also now that of contracting #COVID-19. Already, at least 20 meat-packers have died, and at least 5,000 have contracted the virus. In states like Nebraska, health officials just simply stopped testing workers as COVID-19 cases climbed.

The Trump administration has also pushed to loosen rules for meatpacking guest workers; allowing them to stay in the US past three years. Thus, despite Trump’s white nationalist pandering about immigrants being “rapists” and “murderers,” the administration knows that exploiting a large pool of migrant workers is critical to the economy and without, the system would only further collapse.

Also the:

US Department of Labor warned that when factories and workplaces reopen, workers must go back to work or be cut off benefits, regardless of health concerns.

The meatpacking industry [again] provides some of the most horrific indications of what is to come as millions of workers now on layoff are forced back to work under threat of losing unemployment compensation and the ability to pay rent and feed their families.

At a Tyson Foods slaughterhouse in Wallula, Washington, the largest in that state, 15 percent of workers tested positive for coronavirus after one died. At another Tyson plant in Logansport, Indiana, the virus has infected 890 of 2,200 workers.

Last Monday, Trump ordered meatpacking plants that had closed to be reopened, while suggesting that the employers needed “liability protections” against likely claims by workers infected on the job. One columnist observed acidly, “If you work in a meatpacking plant, by order of President Trump, you are officially considered less essential than the steak you’re cutting up.”

The State offers us only two false solutions: starvation and homelessness under stay at home orders, or the building of a legal framework; backed by fascists in the streets, National Guard troops on the ground, and ICE agents at the border, in which blue-collar workers, Black and brown in particular, are forced back to work on onto the front-lines of the pandemic – a move which may well take their lives.

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