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Welcome, to This Is America, February 13th, 2023.
On today’s episode, first we speak with antifascist journalist Vishal Singh, about being kicked off of Twitter, covering the far-Right in Southern California, and how Trump is rushing to double-down on anti-trans hatred.
We then switch to our discussion, where we unpack recent attacks by Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis, against the LGBTQ+ community in schools, universities, and beyond.
All this and more, but first, let’s get to the news!
Living and Fighting
Norfolk Southern company trains carrying toxic chemicals derailed and then exploded into flames outside of the small town of East Palestine, Ohio, leading to an evacuation, as officials “released vinyl chloride, a colorless gas linked to various cancers,” in order to avoid another explosion. The same company behind the derailment has lobbied to oppose new brake rules for trains and regulations on the transportation of hazardous waste materials. Many have pointed out that the rail industry has resisted fixing crumbling infrastructure and updating safety standards, while grinding employees down. Norfolk Southern is also involved in funding the “Cop City” project in Atlanta, Georgia which threatens to destroy the Weelaunee forest.
Norfolk Southern funds Cop City, bc enviro, labor & safety disaster like what is happening in East Palestine, OH is daily reality. It doesn't have to be.
Norfolk Southern will protect massive profits for investors at the expense of lives. They can't do that without police.
— Defend the Atlanta Forest (@defendATLforest) February 11, 2023
New reports show that along with a barrage of anti-LGBTQ bills targeting everything from gender-affirming health-care to drag shows, throughout 2022, there was a rise in attacks against Pride celebrations, drag shows, and LGBTQ events. As Salon wrote, a “number of drag events targeted by threats and protests in person were first targeted by right-wing media outlets like Fox News and the Daily Wire, and social media accounts like LibsOfTikTok.”
And as we discuss in this episode, while Trump doubles-down on attacking trans people by calling for a national ban on gender affirming health-care, in Florida, DeSantis is banning Black History courses, removing books from libraries, and placing loyalists on college school boards. In 2023, already “100 bills targeting LGBTQ rights and queer life — from transgender health care to drag shows — have been filed in 22 states.”
According to Mapping Police Violence, “Police have already killed at least 133 people [From January 1st, to] February 7th, 2023. That’s a 20% increase compared to this period last year.” In late January, protests across the US broke out following the release of footage of the brutal police beating and killing of Tyre Nichols.
In Memphis, the I-55 bridge was shut down by demonstrators as militant marches took place in New York, Portland, Oregon and Los Angeles, California.
In Oakland, California, according to a communique posted to Indybay.org, a police car was lit on fire in a Oakland police parking lot. It wrote:
One Oakland Police cruiser was sabotaged in the Police Administration building parking lot…Cops in their SUVs watched and waited for the fire department to come. This took roughly 10-15 minutes while cops sat on their asses, afraid to approach the car.
In the name Tyre Nichols and all black people who have lost their lives to the hands of the police, Fuck 12.
Prisoners in Texas remain on hunger-strike against solitary confinement while last week, people rallied in solidarity with detainees on hunger-strike inside the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington. Detainees are demanding basic improvements and an end to brutality from the guards, who attacked prisoners at the start of the hunger strike. A new report from Reuters writes that, “Nearly 1,000 migrant children separated at the U.S.-Mexico border by the administration of former President Donald Trump have yet to be reunited with their parents….”
Our first newsletter of 2023 just dropped:
"Rights, Rats, and a Tenant Mantra"
Featuring the return of Krusty Wheatfield's Sneaky Dog!
— Tenant And Neighborhood Councils (@TANC_Bay) February 9, 2023
In Montreal, tenants organizing with the Montreal Autonomous Tenant Union (MATU) continue actions to demand a rent freeze, in Houston, members of the Houston Tenants Union marched on a slumlord, while members of Tenants and Neighborhood Councils (TANC) in the bay area, recently released their first newsletter of 2023.
Also in the bay area, members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) held a rally outside of a Berkeley business, Urban Ore, announcing a union drive campaign.
Big ups to Urban Ore workers in Berkeley! We’ve got your back. pic.twitter.com/2yP04SQJPm
— Black Rose – Bay Area (@bayareabrrn) February 5, 2023
Meanwhile in Brooklyn, New York, tenants in the Crown Heights neighborhood have launched a rent strike against poor living conditions and bad management and the LA Tenants union accounted that tenants in three buildings were also launching a rent strike in the Los Angeles area.
¡Viva la huelga!
After 6 months of organizing against harassment and for long needed repairs, Inquilinos Unidos de Washington, 3 buildings of residential and small business tenants, collectively entered rent strike on February 1st pic.twitter.com/ZjA2QeVQ5Q
— LA Tenants Union (@LATenantsUnion) February 4, 2023
In New York, clinic defenders again faced off against anti-abortion protesters this month, which included several neo-Nazis. Meanwhile in Ottawa, Canada, hundreds mobilized to oppose a small far-Right rally against a drag show at a local library.
🧵RECAP OF TODAY’S DEFENSE: Despite the freezing weather, people came out to delay anti-abortion harassers as they processed to the clinic!
We delayed them for 1 hour, and blocked them with umbrellas outside the clinic so folks could access healthcare without seeing weirdos 🙂 pic.twitter.com/DGNrBbyvYV
— NYC for Abortion Rights (@nycforabortion) February 4, 2023
Actions in solidarity with the fight to Stop Cop City in so-called Atlanta, Georgia continue, in the wake of the police assassination of Manuel “Tortuguita” Teran, who was shot and killed in a barrage of police bullets on January 18th.
Also, there is no video/audio where u can hear any officer issuing any commands to leave the tent as they stated in their original story. Also, there is a sudden round of gunshots. Not one shot and then a return of fire. The cops are lying. #StopCopCity #Tortuguita https://t.co/858Xc99TzX
— Kamau Franklin (@kamaufranklin) February 9, 2023
Since the assassination, several officials have dropped their support of the project, one glass company involved in the development efforts has severed ties with Cop City, and thousands of organizations, publications, and individuals have come out in solidarity with the fight against Cop City, ranging from anarchist groups and collectives to mainstream environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, and 350.org.
Morehouse students are joined by Spellman students and faculty to protest Cop City, denounce police militarism, and call out Andre Dickins @andreforatlanta at school forum #StopCopCity. pic.twitter.com/ML5r1TpMKO
— Kamau Franklin (@kamaufranklin) February 3, 2023
In the last week, an independent autopsy and newly released police body camera footage are continuing to cast doubt on official police narratives that Tortuguita fired on police first, leading to other law enforcement officers to shoot back in self-defense. As the Intercept wrote:
Documentary evidence of the killing was scant: State troopers, who were directly involved in the killing, don’t wear body cameras in general. And while Atlanta police, whose officers were nearby, do, the department said in an initial statement on January 20 that no footage would be released from the operation, pending an ongoing investigation.
On Wednesday night, however, the department reversed course and released body camera video from just after the incident. The footage appears to show officers asking whether the state trooper who had been shot was wounded by one of his own.
“You fucked your own officer up,” one Atlanta Police Department officer is heard saying in the footage released Wednesday. He later walks up to two other officers and asks, “They shoot their own man?”
After stating immediately that no camera footage of the shooting existed, GBI had acknowledged publicly five days later that footage did exist of the shooting’s aftermath.
Pressure against the project is building, as Teen Vogue reported:
On February 2, Atlanta University Center Consortium (AUCC) student organizers occupied a weekly campus “social justice and leadership” forum at the historically Black college Morehouse, per the university paper, The Maroon Tiger, to lobby the university community over Cop City. The organizers read a list of demands, including that Morehouse “denounce and sever their support in building” Cop City and that the college president follow suit.
On the same day, a group of over 50 Morehouse faculty and visiting professors issued a letter calling to stop Cop City. “There is an undeniable and direct relationship between the fate of Michael Brown and George Floyd as well as Tyre Nichols and the pending plan to build Cop City,” it read in part.