Fight Back! - News and Views from the People's Struggle This newspaper exists to build the people's struggle! We provide coverage and analysis of some of the key battles facing working and low-income people. es Tallahassee students rally against police brutality and repression, demand community control of campus police <p>Tallahassee, FL - On October 22, more than 40 students and community members gathered at Integration Statue and marched to Wescott Fountain. Students for a Democratic Society held the annual protest at Florida State University in honor of the National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality. The assembly gathered with the demands of community control of FSU Police Department, that State Attorney Jack Campbell drops all charges levied against the #Tally19, and permanent removal of the Francis Eppes statue.</p> <p>The protest took place in the midst of recent violence towards protesters. On August 29 an assault on a Black Lives Matter protest took place with a white supremacist threatened protesters and police with a gun. The next day, State Attorney Jack Campbell announced that no charges would be levied against the racist, citing Florida’s Stand Your Ground law in saying that his actions were justified as they were in self-defense.</p> <p>This, among other acts of violence taken against Black Lives Matter protesters, is part of a pattern from both the municipal and state law enforcement agencies and government officials of allowing anti-racist protesters to be the target of violence and using the opportunity to declare assemblies gathered in anti-racist protests ‘unlawful’ and arresting as many attendees and leaders as possible. When local organizations involved with the Black Lives Matter movement gathered on September 5 in response to a grand jury finding the police officers who killed Mychael Johnson, Wilbon Woodard and Tony McDade justified in their use of deadly force, a mass arrest of these organizers occurred, with police outnumbering protesters three to one. Those unjustly arrested by police and charged with misdemeanors and felonies have been dubbed the Tally 19.</p> <p>Among the speakers at the October 22 protest were two of the #Tally19. President of the Tallahassee Community Action Committee Regina Joseph addressed the assembly, speaking on the targeted attack on organizers by state and municipal law enforcement agencies, including Tallahassee PD and FSUPD. Having marched to Wescott Fountain, she informed the crowd about the little-known history of the spot where protesters stood.</p> <p>Joseph stated, “Right here where we stand is where they hung Black people, and it is very fitting that they would put Francis Eppes’s statue, the so-called ‘founder’ of FSU, who owned 91 slaves and used money from his slave-catching militia and the Confederacy to fund one of the first police departments in the entire country, the Tallahassee Police Department. FSU is very much tied to the racist subjugation that the people are experiencing.”</p> <p>Another member of the #Tally19, recent City Commission candidate Trish Brown, addressed the crowd and spoke about the need for community control of the police to combat the ongoing political repression occurring nationwide and particularly in Tallahassee.</p> <p>Brown stated, “We must unite together. We must strategize, we must organize, and we must come together and take power away from the police and put it into poverty-impacted people’s hands; put it into student’s hands; put it into Black and brown people’s hands where it belongs! It belongs with the citizens and civilians and the people of our community and across the nation. The people united will never be defeated!”</p> <p>“We need a CPAC; we need a Civilian Police Accountability Council. Having control over the police, like I said, and having money being put back into student’s and civilian’s hands, they won’t come after us no more!” continued Brown</p> <p>This is the first time a protest has been held since COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, limiting certain gatherings to ten people, were lifted on campus. In the previous months, a protest such as this may have been shut down. Meanwhile home football games, with Doak Campbell stadium filled with tens of thousands of people, many of whom were not required to wear masks or social distance, as during the first home game, were allowed to go on. After a subsequent spike in cases on campus, FSU President John Thrasher and his wife tested positive for COVID-19.</p> <p>But now that risks of COVID-19 infection are gradually lowering about six weeks after that spike in cases occurred, Students for a Democratic Society plans to continue mobilizing the campus and greater Tallahassee communities to put FSUPD under the community control of a CPAC and drop all charges against the #Tally19.</p> <p><em>Jonce Palmer (they/them) is a Tallahassee activist.</em></p> Las Luchas del Pueblo Brutalidad Policial Community Control of the Police Students for a Democratic Society Wed, 28 Oct 2020 16:02:59 +0000 Fight Back 8587 at East LA rally against police killings calls to oust LA DA Jackie Lacey, Trump on Nov. 3 <p>Los Angeles, CA - A protest rally and get out the vote grassroots effort was done on October 25 in the East LA barrio of El Sereno by Centro CSO and Black Lives Matter-LA. Over 45 volunteers and families who have been victims of police killings participated call on all to vote November 3 to oust Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey and President Trump.</p> <p>Chicano and Black working-class people and families impacted by police killings held the rally and GOTV effort to ask voters to oust District Attorney Jackie Lacey and Trump by voting on November 3. The rally was held in a predominately Chicano neighborhood in the beautiful community-built El Sereno Community Garden. </p> <p>Protesting the killing of Blacks and Chicanos by LAPD and the LA County Sheriffs was the bulk of the rally. The protest, led by Sol Marquez and Lucia Torres, both members of Centro CSO, spoke of the need to prosecute police and denounced Lacey for her failure to prosecute killer cops. The event was co-sponsored and led by Black Lives Matter-LA, which has organized a campaign to denounce Lacey and get out the vote with regular canvassing, rallies and phone banking. </p> <p>BLM-LA’s well known leaders like Melina Abdullah and Baba Akili and others attended and led the event. The unity of Black and brown was visible.</p> <p>Several passionate talks were given by Melina Abdullah of BLM-LA, who spoke of the history of Blacks in Mexico and our common bonds. Carlos Montes of Centro CSO spoke about how the Black liberation movement has always inspired and united and supported the Chicano Movement. Montes pointed out the history of unity and struggles for equality and self-determination of Black and Chicano people in the belly of the beast – the U.S. empire.</p> <p>The GOTV urged local registered voters to vote November 3, to stop police killings by ousting current DA Jackie Lacey and President Trump. Trump has repeatedly spoken in favor of police, states his support for ‘Blue lives’ and for more funding for police. The volunteers spent several hours walking and talking to local voters and got positive results, with most voters saying they would vote out DA Lacey, and not vote for Trump.</p> <p>Cops from the LAPD Hollenbeck station and East LA Sheriffs have a long history of officer-involved shootings resulting in the deaths of young Chicano men. In the past years there have occurred many police killings leading to protests and lawsuits. LAPD Hollenbeck station in Boyle Heights officers killed: Jose Mendez February 6, 2016, Omar Gonzalez July 28, 2016, Jesse Romero August 9, 2016, Arturo Valdez April 10, 2016, Carlos Gonzalez February 16, 2017, Fred Barragan March 24, 2017, Christina Escobedo January 14, 2018. ELA Sheriffs killed: Edwin Rodriguez, February 14, 2016, Omar Garcia,July 28, 2016, Anthony Vargas, August 12, 2018, Paul Rea, June 27, 2019 and Jorge Serrano Jr. December 16, 2019. These killings have not stopped.</p> <p>Orange is the New Black actress Diane Guerrero joined the rally and spoke about her own parents and brother who were deported to Colombia. Zada Música sang songs about the struggle for equality for all Latinos in the U.S.</p> <p>Sol Marques with Centro CSO spoke of the need to continue the struggle with the weekly rallies and protests at DA Lacey office and the call for a national action on November 4, to demand justice for victims of racist and political repression put out by NAARPR: National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. The event ended with chants of “Jackie Lacey must go, Jackie Lacey will go!” and “We vote, we organize!”</p> Centro CSO Chican@s y Latin@s Diane Guerrero GOTV LAPD Wed, 28 Oct 2020 12:11:22 +0000 Fight Back 8586 at Carnegie Museum workers file for union election <p>Pittsburgh, PA - Approximately 500 scientists, educators, art handlers, front staff, gift shop clerks, ushers and other workers from across the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh system today announced Oct. 20 they filed for a union election as they seek to join the United Steelworkers (USW).</p> <p>The group, working under the banner of the United Museum Workers, announced their organizing drive on June 29 and are now seeking a formal vote through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).</p> <p>“Our movement began with concerns about transparency and limited career opportunities, but it now has even greater urgency as it’s expanded to address furloughs, pay cuts, and safety issues resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Katie Pirilla, an art handler at the Carnegie Museum of Art. “Workers continued organizing throughout the pandemic and found renewed strength in our fight for a safe museum for employees and the public alike.”</p> <p>By filing for a certification election, the United Museum Workers seek to create a wall-to-wall collective bargaining unit comprising the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History, the Carnegie Science Center, the Andy Warhol Museum, and central administrative staff.</p> <p>“Our group represents a diverse range of departments, duties, interests and ideas, but what all of us need is a seat at the table and a voice in the museum’s decision-making process,” said Ryan Martin, a sales associate in the Carnegie Museum of Art gift shop. “The founder of our museums, Andrew Carnegie, made his fortunes on the backs of thousands of workers who labored for low pay in extremely hazardous conditions. We intend to honor this legacy by voting for union representation.”</p> Las Luchas del Pueblo United Steelworkers (USW) Obreros Tue, 27 Oct 2020 02:32:51 +0000 Fight Back 8585 at IAM Local 1855 wins a better contract after strike in Appleton, WI <p>Appleton, WI - On the morning of October 24, the following message was posted on the social media accounts of IAM Local 1855: “After a week-long strike IAMAW Members employed at AstenJohnson in Appleton overwhelmingly accepted a greatly improved contract offer this morning. This offer included locking in insurance plan design and premiums for the next two years among other positive changes. Their solidarity and persistence paid off big. Congratulations to the members of Local 1855 and a special thank you to the Teamsters Local 662 for honoring our picket line.”</p> <p>The machinists at AstenJohnson were on strike to demand a decent contract and reasonable healthcare coverage. 89 members of IAM Local 1855 began picketing on October 16, despite wind and rain, to push for affordable healthcare from their employer.</p> <p>“We don’t want to absorb all the costs of the insurance as it keeps going up. That’s what we’re doing out here,” said a striking machinist. “We went out for one day ten years ago, this is our first strike since then. It’s a week today.”</p> <p>On October 14, they rejected a proposal from their employer. Negotiations were ongoing inside the building on October 23 while the picket continued outside. The workers said that the proposals their team submitted would benefit not only members of IAM Local 1855, but the Teamsters and non-union employees of AstenJohnson as well.</p> <p>Members of the community showed up to the picket line in solidarity with the striking workers, bringing hot soup and tea. A local volunteer organization, Food Not Bombs, set up mutual aid tables with fresh produce at the end of the picket line for the workers' families.</p> <p>Around noon, security emerged from AstenJohnson, demanding that Food Not Bombs leave even though they were on the sidewalk. A security guard, whose badge read J. Steinke, immediately called the police. Members of the Outagamie County Sheriff’s Department arrived shortly after to ensure that a grill was moved fully onto the concrete and no longer touching the grass. During this time a member of the community went to move their car, a security guard followed them, photographing their face, their car and their license plate.</p> <p>The most aggressive of the security guards turned out to be Jay Steinke, the now-retired Appleton police officer who shot and killed Jimmie Sanders, a Black man and unarmed bystander, in Jack’s Apple Pub in 2017. Steinke was never charged for his role in Jimmie Sanders’ death. Instead another man named Henry Nellum, who officer Steinke also shot that night (just not fatally), was convicted for the crime and is serving time in prison.</p> <p>What this goes to show is that when workers stand up and fight back and utilize their power over production by shutting it down, they can win big.</p> Las Luchas del Pueblo AstenJohnson IAM Local 1855 Obreros Tue, 27 Oct 2020 02:28:47 +0000 Fight Back 8584 at State attorney reduces some charges; refuses diversion to Tally 19 felony arrestees <p>Tallahassee, FL - All spring and summer, organized groups of anti-police crimes protesters took to the streets, including the intersection in front of the historic capitol for over an hour at a time and on many occasions. Police regularly redirected traffic at least a block in every direction. Organizers would eventually announce the conclusion of street actions, at which time attendees dispersed without incident. Having spent all summer referring to these frequent street protests as “peaceful,” law enforcement agencies pivoted to making threats to crack down on “unpermitted” protesters for blocking traffic. This change by law enforcement occurred abruptly the afternoon of August 29.</p> <p><strong>Police pivot against protesters</strong></p> <p>Protesters marched on August 29 to the capitol and held the intersection there for an hour, observed by police who did not interfere. As a precaution against reactionary agitators, a caravan of cars made a large stationary circle around the protesters rallying at the center of the intersection. Nonetheless, police allowed a white supremist - who police confirmed was armed - entry to the clearly marked protest space. The racist initiated a fight and, when attendees defended themselves, he drew a gun and aimed it at protesters and police alike. Instead of arresting the gunman, police escorted him away, suddenly declared the protest unlawful, and demanded that attendees disperse, threatening “arrest, use of force and severe injury.” That same day police made changed their stance on the evening news, trading “peaceful” for “unpermitted” as their adjective of choice, and threatened arrest for “unpermitted” protests, especially in cases of blocked streets.</p> <p><strong>September 5 arrests</strong></p> <p>One week later, on September 5, nearly 300 officers clad in riot gear from many law enforcement agencies made good on these threats, violently attacking and shoving protesters on a sidewalk across from the historic capitol before dragging 14 people away, causing multiple injuries and sending three arrestees to the hospital. Police did not Mirandize anyone, nor did they inform anyone why they were being arrested. After transporting arrestees to a staging ground beneath the courthouse and then to the jail, officers from different departments took hours to decide among themselves who of the arrestees would be charged with what and which “arresting officers” would sign reports for each protester. The Tallahassee Police Department, Florida Highway Patrol, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Leon County Sheriff Office, and Florida State University Police Department took part - and there may have been more agencies - in the September 5 crackdown against those protesting grand jury decisions that cleared killer cops of any wrongdoing in the killings of three Tallahassee men earlier this year.</p> <p>According to Trish Brown - a longtime community activist leader and organizer, recent candidate for city commission, and one of the Tally19 - protesters hit the street to “Demonstrate peacefully in solidarity; to demand justice and police accountability for victims, families and our communities who have been impacted by brutal and fatal police force.” Brown continued, “I was out that day to bring hope, power and positive change to our poverty-impacted communities and throughout our nation.”</p> <p><strong>Charges</strong></p> <p>Two were charged that day with felonies. Satya Stark-Bejnar was charged with resisting an officer with violence and one count of felony battery on a law enforcement officer, a charge that carries ten years in prison and $10,000 in fines. Stark-Bejnar was released that night on a $1000 bond. Timothy White was arrested on a felony charge of inciting a riot, which carried ten years in prison and $10,000 in fines, and one count of resisting an officer without violence. White was released on a $500 bond.</p> <p><strong>After-the-fact arrests continue</strong></p> <p>On September 9, law enforcement tracked down two more September 5 protest attendees using body cam and social media footage, arresting them late at night and with no warning. Police forcibly pulled Ben Grant from his home without showing him a warrant or telling him what his charges were. Police snatched another September 5 protester from a parking lot while she was leaving her gym. Both were released on bond later that night after 2 a.m. Grant was charged with felony count of battery on a law enforcement officer and a misdemeanor resisting without violence. His felony charge carries ten years in prison and $10,000 in fines. The next morning, police issued three more warrants for attendees of the September 5 protest, two of whom were alerted and able to turn themselves in. Both were bonded out later that day. The final, 19th warrant remains nameless, a month and a half later.</p> <p><strong>Movement response</strong></p> <p>Local organizers who were not jailed September 5 sprang into action immediately, raising funds for bail and reaching out to local attorneys, eight of whom agreed to represent September 5 arrestees pro bono. The Tallahassee Bail Fund posted bond for 11 of the people arrested, totaling more than $2000. This is in addition to their previous and ongoing decarceration work to reduce jail populations and slow the spread of COVID-19. One individual spent over $1000 of their own money to help just one arrestee bypass the use of a bondsman. Jail support was organized such that crowds of supporters were assembled, socially distanced, in the jail parking lot to cheer each arrestee as they were released, offering encouragement, water, snacks and rides home.</p> <p>Support for the #Tally19 has taken the form of donations, jail support presence and mass mobilizations. Organizations and individuals from Tallahassee and beyond have applied persistent pressure on the city commission, city manager, law enforcement agencies, and State Attorney Jack Campbell to #DropTheCharges through call-in days, social media blasts, newspaper editorials and public comment during government meetings.</p> <p><strong>Changes to charges</strong></p> <p>Last week, several arrestees' charges were reduced and consolidated. Tim White’s felony charge was replaced with a different, lesser charge. State Attorney Jack Campbell announced a ‘Diversion Program’ offer to Tally 19’ers charged with only misdemeanors. A condition of this program is to participate for an unspecified duration of a 12-hour long virtual, city-sponsored Race Relations Summit, including a previously non-existing breakout session on “How to Safely and Lawfully Protest.” Diversion offers and terms were issued with only nine days’ notice before the Race Relations Summit, giving arrestees insufficient time to inform and make arrangements with their students, employers, professors, etc., and to obtain a stable internet connection. Not all Tally 19’ers offered diversion have internet service at their homes, and not all Tally 19’ers even have stable housing, which makes Campbell’s ‘diversion’ patently inaccessible to some, even if they wanted to take the offer. Tally 19’ers with felony charges were excluded from the diversion offer.</p> <p>Regina Joseph, Tally19’er and president of the Tallahassee Community Action Committee (TCAC), said, “I will not take this diversion offer while my wife [Stark-Bejnar] and my comrade [Grant] are still collectively facing decades in prison for democratically exercising their so-called First Amendment rights.”</p> <p>Joseph showed this author a copy of the diversion deal that was offered to her. The document, titled “Diversion Program, Deferred Prosecution Agreement” states, “For the purpose of this program, the Defendant admits his or her guilt of the offense(s) charged, and recognizes that said admission could be used as evidence against the Defendant in the event of the prosecution of the case.”</p> <p>Joseph continued, “The fact this wasn’t even offered to people with felony charges is awful. It shows those in power Jack Campbell, City Manager Reese Goad, Chief of TPD Lawrence Revell, LCSO, FSUPD and all of the law enforcement agencies involved in September will stop at nothing to vilify protesters and will do everything possible to ‘make an example’ out of us. An injury to one is an injury to all and we must stand in solidarity with those facing felony charges. Every time we refuse to admit guilt, they puff up for the press, but then they reduce charges and make small improvements to the terms of diversion. That said, zero arrestees have had all their charges dropped, and all charges must be dropped. The fight is not over.”</p> <p>The Race Summit Diversion Program requirement was offered only days before the summit, and elements of the summit itself are almost laughable. Speakers at the ‘race summit’ include multiple members of the same Tallahassee Police Department that not only brutalized protesters on September 5, but is also responsible for killing three civilians in the first few months of 2020, deaths that sparked the last six months of frequent local protest activity in the first place. TPD Chief of Police Lawrence Revell was installed in his position in January, despite vocal community opposition. His ten-month tenure of terror is no surprise to longtime Tallahasseans who recall the 1990s, with then-officer Revell terrorizing the Black and low-income communities of Tallahassee with his all-white “Alpha Squad,” and Revell’s 1996 murder of Black teenager George “Lil Nuke” Williams. The state attorney has yet to offer any diversion programs to, much less file charges against, killer-cop Revell’s present-day killer cops.</p> <p>Many protesters arrested related to September 5 are dedicated organizers who have for years been leading the fight for a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) in Tallahassee. These arrests and charge - especially the felony charges - and diversion programs are political repression. The diversion program and the focus on ‘safety’ and ‘perfect lawfulness’ are designed to diminish and dilute public protest activity. Organizers and attendees have been safe at protests in Tallahassee for years, including while consistently taking the streets, even during a global pandemic. Thanks to consistent mask-wearing by attendees, Tallahassee protests haven’t resulted in any known spikes of COVID-19 spread. The only times protesters were hurt this year was when reactionary agitators armed with guns or trucks were allowed, by the police, to threaten and run through protest actions, or at the hands of police themselves.</p> <p>The police have shown themselves time and time again to condone, as well as be themselves instigators of violence at protests across the country, and yet continuously face no consequences. And it gets worse. When civilians have the courage to stand up against hypocrisy to say, “This is unacceptable; no more!” and demand accountability for murderous and violent cops, they are brutalized and arrested.</p> <p><em>Zeke Greenwood (he / they) is an activist in Tallahassee, FL.</em></p> Las Luchas del Pueblo Political Repression Tally 19 Mon, 26 Oct 2020 14:38:24 +0000 Fight Back 8583 at Oshkosh, WI: Protesters safely brave COVID-19 to continue demanding justice for Isaiah Tucker <p>Oshkosh, WI - Over a dozen protesters from many parts of eastern Wisconsin answered a call put out by United Action Oshkosh (UAO). People rallied on October 24 to demand justice for Isaiah Tucker and community control of the police.</p> <p>Community members participated in a motorcade through an area of Oshkosh that typically does not see protests outside the standard political campaign yard signs. The area of town chosen to meet up was picked specifically to help bring confidence to the Black and brown residents who lived in that area.</p> <p>Despite local COVID-19 cases spiking, making the northeastern part of Wisconsin a ‘hotspot’ and one of the worst places on the planet for new cases, people lined up in their cars decorated with signs and their megaphones in tow ready to make some noise. Safety was a number one factor for local organizers as they completely understand the dangers COVID-19 presents to their most vulnerable neighbors.</p> <p>“We encourage social distancing and mask wearing. We have extra masks for people who do not have them and hand sanitizer for everyone. We ask that people who are not feeling well stay at home," said Abby Ringel, of the Wisconsin Women’s Equity Coalition and a participant in the action. "We typically also have a few vehicles that travel with us and people that aren’t comfortable marching in the large group are encouraged to caravan with us.”</p> <p>Staying in cars created barriers between others as well as the community members that either followed along or cheered them on.</p> <p>Aside from demanding police accountability, local grassroots groups like Food Not Bombs and the Wisconsin Women’s Equity Coalition believe that working together directly in their actions while serving their communities is crucial.</p> <p>“It is important for us to show solidarity with other communities because this is one fight. The problem is systemic and without widespread action, there will be no systemic change. It is important that we band together to have the greatest effect,” continued Ringel.</p> Las Luchas del Pueblo Brutalidad Policial Community Control of the Police Isaiah Tucker Mon, 26 Oct 2020 13:44:09 +0000 Fight Back 8581 at Long-term unemployment continues to grow <p>San José, CA - On Thursday, October 22, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that there were 787,000 new claims for regular state unemployment in the week that ended October 17. This was 55,000 fewer than the previous week, but still 20,000 higher than two weeks ago and almost four times as high as the same week a year ago. While new claims have fallen dramatically from the record high of almost 6 million in April, they are still higher than the pre-recession high of less than 700,000.</p> <p>The report also said that continuing claims for regular state unemployment did fall by a million to 8.4 million for the week ending October 10. But not all of these people found jobs. Long-term unemployed people who have run out of the regular state unemployment insurance are swelling the ranks of the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation or PEUC and the state Extended Benefits. These two programs gained almost 600,000 people in the last week reported on. Other workers are dropping out of the labor force by giving up on their job search, as did 700,000 people in September.</p> <p>Despite some improvements in the job market, the fact remains that more that more than 23 million people are receiving government jobless aid. This is 13 times the number of people who were collecting unemployment before the recession and represents more than 14% of the labor force.</p> <p>In addition to the constant drumroll of layoff announcements and opposition to more economic relief in the Republican Senate, there is the third wave of COVID-19 in the United States. New infections just hit an all-time record of 82,000 in one day. Hospitalizations for the virus are also up 40% from just a month ago, and the daily number of deaths are up 9% from two weeks ago. In Europe, where the pandemic is also surging, the economy is taking a number of hits, with the two largest eurozone economies, France and Germany, reporting that their service sector is starting to contract again.</p> <p>President Trump responded to the rising infections, hospitalizations and deaths by repeating his mantra of, “And as I say, we’re rounding the turn. We’re rounding the corner. It’s going away.” This is a stark echo of Republican President Herbert Hoover who insisted that prosperity is just around the corner even as the economy fell into the depths of the Great Depression.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Las Luchas del Pueblo Capitalismo y Economía Unemployment Sat, 24 Oct 2020 18:59:04 +0000 Fight Back 8580 at Anti-war activists grade foreign policies of Trump, Biden <p>Minneapolis, MN - On October 20, the Minnesota Anti-War Committee (AWC) held an online discussion on the foreign policies of President Donald Trump and his rival in the upcoming election, former Vice President Joe Biden. Members of the longstanding Twin Cities-based street protest group compared the platforms and records of each candidate from an anti-war perspective.</p> <p>Overall, the group condemned U.S. interventions abroad under Trump’s leadership, and affirmed the need for change. But panelists agreed that the anti-war movement would need to push back against a Biden administration for similar reasons.</p> <p>“Trump has done a lot of posturing as anti-war, and sadly some people have fallen for it in a big way,” explained Drake Myers. “Most Americans oppose war, so the snake oil salesman says he's anti-war and people want to believe it. Other times, when he wants to appeal to his base, he plays up xenophobia and supports torture.”</p> <p>Myers continued, “The Biden campaign is putting out ads where he’s saying that he'll support the troops, and how more national security officials and generals support him than Trump. These are not good endorsements. These are a signal of Biden cozying up to the exact wrong people there in Washington.”</p> <p>Panelists agreed that none of their remarks should be considered endorsements for a particular candidate. Topics ranged from Venezuela to Palestine to Trump’s new Cold War with China.</p> <p>“Biden believes we should be supporting the Venezuelan people while continuing the sanctions - something that makes zero sense,” Tracy Molm explained. “The sanctions are what are causing hardship in Venezuela.”</p> <p>Molm was part of a delegation to Venezuela in 2019 where she witnessed the failed April 30 coup led by U.S.-supported political operative Juan Guaido. Despite Biden’s stance, she said, “Biden has some better positions domestically and I think it would create a better atmosphere for us to be able to continue to fight for Venezuela. But we must continue to stand up, no matter who’s in charge.”</p> <p>Meredith Aby-Keirstead saw grounds for hope in the growing criticisms of U.S. aid to Israel in political discourse. “We need to be ready to continue our protests in the streets for a free Palestine regardless of who is elected in November. The Anti-War Committee is ready to do so and we hope you are too,” she said.</p> <p>Autumn Lake highlighted Trump’s vilification of China, which continued the Obama-Biden administration’s Pivot to Asia military buildup in the region.</p> <p>“The Trump administration’s framing of the COVID-19 crisis as the fault of China has directly caused the recent rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans,” Lake said. “With this in mind, it becomes clear that the Trump administration doesn’t have human rights in mind when it escalates conflict with China.”</p> <p>South High student Zach Moore spoke for the newly formed Climate Justice Committee (CJC). Moore connected impending climate disaster with the U.S. military’s greenhouse gas emissions and record of environmental destruction. “Biden wants to speak of a U.S.-led effort against climate change when he won’t even discuss the military’s leading effort in causing climate change,” he said.</p> <p>“In the end we know that yes, we must defeat Trump. But we cannot give into illusions about who Biden is or what he will do,” Moore continued. “We cannot just demand small action decades in the future. We must demand climate justice now!”</p> <p>Both the Anti-War Committee and the Climate Justice Committee plan to join a large demonstration set to take place on November 4, the day after the election. That event is part of a nationwide call by the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression for protests to enact a people’s mandate for change in policing, the pandemic response, and the economic system. The Minneapolis event will start at 6 p.m. at May Day Plaza in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood.</p> Las Luchas del Pueblo Antiwar Movement Anti-War Committee Donald Trump Joe Biden Sat, 24 Oct 2020 18:18:34 +0000 Fight Back 8579 at Commentary on Bolivia: How a coup failed <p>Chicago, IL - On November 10, 2019, a hastily-assembled coalition of generals, middle class liberals and fascist paramilitaries overthrew the democratic government of Evo Morales in Bolivia. Coming on the heels of a coup attempt in Venezuela and the vicious repression of a people’s uprising in Chile, it seemed to many that the continental struggle against U.S. imperialism had reached a tipping point in the empire's favor.</p> <p>Today, not even a year later, the official results for Bolivia’s presidential elections were announced. Evo’s comrade and successor Luis “Lucho” Arce received a resounding 55% of the vote. The dictator Jeanine Añez was forced to withdraw from the race a few weeks ago when polls showed her support hovering at 10%. Evo and Lucho’s party, the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), also won a huge majority in the country’s lower house and Senate.</p> <p>How did this happen? How did a dictatorship that enjoyed the total support of the United States and its allies allow itself to be voted out of government, not even a year after having seized it?</p> <p>The answer, ultimately, is simple: they did not have a say in the matter. The Bolivian masses, extraordinarily well-organized, imposed these elections on the reactionary dictatorship.</p> <p><strong>An unintended coup</strong></p> <p>Luis Camacho always planned to challenge the results of 2019’s presidential elections, regardless of what they were. The head of the Santa Cruz Civic Committee, Camacho’s worldview was that of the cattle ranchers, mine operators and loggers who dominated Santa Cruz’s society. This sector of the bourgeoisie had never abandoned the Catholic reactionaries that dominated Bolivia’s military dictatorships during the Cold War. They doubly hated Evo, both for his ‘communist agenda’ of ending poverty and placing Bolivia’s resources in the hands of the people, and, more fundamentally, because he was an Aymara - a person of indigenous heritage - sitting in the presidential palace.</p> <p>Morales won the 2019 presidential election with 47% of the vote. This was 14 points below what he’d received in the previous election but still enough votes to prevent a runoff election. It was all the excuse Camacho needed to start street violence. The Civic Committee and allies like the Santa Cruz Youth Union organized demonstrations and attacked MAS supporters under the cry of ‘electoral fraud.’ They were joined by their more cosmopolitan class compatriots in La Paz whose worldview, a liberal one that differed little from urban capitalists and professionals the world over, led them to the same endpoint of opposing the Movement Toward Socialism’s stated goals.</p> <p>Despite the broader nature of the mobilization, it was clear that reactionary forces were driving the effort. Violence not seen in the country in decades was soon found in every city as union halls were set on fire and elected MAS officials were dragged into the street and beaten. Then, the police in several cities mutinied, allying with the protesters and calling for Morales to resign.</p> <p>The violence caught the left unprepared. The basis of the Bolivian mass movement - and the basis for MAS' success in government - lay in the strategic unity of two political forces: the MAS, which serves as the political instrument of the indigenous peoples’ organizations, particularly coca farmers, migrant workers and women; and the Bolivian Workers Central (COB), the country’s left-led labor federation. At the time of the protests, there was a dispute between the MAS and the COB over Evo running for a fourth term. Some trade unions, therefore, did not immediately come to the government’s defense. That is not to say that they joined Camacho’s efforts, of course. The working-class and indigenous peoples of Bolivia - i.e., the vast majority of the population - never participated in the right-wing protests and have never been counted on to side with the forces of reaction.</p> <p>The situation quickly accelerated after the police mutinies. Juan Carlos Huarachi, the general secretary of the COB, called for Evo to step down after he and other top trade unionists received death threats at their homes. Similar threats came to the heads of the MAS, as well - it was later revealed that someone approached one of Evo’s bodyguards with the promise of paying him $50,000 if he assassinated the president.</p> <p>Then, General Williams Kaliman, a self-described “anti-imperialist” appointed by Evo Morales to lead the country’s armed forces just a year earlier, held a press conference where he called on the president to step down. He later told reporters he had not intended to provoke a coup, but only wanted to try to prevent further bloodshed. Regardless, he blinked in the face of reactionary violence and that was all that was needed. Within a few hours, Evo and his vice president stepped down, stating that their resignations were not over wrongdoing but to try to save the lives of their families and comrades.</p> <p>It is safe to say that the coup’s success caught everyone, including the coup plotters themselves, by surprise. Most likely, Camacho did not expect Evo’s allies in the military to suddenly falter; but when they did he and his allies did not hesitate. They marched into the presidential palace, rifles in hand, and removed the indigenous wiphala flag everywhere it could be found.</p> <p><strong>An unconsolidated coup</strong></p> <p>The strength of the MAS prevented the coup from fully consolidating itself. On the political terrain, they denied the coup any legitimacy under the law. Despite the resignation of Morales and Vice President Álvaro Linera, the MAS still had an undisputed majority in both houses of parliament. They boycotted the far right’s motion to recognize Morales’ resignation and appoint Jeanine Añez as president, meaning that they did not have the legal quorum to carry the motion forward. The coup plotters did anyways, and so Añez became dictator. Throughout the entirety of this year, all of Añez’s actions have been through decree, as the MAS-led legislature opposes her every move.</p> <p>It was in the people’s struggle, however, that the eventual defeat of the coup lay. Camacho’s violence and the military’s falter had caught the movement off guard. A misstep, however, cannot change the fact that Bolivia’s mass movement is one that rests on an incredible level of organization and militancy.</p> <p>The component parts of the movement, from the Bolivian Workers Central to the farmers unions, are organizations with decades of militant class struggle. Within two days of Añez’s coup, the capital of La Paz was encircled by armed roadblocks demanding her resignation. Every organization of the MAS declared a general strike until their demands were met. Police forces, with orders from Añez to ‘pacify’ the people, opened fire on demonstrations and roadblocks across the country, resulting in the massacre of ten indigenous people in El Alto and nine in Cochabamba. Countless MAS cadre and trade unionists were arrested, but the roadblocks could not be dislodged. While many elements of the police were willing to go along with the repression, the military by and large stepped back, even after Añez removed Kaliman and placed an ally in charge of the armed forces.</p> <p>It was clear that a stalemate had been reached. The Añez regime could not break the people’s movements without invoking a civil war, and it was clear that the military could not be relied upon to take such action. So it was announced that presidential elections would be held in May. Añez’s ‘pacification’ campaign had left 31 people killed and hundreds in jail, but the mass movement prevailed. With the MAS fighting her every step of the way in parliament, the organizations of the movement took time to consolidate their ranks, namely to rebuild the unity between the MAS and COB that had wavered in November. The organizations of the MAS announced their new presidential ticket to be Luis Arce and David Choquehuanca, Evo’s two longest-serving ministers and both well-regarded and popular. Work for their election began immediately.</p> <p><strong>An unpopular coup</strong></p> <p>The Añez dictatorship never enjoyed national support. In fact, her committed social base never extended beyond the racists of Santa Cruz. This was evident from the start, as most of the ministers of her government came from the city, including Branko Marinkovic, Camacho’s top lieutenant in the Civic Committee and a wealthy capitalist in his own right.</p> <p>Añez's decrees in office show her agenda was straightforward: to reverse the gains made during the 14 years of MAS government for the sole benefit of the comprador bourgeoisie and U.S. imperialism. MAS had severed all connections with the International Monetary Fund in order to free Bolivia from foreign finance capital. Añez, meanwhile, took out a $327 million loan. MAS had renationalized the mining industry and seized control of numerous other leading industries. Añez privatized as many as she could. MAS had built state-owned facilities to process lithium, of which Bolivia has the world’s largest deposits, so that the country could become the world’s leading producer of lithium batteries and electric cars. Añez has refused to open the facility, and instead continues to export lithium for the sole benefit of monopoly capitalists abroad, like Elon Musk.</p> <p>Amid this economic whirlwind, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. No relief was offered to the nearly 40% of Bolivians who lost their source of income during the pandemic. Nearly 140,000 Bolivians caught the disease, and nearly 9000 died. In the face of this global crisis, Añez and her friends simply saw another opportunity to strip the state for parts. They were caught embezzling millions of dollars during the purchase of hundreds of ventilators to battle COVID-19. As a result of Añez’s privatization campaign and her failures during the pandemic, over a million Bolivians - nearly 10% of the country - fell into poverty in the past year.</p> <p>The dictatorship tried to take advantage of COVID-19 to push back the return to democracy. They saw the same polls that everyone else saw. It was clear that any election would only return the MAS to power. When Añez’s regime delayed the presidential elections to September, and even later, the Bolivian masses had enough. The COB, now in unwavering unity with the MAS, declared a general strike and shut down the entire country. Reactionaries and fascists in Santa Cruz attacked demonstrators once again, and the COB’s headquarters in La Paz was bombed, yet the strike endured until assurances were made that the election would indeed be held on October 18. Even then, all trade unions and affiliates of the MAS made it clear what will happen if the election was stolen. “The moment [Añez] tries to carry out fraud,” said Orlando Gutierrez, a leader of the miners’ union, at a rally in September, “is the moment Bolivia lifts its pause on protests and we take power.”</p> <p>And so, the elections occurred on October 18. As the results came in, television cameras caught Luis Camacho on stage with tears rolling down his face. He had refused to drop out like Añez had, knowing that the liberal agenda of Carlos Mesa was not what he and his friends in Santa Cruz wanted. His vision of imposing a repressive order on the indigenous workers he hated so much was now gone. They had defeated him and defeated him badly. He received only 14% of the vote.</p> <p>The tasks ahead are historic. Lucho Arce’s government will not only have to undo the economic damage of Añez’s regime - including figuring out what to do about the IMF loans - but will have to tackle the COVID-19 crisis before they can plan on moving Bolivia forward. They will have to figure out what can be done about the numerous figures responsible for massacres and acts of terrorism, both inside and outside of the apparatuses of the state. They will have to determine what must happen to further bind the armed forces to the Bolivian revolutionary process, as has been successfully done by their comrades in Venezuela. And all of this will have to happen under the shadow of an increasingly vicious and desperate American empire.</p> <p>What is clear is that the Bolivian revolutionary movement now enters a period of profound unity and militancy. Their project was threatened in a way it never had been before, and the lives of thousands of dedicated revolutionaries were put on the line. Tactical disagreements could no longer get in the way of the strategic unity needed to overcome imperialist hegemony. The strength of the working masses, well-organized and aware of the historic task before them, is one that can never be underestimated.</p> Las Luchas del Pueblo Bolivia Bolivia MAS Sat, 24 Oct 2020 01:53:44 +0000 Fight Back 8578 at Tampa students rally against cuts to education, demand defunding of USF police department <p>Tampa, FL - On October 20, around 40 students and community members protested against the University of South Florida’s (USF) budget cuts and demanded defunding the campus police. Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) held the protest as part of their Chop from the Top and the Cops campaign and a new demand for USF to keep the College of Education after recent news of the department’s closure.</p> <p>The reason for ending undergraduate education programs, according to USF, is that attendance has been low and that ending the program will save the school about $6.8 million. This decision is the beginning of USF’s implementation of this school year’s 8.5% budget cut. SDS demands that no departments at USF close, and that no workers are laid off due to these budget cuts.</p> <p>Gareth Dawkins, a member of Tampa SDS, said, “The university could’ve enacted greater cuts on the police department or defunded them completely as opposed to shutting down the undergraduate department of education.”</p> <p>Instead of these budget cuts, SDS demands having the highest-paid administrators take substantial pay cuts and defunding the USF Police Department. USF’s police department had a budget of $7 million last year and have announced a 5% cut this year.</p> <p>Veronica Sierra, another member of SDS, stated, “A school that charges $90 a semester for parking passes during a pandemic when there aren’t as many students on campus, has $7 million to spend for campus police, and overpays their administration, shouldn’t have to cut off an entire college. These funds should be put towards helping the school and students, not making things worse.”</p> <p>SDS’s Chop from the Top and the Cops campaign will continue to demand more resources for students and workers and that budget cuts come from the most overfunded parts of the budget, such as the administration and the police department.</p> Chop from the Top and the Cops College of Education Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) USF Police Department Sistema de injusticia Fri, 23 Oct 2020 13:07:25 +0000 Fight Back 8577 at