September 28, 2011

Reflecting on the murder of Troy Davis

After Troy Anthony Davis was murdered last week by the State of Georgia, a close friend who has been active in both the labor movement and the struggle for civil & human rights for many decades shared her observations. Her heartfelt examination, her humanity, these are the elements of any capital murder case that are missing in in what some folks insist on calling the "justice system." I invite both long-time and new readers of Fire on the Mountain, to ponder this and share their thoughts…

The Troy Davis Execution

On the Wednesday night of the Troy Davis execution I was glued to the television with my 30 year old son, at his home.  We were both holding our breath waiting for the Supreme Court decision, and could not hold back tears when they refused to give him a stay of execution.

We have not lived together for 7 years, so we rarely watch TV together.  So on this night we reverted to a much younger version of ourselves with him asking me for assurance that would I come save him if he was on death row; like any mother wouldn’t want to be able to say “yes” to that question.

I thought the NAACP was at its best.  Executive Director, Ben Jealous was totally sympathetic and respectful of the family of the police officer who had been killed.  At the same time he was a staunch advocate for Davis saying that justice had to be “precise”; that executing Davis when there were so many doubts was not justice for either Davis or the victim.

As remarkable, were the scores of people who agreed with the NAACP---Desmond Tutu, and Jimmy Carter included. There was even a letter from past and present executioners talking about the horrible psychological toll executing a person takes on a “person of conscience”, only made worse when that person maintains their innocence and their guilt is in doubt. Davis’ last words were to the officers’ family declaring that he did not have a gun the night their son or brother was killed.

The officer’s mother could not bear to watch the execution but she was interviewed by TV reporters.  She insisted she needed Davis killed so she could get closure. Though I truly felt sorry for her that she had lost her son, and the indignity of him being killed while trying to protect a homeless person, I found her statement incomprehensible.  If my son, were to die before me, I do not think I would ever get closure. Its so against nature for a child to die before their parents. And clearly this poor mother had not gotten closure in the 22 years since his death. For her to think she would get closure by the execution of Davis is against all reason. Studies show that victims families do not get relief from these executions; and certainly the doubt raised about Davis being the killer had to undermine any satisfaction.

In Texas, that same night, another execution was going on. It was the execution of a  young white man who had purposely killed a Black man-James Byrd- by chaining him to the back of a truck until his body was totally mutilated to the point that the highway police originally thought he was a dead animal run over by many vehicles. That family put out a statement that said: They were not advocating that this killer be executed. He could not harm their family from the prison; that violence in response to violence only perpetuates it; and finally that executions historically in this country had been of Black men, and this execution of a white men did not take away that history, or make it fairer by evening the score.

To me, the difference in consciousness between the 2 families was stunning. From the ugliness of the centuries of discrimination and lynchings, the Black family had emerged with a generous spirit and a historical perspective.  The white family had not gotten past the Barbaric “an eye for an eye”. Its this difference in consciousness; that regressive consciousness that has defined this country since its inception, this ongoing legacy of  slavery and Jim Crow that keeps this country socially backward, despite all our riches.

Read more!

September 5, 2011

Black NJ: POP's Labor Day March for Jobs in Newark

POP's September 5th March for Jobs took to Market Street in Newark without a permit
On Monday, September 5, the People's Organization for Progress marched and rallied for jobs in Newark, NJ. Though this was a special Labor Day event, it was also the 71st day of POP's "Daily People's Campaign for Jobs, Equality, Peace & Justice," which began this past June 27 (see POP Begins Daily People's Campaign for Jobs, Peace, Justice & Equality, and People's Organization for Progress "Daily People's Campaign," Part II).
As Larry Adams, N.J. POP's vice-chair for external affairs observed, "around the world, workers celebrate Labor Day on May 1st."

"A September 'Labor Day' celebration is nearly unique to the United States," he continued. "the US capitalists want us to celebrate with beer and cook-outs, to forget labor's struggle for a better world; but we chose to use today holiday to demand jobs at a living wage!"
Larry Hamm listens as community activist Sharon Hand speaks about her experience since losing
 her job, meeting POP, and joining the "Daily Campaign"
Or, as Lawrence Hamm, chairman of the People's Organization for Progress put it, "there are more people unemployed today than during the Great Depression. Currently we are one percentage point away from what is officially called 'depression-level' unemployment. We need a 21-century WPA (Work Projects Administration, the Roosevelt-era government body that many hold responsible for lifting the US out of the Great Depression)."
Rallying in front of the Essex County Courthouse
Unfortunately, though a significant number of churches and labor union locals came forward over the last two weeks, these organizations did not participate in any serious numbers. Union workers from Rutgers University, Newark Teachers, and SEIU 1199 participated as individuals. While the NJ Industrial Union Council was represented (and promised to bring out its membership one day a month for the Daily People's Campaign), the majority of participation came from community groups. Newark City Council member-at-large, Mildred C. Crump, was the only government official who attended.

Labor Day, with its backyard barbecues and Local Union cookouts and parades, is a day that doesn't lend itself to mass action. For those who rallied at the courthouse and marched downtown from there to the Broad & Market and back, it was the best People's Daily picket yet. The loud and boisterous honks of support from passing motorists more than made the day.
Perhaps the most exciting recent development in POP's relations to the labor movement  was Larry Hamm's speaking engagement to the Bermuda Industrial Union's Labour Day Banquet this past Friday (click on the banquet link for a news report from Bermuda's Royal Gazette).

To view additional photos from the Labor Day march & rally (and a special thanks to my friend Jon who snapped these shots), click on this photos link.

Read more!

September 4, 2011

Martha Cameron Takes A Bust: A Tar Sands Followup

Last week I posted a sharp-as-hell piece by my old friend Gary Goff on why he was heading to DC to get arrested in the Taz Sands Protest. Today I follow up with a report from my old friend Martha Cameron, Gary's partner, who evidently decided, while in DC, to put her body on the line as well! They were two of the 1252 people arrested in the two week protest at the White House.

As a post-arrestee of the Tar Sands Action Project, I urge you all to take 5 minutes to do two things:

1. Watch this video by Josh Fox -- it will give you a glimpse into the magnitude (and scariness) of the Tar Sands project.

2. Call the White House. Urge President Obama to reject the Tar Sands proposal and start building renewable energy, which will generate far more permanent jobs and help mitigate the disaster of global climate change: 202-456-1111.

There's a lot more information at Tar Sands Action Project, and photos of each day's sit-ins on Flickr. My husband Gary Goff and I were with the August 24 group. Here's one photo from the Flickr set for our day. That's me in the red hat, hiding from the sun, holding the sign I made for the sit-in.

The two people in the foreground, Bryan and Cherri, came up with a group from the Gulf area. Bryan is an environmental justice organizer from Manchester, Texas, the neighborhood in Houston where Keystone XL oil is scheduled to be refined. Manchester, aka "Petro-Metro," is already the site of numerous other dirty industries.

Cherri was with a group from Louisiana, still recovering from Katrina, but also now suffering severely from the effects of the BP oil spill and cleanup. She told stories that are familiar to anyone who has heard the stories of the 9/11 First Responders -- the rush to clean up the mess, the promises of support, and now the sicknesses resulting from exposure to the oil and the massive use of highly toxic dispersants. As in New York, cleanup workers were barred from using protective coverings. As in New York, compensation is slow to come or nonexistent. Locals try not to eat the fish, which are frequently covered with lesions and tumors.

Fritzie, another woman from Louisiana, blamed her daughter's miscarriage on the cleanup chemicals, which were liberally sprayed over residential areas. Her daughter is no longer able to work; she now suffers from extreme fatigue, horrible skin eruptions, and other symptoms consonant with toxic chemical poisoning. Again, I thought of the First Responders, but also of the cleanup workers from the Exxon Valdez spill, the soldiers with Gulf War Syndrome, the Vietnamese people and U.S. soldiers sickened by Agent Orange...

I also learned that much of the energy used to process the tar sands oil will be derived from fracking. So we are destroying the Northeast's freshwater and land resources in order to perpetuate the destruction of the boreal rain forest in northern Canada and threaten the Ogalla Aquifer in the western United States. We are burning money in order to burn money in order to burn the planet even faster. This is insane. We have to stop this. So please, take 5 minutes. Watch the video. Call the White House. Demand jobs. Demand renewable energy. Demand an end to the oil wars being fought in our name in Central Asia, the Middle East, Northern Africa, in South America, and here at home.

Read more!