“No justice, no peace!”

njnpNo justice, no peace.

The first time I heard those words, I was disturbed.

Was it a call for armed revolution? Was it an invitation to overthrow the current order?

As it turns out, it is neither.

It is a call to treat all human beings with respect.

As it is, people in this country live without hope of things ever getting better. Unless you have experienced hopelessness, you can not understand what it can do to a person.

Let’s say you live in a poor neighborhood where there are few, if any jobs. You’re told if you stay in school things will get better, but you stay in school and you’re still treated as though your life doesn’t matter.

People with authority and power treat you as though you’re worthless. They can stop and frisk you for no reason and shoot to kill if you don’t comply.

It’s completely arbitrary. You can walk through the neighborhood one day and get stopped and humiliated the next.

When you walk into a store, people assume you’re there to steal and you get followed as you browse.

These indignities add up, one by one, day after day.

Michael Brown stayed in school and was about to start college, but that didn’t give him immunity from being shot six times by a white police officer.

The prosecutor said the police officer saw that Michael Brown matched the description that had been sent out as someone who had robbed a convenience store.

First of all, it has been established already that the officer did not have the description, and that, although there was an altercation at the store, the film appears to show Michael Brown putting money on the counter.

Second, if Michael Brown did steal cigars, that should not mean he gets the death penalty.

This is what I mean about living without hope that things will ever get better.

This child’s body lay on the street for four and a half hours. Is it any wonder that residents of Ferguson believe the police were fixing “evidence” while he lay there?

How can anyone be at peace when they live with the disrespect these human beings face every day?

Meanwhile, the people with power have to protect what they have. They have to make it appear that Michael Brown deserved to die and that the officer was completely justified in using deadly force.

How can they have any sense of peace when they’re living in fear of an uprising because of the injustices they perpetrate?

When I say, “No justice, no peace,” I mean that we can’t have peace on either side as long as part of the population lives with intimidation and fear, underpaid, disrespected and with no hope of anything changing.

Had Darryl Wilson been indicted and a trial held, even if he was exonerated, at least there would have been an open debate about what happened. We might not have been happy with the results, but there would have been at least a modicum of respect for Michael Brown and his family.

Instead, he will walk away, his actions condoned. That sends a powerful message to people whose lives are affected every day by indignities and disrespect. When you remove hope from someone’s life, they have nothing to lose by lashing out in anger. Their neighborhood feels like a prison, so what do what have to lose by rioting and lighting fires?

We can’t live in peace if a minority of the population spends all its time trying to protect itself and its power and wealth by denying the rights of others to live a decent life.

Things won’t get better until we truly understand the meaning of “No justice, no peace” as a call to respect others and not as a call to rebellion and violence.

Cry tonight, fight tomorrow

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this frustrated.

A minority of North Carolina’s registered voters just robbed hundreds of thousand of people of their rights.

Our state constitution has been amended to discriminate against people who aren’t legally married all in the name of “family values.”

Now we don’t just have a law discriminating against gays and lesbians by denying them the right to marry, we have enshrined it into our constitution and in the process robbed everyone who isn’t married legally of their rights and benefits.

People who were insured by the employers of their domestic partners will lose their insurance benefits and their rights to any say in the care of the people they love.

Parents will lose rights to their children, and children will lose health benefits.

People who suffer domestic abuse will lose their protections because they aren’t legally married to the person who’s beating the crap out of them. Sure, they can charge their abusers with assault, but they won’t have the added protections they had this morning. No order of protection, no arrest if he comes back to the house, unless he beats her senseless again or succeeds in killing her.

Let’s be clear about this: Amendment One will cause people to die — from lack of insurance, from domestic abuse — all in the process of mixing religion and the law. Because nearly everyone who objects to LGBT relationships does so for religious reasons.

We in North Carolina have taken a huge step back. We have placed hate and bigotry into our constitution, and people will die because of it.

I’m sick to my stomach tonight. I’m going to have a stiff drink and a short pity-party, then I’m going to bed because I’ll need my energy in the morning when the fight begins anew.

I want justice, and I can be damned tenacious.

‘I’ll do anything’

A rainy Monday in Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC. Occupiers believe they're about to be evicted and arrested, even though they were told they could stay for four months just a few weeks ago.

I drove some winter tents and heaters from a military tent surplus store near my house to Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC, last week. As I was in the office arranging to have my U-Haul loaded, a man came in, cap in hand, and asked if the company was hiring.

“We might be soon,” the woman said. “But it’s really hard, heavy work.”

The man looked to be in his 40s.

“That’s OK,” he said. “I can do that. I’ll do anything.”

He hadn’t worked in a year, and because the job he had before that — setting up mobile homes — was as an independent contractor, he wasn’t collecting unemployment benefits.

That’s a trick contractors play often. You can work for the same place for years, be there on time every day and work hard, and still not be able to collect when you get canned. They avoid paying benefits and they avoid having any responsibility if something happens to you.

The man had applied to several home center stores, but was turned away because he had bad credit. That’s right, Home Depot does a credit check on you when you apply for a job and then turns you away if your score is too low.

He’ll stop back in at the tent surplus company and maybe they’ll have a job for him. They won’t do a credit check, either.

It stiffened my resolve to stay involved with the Occupy Movement, and to be more involved with the one here in Asheville.

The 1 percent is getting out its big guns to get rid of us, though. Reportedly, the federal Department Homeland Security has been advising mayors on conference calls about how to break up the camps. Here in Asheville, ours has moved a couple of times and dozens of people have been arrested.

Occupy is not going away, no matter how many camps are broken up. We will gather elsewhere. We will gather on private property if we have to — there are churches and other organizations that support what we are doing. We will continue to educate people about the many ways the 1 percent is screwing us. We will continue to have direct actions.

This movement is not fading away as the media would have us believe. There were more tents in Freedom Plaza when I was there than there were when I left six weeks ago, and McPherson Square is even more crowded. Both camps have received notice that they will be broken up, but neither is moving. No one is afraid of being arrested because we all are committed to making meaningful change.

The media keep demanding a list of demands. We keep telling them what’s happening to Americans and they say we’re unfocused. Perhaps it seems that way because there are so many things wrong. We all have our favorite issues — I have worked toward quality health care for all Americans, others have worked for a living wage, safe and affordable housing, labor rights, education, mental health and disability rights, a cleaner environment and a move toward sustainable and renewable energy sources. None of us has made much headway on any of these justice issues. The 1 percent’s corrupt money is like a brushfire. No sooner do we put it out in one place than another flame pops up.

Under the banner of the Occupy movement, we are working together now, and we are not going away.

The message is clear

 

I’m in the first 9. Can you spot me?

The mainstream media have been saying our message isn’t clear. Well, I don’t know how to make it any clearer.

We want corrupt corporate influence out of our government.

Without the influence of Wall Street, we would have had strong financial reform already.

Without the influence of big banks, we would have gotten credit reform with teeth.

Without the influence of insurance, pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing companies, we would have gotten meaningful health care reform.

Without the influence of the military industrial complex we wouldn’t have wars and other overseas adventures going on.

We want our Democracy back.

The word “mob” is being used to describe what we’re doing, but we are not a mob.

We are nonviolent.

We are acting by consensus, and that’s very hard to do.  It takes painstaking detail and total agreement on each action. In Washington that first night, we spent an hour discussing whether people would sleep in Freedom Plaza, which is illegal, or on city sidewalks, which is legal. The decision came down to stay on the plaza.

Yesterday, after the October 2011 permit expired, the police told demonstrators they won’t interfere for four months.

There has been no violence at Freedom Plaza, although there was the Smithsonian incident where an editor for the American Standard infiltrated our march and shoved a security guard, leading to the pepper-spraying of dozens of marchers. Even after we were hit with pepper spray, several of us walked around calming protesters and reminding them that this is a nonviolent movement and that goes for verbal expression too.

The thing that makes us look muddled is that advovates for a dozen different issues finally have come together. My primary issue is health care; others are working for an end to our wars, an end to the use of unmanned drones, true finance reform, education, poverty, justice system reform, and end to the death penalty, a real living wage … So you’ll see any number of signs.

But we all want the same thing: to get corporations out of government and have it work for the people again.

What scares the 1 percent is that we, the 99 percent, have come together. We are one for economic, social and civil justice.

 

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