Activism


October 13, 2011

“Hundreds turned out onto the streets of Indianapolis to protest the banksters and perpetual war machine. The crowd was high spirited and politically sophisticated. Revolution was in the air!” So went the assessment of day 1 of Occupy Indianapolis by Bob Baldwin, an Indianapolis resident.

In an e-mail, Baldwin did a good job capturing the mood of the protest, which began at noon on Oct. 8, and the corporate media did a decent job of describing its content. But no news story except one in the Bloomington Herald-Times mentioned the most exciting aspect of the event, the “leaderless resistance,” as that story described it – that is, the process through which the protest took place.

October 8, 2011

News Release
Occupy Bloomington

Passionate community members and students will gather at People's Park on Kirkwood Avenue at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 9, to begin an occupation of the park in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Occupy Together movement as a whole. Those in attendance will set up camping equipment to use the park as a hub to plan other events and actions around the Bloomington community to empower and raise awareness.

The Occupy Bloomington movement has drawn people of all ages, creeds, races, beliefs and political standings. Through group consensus the movement has agreed on a location and time to begin the event. Any interested community members are invited to come share ideas, passions and thoughts on where to take the movement.


September 27, 2011

While brainstorming with editors at NUVO for the Sept. 28 cover story on the Newport prairie controversy, I told them I love covering small-town power struggles because public officials inevitably shoot from the hip. They seldom display the political savvy of, say, a deputy director at a major state agency. By the time I had finished my reporting, the point was proven, in spades. Ditto the argument that citizen input into our democratic process has become little more than a sham.

Jack Fenoglio, for example, is president of the Newport Chemical Depot Reuse Authority and a lifelong member of the Izaak Walton League, a conservation group whose National Director Clara Walters lives in Clinton. She has organized national support for preserving a 336-acre black-soil prairie restoration on the Newport site. When I asked Fenoglio to square his opposition to the preservation with that of the organization, he minced no words.

"The prairie issue really started with one man who kind of led the project when he was working for Mason and Hanger," the retired metallurgical engineer said. "And he has got everybody else on the bandwagon to one degree more or less. But I think a lot of the rank and file members of all these organizations that he has brought to the table probably wouldn't recognize prairie grass if they saw it."


September 25, 2011

Leaving Washington after 10 days in front of the White House, I ride the train through hills and mountains – Maryland, West Virginia? I look out on trees, rocks, river: wide river, shallow with rocks, winding, here and there a small island; now an old stone building, a wide field, a farm; now trees again, roads, farms. “Beautiful,” I think. There's a bit of mist, now turned to rain streaming down the windows. Across the aisle a baby is entertained by his mother.

This is what it is about – that life should continue. Perhaps I should say, life as we now know it. The teaching says, “Accept what is offered,” but I am not yet able to accept the end of human life, the end of trees, of rain, of deer. I am worried at the loss of insects. Suddenly I remember, driving a car in the summer 10, 20 years ago meant a windshield splattered with insects, frequent scrubbing and cleaning of their dead bodies – and this is no longer true; the insects are nearly gone. What else is lost, will be lost every day in this great extinction? How can I come to terms with it?


September 9, 2011

West-central Indiana business and government officials made no mystery of their plans for the Newport Chemical Depot (NECD) from almost the moment they learned it truly would be theirs. In the summer of 2008, as the U.S. Army finished eliminating the 1,269 tons of VX nerve agent that had been manufactured and stored there for a half century, the locals declared their priorities in a Terre Haute Tribune-Star article.

“The thing that is the immediate impact is the job loss,” Ed Cole, director of the Economic Development Council of Vermillion County and point person for the Vermillion Chemical Depot Local Reuse Authority (LRA), told the newspaper in July that year. "It is just going to be a tremendously bad hit for us."

Localized, grass-roots democracy 'only way' to combat corrupt, diseased system

September 3, 2011

Cindy Sheehan doesn’t sit down and relax very often. The internationally known peace and human rights activist just returned home to California from a two-week trip to Japan and soon afterwards embarked on a bus tour of the Northwest.

“Today,” she wrote in her blog for Aug. 21, “the Re-Creating Revolutionary Communities or Bust Tour kicked off our nine-city tour in Oregon and California with some exciting visits in Eugene, Ore.”


August 26, 2011

Tim Maloney wasn't alone when he objected to the U.S. Army's October 2010 finding that a reuse plan for the Newport Chemical Depot would have no significant environmental impact on the Vermillion County environs. That the plan offered no protection for a rare and endangered black-soil prairie on the base wasn't even the most confounding aspect. Proposed by a local reuse authority empowered to determine the 7,100-acre base's future, the plan called for a coal-liquefaction plant on land that had been maintained largely in agricultural and natural states.

The Army's determination that a coal plant would produce no adverse environmental impacts was one of several issues the Hoosier Environmental Council's (HEC) senior policy director said rendered it "inadequate" under federal law. "This would be a major industrial facility, with potential impacts to air quality, water quality, disturbance or destruction of forest, wetlands, and prairie, and dramatic change in the nature of the property," Maloney wrote in Dec. 18, 2010, comments. He called on the Army to complete a full environmental impact statement for Newport.


August 26, 2011

The Midwest Rising Convergence 2011, on Aug. 12–15 at the University of Missouri–St. Louis conference center, wasn’t an ordinary conference. It featured no experts or celebrities. The 200 or so participants co-operatively ran it, cooking and serving meals, working at the registration desk and holding workshops.

Billed as an anticorporate gathering of activists with a focus on environmental and economic justice and on the interconnectedness of social justice issues, the convergence was highlighted by several instances of direct action.

Army refuses to protect rare grasslands at former Newport VX plant

August 20, 2011

NEWPORT, IND. – Environmental activists in west-central Indiana have lost the first round of their ongoing struggle to protect a patch of endangered black-soil prairie on the U.S. Army's Newport Chemical Depot (NECD). On Sept. 15, the Army is scheduled to transfer the 7,100-acre base to a quasi-governmental group, with no protections whatsoever for the prairie and several endangered species that frequent it.

The restored, 336-acre prairie's fate rests with the Newport Chemical Depot Local Reuse Authority, whose five members are appointed by the Vermillion County Commissioners. So far they have refused to commit either way and at times have been downright hostile toward the preservationists.

Grant Smith retires from CAC, talks about past, present and future

July 15, 2011

Editor's note: Citizens Action Coalition (CAC) Executive Director Grant Smith resigned on June 17 and sat down at his home just south of Broad Ripple in Indianapolis with Bloomington Alternative editor Steven Higgs for a conversation about a variety of topics. Smith started at CAC as a part-time canvasser in 1982. What follows are edited, extended excerpts from their 70-minute discussion.

A version of this story appears in the July 14 issue of NUVO in Indianapolis.

***

Higgs: Do I recall Chris (former CAC executive director Williams) hired you because you wore a suit and tie to the interview?

Smith: No, it was because I didn't. I was in the interview wearing a flannel shirt and jeans. Another guy was in a three-piece suit. Chris was talking to him and not to me. That was in February 1982. CAC was originally the Citizens Energy Coalition and formed in '74. The name was changed to CAC in about '76. The canvass operation began in '79.

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