This year’s Midwest Peace and Justice Summit, the seventh annual, bristled with ideas for social justice activists. It took place March 26 on the IUPUI campus in Indianapolis and was sponsored by the IUPUI chapter of Students for a Democratic Society.
The all-day, free summit began with a plenary session on grassroots organizing: from the Middle East to the Midwest, by two state activists, Omar Atia, president of Bridge, and Allison Luthe, community activist with Central Indiana Jobs with Justice, with Carl Davidson, a long-time activist and writer from western Pennsylvania, moderating.
Many people apply lawn chemicals on their properties to achieve the much-touted gorgeous, green, weed-free lawn. Lawn chemicals, however, can be deadly.
“The entire U.S. population is exposed on a daily basis to numerous agricultural chemicals, some of which are used in residential and commercial landscaping,” according to the latest edition of a report called Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now, by the President’s Cancer Panel.
As humans seek the middle of what Ralph Waldo Emerson described as the polar states of "insanity or fat dullness," citizens search for the most effective news. Just as no student could pass a test without access to the materials that will be covered on the test, citizens need to be exposed to adequate information to formulate ideas and opinions in their democracy.
On the al-Jazeera English show Empire, in an episode entitled "Information Wars," host and moderator Marwan Bishara stated, "Today, the free flow of information is overturning autocrats across the Arab World. Who knows where the next domino will fall?"
The “green scare” is in full swing, with COINTELPRO-style targeting of environmental and animal rights activists. The green scare, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, is “the repression of environmental activists by designating them as terrorists.”
The challenge for activists is to peacefully protest and avoid criminalization of their dissent. Nowhere is that situation more evident than in the case of two I-69 protestors, Hugh Farrell and Gina “Tiga” Wertz. After a nonviolent protest Wertz was charged with intimidation, a class A misdemeanor, two counts; conversion (unauthorized use of someone else's property), a class A misdemeanor, two counts; and corrupt business influence (racketeering), a class C felony. Her bond was set at $10,000.
Bloomington activist Paul Smith has discovered a heretofore unrecognized talent as a lyricist and has begun penning verse for the Bloomington-based songstresses the Raging Grannies. Here is the first. - sh
Tax cuts for the rich
Sung to the tune of "Battle Hymn of the Republic"
Obama's seen the glory of the tax cuts for the rich;
He got them through the congress without a single hitch;
Higher taxes for the poor will leave them clean without a stitch;
It's tax cuts for the rich!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Tax cuts for the rich will screw ya!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Wall Street is marching on.
If you stay alert and get lucky, you might have a chance to witness the Hoosier Raging Grannies in action.
The Raging Grannies got their start in Victoria, B.C., Canada, 23 years ago, when a group of elderly women peace activists thought they weren’t getting their message across and came up with the idea of group of women donning costumes that are stereotypes of elderly women’s outfits and singing short, snappy, satirical lyrics to well-known songs. The best Granny songs base the words on those of the original tune, like “The Old Gray Granny,” about health care and sung to the tune of “The Old Gray Mare:”
The old, gray granny ain’t what she used to be,
Had a hysterectomy, needs a colonoscopy,
But she can’t afford to pay for her care and so
I guess we’ll have to shoot her now….
To communities opposing biomass power plants across the country, one part of the tax cut package approved by Congress is not good news: the extension of tax grants that will pay up to 30 percent of the cost of developing biomass plants. Biomass project proposals have sprouted like mushrooms in response to federal subsidies -- and have been met with fierce resistance from communities that don't want their trees cut down or their air and water polluted to keep the electricity coming.
Consider, for instance, Jasper, Indiana, a gem of a town with a fine courthouse square, furniture factories and just beyond the factories, a Patoka River walk where residents and occasional tourists stroll under a canopy of trees. Jasper also has an old city-owned coal-fired power plant, and that coal plant has become the crux of significant argument in the halls of power.
I remember my first ride on a new four-lane highway through the Kentucky countryside, and what a fine road it was: smooth, wide and uncrowded. We just floated along in our Chevrolet -- Mother, Daddy, my little brother and me, back home from Nigeria where roads were usually unpaved laterite, and we bounced through clouds of dust, moving over now and then to let herds of long-horned cows pass. It was 1956, and America was zooming full-bore into what looked like a bright future of suburban homes with two-car garages.
I think of that now as state surveyors move into Monroe County to chart the route of an interstate highway -- maybe the last interstate highway that will be built in the United States, if it is built at all, a question I hope still hangs in the air. As our town tries to dig its way out of the mess that 20th-century America has made of itself, we can hardly imagine that what we need now at the dawn of the post-oil age is a highway.
“It is not too late!!! Ask for a redesign of this project!” Those were the messages 30 citizens with signs tried to convey to people driving on the SR 45/46 Bypass from 4 to 6 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 20, on the northeast corner of Fee Lane and the Bypass.
The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) has begun work on widening the bypass, over citizens’ objections for the last 20 years. The citizens claim that the bypass design is outmoded. It would encourage the use of more cars when, because of global climate change, we should be putting money into public transportation, not cars, one of the largest contributors to climate change.
According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, a public-interest, human-rights law firm, "The Obama administration has ... continued and enhanced the use of 'terrorism' prosecutions against animal rights and environmental activists, indicating that the 'Green Scare' - the repression of environmental activists by designating them terrorists - continues in full swing."
In Indiana the Green Scare has been in full swing with two legal cases associated with construction of the I-69 interstate extension. Criminal charges brought against two activists have been settled, but Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) lawsuits intended to chill political activism continue against 16 others.