The Village Halloween Parade is not nearly as political and outrageous as it used to be – the goal is to be an expression of creativity and if anything, good will and spirituality. But still, there were a few standouts. Notably, a whole group of Gays Against Guns, and a group calling itself “Rise & Resist” wearing costumes and carrying signs with the message, “The Emperor Has No Clothes!” Indeed, the entire parade wound up being a form of resistance against the terror attack that occurred just hours before and less than a mile away – as one parade regular put it, “a giant F-U to the terrorists.”
Just a few hours and less than a mile away from where a 29-year old used a rented pickup truck to mow down cyclists and pedestrians on the West Side Highway bikepath, killing eight and injuring 12, thousands were gathering in costumes for the 44th annual Village Halloween Parade. With high confidence that the terror attack was by a lone wolf and not coordinated, the decision was made for the parade to go on, albeit with enhanced security. Even with the counter-terrorism officers draped in military-style assault weapons, vests and helmets, and with the heightened sense of security, the police were accommodating and the mood of marchers and viewers alike more playful than seditious.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio and NY Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill marched with the parade – which brings out one million people who line the mile-long route along Sixth Avenue and tens of thousands of marchers, giving a shout out for New Yorkers to defy terrorism by going on with their lives.
While the terrorist committed mayhem, Governor Cuomo said, “He did not stop New Yorkers from being New Yorkers.”
Speaking to Anderson Cooper on CNN, Cuomo said, “This was an attack that was designed to create terror, and it — it killed and frightened people. It was despicable. But, New Yorkers are resilient, New Yorkers go on. We learned the hard way on 9/11 that we are a target, we are the international symbol of democracy and freedom and we understand that. And since 9/11 we’ve lived with this and we’ve put together the best security force on the globe in my opinion, and we worked together and the response was great. But this afternoon was terrible.
“Tonight we’re at a Halloween parade to say you didn’t win and you didn’t affect us and we’re out and celebrating and we’re doing what New Yorkers do and we’re living our lives because we’re not going to allow the terrorists to win, period. And that’s why I’m here marching in the parade, not because I have a great costume.”
“They are trying to divide. The point is to unite, to show normalcy. To politicize this event [as Trump did immediately] is wholly unproductive,” Governor Cuomo said later in a press conference.
Trump, predictably and unlike the reaction to the Las Vegas massacre which killed 58 and injured hundreds, ridiculously blamed Senator Schumer, and called for a travel ban and even more extreme vetting, in contrast to the call “this is not the time to politicize a tragedy” in response to the most lethal massacre in modern history. (Interestingly, he did not bother to call Governor Cuomo or Mayor DiBlasio as every president would have done after such a heinous event, spending his time tweeting out attacks on Democrat Sen Schumer for a diversity visa program adopted 20 years ago and signed by George HW Bush when Schumer was in the House; Schumer and the “Gang of 8” in their grand attempt to devise comprehensive immigration reform, proposed changes but Republicans blocked consideration of the immigration bill.)
Down Sixth Avenue, you could see the Freedom Tower that rose from the shattered Twin Towers, lighted red, white and blue.
“One World Trade Center was 9/11,” Cuomo told Anderson Cooper. “It was the darkest day that we went through in New York, but what we did is we got right back up and didn’t let them win. and we built back bigger, better and stronger than ever before, that’s who we are. If you think you’re going to beat us, you’re wrong. If you think these terrorist attacks are going to put a dent in the New York spirit, you’re wrong. And New York, America is about freedom and it is about democracy and will always be. And whatever attack you think you can bring is going to fail because our spirit is stronger than theirs.”
Indeed, none of Trump’s bigoted, racist anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant policies would have prevented this tragedy: not The Wall (this guy came into the US in 2010 through JFK), the travel ban against predominantly Muslim countries (Uzbekistan, though accounting for a large proportion of ISIS fighters, is not one of the countries excluded); or ending sanctuary cities (he was not undocumented or “illegal” but had a green card). While the pro-gun lobby is fast to blame any massacre on mental health rather than political or terror motive (like Dylann Roof or the guy who shot up a Planned Parenthood office), a “suicide by cop” or other derangement is never taken into account if the perpetrator is a Muslim or non-native.
But what is Trump’s solution to terror? He is threatening to cut off funds to New York City for anti-terrorism and policing, the #1 terror target in the US, because of New York City’s stance on making undocumented immigrants feel secure if the New York City does not abandon its sanctuary city policy. Indeed, this guy, who had nothing more than a traffic ticket during his time in the US, was radicalized in this country, and very likely Trump’s policies had something to do with why he was receptive to ISIS propaganda. Obama had a much more effective program to stem and stop this sort of homegrown, self-radicalized, lone-wolf terrorism – working in immigrant communities, forging relationships, making people feel secure and a part of American society with a stake in it, so they report suspicious behavior and do not fall under the spell of radicalism.
But in the end, it is impossible to completely stop such acts of terror. It is mind-blowing the speed with which authorities are looking to harden communities against such attacks — making bikelanes more secure – and yet, completely ignore the pervasive terror of gun violence that takes 33,000 lives and maims thousands more each year.
Those positions were on view during the Village Halloween Parade, which is an opportunity for people to express themselves in creative, even humorous, ways.
Nearly 200 Long Island activists turned out for a demonstration that took up two corners of the busy Jericho Turnpike and the Walt Whitman Boulevard in Huntington Station to show outrage at the blatant racism and violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, causing the death of a 32-year old woman and sending 19 others to hospital.
The rally was organized by Ron Widelec of Long Island Activists, in conjunction with Long Island Progressive Coalition, NY 2nd District Democrats (Republican Peter King’s district); Action Together Long Island, Get 2 Work Long Island, Suffolk Progressives. Widelec posted the event on moveon.org and the Indivisible site, where it was listed among many protests, rallies, vigils taking place throughout the metropolitan area, to give people, hungry for a way to express their horror at what befell Charlottesville, a means of expressing their outrage.
Drivers in a steady stream of cars honked in support; a few used hand gestures to express their opposition.
The gathering was also notable for a whole slew of Democratic elected officials and candidates, including New York State Assemblyman Charles Lavine, Assemblyman Phil Ramos 96th district, Brentwood newly elected Assemblywoman Christine Pellegrino (who won her seat for State Assembly in a district that Trump won by 18 points), and Nassau County Legislator Arnie Drucker, who was elected to fill the unexpired term of Judy Jacobs, plus a potpourri of candidates for Huntington and Oyster Bay supervisor and town council.
“Impeach Twitler… Never Again,” read the hand-drawn sign held high by Erica Fladell of Bethpage. “United against hate.” “Silence is deafening and can be dangerous”. “Stop Fascism Now.” were among the other banners.
Indeed, Trump has shown more venomous outrage in tweets against political opponents, the press (“fake news”), even Merck CEO Kenneth C. Frazier, who quit a White House business advisory panel over President Trump’s statement blaming “many sides” for the violence in Charlottesville, Va., as well as the “fire and fury” threat to North Korea that he said was not “tough enough,” than he does against the White Supremacists, KKK and neo-Nazis.
And Trump only belatedly – two days later – acknowledged the murder of Heather Heyer, giving no mention at all to the other 19 victims, while expressing sympathy for two state troopers killed in a helicopter crash and reaffirming his campaign pledge to “restore law and order.”
Indeed, his first statement was a kind of disclaimer of responsibility for these groups who have not just come out of shadows and fringes, but have been emboldened even validated by his ascension.
The protesters who have taken to the streets in hundreds of rallies around the country, took exemption to his statement, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence” as hollow by adding “on many sides, on many sides,” as if to equivocate the level of responsibility and source of violence.
And in a classic Trumpism of denying all responsibility, he added, “it has been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama, this has been going on for a long, long time.”
The protesters though, saw it differently.
“The hoods are off. They don’t feel the need to cover their faces,” one woman declared. “White nationalism is a political position to have now.”
Indeed, in Charlottesville, former KKK leader David Duke, said, “We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump.”
The chant on Jericho Turnpike went up:
“No Trump. No KKK
No Fascist USA”
Trump “doesn’t even denounce or condemn these hate groups..but will appoint White Supremacists [like Steve Bannon, Steve Miller, and Sebastian Gorka, who has ties to a neo-Nazi organization in Hungary] to his administration. That’s why we’re here,” declared Liuba Grechen Shirley, founder of NY 2nd District Democrats, to challenge Republican Peter King, who has been staunchly anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim under the guise of national security.
“Some of us are here because our father fought a war against Nazism,” said Virginia McNulty of Plainview. He would be horrified.”
Indeed, though Administration toadies tried to proclaim that Trump had, in fact, denounced racist violence, neo-Nazis took aid and comfort in his remarks, hailing his statement as an endorsement.
“He didn’t attack us,” The Daily Stormer, a white supremacist website, exulted in response to Trump’s statement on Saturday: “Refused to answer a question about White Nationalists supporting him. No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”
I come up with my own chant:
“No Fear. No Hate
No American Fascist State”
Great Neck Vigil
Later, I joined another gathering, this time in the Old Village of Great Neck, in front of the US Post Office.
People came from as far as Levittown, West Hempstead, Whitestone to the Old Village of Great Neck to register their horror and outrage at the blatant show of force by White Supremacists and Neo-Nazis that led to the death of a 32-year old woman in Charlottesville, Virginia. With just a few hours notice, dozens came to demonstrate their somber support of the founding principles and values of America.
The vigil was organized by Karen Ashkenase and David Zielenziger who posted on moveon.org and indivisible sites.
“We are standing in solidarity with Charlottesville. Join us. Bring a candle. We honor the dead, hope for recovery for the injured and demand Trump explicitly condemn alt-Right extremism and violence!”
With just a few hours notice, the vigil had drawn almost 3 dozen who came from as far as Levittown, Bellerose, West Hempstead and Whitestone.
“We wanted Great Neck to hold a vigil… to protest this outrage, killing, violence and Trump,” said David Zielenziger.
He was incensed after Trump failed to denounce White Supremacists, the KKK and the Neo-Nazis who flooded into Charlottesville, even holding a flaming torch march through the University of Virginia campus, to protest taking down a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
He specifically wanted a demonstration in the Old Village (as opposed to the more trafficked areas like Great Neck Plaza) because the Village of Great Neck, along with Kings Point and Saddle Rock on the Peninsula, voted for Trump in significant majorities.
“For the community to do nothing, was outrageous.”
The Great Neck Peninsula had recently formed a new progressive action group, North Shore Action.
“Even the skin-heads came from immigrants, and if they don’t realize we’re a country of immigrants – that we’re all here together… I won’t let [Trump’ divide us,” said Joseph Varon of West Hempstead, holding a poster of the Statue of Liberty and a portion of Emma Lazarus’ poem that is at its base, “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
The message of the vigil, he added, is that “even though disheartened, we need to act locally, write letters, come to demonstrations, and vote. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”
“This can happen openly because of an environment the Trump administration has established: condoning anti-Semitism, bigotry. The environment he created,” said Shelley Sherman of Great Neck.
Compare the protests at Ferguson, Missouri last summer after an unarmed Black man, Michael Brown, was gunned down by police, where a militarized police force came with tanks and tear gas to suppress Black protesters, while self-proclaimed vigilantes patrolled with assault rifles, she noted. In Charlottesville, the White Supremacists came with assault weapons strapped to their bodies, with helmets and shields and home-made pepper spray, and flaming torches.
“The Trump Administration created an environment that has enabled people to say, ‘Heil.’” Indeed, after Trump won election, Richard Spencer, an alt-right leader, at a Washington DC conference led the crowd in “Hail Trump” cheers and Nazi salute.
Three generations of Emru women came from Levittown to protest: Christina Emru, a 70-year old grandmother; granddaughter Sofia, 8 years old, and Dara, her daughter.
They each brought hand-written signs. Christina’s read, “I can’t believe I’m 70 years odl and I’m still fighting the same hate and racism from the 1950s.”
“The hate, the fact that all of this hatred is made acceptable, when it’s not,” exclaimed Julie Eigenberg of Great Neck. “they are making it acceptable for people to treat each other badly, that they can march through UVA with flaming torches. That’s not free speech. It’s intimidation.”
“I’m fearful it will take so long to undue the damage to our culture,” said Debra Michlewitz of Bay Terrace. “
The next day, Trump came out with a speech clearly crafted for him in which he
“Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to all that we hold dear as Americans,” he said rather begrudgingly, as if in a hostage video. He has expressed no condolence for the 32 year old woman who was killed, nor any concern for the 19 mowed down by James Alex Fields, Jr., of Ohio.
His words were clearly scripted for him – the phrases, let alone the themes, are alien to the way he actually speaks. They were certainly not from his heart, let alone his mind. And they probably were accompanied by a furtive wink-and-nod. His peeps know his true heart.
Eight-year old Sofia’s efforts were not in vain, though. What the protests, did was put Trump and the Republicans on notice, forcing Trump to make this declaration and even forcing Attorney General Jeffrey Sessions to take a stand to prosecute Heather Heyer’s murderer.
While defending Trump’s comments following the car-ramming attack in Charlottesville which took Heather Heyer’s life (he knows better than to cross his leader), Attorney General Jeff Sessions promised the Department of Justice would take “vigorous action” to defend the rights of Americans to protest bigotry.
“Well [Trump] made a very strong statement that directly contradicted the ideology of hatred, violence, bigotry, racism, white supremacy — those things must be condemned in this country,” Sessions said on the TODAY show on Monday. “They’re totally unacceptable, and you can be sure that this Department of Justice, in his administration, is going to take the most vigorous action to protect the right of people, like Heather Heyer, to protest against racism and bigotry.”
More than 200,000 gathered in Washington DC in sweltering heat for the Peoples Climate March in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, April 29 – twice the number anticipated – to register opposition to Trump Administration’s actions that will set the United States back in its effort to mitigate against the dire impacts of climate change. They formed a line extending more a mile down Pennsylvania Avenue, eventually encircling the White House for a two-minute “heartbeat”.
In the United States, tens of thousands more took to the streets 370 sister marches taking place in nearly all 50 states, from the town of Dutch Harbor in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands to the streets of Miami, Denver, Los Angeles, Chicago and other major American cities. Early counts estimated that more than 50,000 people took place nationwide.
Sister marches took place on Saturday across the world including in Japan, the Philippines, New Zealand, Uganda, Kenya, Germany, Greece, United Kingdom, Brazil, Mexico, Costa Rica, and more.
“The solidarity that exists between all of us is the key to having a strong, fair economy and a clean, safe environment,” said Kim Glas, Executive Director, BlueGreen Alliance, one of dozens of organizations that partnered in the Peoples Climate March. “We can tackle climate change in a way that will ensure all Americans have the opportunity to prosper with quality jobs and live in neighborhoods where they can breathe their air and drink their water. Together we will build a clean economy that leaves no one behind.”
“This march grew out of the relationship building among some of the country’s most important progressive organizations and movements,” said Paul Getsos, National Coordinator for the Peoples Climate Movement. “In 2014, the march was planned as a singular moment to pressure global leaders to act on climate change. There was a simple demand – act. This march was planned before the election as a strategic moment to continue to build power to move our leaders to act on climate while creating family-sustaining jobs, investing in frontline and indigenous communities and protecting workers who will be impacted by the transition to a new clean and renewable energy economy.”
As it happened, the march coincided with the 100th day of Donald Trump’s occupation of the Oval Office.
In Washington, the march topped 200,000 people at its peak, , representing a huge cross-section of geography and demographics and far outpacing the National Park Service’s permitted space for 100,000 people. The march extended for over 20 blocks down Pennsylvania and all along the south side of the National Mall, with tens of thousands more surging along the mall to push back on the Trump administration’s policies and stand up for “climate, jobs and justice.”
The day’s activities in D.C. began at sunrise with a water ceremony led by Indigenous peoples at the Capitol Reflecting Pool. Participants included Cheyenne River Sioux tribal members who traveled 1,536 miles by bus from Eagle Bend, SD to attend the ceremonies.
At an opening press conference, representatives from front line communities spoke about the impact that climate change and pollution were already having on their lives and called out the Trump administration for worsening the crisis. They called for a new renewable energy economy that created good paying, union jobs, and prioritized low-income and people of color communities.
The march kicked off at 12:30 pm in front of the Newseum, which heralds the First Amendment freedoms of religion, free press, free speech, assembly and protest, and was led by young people of color from Washington, D.C. and Indigenous leaders from across the country. Tens of thousands of marchers headed up Pennsylvania Avenue in creatively named contingents, like “Protectors of Justice,” “Reshapers of Power,” and “Many Struggles, One Home.”
(The day coincided not only with Trump’s 100th day, but the White House Correspondents Association Dinner, which Trump snubbed, the first sitting president to do so; Reagan missed one after he was recovering from an assassination attempt but still sent respects.)
“When our communities are most threatened by climate; the solutions we build must allow us to have control of our resources and the energy we produce in an equitable and truly democratic way,” said Angela Adrar, Executive Director, Climate Justice Alliance. “They must create meaningful work that allows people to grow and develop to their fullest capacity. They must allow us to retain culture and traditions from our ancestors and give us the freedom of self-determination we so deserve so that we can thrive. This does not come easy and it must come with resistance and visionary opposition. Our existence depends on it.”
By 2 pm, in sweltering heat for an April day (nearing 90 compared to average of 79) that seemed to validate Global Warming, organizers had succeeded in their goal of completely surrounding the White House. Marchers sat down in the streets in a silent sit-in to recognize the damage caused by the Trump administration over the last 100 days and those who are losing their lives to the climate crisis.
At the appointed time, everyone created a heartbeat, tapping out a rhythm on their chests or clapping while drummers kept the time, lasting 2 minutes.
“The heartbeat was meant to show that while march participants came from many different backgrounds and communities, their hearts beat as one. It was a heartbeat of resistance, one that began with the Women’s March and will continue through the Peoples Climate March to May Day and beyond,” the organizers said.
“Six months ago, my kids woke up to half a foot of water in our living room,” said Cherri Foytlin, director of BOLD Louisiana and spokesperson for the Indigenous Environmental Network. “Now, Trump wants to open up the Gulf Coast to even more offshore drilling. But we have a message for him: we are not afraid, and we will not stop fighting. With 100 and 500 year storms now coming every year, we are fighting for our lives.”
After the heartbeat, marchers rose up with a collective roar and continued down to the Washington Monument for a closing rally. Speakers at the rally celebrated the success of the day, while many marchers gathered in “Circles of Resistance,” some set up around their parachute banners, to talk about how to continue to build their movement.
As of 3:30 pm, crowds of people still remained at the Monument while marches continued to take place across the country. The Peoples Climate Movement, a coalition of over 900 organizations representing many of the major social justice, labor and environmental groups in the country, has pledged to keep the momentum going after Saturday, from supporting the May Day marches on Monday to organizing at the local level.
“Today’s actions are not for one day or one week or one year,” said Getsos. “We are a movement that is getting stronger everyday for our families, our communities and our planet. To change everything, we need everyone.”
Promising Ongoing Resistance
The march took place on the 100th day of Trump occupying the Oval Office and the irony was not lost on the marchers, who chanted, “We won’t go away. Welcome to your 100th day.”
Indeed, Trump seemed to go out of his way to stick it to those who believe climate change is an existential threat to communities, the nation and the planet.
On the eve of the climate march, the EPA announced it was scrubbing its website of any mention of climate change.
Trump has shown utter contempt for climate change, and specifically the hard-fought initiatives Obama put through to transition the economy away from global-warming exacerbating carbon emissions and put the creation of clean, renewable energy industries on a level playing field with the subsidized Fossil Fuel industry.
Trump has shown contempt for local communities, particularly targeting Native American communities, in swiftly (and proudly) restarting the Keystone XL pipeline (his banker to which he owns millions of dollars is a leading investor) and Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) which threatens the water supply to native community at Standing Rock.
Just before the People’s Climate March, as if to add insult to injury, his administration backed away from challenging the lawsuit – brought by EPA Scott Pruitt when he was Oklahoma Attorney General – to Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which put new restrictions on coal-fired utility plants. That was the key mechanism that Obama put forward to meet the US commitment to reduce carbon emissions under the Paris Climate Agreement.
And he instructed Interior Secretary Zinke to open up oil and gas drilling on the continental shelf – which would require reversing Obama and Bush’s creation of marine sanctuaries that protected – under the pretext of an “American First Energy Independence Policy,” which Zinke admitted would also open the way for US Oil & Gas extractors to export US supplies. Trump is literally salivating over the 1.7 billion acres protected, where Zinke said, there are “90 billion barrels of undiscovered oil, 327 trillion cubic ft of undiscovered recoverable natural gas.”
Through high-handed executive orders, he has reversed regulations or ended implementation or enforcement that now will allow extraction companies to dump toxic waste into streams; he opened the way for a chemical to be used, for lead ammunition that kills birds that feed on the carcasses of animals brought down by those bullets. He doesn’t care.
And his budget promises to gut the EPA, shutting down entirely climate change research, eliminating 3000 positions.
And on the eve of the march, Pruitt’s EPA scrubbed its website of any findings connected to climate change.
“As EPA renews its commitment to human health and clean air, land, and water, our website needs to reflect the views of the leadership of the agency,” J.P. Freire, the agency’s associate administrator for public affairs, said in a statement. “We want to eliminate confusion by removing outdated language first and making room to discuss how we’re protecting the environment and human health by partnering with states and working within the law.”
The first page to be updated is a page reflecting President Trump’s Executive Order on Energy Independence, which calls for a review of the so-called Clean Power Plan. Language associated with the Clean Power Plan, written by the last administration, is out of date. Similarly, content related to climate and regulation is also being reviewed, according to the statement from Scott Pruitt’s EPA.
According to the Washington Post, an EPA staffer stated “we can’t have information which contradicts the actions we have taken in the last two months,” adding that Pruitt’s aides had “found a number of instances of that so far” while surveying the site.
At the rally beneath the Washington Monument that followed the march, an EPA employee – who had spent two decades in the Marines before working for 17 years at the EPA, said, “What this Administration is doing to us would be considered an act of war.” Indeed, the very chemical in sarin gas, which Trump used to justify bombing Syria, was just okayed by the Trump Administration.
Trump, he said, is vilifying federal workers like the EPA who work to protect the American people. “We are federal servants. We take the same oath as I took when I joined the Marine Corps. We’ve been made scapegoats.
“America is not for sale,” he said. “We will fight back.”
This past week, President Trump signed an executive order to “review” the last 21 years of large national monument designations — including Bears Ears National Monument – a huge affront to every American whose birthright Trump would sell off to satisfy corporate greed, but especially, yet another attack and violation of treaties made with Native Americans.
“Not only are national monuments an inherent part of Western culture, they hold historical significance to local Tribes and contribute to a $887 billion dollar recreation industry that employs millions of people around the country,” writes Senator Tom Udall (D-NM).
“We need to come together and fight on this. One of the most consistent marks of Trump’s presidency so far has been an outright assault on environmental protections. He could do more damage by rescinding national monument designations and selling off public lands to the highest bidder.”
Indeed, the Peoples Climate March will not be a one-off, a show of strength to a dumb and deaf Trump Administration and its complicit Congress.
Sustaining Momentum After People’s Climate March
Climate activists are looking to sustain momentum and are focusing on local actions to counter the federal dismantling of climate action initiatives.
“Across America, DFA members are mobilizing in their own communities to fight for environmental justice and resist Trump and his oil industry friends. Even after today’s marches, we still have a lot of work to do,” Robert Cruickshank, Democracy for America stated.
“Tomorrow, DFA Electoral Director Annie Weinberg will be leading a training in D.C. hosted by our friends at Climate Hawks Vote.She’ll be training climate activists on how to win elections and build a more reflective democracy.
“In fights to stop coal and oil exports, to block pipelines, and resist oil companies, it’s become clear that elections at every level of government matter. City and county governments grant crucial permits. State governments regulate emissions and help develop renewable energy sources. And the federal government plays the biggest role of all.
“Humanity was already failing to stop climate change before Trump took office. But now our climate is poised to get much, much worse. If we don’t act now, we may lose our final chance at averting a catastrophe.”
Food & Water Watch and Food & Water Action is launching a new organizing strategy aimed at winning local elections.
“Our plan is simple but incredibly ambitious: lay siege to fossil fuels at the local level. Everywhere. All at once. We’ll push local lawmakers to do everything in their power to obstruct the fossil fuel industry. With Trump opening a new wave of oil and gas drilling, we know we need to stand strong locally to create the clean energy future that we need.,” writes Katy Kiefer, Director of Distributed Organizing, Food & Water Watch. “Onward to the Clean Energy Revolution.”
Other organizations, like Earth Justice, are mounting lawsuits based on the public health and environmental destruction of rolling back environmental initiatives and violating the spirit and letter of the Clean Air and Clear Water acts, as well as the Antiquities Act.
Hundreds rallied at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Huntington (UUFH), under the aegis of Long Island Activists, to strategize how to save Obamacare from Republicans who are moving swiftly to repeal it and replace it with something that is far more costly, would knock tens of millions off health insurance, would raise taxes for middle class and working Americans, and essentially be more costly for less care. But the Long Islanders went an extra step: to demand single-payer – that is, Medicare for All – beginning with New York State.
The rally was one of 150 across the country last weekend with some coordination of Bernie Sanders’ Our Revolution group.
The activists jammed a main room, overflowed the overflow room, and were lined up outside, producing a kind of echo-effect to cheers and boos inside the hall.
“Something feels wrong. Public policy in no way reflects public opinion,” said Ron Widelec, a member of the steering committee of Long Island Activists (LongIslandActivists.org).
“We live in the richest country in history, yet 20 million go without health insurance, tens of millions have insurance but can’t afford to use because the deductibles so high – choosing between feeding children or going to a doctor when not feeling well. These are unacceptable choices in a country this wealthy…
“These are life-or-death situations. That’s why people are out here. It turns out, if you try to take away people’s health care, get angry and show up. Tens of thousands die without access to health care, or can’t afford access so that is the same as not having access. People die if they can’t afford an Epipen.
The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was not perfect because it was designed to appease conservatives. Indeed, the framework came out of the right-wing think tank, The Heritage Foundation, and was first implemented by Republican Governor Mitt Romney in Massachusetts. Elements such as a public option or a Medicare buy-in were omitted in order to satisfy so-called moderate Republicans like Susan Collins of Maine, who nonetheless voted against the ACA.
“Many members of Congress are dedicated to the idea they can make the situation even worse . Our position is clear: health care is a human right,” he declared to boisterous cheers.
“While no one thinks ACA perfect, it did things we need to fight for,” Widelec said. “ACA didn’t go far enough – a human right doesn’t have co-pays or deductibles.
“On the federal level, there is very little we can do with Congress. We know Republicans want to overthrow ACA… We have to fight to protect Obamacare and put pressure even on those too cowardly to hold town halls [like Long Island Congressmen Peter King and Lee Zeldin].
But while progressives all along wanted universal health care – that is, single-payer or what is termed Medicare for All – the most immediate goal is to preserve the key elements of Obamacare: covering young people on their parents’ plan until age 26; pre-existing conditions; no lifetime caps; a cap of no more than 20% of the premium going for non-patient spending , and minimal standards for what insurance policies cover – which turns out can only be offered if there is a mandate so that healthy people purchase insurance; otherwise, deductibles or copays or premiums are so high, they are unaffordable.
“It’s not true that the Republicans don’t have a plan,” warned Doreen DiLeonardo, who hosts a progressive radio show. Indeed, the plan that was exposed by Politico is essentially the 2015 bill introduced by then Congressman Tom Price, now the Secretary of Health & Human Services.
According to Politico, the Republican plan would rescind the unpopular individual mandate, subsidies based on people’s income, and all of the law’s taxes. It would significantly roll back Medicaid spending and give states money to create high risk pools for some people with pre-existing conditions. Instead of subsidies to help people with low incomes afford health insurance, it would give tax credits based on age rather than income. That means that multi-millionaire Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon-Mobil and now Trump’s Secretary of State would get a bigger tax credit than the 30-year old who works at Starbucks. In any case, tax credits mainly benefit wealthier people. Meanwhile, the other big Republican idea is for Health Savings Accounts, which once again, benefit wealthier people, while those who are barely affording food and rent will be unable to stash away money in untaxed accounts. (See: Exclusive: Leaked GOP Obamacare replacement shrinks subsidies, Medicaid expansion)
What Democrats point to, though, are provisions that would wind up taxing middle class and working class families for the health insurance benefits they get from their employers, while at the same time ending taxes on the wealthiest Americans that funded the Obamacare subsidies.
“If it were such a good plan, they wouldn’t be hiding it,” DiLeonardo said.
This plan is moving swiftly, she warned.
The Republicans’ “destructive, nihilistic policy will ruin the ACA,” Assemblyman Charles Lavine, who has sponsored universal health care in the State Assembly, said. “They attempted to ruin it from beginning, based on lies. Each and every one here today, superheroesque, survivors of the ‘massacre at Bowling Green’, we know 20-30 million Americans would lose insurance, we know the tragedy that will flow from that – we will return to days preexisting conditions rob people of access to health care. You’re on your own. Lifetime caps – if someone had serious condition, cut off, no more insurance., – when that happens we all pay one way or another for their treatment. Women will pay more for identical coverage, young adults up to 26 no longer on parents’ coverage, you’re on your own.
“We know the lies being told. Trump said ACA robbed people of their insurance. We know that is just another lie. More than 20 million were able to get insured because of ACA, we now have a record low percentage of uninsured people, 10.9%.
“Trump said some plans were canceled [using this to accuse Obama of lying about ACA]. But that’s because they were deficient, illusory plans. What Trump and his confederates want to do, is to allow New Yorkers to go into market and buy insurance from other states. NYS is not going to allow that to happen. We will demand (because NY controls insurance product) that any insurance product sold here has to provide minimum requirements, or else people will get ripped off. Those are the kind of policies people lost because of ACA.”
Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa lied when he said Obamacare would create death panels that would pull the plug on grandma. But a century ago, the worldwide flu epidemic killed off 50 to 100 million people, and bodies were piled up on street corners in Chicago waiting for the city to pick them up, people were on their own, too.
“That’s not that long ago – a blink in time of human history. We stand together you rebellious Americans to demand the human right of health care, and we stand together (big applause). This is a fight for our families, our communities. We are 36 years since the first days of Reagan Administration into a philosophy that says government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem, your enemy. You and I will fight for our families, communities, and damn well we stand up and fight for our government.”
Recalling that President Theodore Roosevelt, a progressive who busted up trusts and created the first national parks, whose home at Sagamore Hill is just a few miles from where this rally is taking place, Ron Widelec said, “Once republicans were progressives, put in policies that helped people, now they are wedded to the invisible hand of the American market, not noticing, it is a hand around throats of American people. We will fight back.”
Newly elected Congressman Tom Suozzi, who has pledged to support universal health care once Democrats take back Congress (and held a packed town hall this past week in which support for ACA was a key issue), said “I believe in health care as a human right. This is a matter of life-and-death for many families now. We have to do a couple of things: protect ACA is the first thing. There is great energy behind that. But we need to improve upon ACA because there are problems – insurance companies, drug companies had too much say in writing ACA and we’re paying the price. Mend it don’t end it. Fix the problems.”
Next: New Yorkers Mobilize for Single Payer Health Care
“Resist Trump” was the chant by some 300 environmental activists who rallied outside Senator Charles Schumer’s Long Island office in Melville during a statewide day of action, February 2. Similar rallies were being held at all eight of Schumer’s offices throughout New York State to demand that he show bold leadership to protect public health and the environment by telling Senators to use every tool at their disposal to challenge the corporate takeover of our democracy and reject Trump’s nominees and policies that would decimate the climate and the environment.
“Schumer’s announcement on January 30 that he will vote against several Trump nominees is a sign that he is hearing the message coming from the grassroots. Voting against oil and gas insiders is just the first step to resisting Trump’s anti-environmental agenda—bigger battles over drastic EPA budget cuts, clean air regulations, climate change, and fossil fuel drilling are on the horizon,” stated Eric Weltman of Food & Water Watch, the leading organizer of the Long Island rally.
“Donald Trump has wasted no time in setting out a clear agenda that threatens fundamental environmental protections. With clean air and water under attack, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer must lead his colleagues in standing strong against Trump’s science-denying Cabinet appointments and his climate-destroying plans,.
Weltman declared, “As the nation’s most powerful Democrat, Schumer must lead the resistance. He must vigorously oppose cabinet appointments, lead the charge against Trump’s plans to slash EPA budget, dismantle the EPA, resist plans for the Dakota and Keystone pipelines. He must motivate his fellow Democrats.
“Each day, we are sicker, more depressed, more fearful,” said Lisa Oldendorp, National Grassroots Organizer for Moveon.Org. “As difficult as these days have been, we are more worried about the days ahead. The small gains in climate action will be overturned, we will go back 70 years to the point of no return…
“Trump’s friends are not concerned about our future of the country or the planet. Their only god is profit. They are determined to frack more land, pollute more air. Make America Great Again? No, make a small group of millionaires even richer, plundering our lands.
“You may have said you are tired of fighting. That it’s hopeless. But you must continue to fight for environmental, economic, racial, social justice. Turn your anger into action for change…. A Small group of citizens can change the world. One person becomes a group, a group becomes a crowd. People power grows exponentially. Don’t tell me people’s protests don’t matter. They build consensus, a movement.
“The anti-Trump movement already eclipses the Tea Party at its height by 20 points. Democrats are finding our voice. Dissent and protest is happening on a greater scale. The New York Times in an editorial said Democrats simply cannot play by the old set of rules now that the Republicans are playing by new ones. [Neil] Gorsuch doesn’t deserve confirmation [for the Supreme Court] because the process leading to his nomination was illegitimate.”
Democrats have to mobilize for the local elections in 2017, try to flip the House and/or the Senate and take more state positions in 2018.
“We’ve had a few weeks to mourn the election. Not it’s time to get off the pity pot and take action.”
Ryan Madden, sustainability organizer for the LI Progressive Coalition, said the Trump election is a Trojan horse for corporate interests. “Pruitt, Sessions, Perry – every one a threat to the climate, the environment and our institutions… Attacks against environment, climate have the worst impacts on folks with the least ability to do something about it.” It’s a matter of economic and climate justice.
Jane Fasullo of the Sierra Club said simply, “There is no alternate planet. You can’t eat or drink money – maybe you can burn it for heat. Schumer, do your job.”
Dave Denenberg and Claudia Borecky of Clean Air Water Soil declared, “We want leadership from Schumer… We thought fracking was over in New York State. It might be coming back.” The Navy was the responsible agency for cleaning up the Grumman plume at Bethpage, Trump wants to walk away from paying for clean up, he said.
People carried signs such as “Tax Carbon. Trump Too.” “Tell the Con Man in Chief: You Can’t Fool Mother Nature. Take Climate Action.” A young boy held a sign, “Please don’t break my planet.” Others urged Schumer to “Resist Trump” and “Be a Leader.”
The group then marched through the parking lot to the front of Schumer’s Long Island office and a few of the leaders, who had appointments, hand-delivered petitions, reporting back that they were well received. “We’ll be back,” he said.
The simultaneous actions took place at all eight of Schumer’s New York offices (Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Binghamton, Albany, Peekskill, Melville and Manhattan), as well as in Washington, DC.
Sponsoring organizations include: Food & Water Watch, Long Island Progressive Coalition, Sierra Club, NYPIRG, MoveOn, Long Island Activists, Reach Out America, Slow Food North Shore, iEatGreen, 350.org, Long Island Clean Air Water & Soil, Public Citizen, Greenpeace
It’s already begun. The unraveling of eight years of progress under Obama. Contrast their first actions: Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Act so women can have a legal remedy for pay equity. Trump signed an executive orders to dismantle Obamacare and to withhold funding from any NGO anywhere that funds abortions.
Donald Trump doesn’t care that more than twice as many people came out to protest his illegitimately gained presidency, his morals and his agenda than came out to support his inauguration (I was at both. I saw despite the lies that Trump is spewing.) His warped ego will probably take it as a matter of pride that more than 500,000 people descended on Washington from all over the country while millions more filled out gargantuan protests in NYC (400,000), Los Angeles (750,000), Chicago, Atlanta, St. Louis – indeed, all across the US – plus cities in 50 countries including Paris, London, Sydney.
They came out to declare: Women’s Rights are Human Rights, women are not chattel, a mere vessel (vassal) to harbor an embryo. And so women and their men and children were standing up for reproductive rights, access to health care, gun safety, climate action, immigration reform, criminal justice, pay equity, public education, voting rights, campaign finance – all those things that together constitute “women’s issues”. Economic justice, climate justice, criminal justice, social justice, political justice, national security and peace in the world are all “women’s issues.”
“From the shores of Sydney, Australia to the tundra of Kodiak, Alaska we marched. Signs held high, our voices carried across Little Rock, Arkansas and Nashville, Tennessee, Phoenix, Arizona and Lansing, Michigan. Pink knit hats stretched as far as the eye could see in London, England, New York City, Los Angeles, California and Washington DC,” writes Heidi L. Sieck, Co-Founder/CEO, #VOTEPROCHOICE.
In fact, this was the single largest political demonstration day of protest in US history and most certainly the largest outpouring of opposition at the opening of a new administration. Trump, who lost the popular vote by 2.6 million and carried only 42% of The Women’s Vote, comes into the White House with the lowest favorability rating probably since Lincoln, and 20 points lower than the outgoing president, Barack Obama.
And if Trump would actually have listened to his own nonsensical, dystopian, bizarre inaugural speech, he would realize that the women, men and children who protested rightfully have the political power that Trump said no longer resided in Washington.
“January 20th 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again,” Trump intoned. “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. Everyone is listening to you now…. At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction: that a nation exists to serve its citizens.”
And yet, Trump managed to turn a deaf ear to the roars from the Women’s March that literally shook buildings with its force (yet he had to see them because his motorcade drove through twice on his way to the CIA).
In his first 100 days, what Trump vows to do would undo the progress of 100 years, violating the will of the vast majority of Americans.
But here it is: Trump managed to resurrect a militant feminism that, frankly, was dormant during the election campaign when Hillary Clinton could have, should have (in fact did, were it not for the Electoral College), break that ultimate glass ceiling to run the White House. Women of all ages, all races and creeds, and men and children, marching together in solidarity. A man carried a sign saying “I can’t believe we’re still fighting for this”.
Now what will those who marched do? What will happen? Will that energy and activism be sustained against the forces of disillusionment, frustration, paralyzing despair and self-preserving apathy? Or will they return home feeling vindicated and affirmed that their fears and concerns are real and they are not to be silenced? I think they will return empowered, invigorated with a mission, with a voice, a language to articulate grievances and a clarity of purpose. Indeed, the Women’s March organizers are posting 10 action items for the first 100 Days at womensmarch.com.
Also, there are ways and avenues and organizations to channel that rage and turn it into strategic, well articulated constructive action, in order to fight against the despair that will come when we aren’t able to immediately stop the steamroll of anti-democratic, regressive initiatives that come from the Trump/Republican camarilla.
Donald Trump may not care about the protests, feeling somehow above and immune in his bubble of sycophants. In a creepy way, he probably drew orgasmic delight that 4 million people around the world focused their attention on him, no matter that he was the target of their contempt, disdain and hatred.
But Congressmen know. Senators know. State legislators know. And they should be quaking in the reverberation of the marchers. And that’s where the focus has to be. This is Day 1 of the 2017 campaign to take back state offices. This is Day One to take back the House and/or the Senate in 2018. Because taking just one house would cut Trump’s Presidency to 2 years instead of an excruciating 4.
That is, if he isn’t impeached first for his corrupt business practices and likely collusion with Russia (not likely with a Republican Congress that clearly doesn’t care about actual illegalities like blatant violations of emoluments clause of Constitution and conflicts of interest that go against the national interest). He is more likely to be removed by a military coup when he orders bombing civilians, repopulating Guantanamo with prisoners snatched up with bounties, reopening black sites in order to torture, or, as he told the CIA, getting a second chance at taking Iraq’s oil because, you know, he learned as a boy “to the victor belong the spoils.”
Individually, we feel powerless, but collectively we have power. And it starts with pressing our village and city mayors, town and county supervisors, state representatives, governors and Congressmen need to be bold – like the San Francisco and New York mayors vowing to repulse Trump’s attack on sanctuary cities, governors like Cuomo in New York State standing up for a climate action agenda and protecting women’s reproductive rights; generals vowing to reject an order to bomb civilians or torture terror suspects. It’s newspapers being willing to lose privileged “access” and risking lawsuits to publish investigations. It’s government workers with the courage to be whistleblowers.
By these measures, the simple act of voting would seem an easy way to counter Trumpism, yet a disgraceful number don’t even do this; people need to start early to get registered to vote and vote in every election, especially local and state elections and not just the presidential.
But all of this requires us to stay active. We have to resist being immobilized by despair (that’s their strategy) and take action. If it seems too overwhelming with everything being thrown at us, just pick one or two issues to stay on top.
How to counter Trump?
Conflicts of Interest: Support Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s legislation that would require Trump to disclose his business holdings and require him to disclose his tax forms. Investigate – after all, what is Government Oversight Committee for, beyond investigating Benghazi and Clinton’s emails? Sue for violations of the emoluments clause, for Trump Hotel in Washington violating the law that prevents an elected official from leasing property from the federal government. Impeach Trump and any of his lackeys for their self-serving, self-dealing conflicts of interest. Boycott Trump’s business holdings and the corporations that enable him, including Trump Hotels and golf courses, “Celebrity Apprentice,” and Fox News.
Cabinet appointments: Democrats will be unable to stop Trump’s appointments, thanks to the hypocritical Republican lapdogs. But Senate Democrats have a duty to expose their self-interest conflicts, their ineptitude, their extraordinary lack of qualifications so that they will be put on notice that their actions will be scrutinized.
“Through cutting-edge reports, social media, newspapers, radio and TV, and much more, we’re going to highlight this rogues’ gallery’s history of law-breaking, how their corporate ties will corrupt policymaking, and how their reactionary views will harm everyday Americans.” says Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen (citizen.org).
What should Senate, House Democrats do? Oppose with every tool and tactic they can the anti-Democratic principles, including using the Republican tactics against them like the filibuster, holds on nominations, lawsuits, articles of impeachment (though McConnell and Ryan will likely take away the very tools they used to unprecedented degree). That isn’t the same thing as opposing for opposing sake, to make the president fail, as Republicans did even as Obama was trying to keep the country from economic collapse. But Democrats are obligated to fight back where the agenda destroys progress. What Democrats should not do? Try to appeal to the pseudo-populism and the mythical “poor” “underserved” “voiceless” white working class, as if they are the only “real Americans” who matter. And yes, they should sue the Trump Administration just as the Republicans sued Obama over DACA and Obamacare. If Republicans don’t offer any means to compromise or impact policy, Democrats should go nuclear.
Support the Fourth Estate – the journalists who fulfill their function of investigating and being a watchdog on government and powerful interests. Be vigilant in calling out falsehoods, fake news and propaganda. That means that when the economy goes down, unemployment goes up, tens of thousands die without access to health care and Trump and the Republicans blame Obama and the Democrats, that The Media hold them to account. Write letters to the editor, comments online. Alert news media to issues. Defend journalists who are doing their job. Cultivate social media networks to counter the right-wing propaganda machine. The success of the Women’s March to rally support solely through social media shows these networks have taken root.
Fight the rabidly regressive agenda that Trump/Republicans will steamroll through in the first 100 days. The more that Republicans refuse to accept compromise or allow Democrats to participate in forming policy, the more militant the opposition has to become. Boycott, strike, protest, rally. Use your body, your voice, your pen.
Sue. Sue. Sue. “Presidents do not rule by fiat,” declared Mitch Bernard, Chief Operating Officer, for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Donald Trump may not simply undo international agreements, overrule enacted laws, or violate environmental regulations on his own say so. If — when — he ignores environmental laws, NRDC will meet him in court. And we’re gearing up to give him the fight of his life.”
The Trump/Republican strategy (copied from Karl Rove and the Bush/Cheney debacle) is to have so many outrages coming so fast, deflecting attention and paralyzing any action, and more significantly to normalize the destructive actions simply by being equivalent or (imagine) not as bad as the previous outrage.
“In the face of Trump’s parade of horribles,” says Robert Reich of MoveOn.org, “it would be easy (and understandable) for people to get numb, hunker down, and pray that they’ll make it through the next four years. But human history teaches us of the perils of complacency and fear in response to political extremism and violence.”
If it is too paralyzing because of all the issues that are infuriating to your core, pick one, two or a few to focus on – keep active and aware of what Trump and his collaborators in the Congress and the Cabinet are doing. Write, call, visit, rally at representatives’ offices. Speak up to family, friends and neighbors. Go to town halls and civic meetings. You cannot be a Silent Majority.
Support key organizations – give what you can – because they will need money to lobby, sue, organize protests and petition campaigns, can offer language for legislation and expose facts about the impacts of overturning regulations allowing corporations to pollute the air and water; repealing the Affordable Care Act, (losing 3 million jobs, adding billions to the budget deficit, depriving 18 million newly insured people of access to health care, instead of saving 87,000 lives, seeing 36,000 die needlessly for lack of health care); of the public health, environmental, economic, international repercussions of rolling back climate action. (Caveat: Organizations can’t just seize on the latest outrage to fundraise without actually doing something.)
“Together, we must resist the Trump Dynasty with everything we’ve got — starting with marches all over the country today,” declared Robert Weissman of Public Citizen. “It won’t be easy. We can be honest about that. The fights that matter most rarely are. But with all of our vigilance, all of our acumen, all of our strength, we can — we will — prevail over greed and hatred and corruption.”