Thursday, June 29, 2017

Which Side Are You On In The Struggle Against Corporate Government? #Aegis9

Three of the Aegis 9 (me, Mark Roman and Russell Wray) outside West Bath District Court yesterday.
Not pictured: Jessica Stewart, Natasha Mayers, Jason Rawn, Bob Dale, Bruce Gagnon and Mike Tork.

Yesterday's disposition hearing for the Aegis 9 was interesting. I am among the group arrested April 1, 2017 and charged with criminal trespass at General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works shipyard. An Aegis "destroyer" battleship was being "christened" that day and the general public was invited inside. We were not.

At the hearing yesterday the prosecutor was a young man who had been assisting the prosecutor at the Zumwalt 12 trial earlier this year. One of the Zumwalt 12, Veterans for Peace member Dud Hendrick, recognized him and engaged him in conversation as we waited for the judge.

Bob Dale, Dud Hendrick and Bruce Gagnon outside the courtroom.

Asked if he had gone through with his plan to enlist, the young prosecutor told Dud that he had, indeed, transitioned to becoming an officer in JAG, the U.S. Army's legal department. He reported that he was satisfied with this decision as he used to have to salute a lot of people as an enlisted soldier but now people had to salute him. Also, the pay was much better.

I have often thought that perhaps the military and wars exist primarily so that men can feel more smart and powerful than they may in fact actually be. This exchange tended to confirm my suspicion.

Logan E. Perkins, Perkins Law Office,

On our side was attorney Logan Perkins of Belfast who specializes in criminal law and has a particular interest in defending those involved in nonviolent civil disobedience. She is representing me and two other Aegis 9 defendants, and advising the group as a whole (six will go pro se i.e. will represent themselves.)

Logan has just completed a transition of her own, from practicing in a firm to private practice. This gives her the freedom to become more involved in civil disobedience cases.

As a group we were impressed with her understanding of the matter and the process, and her strong representation of our rights at yesterday's disposition hearing. For instance, she engaged the judge around the issue of voire dire, the preliminary questioning of jurors. Most states allow attorneys to do this but in Maine the practice has been that only the judge may convey a defendant's or counsel's questions to jurors. As Logan rightly pointed out, there is no law preventing Maine from adjusting its practice in this regard.

Professional norms dictated that Logan and the prosecutor with the buzz cut who now gets saluted be cordial and respectful to one another, and indeed they were. But make no mistake -- there are two sides in this case, and I know which one I want to be on.

Aegis 9 defendant Natasha Mayers of ARRT! and supporter
Peter Woodruff, who retired from Bath Iron Works with work-related health issues.
A side note: two other attorneys who were waiting around for their dispo hearings chatted with Logan and ended up offering their pro bono services to any other members of the Aegis 9 who might opt for representation.

Zumwalt 12 members on hand yesterday either as members of or supporters of the Aegis 9.
Left to right: Jason Rawn, Dud Hendrick, Bruce Gagnon, John Peck, Joan Peck and Russell Wray.

Back at home my husband and I reflected on how grateful we are to be part of such a remarkable team. We spent hours on hard benches yesterday in the company of some of the most intelligent, compassionate and dedicated people we've ever had the pleasure of knowing. Our group is also being advised by seasoned attorneys Lynne Williams and Phil Worden who offer valuable perspective and insight on defending against charges arising from nonviolent civil disobedience. And we were supported in the courtroom yesterday by two additional members of the Zumwalt 12, Joan and John Peck.

The prosecutor offered all of the Aegis 9 a plea bargain. Mine would have been a $250 fine while the three of us who were also members of the Zumwalt 12 -- Bruce Gagnon, Jason Rawn, and Russell Wray -- were offered three days in jail. All of us declined these offers.

It looks as if we will find out at a docket call on August 29 whether our trial will be in September or November.

I'm confident that lots of supporters will join us for the actual trial in Sagadahoc County Court, which looks like it will take 2 or 3 days. Our trial by a jury of our peers will take place in downtown Bath within blocks of General Dynamics and its highly profitable weapons of mass destruction plant. 

Also this week four young people in Des Moines, Iowa were arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience, cleverly constructing devices to block a military base where weaponized drones are operated to kill civilians overseas. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Corporate Government Breeds Perpetual War, And What To Do About It

I'm preparing this morning to tape an interview with friend and fellow activist Bruce Gagnon. His This Issue television show appears on community access channels around Maine, and I've been his guest on a few occasions. But today the table will be turned and I'll be interviewing him.

Bruce spends a lot of time gathering information from varied sources and has been paying attention to the U.S. war machine for decades now. Recently he returned from a United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) conference where he was a panelist on missile "defense," and he wrote some interesting blog posts reporting back on what was shared there. I know he learned a lot from others in attendance, too. Here's a playlist on YouTube of the many interesting plenaries, workshops and planning sessions.

I'm interested to hear his response to the questions I've prepared:

  • Much has been made of alleged ties between the new administration in Washington DC and Russia. Can you discuss why the Democratic Party and its media outlets have made such a big deal of this, and what you think the underlying truth is?
  • The demagogue with bad hair has continued Obama's pivot to Asia, threatening North Korea and stationing THAAD missile "defense" plus warships like the Zumwalts built in Bath right on China's borders. What is to be gained from using our military to provoke China?
  • The bloodbath in Syria, and the historic refugee crisis it has caused, seems to be escalating with no resolution in sight. Is this a civil war? Proxy war? What is the U.S./NATO role in this disaster?
  • The U.S. has drawn closer to Saudi Arabia in recent weeks, with a state visit that had the U.S. president photographed dancing around with swords and communing with a glowing orb surrounded by Saudi princes. What is really going on -- more of the same in U.S. foreign policy, or a significant shift?
  • This year marks the 50th anniversary of the annexation of the West Bank and Gaza by Israel, with construction of settlements on those stolen lands galloping ahead. Under any president the U.S. continues to support and fund the violent occupation of Palestine by Israel, and the apartheid state Israel has become. Why?
  • How do you understand the proliferation of terrorist attacks in Europe recently? Who do you think is behind them, and what is their purpose?
  • Will the U.S. always be at war in Afghanistan? Why has this occupation lasted so long, and produced so little in tangible progress for the U.S. and NATO? Why are we sending more troops there?
  • What advice do you have for our audience to counter the downhill slide of our domestic economy based on building and exporting "security" and weapons? What can a concerned person do to make a difference?
There are so many other subjects I wish I had time to discuss with him: the Saudi war on Yemen and the U.S. role in torture there. The lies being told by corporate media about the real situation in Ukraine, where the U.S. is supporting the neo-Nazis. Also the recent suicide attacks in Teheran and what they portend. And what is really going on with the coordinated economic and diplomatic attacks on Qatar lately?

My guess is that I will not have to ask Bruce a direct question about the urgency of converting the military-industrial complex to building something useful and sustainable for humankind.

This is a theme that he and his partner Mary Beth Sullivan have returned to many times in their writing, speaking and direct actions. They live in an intentional community in the neighborhood where the corporation General Dynamics builds warships at nearby Bath Iron Works. Their house is named Adams-Melman in part because the late Seymour Melman was an early promoter of conversion as the path forward out of the wilderness we find ourselves lost in.

I also probably won't have time to ask him his views on the environmental degradation attendant on endless wars and massive investments in carbon belching war machines. Bruce has already signed the Maine Natural Guard pledge to connect the dots between climate chaos and the immense carbon bootprint of the U.S. military and its contractors. He is well aware that talking about reducing greenhouse gas in the atmosphere without talking about the Pentagon is foolish.

Bruce and I were arrested along with seven others on April 1 at Bath Iron Works for criminal trespass; basically, we refused to move from an area in front of their fence when ordered to do so. Jason Rawn was arrested along with us and had a recent letter to the editor published in the Portland Press Herald explaining his objections to a government infested by corporate investment. (Jason and I had dressed as our senators from Maine, Angus King and Susan Collins, respectively, with logos on our clothing indicating our corporate sponsors). 

The #Aegis9 have a disposition hearing tomorrow in West Bath District Court at 8:30am if you're in the area and would care to show up and support us.

I was struck by how many of the comments on Jason's letter online, "Angus King does not represent ordinary Americans" accepted the current system of rule by wealthy corporate servants as inevitable.

I'm old enough to remember when people in the U.S. thought that elected officials ought to represent the people, not General Dynamics. Bruce is old enough to remember, too, and he published his Sunday poem on that theme (reprinted here from his blog Organzing Notes):

Get Up Off Your Knees

We are talking

the return
of feudalism
21st century
corporate style

Mental slaves
all around us
go any place
where people meet
the joint
is crawling
with them

Whining about Trump
of the good old days
when Obama
the rule of law
ran a 'clean' government
only got us into
7 wars
Drone executions
Expanding NATO
Health care
was a corporate subsidy
but allowed
for pre-existing
yeah the glory days

Saw an invite
from a liberal group
'Join the resistance'
was the headline
the fine print
told the real story
come learn how to lobby

Resistance redefined
as accommodation
and horse trading
from a position
of weakness
and servitude

is on the west's
shit list
because he won't
won't get on his knees
like vassals

resists being
another Yeltsin
won't bow
to the banksters
dares talk of

The fightback
is half-stepping
reading the
Post and Times
falling for the lies
another 'shock and awe'
Iran is next

Folks know better
but running scared
don't want
to get
outside their
comfort zones

to change
the script
off their
big loss
to the 'Donald'
gotta blame
the evil bear

no fight
in the bones

Speak out
get accused
of being violent
or too radical

run and hide
wait for next election

Been determined
by some
on your knees
is the safest
to face
high tide


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Islamophobic Men With Baseball Bats Kill Teen Girl In Hijab #NabraHassanen

RIP Nabra Hassanen #Justice4Habra
The news that a 17 year old hijabi had been kidnapped and beaten to death by a man yelling Islamophobic slurs is gnawing at me. Because it's Ramadan, Muslims gather after sundown for prayers and the eating they cannot do during the daylight hour fast. As Nabra and a group of friend returned from a meal at IHOP they were accosted outside the Dulles Area Muslim Society mosque in Virginia; the group scattered, but Nabra didn't make it inside to safety.

Her body was found twelve hours later on Father's Day lying dead near a baseball bat. Nabra may have been raped as well as killed, and one suspect is in custody.

Fairfax Virginia County Police tweeted "Detectives believe road rage incident led to Reston teen's murder." If, like me, you don't believe that, you can sign a petition here along with tens of thousands of others demanding her murder be investigated as a hate crime. 

There's no need for a yellow star this time around to identify potential victims of the thugs encouraged by the hateful rhetoric of the current regime.

Girls and women who cover are particular targets of the vigilantes too cowardly to attack other men. Their highly visible symbol of faith -- the hijab -- has been promoted for years by right wing propaganda as a signal for violence.

Something else I shared yesterday resonated with me and a lot of other people. It's a chilling history-minded cartoon from The Nib by Maia Kobabe about what fascism looked like to a child growing up in Mussolini's Italy. The cartoon ends like this:

I don't have much more time this morning but I think that is enough for all of us to ponder. Will we stick our heads in the sand and ignore this new normal filled with hate crimes against people of color, women wearing the hijab, and people exercising their 1st amendment right to practice their religion?

Or will we stand up against the rise of fascism?

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Unreasonable Fear Cannot Justify The Use Of Deadly Force #PhilandoCastile

Philando Castile, RIP
Nutrition services supervisor Philando Castile's death prompted charges against the police man who shot him. County Attorney John Choi wrote, "Unreasonable fear cannot justify the use of deadly force." This will be the epithet carved on the gravestone of Western so-called civilization.

Because Philando Castile, or his girlfriend (or maybe her 4 year-old daughter? Tamir Rice was a 12 year-old when he was described by police as a man before they murdered him) looked black they were pulled over.

At least that's what the murderer's attorney said after the fact: the car was pulled over to investigate possible robbery suspects who had dreadlocks (code for dark skin) and "wide-set" noses marking them for life. Or death in this case, since the cop not only pulled the trigger seven times as Castile reached into his pocket, but also let the victim bleed out rather than rendering first aid.

You can watch the video if you can stand it.

Or you can turn away like most white people. Our privilege bubbles allow us to pretend that we don't live a viciously racist white supremacist society. Because supposedly we aren't racist. Because we refuse to learn how an entire system of racism leads to so many deaths based on the current equation:

dark skin, wide nose, dreadlocks + unreasonable fear + proliferation of deadly weapons = black lives don't matter enough to preserve and protect

Justice does not come into this equation. The policeman who shot Castile has been on paid leave at the taxpayers' expense for a year, and was just offered a severance package by the department that finally fired him after he was acquitted of all charges.

Why was Jeronimo Yanez siezed by unreasonable fear? 

His ancestors did not enslave Africans for profit. He is Mexican-American.

Well, let's ask this question: how many images of violent, armed black men had Yanez seen in his lifetime?

Photo from a rally at Castile's school following his murder
Research shows that the systemic racist conditioning of us all by the infotainment industries in Hollywood and New York means even black people are more likely to think that a young man with dark skin is holding a gun when he is actually holding a can of soda or a phone.

But would this be a deadly problem if the police weren't armed to the hilt?

Plenty of arguably more civilized nations around the globe do not give guns to garden variety police officers. Japan, England, and many more arm them instead with knowledge of how to evaluate and defuse tense situations i.e. how to do what every preschooler is admonished to do: use your words.

Castile had reportedly been pulled over 46 times for routine traffic stops. Before his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds began filming, she heard police say that the car had a tail light out.

I've been pulled over for having a tail light out. Maybe you have, too. Did you expect it to result in your death?

If you are white, the answer is likely "no" but if you have dark skin your answer may be more like the monologue in the opening scene of the film GET OUT. He's a black man being trailed by a car as he walks through an upscale white neighborhood after dark: "Not me. Not today."

A friend I saw the movie with the first time says she is having trouble getting her white acquaintances to see it. "It's a horror film, isn't it?" they say. "I don't like horror films." Neither do I, but that's the point of the film: a suspenseful horror film built on the audience's realization of how dangerous it is to be a black person in 21st century USA.

Source: Gawker "Unarmed people of color killed by police, 1999-2014"

Most in this terrified state turn away from evidence of how structural racism kills innocent people every single day. 

Most in this terrified state turn away from evidence of how their tax dollars are used to burn brown skinned children in Syria and Iraq with white phosphorus.

Most in this terrified state will close their ears and eyes to the reality of white supremacy and state-sponsored violence that victimizes people with dark skin, repeating the mantra "but I'm not racist" as if that was even a thing.

Bereaved mother Valerie Castile. Photo source: NPR

Most will not have the courage to listen to the words of Castile's mother Valerie when she received news that her son's murderer was found innocent of all charges. As reported in USA Today:

"People have died for us to have these rights and now we're devolving...The system continues to fail black people, and it will continue to fail you all. 

Like I said, because this happened with Philando, when they get done with us, they coming for you, for you, for you and all your interracial children. 

Y'all are next, and you will be standing up here fighting for justice just as well as I am."

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Assigning Blame For #Alexandria Shooting To Corporate Press, Liberals and Democrats -- But Not To NRA?

Another angry white man with a gun strikes terror into the heart of our country. Photo: LA Times

Before I had a chance to finish this unusual post made of tweets about the latest mass shooting in Alexandria, Virginia, it was no longer the latest mass shooting. A gunman in San Francisco shot up a UPS facility later in the same day. Was he also angry about Republican legislators trying to cut his health care? Was he also hyped up on alleged calls for violence emanating from faux leftists like Bernie Sanders? Or secretly working for antifa?

Violence with guns is a dead end game. Even if I thought it was morally justified to kill legislators poised to destroy the Affordable Health Care Act -- which I don't -- it is terrible strategy in an era when the powerful have weapons that can literally destroy life on the planet.

I've noticed the uptick in violent language and calls to action from the many fractured pieces of the body politic since the ascendance of the demagogue with bad hair. A horrifying sign of the times.

The Los Angeles Times quoted a member of Congress following a security briefing: “Everyone’s getting a bunch of death threats right now,” Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.)

Fight back by remaining civil, respectful, and compassionate for all sentient beings even as you struggle for human rights like health care. Fight back by recognizing that if we live by the sword, we must die by the sword. Fight back by withdrawing your support from the system of capitalism masquerading as democracy, a system that is killing us all.

Less than 24 hours after it happened, news about the Alexandria shootings wasn't even trending anymore. In among the infotainment clutter was the latest "terrorist" threat, a bomb scare in the Port of Charleston with a plot straight out of a made for tv movie. And so we trudge on, into the fog of a polarized nation, heavily armed, and lashing out in pain.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Will You Fight To Protect Your Water? Because You Are Going To Have To Fight Long And Hard

Cynthia Howard at yesterday's "Water Is Life" rally in Bangor ( coverage here and MPBN coverage here)

By now we all know about targeted internet advertising. Like most artifical intelligence, it often misses the mark by a mile and sometimes in funny ways.

For example, I often see ads for military clothing or military facebook groups because I read articles about the metastisizing U.S. military and its deadly misadventures around the globe. 

Also, I keep seeing ads for the exact dress I just bought to wear to a family wedding. What is the point of that?

This morning I clicked on a shared article from Essence magazine titled "Why Supporting 'Wonder Woman' Is Dangerous For My Black Feminism And Liberation." The weekend is when I get time to do a lot of reading around the internet, finding authors I've not read before and exploring areas I don't know enough about. I'm vaguely aware of the controvery around the Israeli army veteran who plays Wonder Woman, and more aware of a general trend in the U.S. mass media culture to portray woman as violent, aggressive and allegedly desirable on those grounds. 

Imagine my surprise when a pop up ad blocked the Essence article to brag about how the NestlĂ© corporation has captured the watershed just miles from my home.

Of course the word NestlĂ© is never used because that multinational water thief hides behind the local Maine label of a company they purchased years ago. The hubristic brag of the tagline "greatness springs from here" is a hint at the men behind the curtain.

Why am I seeing this ad? Because yesterday I attended and posted photos from a Penobscot rally to protect the water upon which all life depends? I didn't even post a photo or report the words of Nickie Sekera who spoke for Community Water Justice and urged all of us to return home and seek local water sovereignty ordinances in our towns in advance of NestlĂ© coming for our aquifers.

I did post a picture of the amazing Elizabeth Ann Mitchell at the rally. (You can read her guest post here about how she disrupted Democratic Attorney General Janet Mills on behalf of the Penobscot watershed.) 

And just a few minutes ago I shared a link to a WERU community radio "Radioactive" podcast about the Maine so-called Department of Environmental Protection granting permission to expand the Juniper Ridge Landfill.

This toxic waste dump receives truckloads of debris from outside our state, and it leaches into the Penobscot watershed. Perhaps Casella, which operates the landfill at a proft, and NestlĂ©, which trucks out our water in plastic bottles at a profit, will go head to head over water quality someday soon?

That would be a battle I'd be far more likely to watch than a comic superheroine battling fake forces of evil.

My biggest takeaway from yesterday was a telling of the Penobscot story about Glooskap and the Black Snake. Dawn Eve York prefaced her sharing of it by saying that her amazing young daugher tells it better. Someday I hope to hear Woli tell it; maybe I will be so lucky at the upcoming ceremony for Healing the Wounds of Turtle Island on the Penboscot reservation (you can donate to support travel expenses for the indigenous elders who are coming here).

These stories are meant to be told, not written down so I'll just summarize here: Wabanaki hero Glooskap returns home from a long trip to find a bad smell emanating from the water. As he travels upstream he realizes it is coming from a black snake and he begins to fight the snake. He is helped by a woodpecker who indicates the weakest point to strike, and when the snake is killed the river is stained red with its blood. Glooskap touches the head of his friend the woodpecker with some of the blood; a red spot remains, and the water transforms back to its pristine and lovely original condition.

The black snake of oil pipelines is foretold in the prophecies of various native groups in the Americas, and there were many veterans of the stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline present at yesterday's rally.

Sherri Mitchell also reminded us yesterday that it is the Penobscot Nation that fought to restore their river to a condition that did not raise sores on the skin of their children after swimming.

Industrial pollution still continues to threaten: besides the landfill, there is a massive mercury deposit in the riverbed upstream of Indian Island from a defunct paper mill.

We of the industrialized and colonized USA have much to learn about stewardship of our relatives the plants, the soil, air and water -- in other words, the sustenance of life.

Governments both at the state and federal level have abandoned protection, instead viewing water and land as commodities to be consumed in the pursuit of private profits. I learned yesterday that NestlĂ© is one of the fastest growing corporations on the planet, and that bottled water is one of its fasting growing sectors.

Capitalism loves growth of profits and will die without them. It willingly pollutes waterways and drains aquifers, even during periods of drought, as a path to more "growth" for its executives and shareholders.

We should love clean water because we will die without it. That is what mni wiconi means in the Lakota language.

Will you fight to protect your water? 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

With Suicide And Overdose Deaths On The Rise, Is America Great Again?

My extended family absorbed two pieces of bad news yesterday. One father of three shot himself in the heart after struggling with the PTSD that follows veterans home from battle; his twelve year old daughter heard the gun shot but could not open the locked bathroom door. His pain may have ended, but hers is unimaginable.

But my country will continue to spend hundred of millions each year to convince its children that the military is a great job opportunity!

Closer to home, a young father died of an overdose. He had just earned his GED. He left behind a pregnant wife and a couple of small children. Maine now loses a person every day to opioid abuse. That's a statistical average. Some days we lose more than one.

These are the wages of poverty among generations that have known nothing but expensive, distant wars.

The wages of stop loss and head injuries and repeated redeployments that render U.S. soldiers unfit for continuing to live.

The wages of high poverty and low health care and a society that treats addicts like criminals rather than people suffering from a deadly illness.

It's no wonder people fall for the words of a demagogue with bad hair promising to make their country great again.

Instead, our country is now invading Syria and threatening Iran and Qatar and China and Russia and occupying Iraq and Afghanistan and...We're massing troops on the border of too many countries and we're the biggest weapons dealer the world has ever known. Our own people are gunned down in the streets by police, and struck down at home by drugs meant to ease their pain. Or they take a gun in hand and end the pain once and for all.

My love goes out to everyone suffering under the rule of the wealthy. Whatever mistakes we make, we deserve to live and to see our children grow up, to hold our grandchildren on our laps and whisper how important they are.

I share this piece by the German poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht in the spirit of healing our deadly devotion to wealth and the violence it requires to maintain it. (Thanks to Bruce Gagnon for sharing it to his blog yesterday with the title "Forgive Us, We Were Fools.")

To those born later

By Bertolt Brecht (1898–1956)

Truly I live in dark times!
Frank speech is naĂŻve. A smooth forehead
Suggests insensitivity. The man who laughs
Has simply not yet heard
The terrible news.

What kind of times are these, when
To talk about trees is almost a crime
Because it implies silence about so many horrors?
When the man over there calmly crossing the street
Is already perhaps beyond the reach of his friends
Who are in need?

It’s true that I still earn my daily bread
But, believe me, that’s only an accident. Nothing
I do gives me the right to eat my fill.
By chance I've been spared. (If my luck breaks, I'm lost.)

They say to me: Eat and drink! Be glad you have it!
But how can I eat and drink if I snatch what I eat
From the starving
And my glass of water belongs to someone dying of thirst?
And yet I eat and drink.

I would also like to be wise.
In the old books it says what wisdom is:
To shun the strife of the world and to live out
Your brief time without fear
Also to get along without violence
To return good for evil
Not to fulfill your desires but to forget them
Is accounted wise.
All this I cannot do.
Truly, I live in dark times.

I came to the cities in a time of disorder
When hunger reigned.
I came among men in a time of revolt
And I rebelled with them.
So passed my time
Given to me on earth.

I ate my food between battles
I lay down to sleep among murderers
I practiced love carelessly
And I had little patience for nature’s beauty.
So passed my time
Given to me on earth.

All roads led into the mire in my time.
My tongue betrayed me to the butchers.
There was little I could do. But those in power
Sat safer without me: that was my hope.
So passed my time
Given to me on earth.

Our forces were slight. Our goal
Lay far in the distance
Clearly visible, though I myself
Was unlikely to reach it.
So passed my time
Given to me on earth.

You who will emerge from the flood
In which we have gone under
Bring to mind
When you speak of our failings
Bring to mind also the dark times
That you have escaped.
Changing countries more often than our shoes,
We went through the class wars, despairing
When there was only injustice, no outrage.
And yet we realized:
Hatred, even of meanness
Contorts the features.
Anger, even against injustice
Makes the voice hoarse. O,
We who wanted to prepare the ground for friendship
Could not ourselves be friendly.
But you, when the time comes at last
When man is helper to man
Think of us
With forbearance.         

We are all Mother Courage now, scrambling to make a living off the war machine while trying (and failing) to keep it from consuming our children.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Guest Post: Elizabeth Ann Mitchell, Penobscot, On Why She Disrupted Janet Mills With Some Truth

Elizabeth Ann Mitchell at center.  Photo credit: Carl D. Walsh, Portland Press Herald

This Saturday, June 10, water protectors led by the Penobscot Nation will gather at the river in Bangor to show their determination to protect their water from the state of Maine. Attorney General Janet Mills has absurdly claimed that the Penobscot's ancestral fishing rights do not include control of the waterways that their canoes were designed for, and the conflict came to a head in Portland at last weekend's Democratic Party "truth" rally.

Today's guest post by Elizabeth Ann Mitchell explains why she confronted Mills and what happened after that. Her account was first published on facebook.

(Written June 3, 2017)
We never really talk about what it means to be an activist. Some days you show up to a rally and you just end up holding a sign, or following a chant that someone starts. I think that we see activism how it is portrayed in the movies.

Sometimes, we forget that being an activist is maybe one of the most dangerous things that you'll partake in, in your lifetime.

I'm not saying this to be dramatic because life is dramatic enough as it is. I think we forget that people die for less. Die for just having different colored skin.
 Janet Mills continued speaking as her supporters roughed up protesters
at Portland, Maine "March for Truth" rally 
Today I got a reminder of how dangerous activism is. I was reminded of how the world looks at me. Today, I got called a bitch. I got called useless, worthless, a disgrace, disgusting, disrespectful, rude. I had more people than I could count on two hands and two feet approach me and violate my personal boundaries and use physical force against me. Men using their strength to silence me. Women would grab my arm and when I snatched it back, cried out for the help of a man to come save them from me.

Today I was given a literal shove back into reality.

Activism is nothing like you see on TV. You can't just stand up in front of a crowd and expect everyone to sing Kumbaya at the end of your speech. Most of the time, people demonize you and decide that it's their job to take you down because you're too loud, or you're too angry, or your “disrespectful”, or “rude”. Or you just don't “have the right” to do it. Today I remembered that activism is scary. Today I remember that being an activist means putting your hands in the air and smiling at the waiting mob, ready tear you to pieces once the first punch is thrown.

Mentally preparing yourself and your body for what may come, while speaking the truth, which is their trigger to hurt you.
Photo shared by Marena Blanchard, who posted it with
some useful links to readings on environmental racism.
I didn't know what to expect going to the rally. All I knew is that I was going to say the things that nobody else wants to. To say the things that everyone needs to hear but doesn't want to hear. I knew that I had a message for Janet Mills but I didn't know how I was going to deliver it. I decided to walk up to the podium today because I realized that my message needed to be heard not only by her, but by everybody. The rally was for truth apparently so I figured they had the right to know the truth too.

The truth is, Attorney General Janet Mills is trying to steal the rights to the Penobscot river, from my people. The State of Maine took Penobscot land, Penobscot children, and now they want to take the Penobscot river.

We are people of the river; our lives are interwoven with its fate. Just like it's every Mainer's responsibility to hold their leadership accountable, it is my responsibility to stand for the water, for Nebi.
Elizabeth Ann Mitchell at center and Maine Attorney General Janet Mills at far right.
Photo credit: Carl D. Walsh, Portland Press Herald. 
I took the platform today because I had the opportunity to. It was the perfect opportunity. A crowd of over 100 people with news photographers, and reporters with cameras. My message could be spread who knows how far with these tools at my disposal for the first time. We forget that indigenous peoples do not have platforms like Janet Mills. We almost never get recognition for our truth because we are continuously silenced. These platforms don't exist for us for a reason.
Youth water protector Luke Sekera with mic being supported to speak by Elizabeth Ann Mitchell.
Banner by ARRT! Photo credit: Dorcas Ngaliema

Today I got to see the kind of a person our Maine attorney general is. She's the kind of person who would allow a mob of angry men to assault young women of color without batting an eye. The kind of woman who allows her dedicated followers to use violence against the people who expose her. The kind of woman who has the power to stop a mob but allows it to escalate anyway.
photo credit: Dorcas Ngaliema
The article that was written in the Portland Press Herald forgot a whole part of my message. They forgot that at the end of the rally I spoke again. At the end of the rally I reminded everybody that I was there out of love. That I wasn't there to be “disrespectful” or “rude”.

I was there for Nebi. I was there because I stand for the water. I was there to remind people that water is life.

I was there to remind people that we are destroying our Mother Earth. I was there to remind folks that my people are still fighting for what is rightfully ours. That we cannot live without water. I was reminding people of how sacred water is, and how we need to protect it from people like Janet Mills.

Sometimes love comes in the form of radical truth.

"It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains."
-Assata Shakur
Check out my friend Marena's post on the action:

1. Show up for the Indigenous leadership protecting water in Maine:

2. Follow Dawnland Environmental Defense and donate to the ongoing legal battle.

3. Watch a video to educate yourself about this issue:…/the-penobscot

4. Follow Sunlight Media Collective on Facebook.

5. Follow the efforts of No Juniper Ridge Megadump Expansion, another issue also affecting the water and our Indigenous family in Maine.

6. Also follow Community Water Justice and get involved in the struggle against corporate water mining in Maine.