Resistance in Review: TC Indymedia Top 10 of 2010
10) Rainforest Action Network Targets General Mills, Cargill Over Palm Oil - Jan. 19 (5,843 views) (Read all stories about Environmental Justice & Sustainability)
9) Another World Is Possible; Is Another U.S. Necessary? Dispatch from the US Social Forum - June 23 (6,227 views) (Read all stories about US Social Forum)
7) At least four houses in Minneapolis raided, other houses in Michigan, NC, Chicago targeted - Sept. 24 (9,345 views) (Read all stories about State Repression)
6) Secret 'Trigger' & blueprint for emergency domestic military crackdown plan revealed - Nov. 19 (12,087 views) (Read all stories about Military)
(Read on to find out the top 5 stories, as measured in page views, on TCIMC in 2010!)
The 2010 Resistance in Review – where to begin? TC Indymedia's feature archive alone contained well over 100 stories this year, from dealing with state repression to expanding resistance on our own terms. A true “year in review” would take quite a while – instead, here's a selected review of some significant local struggles of the past 12 months, including fights for decolonization, immigrant rights, economic justice, education, and the environment. Of everything that's happened in the past year, picking the “most important” would be impossible—but the following issues in particular lead us to think about the solidarity shown in 2010 as we aim to step it up in 2011.
(This article is based off of the TC Indymedia Resistance in Review at Waite House December 3. To view the accompanying presentation with videos and photo slideshows, download it here: Open Office | Powerpoint )
To begin the Resistance in Review,let's look ahead not just to 2011, but to 2012. It probably won't be the apocalypse—the “2012” graffiti around Minneapolis seems to have abated—but it will be the 150th anniversary of the War of 1862, the pivotal point in white Minnesota's genocide against the Dakota people. One of the main targets of Dakota and indigenous solidarity activists in recent years has been the Minnesota Historical Society.
The longtime director of the MNHS, Nina Archabal, reitred this year. This brought a bit of hope to some that the historical society would move in a new direction, just in time for 2012, to confront Minnesota's history of genocide.
And so, right now, the big exhibit at the MNHS in downtown St. Paul is about... Chocolate.
According to the museum's blurb, "The exhibit introduces visitors to the plant, products, history and culture of chocolate. Learn about how chocolate came to Europe, its history there, and how technology changed it from a luxury to a mass-produced snack food." It has nothing to do with Minnesota.
That said, outside the MN Historical Society, the conversation around colonization is changing in Minnesota, through teach-ins, events, church group discussions, and other means.
And that was the backdrop for an action this February, when on February 15, the MNHS held a “rally for history” at the state capitol. It was interrupted by about 20 Dakota activists and supporters who denounced Historic Fort Snelling as a symbol of genocide and unfurled banners above and in front of the podium.
For anyone who doesn't know, Fort Snelling was the site of a 19th century concentration camp where several hundred imprisoned Dakota people died of starvation and disease during the winter of 1862-63, after being force marched up the Minnesota river from New Ulm. The Take Down the Fort campaign points out that by choosing to preserve the fort through allocating funding for its upkeep, Minnesotans are choosing to celebrate a symbol of violence against native people.
May 29 was the opening day celebration of Fort Snelling, one of the biggest days of the year at the historical society's flagship tourist attraction. The day's events include a host of family-friendly reenactments that glorify the history of land theft and military ocucpation of Dakota land.
The Take Down the Fort campaign teamed up with immigrant rights activists, as May 29 was also a National Day of Action against racist Arizona law SB1070. While Dakota and other indigenous people marched across the Mendota bridge, immigrants and allies met at the nearby federal building.
Both groups converged outside the gates of Fort Snelling. The historic fort charges a $10 entry fee, but many folks decided that interacting with the tourists and bystanders for free was a better idea and so they crashed the gate, rallying underneath the round tower on a scorching hot, dusty day.
An MNHS spokesperson said that such demonstrations are a good thing because they prompt visitors to ask questions. Certainly that is true - but in reality, the Historical Society and Hennepin County Sheriff's Office responded in force, threatening the protesters with arrest, trying to close the fort gates to lock them in, and asking Native demonstrators to separate themselves from non-Native ones.
Before any of that could happen, however, the protest marched outside the gates to regroup. Many came back the next day unannounced to educate tourists.
Meanwhile, in Phoenix, 50,000 to 100,000 marched on the Arizona State Capitol against SB 1070 and rallied all day long, calling for federal intervention in perhaps the strongest mobilization yet against the racist law.
SB1070 and other immigrant rights issues were also at the forefront in Minnesota this year.
Most activists know what SB1070 is -- how many people know what HF1718 is? It's the bill spearheaded by Mujeres en Liderazgo, a Latina’ women’s leadership group based out of Waite House, which identified a need to allow anyone living in Minnesota to get a driver’s license, regardless of their citizenship status. They succeeded in bringing a public safety and human rights bill on the issue to the state legislature this March. Currently, undocumented immigrants are forced to drive without a license and without insurance to get to work every day, since public transit doesn't run in many outstate areas or at night when many immigrants work.
This was a campaign to dramatically improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable members of our community that are currently forced to drive without a license under constant fear of arrest, and possible deportation.
The bill successfully passed a house committee, but the Mujeres chose not to push HF1718 for a full vote, knowing that Governor Pawlenty, who ran on an anti-immigrant campaign, would ultimately refuse to sign the bill. Instead they declared a short-term victory and built support for 2011, when a new governor could present the opportunity for their hopes to become a reality.
TC Indymedia worked with Mujeres earlier this year doing a series of workshops/trainings - that's something we'd like to do with other organizations too... maybe yours. Contact us if so!
As spring turned into summer, the fight against SB1070 heated up - it was really one of the most mobilizing issues nationwide this year. The campaign had its Darth Vader - Joe Arpaio - and no shortage of rebels to join the fight. After the passage of 1070, which has since been significantly but not entirely held up by a court challenge - legislators in several other states, including Minnesota, tried to introduce copycat bills.
Dozens of actions large and small were held locally in opposition to the bill. The largest was the annual May Day immigrant rights demo, which was actually 3 marches that converged from different points upon the Minneapolis Convention Center, where the state GOP convention was being held. Tens of thousands of people turned out in this immigrant-led effort.
In July, a rally was held on another national day of action against SB 1070 at the State Capitol in St. Paul, and in August, Minnesota joined the national movement focused on moving the Major League Baseball All-Star game from Arizona in 2011. At the MLB owner's meeting at the Graves Hotel on 1st Avenue downtown, activists were arrested during a noisy demo as they tried to deliver over 100,000 signatures to the MLB commissioner.
Other actions included several around Tom Emmer's anti-immigrant gubernatorial campaign, and local delegations of immigrant advocates traveled to larger demonstrations in Washington, D.C.
Another unique aspect of the SB1070 campaign has been the way it has valued and utilized cultural production--not marginalized it, like too often happens. Dozens of amazing posters were one way that the arts were used in furtherance of social change as part of this campaign around the country.
The Latina community also played a leading role in the local labor movement this year – now we'll switch gears to some of the many actions around Economic Justice issues this year.
In February, a protest turned into a die-in outside Governor Tim Pawlenty's office, drawing attention to the deaths that would be caused by his proposed cuts to health and human services - including eliminating the General Assistance programs entirely. Later that week, legislators compromised on a watered-down bill that still cut benefits but avoided the worst that Pawlenty had proposed.
A focal point later in the spring was SEIU 26's janitors campaign, which found success through some particularly creative actions. SEIU 26 built a name for itself by managing to use disruptive, creative tactics in the context of a rather mainstream union organizing environment.
In mid-February, hundreds of janitors marched through the skyways of downtown Minneapolis.
The next day, 100 janitors and supporters executed a plan to crash the National Bankers Association meeting at the Saint Paul City Center. They surged into the atrium of the hotel, past the conference check-in desk and into the ballroom where speeches were taking place, interrupting the meeting with chanting, massive signs and air horns.
Local 26 had announced an intent to strike over disagreements with cleaning contractor companies representing many of the biggest downtown buildings. They demanded fair pay, better healthcare and added an environmental justice angle through demands for greener cleaning practices, such as daytime cleaning and different cleaning products - no small issue after some janitors had lost their sense of smell due to the chemicals used at work.
While executives like Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf, made over $18 million this year. Full-time janitors make as little as $20,000 a year, before taxes, and many face thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket medical costs due to poor coverage, or avoid doctor visits altogether.
A week later, while about 40 SEIU members marched through the skyways of the US Bank building as a decoy action, even more took over the lobby of the Wells Fargo building, setting up a fake monopoly board. They also dumped out over ten thousand green plastic Monopoly house game pieces to represent over 84,000 foreclosures in Minnesota, as an activist dressed as Rich Uncle Pennybags strutted around.
At the end of the month, with a solidarity bike ride through downtown planned for the next day, SEIU declared victory with a new contract that included green cleaning products, transition to daytime cleaning, improved health insurance, and as much as a 38% income rise by the beginning of 2012.
There were other things of note about local union organizing in 2010. The Minnesota Nurse's Association conducted a one-day strike June 10 that was the biggest nurses strike in history. Picketlines were outside of 14 twin cities hospitals - the nurses framed the issue as one of patient safety, seeking guaranteed staffing levels and therefore increased quality of care.
And at the beginning of September, the Jimmy John's Workers Union came onto the scene - the first union of its kind in the fast food industry. The union, part of the IWW, came out the same weekend that the IWW held its 2010 General Convention in the Twin Cities, which gave that weekend's actions a nice boost!
The union simultaneously came out at 9 stores in MPLS and St. Louis Park. They held energetic pickets, creative events like a bike ride that visited six of the stores, and a rally on Labor Day.
Students & Education
The critique of traditional education has been strong in MPLS for quite some time, especially with the Experimental College of the Twin Cities which this year launched a new chapter: the Academia Comunitaria based out of Waite House – where all classes are free and in Spanish. But many important struggles are also happening from inside the belly of traditional education, both at the K-12 and University levels.
Groups like the Public Education Justice Alliance of Minnesota - and at the U of M, the Chop from the Top and Save Our School campaigns came onto the scene earlier this year and helped catalyze resistance to privatization.
March 4 was called for as a National Day of Action to Defend Public Education, which initially emerged out of struggles last year across California against big tuition increases and increasingly corporate administration there. Hundreds of actions were planned at universities and colleges in at least 31 states across the US, including at the U of M.
Here at the U, of course, corporatization is nothing new. The rally here was coordinated by a coaliton of Staff, Graduate Students, Undergrads, Adjuncts and Faculty members concerned about the effects of budget cuts. The U has shifted away from its original mission as a land grant institution, supposedly open to everyone throughout the state, to one that in reality mostly serves a specific, elite corporate interest.
Over 250 administrators at the U earn over $200,000 a year, in spite of skyrocketing tuition and staff layoffs. As the new University President enjoys his free home and lavish pay raises courtesy of the University of Minnesota, students are forced to work more to afford housing and textbooks.
Regionally, an action in Milwaukee saw 18 people arrested; March 4 also inspired an action in Mankato, Minnesota at the start of fall semester.
Another National Day of Action to Defend Public Education was called for October 7 – it ended up smaller, but still with actions on dozens of campuses across the country, including at the U.
Also around that same time, the fight to save North High School in north Minneapolis was kicking into gear.
This is an issue that first came to the attention of many of us in the Indymedia collective through postings submitted by community members. Once a pillar of the North Side - "When you say you're from Minneapolis, people ask, "Oh, were you a Polar?", related one activist - through the elimination of its most popular programs and other decisions from Minneapolis Public Schools, the school currently has only 265 students, and MPS has been seeking to replace it with a private charter school. Given the demographics, and which schools are being targeted for this sort of transformation, this really is a racial justice issue, not only one about private versus public education.
In October, superintendent Bernadeia Johnson recommended the complete closure of North. With only three days notice, over 200 people showed up to the Board of Education mtg in protest, and not a single person used the public comment period to speak in favor of the closure.
From there, emergency meetings and more protests were held, including at the Board meeting at which a decision would be made in November. There, the meeting room was packed beyond capacity, and officials stopped letting people in. Amid the protest outside, the Board voted to table the closure plan, but with a very big catch - that supporters of the school must find 125 new 9th grade students by this spring.
At that meeting, the School Board also announced plans to privatize another North side school - meaning that by next year, north Minneapolis could have more charter schools than traditional public schools.
One big focus of environmental justice activity locally this year has been Rainforest Action Network, particularly their campaign against Cargill.
Cargill is the world's biggest multinational, and is based in the Twin Cities. They're also the largest importer of palm oil, much of which flows through monoculture plantations in SE asia that devastate the landscape and displace indigenous peoples, among other issues. Palm oil is found in up to 1 in 10 products in an average U.S. supermarket.
And so, RAN's palm oil campaign this year also included the secondary target General Mills, also HQ'd locally and one of Cargill's biggest local customers. That led to several actions organized by RAN.
Among them, in January, a giant banner was unfurled on a frozen pond outside General Mills' Golden Valley headquarters, as a helicopter snapped photos overhead. Shortly thereafter, continuing their mediagenic actions, several activists locked themselves to a stairway in a Cargill office as a deafening chainsaw recording played.
RAN involved kids in the campaign, who asked the companies to make their favorite cereals safe to eat again by using sustainable palm oil. In late summer, a banner was dropped beyond home plate at a Minnesota Twins game, modifying a Cargill advertisement. And in the fall, a week after the Ruckus Society's eco-justice action camp in southern Minnesota, several climbers hung a banner and themelves from a downtown Minneapolis skyway alongside the grain exchange building.
Soon after this action, RAN did win some true sustainability commitments from General Mills.
Also on the subject of environmental justice, I want to call attention to two issues that haven't received as much attention in MN this year, but certainly have across the continent - and have clear MN connections. One is the Alberta Tar Sands.
The Alberta Clipper pipeline system runs from Alberta to Duluth-Superior, and Canadian oil accounts for 80% of Minnesota's crude oil imports. The latest false solution proposed by the oil industry is the tar sands, which refers to the petroleum reserves the size of New York state beneath Alberta's boreal forest. To extract the tar though, developers must blast the whole gooey mixture with large amounts of extremely energy-intensive steam to separate the oil from sand and clay.
The practices utterly destroys the landscape, and requires moving 4 tons of earth for a single barrel of oil to be sent down the pipeline to Minnesota... not to mention to toxic chemicals sent to indigenous communities downstream from the oil sands.
One of the leading organizations fighting the Tar Sands is the Indigenous Environmental Network, which has roots in northern MN including a main office in Bemidji. IEN carried out an action against the tar sands outside the UN COP16 cliamte summit in Cancun in early December. In the States, direct actions have happened recently in Idaho, Montana and North Dakota. Is Minnesota next?
Let's also take note of the issue of mountaintop removal. Minnesota isn't exactly known for mountains, but 50% of the energy Xcel Energy uses comes from coal, and a big chunk of that comes from mountaintop removal in Appalachia.
Examples of the cost of that electricity can be seen in the Beehive Design Collective's graphic story The True Cost of Coal, which visited Minnesota for multiple events this year. Forested mountains, streams and hollows are being replaced by open-pit mines all across Appalachia, many of which would stretch from downtown Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul if overlayed upon the Twin Cities.
And now, the top 5 features on TC Indymedia in 2010, as measured by page views:
5) School Board & Newspaper Lobbyists Throw Public School Students, Parents Under the Information Reform Bus - April 6, (17,050 views) (Read all stories about Students & Education)
4) Storm the Boards! Applications Nearly Due for Compensated Citizen Slots on Panels and Agencies - Nov. 13 (18,028 views) (Read all stories about Government)
3) Four slots open on Civilian Police Review Authority Board; Are three already decided? - March 23 (18,198 views) (Read all stories about CRA)
2) Latinos Call Out Tom Emmer on SB1070 During Cinco de Mayo Parade - May 9 (36,804 views) (Read all stories about Immigrant Rights)
1) Another World is Possible, Another US is Necessary: Social Forum Process Hits the Twin Cities - June 1 (52,300 views) (Read all stories about Organizing)