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Appeased Fresno?

by kelly borkert
Local peace group declines to endorse Dec. 10th Human Rights Day actions in Fresno.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
Article 25
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.


December 10, 2009, activists, supporters and homeless citizens of Fresno will come together to mark Human Rights Day with a focus on the right to housing that the City of Fresno gladly extends to developers, banks and realty interests, while depriving such consideration to the throngs of homeless widely seen throughout the city. Many of whom will be forced again to move from a downtown encampment on Dec 16, with no alternative site or temporary housing arrangements being made, despite millions of dollars brought in specifically to deal with this problem.



Not entirely shocking in light of the City's history of attacking the homeless over the last 8 years. What is shocking, is the failure to support this day of action by the group known as Peace Fresno. As plans were still being solidified for local action by homeless citizens and their supporters, news was relayed that Peace Fresno had decided against endorsing the event because of concerns that laws may be broken in the course of civil disobedience intended to highlight the gross disparities between a broken but bailed out banking system that collapsed under its own unregulated corruption, and the innocent bystanders who have had their homes foreclosed, and their economy mismanaged, by the same lenders who took their houses as well as government bailout funds.



As bad as the situation is for all citizens in the current economy, the decision by Peace Fresno made a bad situation even more bitter for those who know the relatively recent history of local activism and struggles for justice in Fresno. For some, it was just another misstep by people whose focus appears to be misplaced. For others, it could be interpreted as another reason to believe Peace Fresno is conciously unconcerned with the root tenents of social justice movements.



When non-violent resistance to brutal oppression, military or paramilitary aggression and even genocide is considered a sacrosanct or simply necessary approach, there are a limited number of valuable options available. Some may even be requisite. The closest thing to a nuclear option in the arsenal of peaceful social justice advocates is almost certainly solidarity, followed closely by commonly used tactics such as civil disobedience. Although the United States has implemented drastic measures in the last decade, it would seem the peace movement should still embrace its constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms to speak up for those in more fragile circumstances, whether across the globe or down the street.



Certainly, little explanation of the importance of civil disobedience should be necessary to literate adults of conscience familiar with the civil rights struggles of the 1960's and all the way through today's climate of fostered intolerance towards LGBT communities. Contemporary advocates of CD surely include both Cindy Sheehan and Code Pink, who have appeared locally a time or two recently, and with the assistance of Peace Fresno found themselves on display in what might be seen as clumsy locations. Out of sight in plain view on Blackstone and Shaw, mingling with Going Out of Business sign wavers, religious zealots on megaphone, and an equal or larger crowd of Halloween store "zombie" employees- all adding up to a rather confusing display of signs, most quite more easily read than the 30 foot banner held by Code Pink, or their well painted transportation parked strategically behind trees. This event was followed by a more recent action east of the Fresno Yosemite International airport, minus any available parking and considerble traffic flow that now diverts on the new 180 freeway. But, for better or for worse, at least these practitioners of civil disobedience had the support of Peace Fresno.



In the slightly longer view of recent history, a source of considerable irony is the fact that Peace Fresno (as were many other local organizations) was the recipient of some funds

from the settlement which arose from The GAP protestors mass arrests at Fashion Fair Mall.

This alone makes Peace Fresno look quite hypopcritical and suspect in their decision not to endorse the Human Rights Day event December 10 in Fresno.



As 8 years of resistance to the unchecked imperial initiatives of the United States government passed by, Peace Fresno can claim few victories. But that assumes their agenda is truly one of achieving peace and justice within our lifetimes. If their actions were to be examined in the careful manner that others have been, they may be found to be a different sort of success, the kind that fools people into thinking they are doing something, when they are really being neutralized. Knowing many of the primary movers in Peace Fresno personally, as greatly informed, sincerely concerned people, it would be an outright lie to accuse them of perfidy. But comparing their actions and inactions to known perpetrators of cointelpro style disruption and destabilization within social movements, a less informed observer could draw some dark conclusions that would be difficult to declaim.



Without solidarity, non-violent change is quite likely impossible. With a history of questionable, sometimes undemocratic decision making by Peace Fresno, it might behoove interested activists to think for themselves, and weigh their own contributions carefully.

No matter how many lives are at stake, or where they live, the power of people to gather and speak against injustice needs to be utilized as effectively as possible. Life at best is short, and time precious. Peace Fresno should reevaluate their decision making and their relationship to the community of activists in Fresno, if their intentions are true to their statements.
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Val Maylone
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