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The United States Social Forum 2015 was held June 24-28 in San José. A thousand activists from hundreds of organizations worked on strategies for necessary alternatives and system change. Food Sovereignty, Living on the Edge of Silicon Valley, Taking our Health Back, Crisis of the California Water Commons, No More Deaths: Resisting Border Militarization, Cooperative Economics, and Movements Making Media were just some of the more than a hundred topics discussed.
Featuring some 150 workshops, assemblies, film festivals, cultural events, exhibits, tours, and community gardening events, the U.S. Social Forum not only informed attendees about social issues, but engaged participants in collective discussion about solutions and organizing to create alternatives. The larger People's Movement Assemblies (PMAs) were collaborations among several different grassroots organizations seeking to build alliances across traditional boundaries of community, geography, and issues. A thousand participants came from throughout California and nearly every western state of the United States.
Recognizing that human rights, social justice, and climate justice are connected on a global scale the movement for the World Social Forum was born in Brasil to provide a people's alternative to the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland. The first World Social Forum was held in Porte Alegre, Brasil in January 2001 because of the initiative and mass support of the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra (MST or Landless Workers' Movement). A total of 14 World Social Forums have been held in different cities in South America, Asia, and Africa.
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The farm worker movement mourns the passing on June 7, 2015, of Rev. Deacon Sal Alvarez, who played a key role with Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta in the farm worker movement and on behalf of many other worthy causes over seven decades. Sal was motivated by deep faith in a movement grounded in the Catholic Church’s social justice teachings and dedication to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
All around the world May Day has been a day for labor solidarity, immigrant rights, direct action, reclaiming the streets, and speaking out against injustice. May Day 2015 in the Northern California was a busy day for actions from San Francisco and Oakland to San Jose and Mountain View to Santa Cruz and Fresno. Call-outs went out for rallies, marches, flying pickets, the shutdown of the Port of Oakland, a tech commute blockade, and an anti-capitalist/Baltimore solidarity march.
Activists in Oakland came out in the hundreds to rally and march for a $15 minimum wage on April 15, tax day. They started their protests by shutting down all of the McDonald's restaurants in Oakland with chanting, flash mobs and and banners. The San Pablo McDonald's was greeted by activists handing out over 200 free "burritos for justice" made with vegetables from the UC Gill Tract Community Farm
. Protesters also received a surprise visit by former United States Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich. About mid morning, participants from all of the thirteen McDonald's restaurants marched and congregated at the 45th Avenue fast food branch. At the end of the day all gathered at UC Berkeley for a final rally and march.
The action in Berkeley began with a rally at Sproul Plaza. Participants came from actions all over the San Francisco Bay area earlier in the day, including San Jose and surrounding South Bay communities, San Francisco, and Marin County, many of which targeted McDonald's outlets. Mayor Ruth Atkins of Emeryville drew cheers from the rally crowd as she announced that on July 1, the city's minimum wage would rise to $14.42 an hour. Other area communities including Oakland, San Francisco and Berkeley have raised or are in the process of increasing their minimum wage, while State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, has introduced a bill to raise the state's minimum. After the rally, over one thousand protesters marched through the heart of Berkeley, stopping at the downtown McDonald's, and temporarily snarling traffic.
The fight for $15 takes Oakland by Storm |
Berkeley demonstration for $15 at site of 60’s Free Speech Movement |
3 #FightFor15 Protests in 1 Day, Featuring Robert Reich |
"No Justice No Peace" Bay Area Workers & Unions Rally for $15 & A Union On April 15, 2015 |
Week of Success! Fight for Fifteen, Boycott Sprouts, and EIR Lawsuit! |
Fight for $15 on 4/15 March, Oakland to Berkeley
Family, friends, and community supporters came together on February 14 for a candlelight vigil to honor 23-year-old Phillip Watkins, who was shot and killed by two officers with the San Jose Police Department on February 11. About one hundred people attended the vigil, and many spoke about what a positive person Phillip was, and how he changed their lives.
Phillip was the father of a young girl, who was at the vigil with her mother, Phillip's life-partner. Also in attendance was Phillip's mother and sisters, and his partner's mother. Phillip attended San José High School and De Anza College, playing on the football teams of both schools. Fitness and exercise was his passion.
One of Phillip's sisters who spoke at the vigil described her brother as "always giving what he had for others," and she recalled that whenever the ice cream man would come around their neighborhood during their childhood, Phillip would always share his money with her so that she was sure to get what she wanted. "Now is the time to live through Phillip," she said. "That's what keeps me ok."
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In Mexico and Central America, a tianguis is traditionally thought of as an open-air market where merchandise is sold. The word tianguis is derived from the Aztec language, and the cultural tradition has been practiced by Indigenous peoples since before colonial contact. To create a space where community organizing skills can be shared, the concept of a "community action" tianguis was created by individuals in the Mayfair community of San José. The first such tianguis was held at Lee Mathson Middle School (MIT) on November 15, and featured participation from a wide range of organizations working in the areas of health, education, labor, food safety, immigration, and legal defense.
Visually, the Community Action Tianguis held at MIT resembled a traditional tianguis, however no merchandise was sold. Instead, individuals representing community organizations spoke, tabled and shared information, and a variety of goods and services were available at no cost. Hair stylists offered young people free haircuts. Community members cooked hot dogs which were distributed for free, and fresh produce was given out by Good. To Go., which displayed a box full of huge, organic pomegranates in front of a neatly arranged produce cart.
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As expected, the grand jury tasked with determining if there was enough evidence for charging Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for the murder of Mike Brown determined that there wasn’t probable cause. That night, on November 24, people in Ferguson and across the country began to rise up for Mike Brown and blocked freeways, city streets, and more. Fires were set, merchandise taken from stores, and, on Black Friday, BART was disrupted in West Oakland and shopping centers shut down in San Francisco. Protests continued throughout the week, culminating on the annual Black Friday shopping day and continuing into the weekend.
UPDATE 11/14: New CA Ebola Mandate Inspired by NNU Appeal to Gov. Brown, Sets National Model
On November 11, two-day strikes started that effect nearly 20,000 registered nurses at 86 Kaiser Permanente hospitals and clinics, a Sutter hospital in Tracy, and Watsonville Community Hospital kicking off a wave of protests in 15 states and the District of Columbia over eroding patient care conditions symbolized by inadequate Ebola safeguards at most U.S. hospitals. Large noon rallies were held at Kaiser Oakland and Kaiser South Sacramento.
On the evening of September 23, the airwaves were filled with reports of strikes by the United States and its allies against targets in Syria. Rapid response in Palo Alto by the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center brought out Peninsula residents in protest.
Demonstrators in San Francisco and San José took the streets as well. The real objective of this war, said protesters, is to locate permanent Pentagon military bases in Iraq, Syria and the entire resource rich region of the Middle East. Endless war in the Middle East with the US leading the pack is to gain permanent imperial power and domination in a region that contains much of the world's oil reserves.
Emergency Protest "Stop the U.S. bombing of Syria!"
Rallies and marches in solidarity with the people of Ferguson, Mo. were held across the world following the events of August 9 when Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in broad daylight in front of numerous witnesses. Michael was reportedly unarmed and holding his hands up while attempting to surrender when he was gunned down. Protests in the Bay Area were held in San Francisco, San Jose, and Santa Cruz.
On June 10, activists rallied in front of Martin Luther King Jr. Library in San José to protest the unjust prosecution of 66-year-old Palestinian-American activist Rasmea Odeh. Last October, Homeland Security agents arrested Odeh after the Department of Justice charged her with “unlawful procurement of naturalization.” The Obama administration’s filing of these charges could result in her being stripped of her U.S. citizenship and deported.
The DOJ alleges that she improperly omitted mention in the application of having been in prison in Israel, but supporters claim the facts tell a different story. Odeh was arrested by Israeli soldiers as a 21-year-old university student in her home in Ramallah, but she was tortured, along with her father, for 45 days, and sentenced to prison for a crime she did not commit.
Odeh is well known in Chicago, where she has worked as associate director of the Arab American Action Network to defend civil liberties and promote immigrant rights. Last year, the Chicago Cultural Alliance bestowed on her its Outstanding Community Leader Award in recognition of her devoting “over 40 year of her life to the empowerment of Arab women.”
Laurie Valdez writes:
My name is Laurie Valdez. On February 21, 2014, my partner Antonio Guzman Lopez was murdered at the hands of San Jose State University Police Department Sgt. Mike Santos, who claims he did it in defense of fellow UPD officer Frits Van der Hoek.
The incident happened right by a childcare center and in front of a sorority house. Clearly Santos had no concern for the safety of others or the fellow officer who, according to Santos, was standing right in front of Antonio, thus placing him in the line of fire. I hope Officer Santos, is aware of how many lives were affected by his actions. There was clearly a complete disregard for the safety of children, students, neighbors, and another officer! A community is traumatized, and they now fear for their own safety!
No justice can be given to Antonio because he is no longer here. But our son Josiah, who is 4 years old, deserves justice for having to grow up without his daddy for the rest of his life. Josiah and Antonio had a lifetime of love to be shared and it was taken away from both of them. Josiah is left here to suffer without his daddy to hold him, hug him, or go to his first day of school. This is all because of the actions of Officer Mike Santos, and those who have persisted in remaining silent or continue to cover up his murder.
See Also: The Anatomy of Police Murder and Cover Up
| Laurie Valdez of Justice For Josiah interview on Setting the Standard
7PM Friday Aug 28
To Gaza with Love