“Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson Hit in Face with Pie at Event, Assaults Protester in ‘Bloody’ Scene” by Nick Miller (eastbayexpress.com)

Mayor Kevin Johnson of Sacramento.

  • Mayor Kevin Johnson of Sacramento.

September 21, 2016

Sacramento Mayor, former NBA star, and UC Berkeley standout Kevin Johnson was hit in the face with a pie on Thursday evening at a farm-to-table dinner event — then multiple sources say he tackled and assaulted the protester in a “bloody” brawl.

During the meal, a protester approached mayor and tagged him in the face with a store-bought coconut cream pie.

Stunned, the mayor allegedly tackled the protester and punched him “repeatedly,” more than half a dozen times, landing “five to 10” blows, according to various witnesses.

One witness described it as a “bloody pulp.” Other witnesses say that the pie-thrower was hit multiple times in the face and will definitely need stitches, and that there was visible blood. Ambulances and fire department arrived at the scene.

A day later, Sacramento Magazine published four photos from the incident, including the following:

PHILIPPE NGABONZIZA

  • PHILIPPE NGABONZIZA

The assailant was 32-year-old Sean Thompson, who was arrested on charges of felony assault of a public official and misdemeanor battery on school property. He’s being held on $100,000 bail.

Booking photo of Sean Thompson, who reportedly assaulted Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson with a pie — then was punched repeatedly by Johnson, according to multiple witnesses. - SACRAMENTO POLICE DEPARTMENT

  • SACRAMENTO POLICE DEPARTMENT
  • Booking photo of Sean Thompson, who reportedly assaulted Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson with a pie — then was punched repeatedly by Johnson, according to multiple witnesses.

A spokesman with the Sacramento Police Department confirmed that there was “some sort of physical altercation” between the suspect and the mayor, which occurred at around 6:45 p.m. on Thursday.

“The mayor did strike the suspect after he was assaulted,” spokesman Sgt. Bryce Heinlein told the Express. He could not confirm whether Johnson tackled Thompson.

He said Thompson was transported to a local hospital for treatment after the incident. He was booked at midnight.

The spokesperson did not know whether the mayor was injured or not. Johnson was questioned after the incident.

From county jail, Thompson told a reporter with The Sacramento Bee on Thursday afternoon that Johnson “punched [him] in the face at least two times.”

“I don’t think that was an appropriate response to a pie to the face,” he told the Bee.

The dinner was a celebration of Sacramento’s Farm-to-Fork week, held at the Edible Garden at Johnson’s alma mater, Sacramento High School, a charter school under the St. HOPE umbrella. Alice Waters of Chez Panisse has helped with projects at this garden in the past.

There were nearly 200 in attendance at the dinner, including a few dozen high-school students, according to sources. This event was also attended by some of the city’s top restaurateurs.

Erika Bjork, who works for the Sacramento Republic FC soccer team, attended on behalf of the team and described the dinner was an “intimate” experience. She was seated near the mayor, who was chatting with guests at her table, when the incident occurred.

She described the attack on the mayor as “a shocking assault,” and that Thompson did not announce himself before hitting Johnson in the face with the pie.

“Most of us didn’t didn’t even realize it was a pie until after, when I could see that there was a pie on the ground,” she told the Express.  “There was no way, based on anything I saw, that this could be interpreted as a practical joke.”

She describe the mayor as “in shock” after he was hit.

Eventually, a security guard and an officer restrained Thompson, who remained handcuffed on the ground until police arrived.

After the pie attack, sources say Johnson was given a change of clothes and addressed the audience at a podium, apologizing, and receiving applause.

Johnson even brought UFC fighter Urijah Faber, who was in attendance, up to the podium and joked about the assault.

Faber later told a Sacramento TV station that the pie-thrower was “bloodied up” after the incident.

Protesters occasionally have dogged Johnson on the heels of sexual-misconduct allegations that resurfaced last year. He was booed at a Hillary Clinton event at Sacramento City College, for instance.

The Express reached out to the mayor’s chief of staff to discuss the incident, but she did not respond. The mayor’s chief of staff told The Sacramento Bee “the mayor was assaulted.”

“He is home with his family. … The whole thing is just shocking,” she told the Bee.

Sean Thompson, center, shown at an Occupy Sacramento protest in 2011. He was arrested multiple times during these actions at Cesar Chavez Plaza. - PHOTO BY DON BUTTON

  • PHOTO BY DON BUTTON
  • Sean Thompson, center, shown at an Occupy Sacramento protest in 2011. He was arrested multiple times during these actions at Cesar Chavez Plaza.

Police released a booking photo of Thompson early Thursday morning. The assailant has cuts, bruises and dried blood on his face — and sutures next to his left eye.

The mayor’s office released a statement on Thursday morning, saying that Johnson “reacted in self-defense like most people do when attacked by an unknown object.”

Thompson was at one time an activist with the Occupy Sacramento movement. He was arrested multiple times in 2011 during the Occupy Sacramento protests at Cesar Chavez Plaza (see photo, right).

The “pie-thrower” has engaged Johnson in the past during city council meetings. In 2011, Thompson spoke at council and turned his back on Johnson. Tensions were apparently high at this meeting, and three SPD officers moved toward him — but Johnson waived them off.

Thompson’s arraignment is scheduled for Friday, September 23, at 1:30 p.m.

There is precedent for convictions involving attacks on public officials with pie. In 1999, three protesters were convicted of battery for hitting then-S.F. Mayor Willie Brown with pies.

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Calendar of events for activists who want change (from Patricia Gray)

Did you survive the Presidential debate?  Did you hear any mention of the real issues of our day?

These two corporate candidates are NOT WHO WE NEED TO LEAD
OUR NATION.  We must break the big money control of the government
of our nation—don’t vote for either of these two puppets of the greedy few.
It is not impolite to talk politics—IT IS ESSENTIAL!
Our citizens need information that is NOT on the major media.
___________________________________________________________
Wednesday, Sept. 28    
 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm         Mission Police Station, 17th and Valencia
                                    BACK TO MISSION STATION
                                    Still waiting and watching!  We want DA
                                    Gascon to charge the police officers who
                                    killed Amicar with MURDER!
___________________________________________________________
Thursday Sept. 29
4:15 – 5:30 pm           Bank of America Building 555 California St. S.F.
                                BOYCOTT TRUMP!
                                Workers at the Trump Hotel in Las Vegas voted
                                to unionize in December 2015—the hotel
                                has waged an anti union campaign.  Unite Here
                                calls for a boycott of Mr. Trump’s businesses—
                                Trump is the owner of 555 California St in the
                                Financial District.  We will urge people NOT
                                to patronize this Trump business.
                                sponsor   Unite Here, Local 2
6:00 pm         I – 800 footbridge over pass in Berkeley
                     FAIR ELECTIONS 4 HAITI NOW!
                     We have a banner to tell people about the national
                     movement in favor of Haiti.  Please join us on the
                     footbridge.
                     sponsors – Code Pink, Haiti Committee, Oscar Grant
                                     Committee
7:00 pm      Green Arcade  1680 Market St. S.F.
                  speaker, Derek Cressman, author
                  WHEN MONEY TALKS
                  The high price of ‘free’ speech and the selling our our
                  Democracy—an instruction manual to restore fair
                  elections.
                  info   415-431-6800
_________________________________________________________
Friday Sept. 30
11:00 am      Corner of Geary and Spruce  S.F.
                   STOP THE EVICTION AT 544 CLAYTON: RALLY
                   AGAINST RENT GOUGING!
                   Kate Leist has had her rent increased from $3,105 a
                   month to $8,500 a month—this is more than a working
                   class San Franciscan can afford–the almost three
                   times more is unjust and cruel!
4:30 pm     14th and Broadway, Oakland
                 7 TH INTERNATIONAL DAY IN SOLIDARITY WITH
                 HAITI
                 It’s the 25th anniversary of the US backed military coup
                 that overthrow the Lavalas government of Aristide.
                 Join us in a street demonstration with music and drums
                 and support the demands of the Haitian people.
                  – free and fair elections
                  – stop the terror campaign against poor people
                  – NO US, UN, or OAS interference in the elections.
7:00  pm       2968 Mission St. S.F. (between 25th and 26th sts)
                    NATIVE RESISTANCE AT STANDING ROCK
                    Speaker   Dennis Banks, VP candidate for V.P
                                   of the Peace and Freedom Party
                    Dennis is the co founder of the American Indian
                    movement. He will speak about the struggle at Standing
                    Rock.
                    $3.00 – $10. donation requested but no one turned away
                    Refreshments will be served
                    info  415-821-6171
___________________________________________________________
Tuesday Oct 4
4:00 pm    1515 Van Ness Ave, S.F.
                OUR COMMUNITY, OUR LAND ; MISSION RALLY
                AND MARCH
                Luxury housing developers continue to snatch up land to
                develop properties and flip them for profit.  Join us as we
                march to  the Gutierrez family building at 22nd and South
                Van Ness.  We demand action to keep our buildings in the
                hands of the community and out of the hands of real estate
                speculators and luxury housing developers.
                COME AND JOIN US!
                sponsors- Alliance for Community Development (ACCE)
                info  acceaction.org
6:00 pm     Muddy Waters Cafe,  16th st. and Valencia, S.F.
                 SHUT DOWN DIABLO CANYON 
                 We must move to solar power!  We need a safe and sane
                 economy.  We meet every Tuesday to plan the next move
                 in the national campaign to shut down Diablo Canyon.
8:30 pm    Alemeda County Board of Supervisors
               1221 Oak St. Oakland
                CLEAN POWER TO THE PEOPLE!
                Press conference
9:30 pm    Board of Supervisors will vote on establishing a Community
                Choice Energy (CCF) program for Alemeda County
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Upcoming Events (from Adrienne Fong)

Upcoming Events

Tuesday, September 27

S 27, Tuesday, 12 Noon – 3pm. We Demand Charges! Press Conference the City Hall

Noon – Press Conference

Hall of Justice
850 Bryant St.
SF

DA Gascon’s Office To DEMAND that DA Gascon charge Killer Cops with Murder!

1:30pm – Steps of SF City Hall

SF City Hall
1 Dr. Carleton B. Goodlett Pl.
SF

2:00pm – Inside City Hall

     For the Board of Supervisors Vote on the Blue Ribbon Panel Report on Police Misconduct in San Francisco.

Organized by Justice4 Mario Woods Coalition

Info: https://www.facebook.com/events/341465592863949/

Wednesday, September 28

S 28, Wednesday, EST – 2pm-3pm, American Constitution Society – Expert Briefing on Police Use of Force Against Communities of Color

Register: https://events.acslaw.org/rsvp?id=a0YG000000D0zmP&campaign=default&mgs1=32edo3tuN1

PST: 11am – 12 Noon

The American Constitution Society invites you to participate in a conference call:

Expert Briefing on Police Use of Force Against Communities of Color

Featuring

Kami Chavis
Professor of Law and Director of the Criminal Justice Program at Wake Forest University School of Law

Tracey Meares
Walton Hale Hamilton Professor of Law at Yale Law School
Member of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing

With the deaths of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa and Keith Scott in Charlotte last week, the crisis in police use of force against people of color shows no signs of abating. Despite efforts to train police and hold them accountable, little seems to change.

What legal and structural reforms are necessary to reset the framework within which police operate? How can we keep people safe from police excessive force while ensuring the police can do their jobs?

S 28, Wednesday, 6:00pm – 7:00pm, Vigil for Amilcar Perez Lopez

Mission Police Station
17th Street & Valencia
SF

DA Gascon has still not charged the cops who killed Amilcar.

Info: https://www.facebook.com/groups/353672264838421/551538535051792/?notif_t=group_activity¬if_id=1474916242724556 

S 28, Wednesday 6:00pm – 9:00pm, From Stockton to Oakland: Mobilizing Against Police Terror

Quilombo  Center
2313 San Pablo Ave
Oakland

A special report and presentation from Stockton organizers and community members about the ongoing battle against police terror and brutality in Stockton, CA.
Hear from family and friends of Colby Friday and James Rivera, Jr about their fight for justice and about how people in Stockton are working to build bridges between the bay area and beyond and how you can show solidarity with their ongoing organizing and participate in upcoming actions.

Info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1097107370338538/

Friday, October 7

O 7, Friday, 8:00pm, 2 Year Angelversary for O’Shaine Evans (Killed by SFPD)

449 Bryant St.
SF, 94107

On October 7th 2014 O’Shaine Evans was killed by SFPD while sitting in his mother’s car. Today we will remember O’Shaine as the beautiful soul he was and celebrate all of the good memories we had. So please come out and support the family if possible.ONELOVE

Host: Family of O’Shaine

Info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1173071472750102/

~  ~   ~   ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

NO SF PoLICE COMMISSION on Wednesday  9/28 but  there are two CLOSED meetings going on next Sat. & Sun. Topic  is  on nominations of possible applicants for Chief of Police– see agendas:

Saturday, October 1, 2016 – 9:00am

Location: 

Police Headquarters, Room 1025
1245 Third Street
San Francisco, CA 94158
United States

SAN FRANCISCO POLICE COMMISSION NOTICE

SPECIAL MEETING

(CLOSED SESSION)

  1. Public comment on all matters pertaining to Closed Session
  2. Vote on whether to hold Item 3 in Closed Session (San Francisco Administrative Code Section 67.10) (ACTION)
  3.        Closed Session

Roll Call;

Pursuant to Government Code Section 54957(b) and San Francisco Administrative Code section 67.10(b):  PERSONNEL EXCEPTION:  Public Employee Appointment:  Nomination of possible applicants(s) for Chief of Police (ACTION)

 (OPEN SESSION) 

  1. Vote to elect whether to disclose any or all discussion on Item 3 held in closed session (San Francisco Administrative Code Section 67.12(a)) (ACTION)

October 2, 2016 – 9:00am

Location: 

Police Headquarters, Room 1025
1245 Third Street
San Francisco, CA 94158
United States

SAN FRANCISCO POLICE COMMISSION NOTICE

SPECIAL MEETING

(CLOSED SESSION)

  1. Public comment on all matters pertaining to Closed Session
  2. Vote on whether to hold Item 3 in Closed Session (San Francisco Administrative Code Section 67.10) (ACTION)
  3.        Closed Session

Roll Call;

Pursuant to Government Code Section 54957(b) and San Francisco Administrative Code section 67.10(b):  PERSONNEL EXCEPTION:  Public Employee Appointment:  Nomination of possible applicants(s) for Chief of Police (ACTION)

 (OPEN SESSION) 

  1.         Vote to elect whether to disclose any or all discussion on Item 3 held in closed session (San Francisco Administrative Code Section 67.12(a)) (ACTION)
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5 STAR ON THE RISE: ITALY’S FIRST CROWD-SOURCED PARTY DELIVERS DIRECT DEMOCRACY IN ACTION by Maria Paradia (occupy.com)

The anti-corruption 5 Star Movement’s inception seemed almost like an afterthought, established in 2009 by fans of comedian Beppe Grillo’s blog. However, the Italian political movement soon gained significant traction and in 2012 its candidates managed to win mayoral seats in Parma, Comacchio and Mime.

By 2013, the movement had grown exponentially, going so far as to secure almost a fifth of the national preferences in the February elections and achieve a strong presence within the Italian government. Perhaps the 5 Star Movement (M5S) would have even taken over the administration if not for a strict electoral system that secured Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s position.

In 2014, M5S appeared to be losing some of its momentum, as it only secured 21% of the Italian people’s preferences in the EU elections – a percentage vastly overshadowed by the 40% landslide won by Renzi’s Democratic Party. That DP victory turned sour before long, however, as infighting, questionable practices and Renzi’s own right-leanings came to light, leaving an opening for a 5 Star resurgence.

And this year, the movement has made good on that opening. In June, Virginia Raggi, a 37-year old M5S candidate, was elected mayor of Rome. Her victory was complemented by the election of another movement candidate in Turin, 31-year-old Chiara Appendino, who overtook the previous mayor and founder of the Democratic Party. The M5S now appears prepared to assume greater powers as a proper political organization without compromising its own innovative approach.

CROWD-SOURCED POLITICS

First and foremost, the 5 Star Movement is a political party that appears to operate with an entirely bottom-up structure. By applying the late Gianroberto Casaleggio’s ideas of direct democracy, the party made the most of its limited resources by creating and maintaining an online platform that empowers voters and activists by allowing them to directly contact their representatives.

The platform also provides the option of creating Meetups, which allows groups of voters to individually organize, creating the party’s own progressive electoral backbone in the process. The party maintains a strong online presence, using its blog to post news and policy updates. Furthermore, it actively encourages voters and activists to contribute to the discussion, allowing for easier, direct participation.

A key advantage that made the movement’s web innovation attractive was this: by switching over to an online, digitally accessible medium for discussion and organizing, the party managed to rise in popularity at a significantly reduced cost compared with traditional political campaign methods.

As for the party’s supporters, and the Italian people in general, M5S’s platform and Beppe Grillo’s blog have provided another significant advantage when it comes to freedom of political expression: by allowing citizens and activists to break away from Italy’s famously stifled media coverage and choose their own venues for political discourse. This has created an interesting precedent in the struggle between traditional and new media.

Before, politics was a one-sided battle of cloistered experts and media outlets against independent, openly available discussion platforms. Now, online transparency appears to be paving the way toward future policymaking. And by all accounts, the new approach seems to be gaining considerable attention on an international level.

Anupam Mishra, the secretary of the Ghandi Peace Foundation, personally congratulated Grillo in response to his Clean Up The Parliament campaign. The online campaign was launched with the intent to pressure the Italian government into passing harsher legislation for political candidates facing prosecution. While the campaign didn’t convince the Berlusconi government to pass the required legislation, it shined a harsh and visible light on Italy’s age-old bete noir: political corruption.

APPLIED ACTIVISM

Grillo, the 5 Star Movement’s founder, appears to be eager to back up his own pro-active claims. In 2006, he openly protested against a 281-page, anti-environmental regulation proposal put forth by the Berlusconi government, and produced an abridged version of the legislation that focused on alternative energy sources and a waste reduction proposal.

Grillo made his economic and ecological position even clearer during a 2013 protest in Genoa, where he stated: “We must go beyond protest. We must go beyond marching in the streets and start winning elections. To solve the financial catastrophe, we must break the stranglehold that money has on politics… The ecological crisis can only be solved by a unified peoples’ movement.”

The following year, Grillo was sentenced to four months in prison for blocking the construction line for a high-speed train, which was widely criticized as unnecessary and damaging by the party’s supporters and environmentalists nationwide.

Now, the movement, which promised to go beyond opposition to the establishment and to effect real political change, is starting to keep that promise. Already, the party has put forward two mayoral candidates that are in no way backed by the nepotist, cronyist traditions of old Italian politics. The party has never openly stated that it has feminist leanings. In fact, its tendency for merit and transparency has served both its female candidates well.

Following her election to office this summer, Raggi said, “I feel like pointing out that, for the first time, the mayor [‘sindaco,’ in the masculine] of Rome is a woman. In a time in which gender equality is still a dream, this is a historic moment.”

THE ROAD AHEAD

But the 5 Star Movement’s meteoric rise to power, while impressive, won’t be enough to sustain a long-term political transition in Italy. In a column published by the Guardian, Francesco Grillo wrote, “This is the first time that a movement that has rapidly grown out of the radical critique of the ‘establishment’ will have to establish itself in a more stable political organization, without losing much of the novelty of its own approach.”

By all accounts, the party has had its fair share of friction. Grillo has been criticized for hijacking campaigns initiated by his voters, while the movement has so far adopted an aggressive stance against traditional approaches to political discourse, such as making TV appearances.

Furthermore, the 5 Star Movement’s agenda is ambivalent on the loaded issue of how to regulate mass EU immigration, which will require more strictly defined policies moving forward. The party has also assumed an openly Eurosceptic stance without revealing any properly defined alternatives after an exit from the Union. So far, it has only focused on privatizing nationalized companies and planning for a guaranteed national income.

Whichever path the party chooses to follow, one thing is certain: the transparency and political openness that helped M5S rise to power must now serve to bring the party’s current and future proposals to the forefront – especially if it intends to be remembered as something more than another European populist fluke.

Five Star Movement, Beppe Grillo, anti-corruption movement, populist politics, Euro-skeptic party, Italian political corruption, Silvio Berlusconi, Virginia Raggi, Chiara Appendino

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5 Years After Zuccotti Park, Occupy Movement is Driving America’s Political Change (occupy.com)

The next time someone says the Occupy movement is dead, ask them this: “Do you really think serious activists for social and economic justice were going to spend the rest of their lives living in tents in parks?”

Maybe you don’t have to be so blunt. But then again, Occupy was blunt. It still is. Five years after Occupy Wall Street began on September 17, 2011, America’s economic and political system is just as in need of structural overhaul. The demands we made then are as urgent today, maybe more so given the millions of people who are still struggling to recover from the 2008 financial crash.

Five years on, The People’s call to redress injustice is fierce, and growing fiercer.

Fortunately, plenty of evidence in recent years suggests that Occupy is far from “dead.” On the contrary, its legacy is building with every social and political movement that is now in ascent – from Fight for $15 to Immigration Reform, from Black Lives Matter to Idle No More, from Student Debt Resistance to Fossil Fuel Divestment.

The Occupy movement has fundamentally changed the political establishment. Two words: Bernie Sanders. Two more words: Elizabeth Warren. These de facto leaders of the new Democratic Party embraced “We are the 99%” and seized the momentum created by the Occupy movement to change not only the conversation, but to alter status quo politics in Washington.

Sure, Bernie was preaching a message of economic and social justice decades before Occupy showed up. And Warren’s political star was already on the rise when she helped found the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the months prior to Occupy Wall Street.

But it was the language and energy of the mass movement birthed in Zuccotti Park that propelled Warren into the Massachusetts Senate seat – and Bernie into the position of maverick presidential upstart who nearly unseated Hillary as the Democratic contender. Bernie’s national movement, which captured the votes of 90% of Democrats under the age of 40, will accelerate past the November election, eclipsing the old generation that currently holds power.

His meteoric rise reflects the way that Occupy changed not only the political establishment, but even changed the political process itself. Bernie’s campaign platform – getting money out of politics, urgently addressing income inequality, abolishing student debt, railing against the Trans-Pacific Partnership – were also Occupy’s “platform,” such as one existed. Bernie found a way to repackage and repurpose Occupy’s demands into a structural, viable, popular presidential campaign fueled by a grassroots movement that outdid even President Obama’s 2008 run.

Specifically, Bernie climbed his way up with the now-famous $27 average donation, rejecting large corporate and PAC-aligned donors that are the mainstay of mainstream politics. Put differently: Bernie harnessed and rode the energy of the 99%, proving that a new populist politics can field candidates and fund elections.

The fact that the Democratic National Committee pulled out all the stops to prevent anything so radical as a Bernie candidacy from materializing reflects how The People’s needs, and The People’s demands, have moved beyond the ability of the establishment to address them. He helped usher in a structural transformation of campaign finance, which Occupy Wall Street initiated with its vocal critique of Wall Street, the Koch Brothers and the like.

Let’s face it: even Donald Trump has gained from the message echoing from Occupy. His staunch opposition to the TPP and his unrelenting criticism of Hillary’s connections to Wall Street – however hollow in light of his own lifelong membership in the 1% – derived from issues that Occupy brought into living rooms nationwide.

The Occupy movement isn’t finished. Far from it, it’s just getting started. It may call itself by a different name. Many names, in fact. But rest assured, the ideas and passions that drove people to occupy Liberty Square five years ago are strengthening. Far from being dead, the Occupy movement keeps evolving – which is the very definition of being alive.

Occupy Wall Street, Occupy movement, money in politics, student debt, Black Lives Matter, Fight for $15, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, rising inequality

Occupy Wall Street, Occupy movement, money in politics, student debt, Black Lives Matter, Fight for $15, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, rising inequality

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Sinclair Lewis: “It Can’t Happen Here”

itcanthappenhere

 

It Can’t Happen Here is a semi-satirical 1935 political novel by American author Sinclair Lewis. Published during the rise of fascism in Europe, the novel describes the rise of Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, a populist United States Senator who is elected to the presidency after promising drastic economic and social reforms while promoting a return to patriotism and traditional values. After his election, Windrip takes complete control of the government and imposes a plutocratic/totalitarian rule with the help of a ruthless paramilitary force, in the manner of Adolf Hitler and the SS. The novel’s plot centers on journalist Doremus Jessup’s opposition to the new regime and his subsequent struggle against it as part of a liberal rebellion. Reviewers at the time, and literary critics ever since, have emphasized the connection with Louisiana politician Huey Long, who was preparing to run for president in the 1936 election when he was assassinated in 1935 just prior to the novel’s publication.  (Wikipedia.org)

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“The Woman Who Saved Our Cities” by Randy Shaw (beyondchron.org)

janejacobsbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jane Jacobs is the leading urban visionary for post-WWII cities. Fittingly, her 100th birthday this year is being celebrated by books, events and a new documentary film. I recently spoke at a SPUR panel titled “What Would Jane Jacobs Do?,” and answering that question increasingly charts policy decisions about cities and neighborhoods.

Peter Laurence wrote an exceptional book on how Jacobs came to challenge the planning establishment that I reviewed earlier this year (“The Roots of Jane Jacobs’ Urban Vision”, June 2, 2016). I described Laurence’sBecoming Jane Jacobs as “an enormous contribution both to our understanding of Jacobs and more importantly to the 1950’s era that shaped both Jacobs’ perceptions and the future of urban and suburban America. “ I deemed it a “must read for anyone working to improve the quality of life in cities today.”

Robert Kanigel’s new book, Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs, offers the first full biography of Jacobs. Kanigel traces Jacobs’ life with a particular focus on her often overlooked social activism in her adopted city of Toronto. Although Jacobs is typically identified with living in New York City’s West Village, she actually lived longer in Toronto. It was in Toronto where Jacobs skill at promoting livable cities was most appreciated by city officials, and Kanigel brings to light this critical chapter of Jacobs’ legacy

Jacobs, Pre-Death and Life

Kanigel’s search for the roots that explain why Jacobs emerged as the nation’s most powerful voice against massive, planning-driven urban development schemes begins with her childhood years. While Kanigel tries to find evidence that she might have been shaped by her experiences in Scranton, Pennsylvania, he ultimately concludes as Laurence does that it was the time she spent in post-redevelopment areas of East Harlem, West Boston, and Philadelphia that led her to conclude that the people’s needs had been left out of planners’ plans.

Jacobs was also influenced by her walk through Boston’s North End, which remains one of the city’s most popular walking areas for tourists. The North End was precisely the type of mixed commercial/residential neighborhood that the planning establishment destroyed throughout the nation. Planners preferred highrise apartments with surrounding greenery, creating neighborhoods that lacked vitality, social interactions and were fundamentally impractical due to the lack of nearby small businesses.

Kanigel primarily focuses on Jacobs’ insights gleaned from personal visits to these failed areas, whereas Laurence shows how her research and investigation went much deeper. Nevertheless, a reader unfamiliar with how Jacobs came to her views will get the answer from this book.

Jacobs’ Activism

Kanigel particularly explores Jacobs’ lifetime of community-based grassroots activism. Most Jacobs followers know how her publication of the classic Death and Life of Great American Cities coincided with her efforts to stop a highway from going through Washington Square Park. Jacobs also spent years working to stop a proposed Manhattan Expressway from wrecking the Village, Soho, Chinatown and Little Italy. Jacobs began that struggle in 1961 and the highway plan was not killed until 1968.

Jacobs’ anti-Vietnam War activism led her to leave New York City for Toronto in 1968 to protect her sons from the draft. She would live in Toronto until her death in 2006.

In Toronto, Jacobs quickly got involved in batting the long planned Spadina Expressway. Proposed in the 1950’s as part of a network of expressways designed to circle Toronto, Jacobs helped defeat the project in 1971. That victory resulted in the abandonment of the entire freeway project.

Kanigel shows Jacobs to be an effective but ambivalent activist. She repeatedly bemoaned that time spent at public hearings was taking away from her writing time; yet she was continued her activism while writing books into her 80’s.

Jacobs Legacy

Has Jane Jacobs’ legacy been overhyped? Was she right that “eyes on the street,” a mix of residential and commercial uses, and preserving old and historic buildings made for successful neighborhoods?

Kanigel addresses Jacobs critics, particularly sociologist Herbert Gans. Gans argued upon the release of Death and Life that Jacobs underestimated the role of cultural and economic factors—as opposed to the surrounding housing type— that made Boston’s Italian North End a successful neighborhood. He also felt Jacobs was “blind to issues of race and class.”

Gans is not alone in criticizing Jacobs for offering a vision for successful neighborhoods, particularly through historic preservation, that often became a blueprint for gentrification.

In my book on San Francisco’s Tenderloin I describe how fears of gentrification led residents in 1983 to oppose becoming a National Historic District. Most neighborhoods are eager to embrace this designation, which is now associated with increased property values (the national Uptown Tenderloin Historic District covering 31 blocks was created in 2009).

But while the low-income Tenderloin and its 409 historic buildings fulfill Jacobs’ vision, others point to more typical outcomes such as what occurred in New York City, where real estate speculators promoted the idea of “Brownstone Brooklyn” to get upscale buyers to purchase properties that long housed tenants. Transformed neighborhoods like Park Slope also embody Jane Jacobs’ vision for cities, leading some to accuse Jacobs of ignoring the class implications of her work (often cited is the gentrification of her own former West Village neighborhood).

Such criticisms blame Jacobs for developments out of her control. Jane Jacobs could not promise that following her blueprint for successful neighborhoods would keep them low income or prevent tenant displacement, though neighborhoods of mixed incomes was clearly her preference.

Yet critics should acknowledge that Jane Jacobs did more than anyone of her time to publicize the horrors caused to working-class neighborhoods and low income residents by massive new expressways and urban renewal projects. Gans’ claim that she ignored class and race ignores the core arguments of her work. Such criticisms seem to be based not on the impacts of her work but on Jacobs’ own middle-class sensibilities and the white communities where she lived and organized.

Those familiar with Jacobs prior to reading this book will come away even more impressed with her legacy. Her enormous impact on Toronto—which she is widely credited with transforming into a far more livable city—was a complete surprise to me and may be the case with most readers who only know Jacobs through Death and Life and her New York City battles with Robert Moses.

Kanigel has created what will likely become the definitive biography of Jane Jacobs in her centenary year. A documentary film, Citizen Jane: Battle for the City, will soon be out and further events are planned commemorating her remarkable life. Jane Jacobs was a woman in an overwhelming male field and lacked a planning degree; yet as Kanigel shows, she became and remains the most important urban visionary of our time.

Randy Shaw is Editor of Beyond Chron. He is the author of The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco

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