FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES ORGANIZE TO PROTEST FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC PARTY

DONATE2 Illustration: The Intercept

Aída Chávez
July 9 2020, 6:41 p.m. (theintercept.com)

DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES competing in state legislative and congressional races across Florida are revolting against the Florida Democratic Party, saying that the party has abandoned them — and that the party’s refusal to support their efforts to flip the legislature could hurt Joe Biden in November. Several candidates are being denied access to a powerful voter data tool, significantly impairing their ability to organize and campaign, and are now asking the state Democratic Party to either help turn Florida blue or get out of their way.

More than 50 candidates signed onto a letter on Thursday demanding that the Florida Democratic Party share access to its voter files and resources. For access to VAN, the widely used Democratic voter file technology firm, the party is charging about $3,500 for a congressional campaign, $1,500 for state Senate, and $750 for House — fees that many candidates can’t afford before their campaigns get off the ground. State Democratic parties in New Jersey, Idaho, Kansas, and Nebraska, The Progressive noted in a 2018 article, do not charge candidates to access their voter data. The Democratic Party charges congressional candidates about $3,000 in Texas and about $5,000 in states like Wisconsin and North Carolina.

Rosy Gonzalez Speers, a senior adviser for down-ballot elections for the state Democratic Party, said that the Florida Democratic Party charges one of the lowest fees for VAN access in the country, adding that there is a “tremendous amount of overhead cost.” She said they’re also offering a “program” where candidates make 1,000 calls into their own district to receive a $350 rebate on their $750 purchase.

“Right now we have over 150 candidates who have already purchased VAN and are actively using it,” Speers said. “And what we provide is the maintenance of the system, the voter file is updated every single month and our staff cost is to staff VAN and give candidates free access to a full-time support person whenever they submit a data ticket and need help or training.”

Adam Christensen, one of three Democratic candidates running for the seat being vacated by retiring Republican Rep. Ted Yoho, said the Florida Democratic Party is missing a huge opportunity, putting a “start-up cost” on something that should be an investment.

“If these candidates had the voter files, the data, the information on where to canvass, who to canvass, not only would it increase the amount of Democrats in Florida, it would in turn increase donations, it would increase the amount of races that are won in Florida,” he said. “But right now the Democratic Party is more concerned with making money off candidates, who they essentially see as suckers, and they will not call them back, they will not give them any actual backing.”

In the letter, the candidates wrote that access to the voter files is “a necessary first step” toward winning the 84 GOP-held state legislative seats Democrats are running for, dozens of congressional races, and the presidential election.

This election cycle marks the first time that some Democratic candidates are challenging previously uncontested, Republican-held legislative seats. For decades, the Florida Democratic Party has refused to run Democrats for state House and Senate in deep red districts, offering little resistance to the Republican takeover. That changed this year, when the voting rights group 90 for 90, with help from local progressive groups, recruited challengers and helped raise money to cover the massive ballot access fees to run for these long-ignored seats.

Florida also has the second highest fees in the country to get on the ballot, requiring congressional candidates to obtain 5,000 signatures or fork over $10,500. And because the coronavirus pandemic has made it more difficult to obtain the number of signatures necessary for the petition, this means candidates are expected to pay the large fees on top of the fees to access VAN. For working-class candidates or young people trying to run for office, Christensen said, “it’s game over.”

The idea is that running Democrats everywhere, especially in GOP strongholds, helps drive turnout, cuts the margin of defeat to make districts increasingly competitive over time, and forces Republicans to spend money. Efforts by local- and state-level Democrats to help drive turnout by better targeting get-out-the-vote efforts could also help Biden in the battleground state, which Donald Trump carried in 2016. But candidates say that the Florida Democratic Party has no interest in competing and at times actively discourages opposition, claiming that it would anger Republicans, or refuses to help any of the Democratic contenders.

“They have gone out and hired a bunch of field organizers and they give them access to VAN, they give [Democratic Executive Committees] access to VAN, they give everyone access to VAN except for the candidates,” Christensen said. “And at the end of the day the candidates are the ones who not only use the data, but update the data. They fix most of the data rolls to begin with because they’re the ones that actually make contact with voters and find people who are persuadable enough.”

Speers noted that the Florida Democratic Party has been investing in voter registration and vote by mail expansion for over a year. “Our voter registration numbers are the highest that they’ve been,” she said. “There are definitely a lot of efforts that are going into Florida organizing that will benefit all candidates that are on the ticket.”

Tensions between Democratic candidates and the state party have been playing out on social media in a Facebook group of more than 84 candidates. The chair of the Florida Democratic Party, Terrie Rizzo, is an administrator on the group.

“Am I the only one really annoyed that the FLORIDA democratic party is hiring all these field organizers just so their only focus is electing Biden?” Tammy Garcia, a candidate in House District 37, wrote in a post this week. “Shouldn’t [the Florida Democratic Party] be focusing on, you know, FLORIDA candidates? We seriously need new leadership at the top.”

Ryan Morales, who’s running for state House in District 32, added to Garcia’s post: “You do realize you are on your own. Hence why we created this group to help each other out. It’s a business and we have to fight to be included in the club.” (Speers said that she spent an hour on the phone today with Morales’s campaign manager.)

The Florida Democratic Party also recently came under fire for accepting at least $780,000 in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, returning the money after Democratic lawmakers slammed the move as unethical and potentially illegal. Florida Rep. Donna Shalala reportedly told Rizzo in a tense conversation this week that the party should return the money and that she wouldn’t be participating in an upcoming news conference.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

Aída Chávez aida.chavez@​theintercept.com @aidachavez

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The Fed and The Big Bank Wealth Heist. Why We Need Public Banking- Ellen Brown

Kim Iversen Ellen Brown is an attorney, chair of the Public Banking Institute, and author of thirteen books including Web of Debt and Banking on the People: Democratizing Money in the Digital Age. Ellen co-hosts a radio program on PRN.FM called “It’s Our Money.” and you can read Her 300+ blog articles at www.EllenBrown.com Please Subscribe to this channel and hit the bell! Support the show by becoming a premium member: https://www.patreon.com/kimiversen For one-time sponsorship: https://paypal.me/KimIversenShow The audio version of this show is available on: iTunes: https://apple.co/2O38qVR Google Play: https://bit.ly/2HrrGfk Stitcher: https://bit.ly/2TNUGnk Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2XWWcTl Follow Kim on Instagram: @KimIversen Follow Kim on Twitter: @KimIversenShow Find Kim on Facebook: @KimIversenOfficial

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HOW THE PANDEMIC EXPOSED FAULT LINES IN CAPITALISM AND FAILURES OF GIG ECONOMY

FRI, 7/3/2020 – BY GABRIELLE PICKARD-WHITEHEAD (Occupy.com)

This is Part II in a three-part series exploring the fissures in global capitalism exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the world wrestles to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control – and certain nations achieve greater degrees of success than others – the impacts of neoliberal capitalism on the health crisis have been pulled into the spotlight.

For many, the pandemic has exposed the toxic effect of the neoliberal financial model which, peddled by the rightwing governments of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, has long benefited multinational corporations and their wealthy investors.

“Neoliberalism, as an economic ideology of capitalism, has depleted our public services, turned our education and healthcare into profit-driven business, hoarded profits at the expense of undervalued and underpaid workers, favoured profitability of a militarized world over human security and wellbeing, and aggravated inequalities between people and countries,” writes the women’s rights activist Nela Porobić Isaković.

The sentiment is shared by Marxist geographer David Harvey, who argues forty years of neoliberalism has left the public totally exposed and ill-prepared to face a public health crisis on the scale of coronavirus. The full scope of neoliberalism – or “laissez-faire economics,” which prescribes minimal government interference in the economic activities of individuals and societies – is being revealed by the pandemic.

Under the neoliberal model, not everyone is affected as severely as others by the virus. Some have the ability to work from home; others are losing their jobs. Some households can stockpile their food shelves to ensure survival; others are relying on foodbanks. With the right gadgets and resources at their disposal, some parents are home schooling their children with success; without a home environment geared for home schooling, other children are missing out on their education.

As the Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left writes: “COVID-19 exposes the destructive legacy of neoliberalism.” One of the most poignant examples of the impact neoliberalism has had exacerbating the legacy of the global health crisis can be found in the so-called gig economy.

The gig economy is defined as independent contractors, online platform workers, contract firm workers, on-call workers and temporary workers. In the gig economy, workers typically enter short-term contracts with companies to provide services when and where the company needs them. Due to their growing dependency on gig workers, companies like Deliveroo and Uber, the forerunners of this increasingly common business model, have faced mounting negative press for the exploitative nature of ‘on-demand’ working.

In this economy, fluctuating work hours on a weekly or even daily basis make budgeting nearly impossible. Offering scarce workers’ rights – no protection against unfair dismissal, no right to redundancy payment, and no right to receive minimum wages, paid holidays or sickness pay – the gig model of employment, rather than innovative, is increasingly seen at its core to be exploitative.

coronavirus, Covid-19 pandemic, gig economy, neoliberal capitalism, exploiting workers

The precarity of this neoliberal business solution has been further revealed by the coronavirus pandemic. While others are able to self-isolate if they show coronavirus symptoms, and have access to sick pay and other employee rights, many working in the gig economy don’t have access to such safety nets and therefore don’t have the luxury of self-isolating.

Aside from physical health risks, many gig workers have expenses to pay. Delivery drivers, for example, often have high vehicle financing and maintenance costs to cover Even prior to the pandemic, drivers had to work in excess of thirty hours a week just to break even. With income streams significantly dissolved by the crisis, many gig workers are struggling to make ends meet.

Acting as a “middleman,” gig economy bigshots like Uber and Deliveroo are freed of any responsibility over the health, safety and financial wellbeing of their contracted workers. As the New Internationalist writes: “The Covid-19 crisis has exposed what is, at its core, a business model that is founded upon the exploitation of workers, a model that puts all of the physical risks of doing business onto workers, and allows platform companies to absolve themselves of significant responsibility.”

Uber has come under intense criticism for its manipulative working model, so much so that in response to COVID-19, the multinational ride-hailing company introduced what activists and trade unions have been demanding for years: a policy to pay drivers 14 days’ sick pay if they test positive for coronavirus.

It’s not just “traditional” gig working companies in industries that are generally low paid – such as delivery and transportation – that are coming under fire for their exploitative business models. More and more skilled professionals are also being forced into contractual ways of working, devoid of traditional employee rights.

coronavirus, Covid-19 pandemic, gig economy, neoliberal capitalism, exploiting workers

The precarious and exploitative condition of skilled professional workers placed on temporary “freelance” contracts has been brought into focus during the coronavirus pandemic. The BBC, a so-called pillar of Western media driven by an ethos to be “independent, impartial and honest,” is itself facing an army of contractual workers riled for being dumped on the financial support scrapheap – ineligible for government provision during a time of extraordinary need.

Without a definitive employed or self-employed status, PAYE Freelancers – a category of workers that has been steadily rising at the BBC in recent years – have fallen through the gaps of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s COVID-19 financial safety net. These contractual workers are regarded as “freelance” by the BBC but employed by the UK’s tax authority HMRC as they pay tax on their income at source.

As a consequence, these contracted workers have found themselves ineligible to the financial support for furloughed employees and unqualified for the financial provision for self-employed. Justifiably outraged, these PAYE Freelancers are facing a long and arduous battle with the BBC and UK government to receive the financial support they require as their contracts diminish due to the pandemic.

As the COVID-19 disruption continues to unfold, neoliberalism and its associated discourses of freedom and flexibility, which lie at the heart of the gig economy, are being unmasked at their most destructive points.

coronavirus, Covid-19 pandemic, gig economy, neoliberal capitalism, exploiting workers
coronavirus, Covid-19 pandemic, gig economy, neoliberal capitalism, exploiting workers
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Bill to create state public bank could jumpstart SF efforts

Assemblymember David Chiu, middle left, and public banking proponents on Thursday urge the passage of Assembly Bill 310 to convert California’s investment bank into a state public bank.

California may move $10 billion of its investment banking funds to rebuild its economy battered by coronavirus and convert the financial arm into the country’s second state public bank.

Assemblymembers David Chiu, who represents San Francisco, and Miguel Santiago, who represents part of Los Angeles, announced Assembly Bill 310 on Thursday to turn the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank, known as IBank, into a state public bank.

That bank would eventually allow various agencies and departments in California to make deposits, freeing it from fees and investment choices of big banks. For cities like San Francisco, which is in the process of creating its own local public bank, the state bank would help jumpstart that effort after it was stalled by coronavirus.

“They would have been relying on local monies,” said Chiu of local efforts. “Now all of those jurisdictions have had enormous whacks to their budget. We need a state public bank to ensure the state’s money is going to work for the people.”

The Bank of North Dakota has managed public money since 1919 and is noted by public bank proponents for withstanding recessions while investing in the state. America Samoa opened its own bank in 2018 as an oasis to the banking desert.

The immediate focus of AB 310 is to redirect 10 percent of the IBank’s roughly $99 billion in California’s Pooled Investment Account to state entities and businesses in recovery mode. Once the bill takes effect, it would be able to expand its usual lending capability and dole out loans to help the state economy bounce back.

“We already have the money, it’s invested outside our state” said Sushil Jacobs, senior economic justice attorney with Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights in of the San Francisco Bay Area. “I think people recognize that we’re in extremely trying times and now is the time for the state to take the lead in banking.”

AB 310 is co-sponsored by the California Public Banking Alliance and backed by Assemblymembers Buffy Wicks in Oakland and Ash Kalra in San Jose. Chiu and Santiago previously authored Assembly Bill 857, which allows cities to apply for a banking license, which passed to great bank lobbying resistance in October.

Legislation by Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer would have had a task force submit a business plan for its own public bank by June 2020. Meetings were never held due to coronavirus, according to San Francisco Public Bank Coalition member Kurtis Wu.

While the idea was gaining popularity through the coalition and at City Hall in San Francisco, the investment needed would be significant. The San Francisco Treasurer’s Office has estimated a fully-fledged bank would take $119 million in start-up costs and 56 years to break even. A Budget and Legislative Analyst report is underway to compare cost calculations.

Under AB 310, the financial path to a San Francisco public bank could be simpler. The City is facing a $1.7 billion projected deficit over the next two years.

“If the state bank happens first, it could potentially fund and capitalize these banks,” Wu said. “We believe California needs to have that option because it keeps us independent from Wall Street. We are still pushing for a public bank locally and we are working to figure out how to build the governing structure.”

But time isn’t on the side of bill proponents. Chiu and Santiago acknowledge AB 310 will face great resistance before being passed, all while having just five weeks to gather support and bring it through the California Legislature. Its recess was extended to July 27 and bills must be passed by Aug. 31.

“It will be a fight, there’s no doubt about that,” Santiago said Thursday. “It’s going to be a very quick, brutal process. This is an opportunity for us to reinvest California dollars in California communities.”

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13TH | FULL FEATURE | Netflix

Netflix Combining archival footage with testimony from activists and scholars, director Ava DuVernay’s examination of the U.S. prison system looks at how the country’s history of racial inequality drives the high rate of incarceration in America. This piercing, Oscar-nominated film won Best Documentary at the Emmys, the BAFTAs and the NAACP Image Awards. US Rating: TV-MA For mature audiences. May not be suitable for ages 17 and under. For more information and educational resources, please visit: https://media.netflix.com/en/company-… SUBSCRIBE: http://bit.ly/29qBUt7 About Netflix: Netflix is the world’s leading streaming entertainment service with over 167 million paid memberships in over 190 countries enjoying TV series, documentaries and feature films across a wide variety of genres and languages. Members can watch as much as they want, anytime, anywhere, on any internet-connected screen. Members can play, pause and resume watching, all without commercials or commitments. 13TH | FULL FEATURE | Netflix https://youtube.com/Netflix

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David Dayen: Why Pelosi is TO BLAME for coronavirus economic disaster

The Hill American Prospect Executive Editor David Dayen looks at Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s legislative past and how that influences her response to the pandemic. About Rising:  Rising is a weekday morning show with bipartisan hosts that breaks the mold of morning TV by taking viewers inside the halls of Washington power like never before. The show leans into the day’s political cycle with cutting edge analysis from DC insiders who can predict what is going to happen. It also sets the day’s political agenda by breaking exclusive news with a team of scoop-driven reporters and demanding answers during interviews with the country’s most important political newsmakers.  Follow Rising on social media: Website: Hill.TV Facebook: facebook.com/HillTVLive/ Instagram: @HillTVLive Twitter: @HillTVLive Follow Saagar Enjeti & Krystal Ball on social media: Twitter: @esaagar and @krystalball Instagram: @esaagar and @krystalmball

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SEATTLE’S CHOP WENT OUT WITH BOTH A BANG AND A WHIMPER

Arun Gupta
July 2 2020, 6:00 a.m. (theintercept.com)

“MY FAMILY HAS been brutalized by police for every generation,” said Christopher Hunt, standing last week in what was then the Capitol Hill Organized Protest, or CHOP, an occupation-style protest in Seattle that was dispersed by authorities on Wednesday. When asked to explain the police brutality, Hunt’s voice rose.

The 53-year-old Seattle native pointed to a scar above his right eye. “When I was 21, the police hit me upside the head with a baton. Three stitches,” he said, gesturing toward the East Precinct, a block away, where he said he was beaten. “My son was beat up in 2010 by police,” he went on. “My mom was beat up by Seattle police during the civil rights movement because her husband was a Black man. That sounds generational to me.”

Hunt was among the few protesters still occupying the CHOP during the last weekend of June. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan ordered authorities to vacate the East Precinct police department on June 8, weeks before I stood with Hunt near the boarded-up building. On Wednesday, the day finally came: The occupation was dismantled and 13 people were injured as police retook the East Precinct.Join Our NewsletterOriginal reporting. Fearless journalism. Delivered to you.I’m in

The last days of the protest told the story of an attempt to build a long-term occupation against police brutality – an outcropping of the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests that erupted with the Minneapolis police’s killing of George Floyd. While the CHOP had lived, the East Precinct was renamed the “Seattle People Department” and decorated with signs, memorials, and graffiti dedicated to the movement. But, by its last weekend, the protest had dwindled considerably.

“When we started, there were thousands out here,” said a man with blond-tipped dreadlocks and a “Friends” shirt, standing on a concrete block in front of the precinct speaking into a megaphone. He swept his arm across a smattering of people: “Now, I can count everyone.”“When we started, there were thousands out here. Now, I can count everyone.”

“We need Black leadership. We need white bodies,” he said. “For white people, it’s easy to get a gun. Get it and tell them if they keep killing Black people, it will be war.” A few murmured hesitantly in approval.

Early that morning, on June 26, the city sent in crews to remove concrete barriers it had installed to reduce the risk of vehicular attacks. The workers retreated after protesters lied down in front of a bulldozer. A call went out for protesters to defend the CHOP. Later in the afternoon, dozens of people milled around the station and in the adjoining Cal Anderson Park.

Durkan had been threatening to end the CHOP for nearly a week. Since June 20, there have been five shootings outside the CHOP that left two people dead and four injured. The violence chased most people away. The protest shrunk to hardcore activists, reporters, security, medics, and cooks for the protest — along with teams of “heavily armed … high-threat private protection” for businesses and residents.

Local gangs were behind the shootings, some people inside the protest said, including the last incident on June 29 in which a 16-year-old was killed. Activists claim that police allowed the violence to seep in by being absent from streets surrounding the CHOP. Nonetheless, Durkan had her opening. On July 1, she issued an order declaring an unlawful assembly, dispatching hundreds of riot police and assault vehicles to clear the CHOP, arresting dozens of protesters. Police Chief Carmen Best chimed in describing the CHOP as “lawless and brutal.”

The CHOP went out with a bang and a whimper. But given anger over police violence, the movement to defund Seattle police is unlikely to dissipate. And the CHOP has spread, inspiring Occupy City Hall in New York that is demanding $1 billion in cuts to the New York Police Department.

CHOP BEGAN AS an accident. After Minneapolis police killed Floyd, Seattle police responded to protests with more violence. That eroded Durkan’s credibility, a former federal prosecutor.

Police allegedly maced a 7-year-old boy, and videos of him screaming in pain went viral. Durkan claimed the strips of black tape covering police badge numbers were “mourning bands” for fallen officers. The last time a Seattle officer died in the line of duty was 2009. The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the city for “indiscriminately used excessive force” against “overwhelmingly peaceful” protests. Two days after Durkan and the police chief announced a 30-day ban on tear gas, police again used tear gas on protesters. On June 7, a man drove into a crowd of protesters, shot a demonstrator, exited the car waving a handgun and surrendered to East Precinct police without incident, claiming that his brother was a cop there.

SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 29: Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best holds a press conference outside of the departments vacated East Precinct in the area known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) on June 29, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. The press conference was held near the site of an early morning shooting that left one person dead and one in critical condition. "Enough is enough," she said. Four shootings in less than two weeks have taken place in the vicinity. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best holds a press conference outside of the department’s vacated East Precinct in the area known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest on June 29, 2020 in Seattle. Photo: David Ryder/Getty Images

Durkan’s standing was further tarnished by repeated police assaults on protesters and tear-gassing residents inside their homes in Capitol Hill, which has a history of queer and trans activism. Democratic Party activists called on her to resign or be impeached over the police violence and previous killings of Black Seattleites, leading thousands to sign petitions in favor of her removal and garnering support from three of nine city council members.

Kshama Sawant, the socialist council member who represents Capitol Hill, said Durkan “overreached” after disruptive protests began May 29. Instead of allowing protesters to march past the precinct, Sawant said, “police threw hundreds of flash bangs, attacked the medics tents, tear-gassed the entire neighborhood. The violence backfired and built support for the movement. Hundreds of activists, led by Black and brown youth, decided to challenge the intimidation of police at the East Precinct.”

It was similar, Sawant noted, to historical moments when the governments’ reflex to escalate violence against protests created more support rather than crushing them, such as May 1968 in France, the Arab Spring in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in 2011, or Occupy Wall Street in New York later that year.

Finding herself in such a moment, Durkan told police to abandon the East Precinct against the wishes of her police chief.

THE FIERY Seattle protests were Mark Anthony’s baptism into protest activism. He had been on the streets for barely a week when on June 8, the 32-year-old former brand ambassador and tour guide for Boeing headed to Capitol Hill. “I drove the entire way with some very choice words for the police,” he said. “I was disappointed when I got here, and they were gone.”

Anthony, who became a leader in the CHOP, said, “One of our white allies grabbed the first tent” — founding the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone that night.

The early vibe was like a festival. “It was a cross between Burning Man and Coachella,” one visitor said. Just as historic protests after Floyd’s death served as a release valve for deep rage against racist policing and relief from months of pandemic lockdown, the CHAZ was a flowering of hope that drew thousands in a season of death. (Organizers later changed the name to CHOP, saying that they were not seeking autonomy and to keep the focus on Black Lives Matter.)

Artists painted an enormous Black Lives Matter street mural that popped with life. DJs hosted late-night dance parties. Documentaries such as “Paris is Burning” and “13th” were screened outdoors. Native American drumming circles cohabited with meditation sessions. Plots of black earth sprouted leafy greens and placards honoring Black historical figures. A “No Cop Co-op” handed out toothpaste, toilet paper, and other supplies while the Riot Kitchen and Feed the Movement dished out free “vegetable kimchi tofu ‘pastrami’ reuben wraps and gochujang beef fried rice.” Families picnicked, social influencers livestreamed, and general assemblies and teach-ins were held regularly.

The miniature society that sprang up was a legacy of a raft of occupation protests over the past years, Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Sandy, and Occupy ICE, in particular. These movements espoused principles of self-organization and mutual aid, where activists learned how to rapidly set up housing, health care, kitchens, education, child care, free stores, and tech support.

SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 10: People listen as a band plays a free show in front of the Seattle Police Departments East Precinct in the so-called "Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone" on June 10, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. The zone includes the blocks surrounding the Seattle Police Departments East Precinct, which was the site of violent clashes with Black Lives Matter protesters, who have continued to demonstrate in the wake of George Floyds death. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

People listen as a band plays a free show in front of the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct in the so-called Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone on June 10, 2020 in Seattle. Photo: David Ryder/Getty Images

“CHOP had a very positive energy and people were taking care of each other. It was like Occupy on steroids,” said Michael, a member of the now-disbanded security team known as Sentinels, who asked that his last name not be used.

Yet the Occupy movements foundered on a broken society and the individuals it produced. One veteran organizer involved in New York’s Occupy movements, who asked not to be named, said, “Occupy is outside the authority of existing institutions. It’s a magnet for people who are needy and even pushy, abusive, and exploitive.”

Similar problems dogged the CHOP. Slate, another Sentinel who did not give a last name, said one self-appointed security person “pulled handguns on and maced people.”“It’s not a protest. It’s a damn homeless encampment.”

“Tourists” drew considerable ire. “We had people flying in from all over because they thought it was a lawless place, a festival, anything goes,” said Anthony, the CHOP activist. “We made the DJs stop at midnight. We are separating the people here to protest from the people who came to party.”

A party was one draw; others came simply in search of a place. Homeless Seattleites, whose population has grown in recent years, poured into the CHOP. “Of course they are going to come to CHOP,” said Michael. “They got food, a free store, a safe place to sleep and hang out, and there is hope.” On top of that, he said, “Free thinkers do drugs, so there’s going to be people doing drugs. There’s going to be a market, so people will fight over it.” He speculated the drug trade attracted local gangs.

By the end of June, with families and tourists having disappeared because of the violence, the park looked like the end stage of many Occupy camps, with scores of people living in tents. “It’s not a protest,” said Hunt, the CHOP activist. “It’s a damn homeless encampment.”

WHILE CHOP BEARS similarities to Occupy Wall Street, there are differences: The Seattle movement was less focused on maintaining the occupation itself or providing broad-based social services as essential political work.

Those are the functions of the state, said Anthony, adding, “I’m tired of babysitting. We are not against social workers, counselors, the fire department. We are against racist, crooked cops.” He said they escorted out sexual assaulters and spent hours finding support for those having mental health crises. Volunteers had to talk down a man threatening to jump from a rooftop.

The CHOP also encountered problems Occupy Wall Street never imagined, namely President Donald Trump. One day after the protest began, he rage-tweeted, “Domestic Terrorists have taken over Seattle,” threatening to take the city back by force from “ugly anarchists.” The incitement trickled down to Fox News fabricating images of violence in Seattle and racist right-wing media calling a Black activist a “warlord.” Others may have taken Trump’s words as a call for violence, as has happened before. The far-right group Proud Boys were caught on video assaulting a man near the CHOP. One assailant was a notorious brawler, Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, who was later arrested for violating his probation.

Despite differences with Occupy, the CHOP faltered for similar reasons. Movements that start online may capture the imagination with slogans like “We Are the 99%” or “Follow Black Leadership,” but they are too flimsy to bridge deep historical divisions. The all-are-welcome, open organizing form, meanwhile, is too shallow to allow for politics and too prone to manipulation. One observer described the general assemblies as more meandering speak-outs than disciplined strategy sessions.

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES - 2020/06/18: Seattle's abandoned East Precinct police station is seen surrounded by barricades in the so-called Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. An area in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighbourhood has become known variously as the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest or Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone since Mayor Jenny Durkan ordered the city's East Precinct police station to be evacuated and surrendered to protesters earlier this month. (Photo by Toby Scott/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Seattle’s abandoned East Precinct police station is seen surrounded by barricades in the so-called Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. Photo: Toby Scott/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

“CHOP is like if Twitter were an actual place. It’s full of different ideologies, perspectives, and pains, and everyone thinks they are right and no one wants to be a follower,” said Slate. “I would hear the term ‘Black leadership’ 15 times a day, and no one knew who they were. There wasn’t a group with shared ideas and leadership.”

Hunt, for his part, is angry. “Greed drowned out the protests,” he said. “Everyone is fighting to be a leader because they want to be in the meeting with the mayor and say, ‘Defund the police and fund my organization.’ We didn’t come out here because nonprofits aren’t being funded. We came out here because cops are killing Black people.”“Greed drowned out the protests.Everyone is fighting to be a leader because they want to be in the meeting with the mayor and say, ‘Defund the police and fund my organization.’”

Those divisions play out in the CHOP. Both Anthony and Hunt complained that other activists told them that only Black women should speak, not Black men. On Juneteenth, when activists set aside a section of the park for Black healing, guarded by white people whose job was to keep other white people out, Anthony said, “I started tearing down the signs saying ‘this is a Black-only space.’” He said he felt it was important that many voices be heard. Another participant said the incident was an example of “the perils of extreme identity politics.” Yet others said CHOP often served as a “performative space for white guilt.”

Durkan and the police, meanwhile, blame the CHOP for gang violence that is a product of Seattle’s dystopia. Home to technology behemoths, Amazon and Microsoft, the region has a GDP of $392 billion, nearly the size of Nigeria with its 196 million people. Racial income inequality is extreme. For every dollar white households in Seattle make, Black households make 40 cents, a spread 25 cents greater than the national average. Public schools are unequal and segregated. Soaring rentshomelessnessmental health crises, and incarceration fall heaviest on Black and Indigenous communities.

For the CHOP, it was a Sisyphean task to negotiate complex political issues among activists who barely knew each under the glare of national media, pressured by the city and cops, and plagued by violent actors on the fringes.

Yet the activists were able to find some agreement. They united around three demands: Cut Seattle’s $409 million police budget by 50 percent, shift funding to historically Black communities, and amnesty for all those arrested in the protests. The CHOP may not have survived, but its agenda and example did.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

Arun Gupta @arunindy

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CARL REINER’S LIFE SHOULD REMIND US: IF YOU LIKE LAUGHING, THANK FDR AND THE NEW DEAL

SANTA MONICA, CA - AUGUST 03:  Carl Reiner attend the special screening and Q&A "Rose Marie: Wait for Your Laugh" at Aero Theatre on August 3, 2017 in Santa Monica, California.  (Photo by John Wolfsohn/Getty Images)

DONATE40Carl Reiner attends the special screening and of “Rose Marie: Wait for Your Laugh” at Aero Theatre on Aug. 3, 2017 in Santa Monica, Calif. Photo: John Wolfsohn/Getty Images

Bob HarrisJon Schwarz
July 4 2020, 8:38 a.m. (theintercept.com)

HAS STEPHEN COLBERT ever made you laugh? Or Jordan Peele? Or Steve Carell? Or Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Keegan-Michael Key, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Amy Poehler, Cecily Strong, Chris Redd, Aidy Bryant, Jason Sudeikis, Amy Sedaris, Kristen Wiig, Adam McKay, Mike Myers, Chris Farley, Bill Murray, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Elaine May, or Mike Nichols? Unless you’re way off the normal human spectrum, the answer is yes.

But here’s something few comedy fans — including some comedians themselves — realize: An incredible amount of the development of American comedy, including the training and platforms that helped start the careers of every comedian above, can be traced directly back to the 1930s, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal provided government support for the arts at a level never to be repeated.

This forgotten history surfaced briefly when Carl Reiner died Monday night at age 98. By this point, Reiner is probably best known to normal people as the father of film director Rob Reiner (“The Princess Bride,” “When Harry Met Sally,” “This Is Spinal Tap”). But in the comedy world, Reiner is revered as one of the most influential figures of the 20th century. He was a writer and performer on Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows” in the 1950s; he created “The Dick Van Dyke Show” in the 1960s; he recorded the “2000 Year Old Man” records with Mel Brooks; he directed four of Steve Martin’s early movies, starting with “The Jerk”; and much more.Join Our NewsletterOriginal reporting. Fearless journalism. Delivered to you.I’m in

In Reiner’s memoir “My Anecdotal Life,” he wrote that “I owe my show business career to two people: Charlie Reiner” — his brother — “and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.”

When Carl Reiner was 17 in 1939, he was working as a machinist’s helper, bringing sewing machines to hat factories. Then Reiner’s brother saw a small ad in the New York Daily News about free acting lessons being offered in lower Manhattan by the Works Progress Administration. Reiner had never contemplated acting before in his life, but his brother insisted, so he went.

The WPA had been established several years prior to carry out public works projects during the Great Depression, with workers put directly on the government payroll, keeping the struggling economy afloat while also expanding the infrastructure of the U.S. Its initial outlays were huge — the gross domestic product equivalent of about $1.3 trillion today. The WPA paved roads, built bridges, and constructed Camp David and the Tennessee Valley Authority. But it went beyond these physical public works to enhance America’s human infrastructure via Federal Project Number One, which employed writers, musicians, and actors. The Federal Theatre Project, part of Federal Project Number One, funded live performances and acting classes — including the ones Carl Reiner attended.

“All the good things that have happened to me in my life I can trace to that two-inch newspaper item my brother handed to me,” Reiner explained. “Had Charlie not brought it to my attention, I might very well be writing anecdotes about my life as a machinist or, more likely, not be writing anything about anything.”

But Reiner’s life was just one small aspect of the WPA’s impact. A few years earlier in Chicago, a sociologist named Neva Boyd had begun working with immigrant children by teaching them dance, movement, and improvisational games. She soon brought this work to Hull House, a progressive “settlement house” — a central place where anyone regardless of age, class, or culture could go to learn, share, engage with art, express themselves, and grow.

Boyd viewed creativity and playfulness as essential for a democratic society. “Social living cannot be maintained on the basis of destructive ideologies — domination, hate, prejudice, greed and dishonesty,” she wrote in a famous essay. “Play involves social values, as does no other behavior. The spirit of play develops social adaptability, ethics, mental and emotional control, and imagination.”

Boyd worked for the WPA during the Great Depression and recommended one of her disciples named Viola Spolin for a job as drama supervisor for the WPA’s local recreational projects. Spolin expanded on Boyd’s work, reaching poor children and adults (including recent immigrants who weren’t fluent in English) with playful stage exercises. One innovation of Spolin’s games was performers generating improvised scenes based on suggestions from the audience.

For Boyd and Spolin, the spirit of play was for all people, not just a tiny “creative” minority. “Everyone can act,” Spolin said. “Everyone can improvise. Anyone who wishes to can play in the theater and learn to become stage-worthy. We learn through experience and experiencing. … ‘Talent’ or ‘lack of talent’ has little to do with it.” Thanks to the funding from the WPA, Spolin was able to create a formal body of “Theater Games” that lay the groundwork for the improv comedy canon to this day.

Spolin’s son, Paul Sills, took these techniques into a cabaret setting, co-founding the Compass Players in the backroom of a South Side Chicago pub. The Compass Players included Nichols and May, soon to become one of America’s most famous comedy duos, and eventually Del Close, comedy guru to two generations of performers.

Oversimplifying a little, Compass begat Second City; Second City begot Saturday Night Live and SCTV. Close (who also directed Second City for a time) begat the Committee in San Francisco, which begat The Groundlings, the Second City of Los Angeles. Close also begat the ImprovOlympic, which begat the Upright Citizens Brigade in Chicago and then in New York.

So America is immeasurably richer — both in straight-up monetary terms, and in ways that matter more — thanks to the Works Progress Administration’s audacious support for the arts. Looking at this history, it’s impossible not to wonder what unpredictable and beautiful results we’d get if we tried it again.

CONTACT THE AUTHORS:

Bob Harris bobharrisdotcom2005@​yahoo.com @bobharrisdotcom

Jon Schwarz jon.schwarz@​theintercept.com @Schwarz

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AN INTERVIEW WITH NANCY PELOSI CHALLENGER SHAHID BUTTAR AND A LOOK AT THE HISTORY OF FASCIST MOVEMENTS IN THE U.S.

Intercepted
July 8 2020, 3:01 a.m.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE INTERCEPTED PODCAST ON APPLE PODCASTSGOOGLE PLAYSTITCHERRADIO PUBLIC, AND OTHER PLATFORMS. NEW TO PODCASTING? CLICK HERE.

A BIPARTISAN COALITION of lawmakers led by Rep. Liz Cheney, daughter of Dick Cheney, is trying to stop Trump from withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. This week on Intercepted: As the longest continuous war in U.S. history enters its 19th year, Congressional Democrats and Republicans are joining together in an effort to keep the war going. Constitutional lawyer and activist Shahid Buttar, who is challenging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her Congressional seat in San Francisco, alleges that Pelosi’s leadership during the Trump era has amounted to enabling Trump at his worst while simultaneously working to block the potential good that could come from ending the Afghanistan war. Buttar also discusses his views on surveillance, the climate crisis, the role of large tech companies in violating human rights, and he assesses the state of the Democratic Party ahead of the November elections.

In a spate of recent speeches, Donald Trump has portrayed himself as a noble warrior in the battle to protect America’s heritage. He is consistently railing against a long list of perceived enemies, including anarchists, Marxists, immigrants, while preemptively casting doubts on the validity of the 2020 election. And as he campaigns, Trump is increasingly operating — whether intentional or not —  from a playbook that is eerily reminiscent of the America First movement in the United States that operated in the 1930s. These were allies of Germany’s Nazi Party, the most famous amongst them was famed pilot Charles Lindbergh. California State University historian Bradley W. Hart, author of “Hitler’s American Friends: The Third Reich’s Supporters in the United States,” discusses the history of the movements and figures in U.S. history who supported Hitler and the Third Reich in the years before and during World War II. Hart also discusses Hitler’s affection for Henry Ford and details the rise and fall of radical rightwing radio host Fr. Charles Coughlin whose broadcasts into tens of millions of homes built support for fascism in the U.S.

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