Bernie Sanders and the Song of America

April 25, 2019 by Common Dreams

Unlike any other politician in modern U.S. history, Sanders has revived a language of social and democratic rights

by Thomas J. Adams (CommonDreams.org)

Sen. Bernie Sanders during a town hall event on CNN earlier this week. “As his rivals offer dazzling arrays of policy proposals, some with deep merit while others boilerplate technocratic, Sanders is often criticized for his lack of policy minutiae,” writes Adams. “This is wrong-headed to say the least.” (Photo: CNN)

The anti-Bernie impulses of the nation’s leading keepers of political orthodoxy were not having a good couple of weeks.

On April 15 Bernie Sanders became the first candidate for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination not named Joe Biden to lead in a national poll.  His campaign later released internal polling showing him trouncing Donald Trump in the integral states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The countless outlets from left to right inclined to deride his candidacy and ideas were forced to admit that his performance at a Fox News town hall—doing the unimaginable thing of actually talking to voters who normally don’t vote for Democrats (or maybe that’s who don’t vote for normal Democrats)—was impressive, effective, and a sign of electability.  For the icing on the cake, an array of wealthy donors, financiers, defense industry contractors, a wannabe reality star son of Bank of America’s former chairman, and leading party figures were exposed for meeting in secret over canapes to organize a stop Bernie campaign “sooner, rather than later.”  The fund-raising email wrote itself. The explicit confirmation that his campaign was threatening to people whose interests might not be exactly the same as most Americans was priceless.  

“Unlike any other candidate in the Democratic Primary field and any other candidate in modern American history, Sanders talks in terms of expanding the inalienable rights of every citizen.”

And then, at a CNN town hall in Manchester, N.H. Bernie made “the first big misstep of the 2020 Democratic primary season.”  Responding to an audience question, Sanders made the statement that he supports voting rights for felons.  Even the Boston Marathon bomber or sex offenders. 

You could almost hear the milquetoast punditry’s exhalations from their think tank cubicles and Georgetown condos.  Finally, Bernie’s gone too far. There’s no way Security Mom and NASCAR Dad will put up with this.  Say goodbye to suburban professionals in Philadelphia Bernie, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.  Finally, we can get back to Pete Buttigieg’s innovative proposals to help the homeless bathe and Amy Klobuchar’s preaching of the hard truths of American life.

Pundits and the American political establishment are beside themselves with glee. 

And once again, they fail to grasp the quality of Bernie that is at the heart of his unique appeal.  Unlike any other candidate in the Democratic Primary field and any other candidate in modern American history, Sanders talks in terms of expanding the inalienable rights of every citizen.

A large majority of Americans agree that healthcare should be a right, regardless of ability to pay.  Up until recently, most Democratic candidates talked about health savings accounts, increasing “access” and “affordability.”  Sanders on the other hand has always talked about healthcare as a right for all Americans.

Most Americans think that if you put in a full week’s work, regardless of what you do and where you do it, you should earn enough to have at least a modicum of economic security, decent housing, enough food to eat, some time to enjoy life, and the ability to raise a family.  Democrats talk about job training programs and tax credits. Sanders has always intoned about—borrowing from crazy Franklin Roosevelt—the right to a “freedom from want.”

Most Americans think that regardless of who your parents are, you should have the right to quality higher education.  To this day, most Democratic politicians disagree, offering more tax credits, low-interest loans, and the occasional wave at community colleges. Their political icons intone that “there’s not anything free in America.” Besides, an elite college is okay for their daughters and sons, but not all Americans need or even want that opportunity—let alone deserve it. Sanders has always argued that quality higher education should be a right, not just for those whose parents have buildings named after them or can doctor a water polo picture.

Do most American agree with Bernie Sanders that convicted felons should maintain their voting rights while in prison?  As of today, probably not. Yet, I suspect when it’s put to regular Americans in the commonsensical and deeply American rhetoric of rights, many more agree than your average Democratic politician imagines.  By regular people I do not mean the future American elite made up of at least 1/3 legacyadmissions who jeered Bernie at Harvard on Monday.  More than any single person alive, Sanders has revived a language of social and democratic rights. The right to health care, living wages, a job, and higher education were not on the table of conceivable choices in American politics until four years ago. It’s fitting Bernie Sanders should add to that smorgasbord the rights of the largest number of legally disenfranchised American citizens.

The funny thing about Sanders’ political strength and his candidacy—in opposition to most political commentators and politicians in both major parties—is that it is deeply built on the language of Americanism.  The story we tell ourselves about is that we are a country of universal rights. Our progress as a nation, in narratives from both the left and the right, is about living up to these ideals. Whether one sympathizes with this American exceptionalist framework or not, it has always been, to invert Walt Whitman, our democratic chant, our acceptance of “nothing which all cannot have their counterpart of on the same terms.”

As his rivals offer dazzling arrays of policy proposals, some with deep merit while others use boilerplate technocratic jargon, Sanders is often criticized for his lack of policy minutiae.  This is wrong-headed to say the least. America’s most sacred policy documents and its most popular policies throughout its history are not innovative new ways to train software engineers, tax credit proposals, or health care subsidies.  They are the Bill of Rights, the 13th and 14th Amendments, the right to age gracefully and elderly health care, and of course the right to vote. When lived up to these are rights that all Americans enjoy regardless of race, gender, religion, and ability or lack thereof to pay. They are intended to be universal for all Americans and the heart of the way virtually all of us understand what is good about America.

The rumpled old crazy-haired kooky Jewish socialist with a funny Brooklyn accent did not become the most popular politician in America by suggesting that some rights should be means tested or that health care should be “affordable.”  The right to vote is, to use Sanders’ words, “inherent in a democracy.” One would be hard-pressed to suggest that most Americans disagree with him on that point. Whether pundits and the Democratic Party have noticed it or not—and judging by their rhetoric, they haven’t—Bernie Sanders does quite well when he gets to be the one talking about the rights we should all get by virtue of being Americans.

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Jury Must Decide if Berkeley Retaliated Against Homeless for Speech

(courthousenews.com)

April 20, 2019 NICHOLAS IOVINO

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A jury must decide if the city of Berkeley selectively targeted a group of homeless campers for their political activism, but the city defeated the bulk of a lawsuit claiming it unconstitutionally seized people’s property when clearing encampments.

In a summary judgment ruling issued Friday night, U.S. District Judge William Alsup found the city may have retaliated against a politically active group of campers by targeting them with enforcement while ignoring other camps.

The group, First They Came For The Homeless, organized multiple drug-free encampments in prominent spots around Berkeley to raise awareness about homelessness and affordable housing issues.

Evidence shows police cleared the group’s encampments 12 times in three months between October 2016 and January 2017 while leaving other camps in place. A Berkeley police operations plan also established a goal of “deter[ing]” the group “from establishing an illegal encampment on city property.”

Berkeley claims the city targeted the group because it camped in more disruptive locations, not because of its criticism of city policies and politicians. But Alsup concluded that a jury must resolve that factual dispute.

EmilyRose Johns, a civil rights attorney with Siegel Yee & Brunner in Oakland, welcomed Alsup’s decision to advance her clients’ free speech retaliation claims.

“I am really proud that the judge’s order allows us to proceed on our clients’ First Amendment claim,” Johns said. “Protest is foundational to this country, and it is a privilege to use the law to vindicate the rights of some of the city’s most vulnerable residents who stood up for their very right to exist, and who were punished for it.”

A jury trial is scheduled to start May 20.

The judge also advanced claims that the city failed to adequately notify people how to retrieve property seized during two encampment sweeps in November and December 2016.

However, Alsup ruled in favor of the city on class action claims that Berkeley gave short notice before clearing encampments and that it unreasonably seized, damaged or trashed people’s property during camp sweeps.

After reviewing sworn statements and videos of enforcement actions, Alsup concluded that the city mostly followed its policy of providing 72-hours’ notice before clearing camps. The judge also concluded that aside from two isolated incidents of police allegedly crushing a tent and knowingly seizing a person’s bag of clothes, the city gave people adequate time to move their belongings during encampment sweeps.

“These individuals knew that the city would not allow them to keep their property on public property and were on notice that the police would come and require them to move,” Alsup wrote in an 18-page ruling. “Still, they did not timely move the items they wished to keep.”

Johns said she was disappointed that Alsup shot down claims relating to the allegedly unlawful taking of property. An appeal remains an option, she added, but no decision has been made.

Johns also voiced concern about the city’s plan to enforce a new regulation that will prohibit camping on public property between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. and require campers to keep their property within a 9-cubic-foot area.

The civil rights lawyer said the regulation, set to take effect this month, will make it impossible for disabled homeless people to sleep more than a few hours per night because they can’t quickly pitch or break down tents. She said it would also deny homeless people who work nights the ability to sleep during the day.

“We all know that nobody wants people to live in tents on the side of the road,” Johns said. “Until cities in the Bay Area can provide shelter, housing and meaningful opportunities for homeless individuals, it’s inhumane to enforce regulations like the city is about to enforce.”

The lawsuit started in October 2017 when lead plaintiff Clark Sullivan sued the city to block the group’s eviction from a South Berkeley encampment. Alsup denied the group’s request for an injunction, but ordered the city to submit plans to “shelter substantially” all of its approximately 1,000 homeless residents during the coming winter.

The city informed the court in November 2017 that it lacked resources to shelter most of its homeless residents, despite spending $3.9 million per year on homeless services.

Berkeley spokesman Matthai Chakko could not be reached for comment Saturday, but he has previously told Courthouse News that the city devotes significant resources to help its homeless population.

The city opened a $2.4 million navigation center in West Berkeley in June 2018, which can house 45 individuals and provides on-site access to mental health counseling and social services. The city has also stated in the past it is working to build an 89-unit affordable housing complex and create another 50-bed shelter with modular buildings.

THE CITIZENS LEGISLATIVE PROCEDURES ACT

(MikeGravel.com)

An Act establishing legislative procedures and a Citizens Trust to administer the legislative procedures herein on behalf of the Legislature of the People so that individual citizens can deliberatively exercise their legislative powers; and adding to the Federal Code.

Be It Enacted By The Citizens Of The United States:

Section 1. TITLE

This act shall be known and may be cited as the Citizens Legislative Procedures Act.

The title and summary followed by Section1 emulate the format of bills in Congress.

Section 2. PREAMBLE

We, the People of the United States, inherently possess the sovereign authority and power to govern ourselves. We asserted this power in our Declaration of Independence and in the ratification of our Constitution. We, the People, choose to participate as lawmakers in all government jurisdictions.

THEREFORE, We, the People, sanction the election conducted by the Philadelphia II organization and establish the number of votes necessary to ratify the Citizens Amendment and enact the Citizens Legislative Procedures Act as the majority of votes cast in the most recent presidential election, permitting Citizens to exercise their lawmaking powers, concurrent with the legislative powers we delegate to our elected representatives in all government jurisdictions.

AND THEREFORE, We, the People, enact this Citizens Legislative Procedures Act, to provide for the administration of the “Legislature of the People.”

The preamble is an important legislative element in that it defines the goal of the legislation and summaries its major elements.

Section 3. LEGISLATIVE PROCEDURES

The Citizens Trust (hereinafter “Trust”) shall qualify proposed legislation chronologically, limiting one initiative per week for each government jurisdiction. The Trust shall take advantage of contemporary technology in implementing these procedures so as to facilitate as much as possible the citizens’ legislative role. The essential elements of the legislative process include, but are not limited to, the following:

In the Congress the leader in each house determines when and if legislation will be taken up; something very partisan and unfair. Under the Act’s procedures no such tyranny is possible in that all legislation when qualified will be taken up chronologically; An improvement over Congress. The amount of time a citizen will be able to vote on issues is twenty-four hours a day for one week. Voters can be any where in the world and vote via the Internet. This voting procedure discredits the canard that the People’s legislature will be flooded with thousands bills. Acting on legislation will be limited to 52 weeks no such flood can take place. Citizens will be able to vote at the same time on 52 national issues, 52 state issues and 52 local issues.

A. Sponsors.

Only citizens of the United States who are natural persons registered to vote may introduce or sponsor legislation. The authors and sponsors shall be identified on the proposed legislation, on any qualifying petition, and on any qualifying poll. The Trust may grant special chronological consideration to legislation introduced by the President or by the directors of Philadelphia II.

B. Form.

Legislation shall comprise a Title, a Summary, a Preamble that states the subject and purposes of the legislation, and its complete text.

C. Content.

The legislation shall pertain to matters of public policy relevant to the government jurisdiction to which it is applicable. The Sponsors shall determine the wording of the Title and Summary subject to approval by the Trust.

D. Subject.

An initiative shall address only one subject but may include related or mutually dependent parts.

E. Word Limit.

An initiative shall contain no more than five thousand words, exclusive of the Title, Preamble, Summary, references, definitions and language that quotes existing law.

Items D and E are subject to a great deal of abuse in Congress and in state legislatures. If you can pack several issues into one piece of legislation you have the opportunity to sneak into enactment bad stuff. The unlimited length of legislation, sometimes hundred of pages also offers the opportunity for corruption. The Patriot Act of 9/11 is a great example. The five thousand-word-limit is a reasonable length to explain a single subject. Correcting these legislative abuses guarantees greater transparency to the process.

F. Qualification.

Following approval of the Title and Summary by the Trust, the proposed legislation may qualify for election in the relevant government jurisdiction when the subject matter described in the title and summary is approved by forty percent of respondents in a public opinion poll. To qualify, the polling plan, including the number of respondents, the methodology and the entity that will conduct the poll, shall be approved in advance by the Trust.

The theory behind requiring a poll is to make sure that there is broad interest in the subject matter beyond that of the sponsors. The threshold is 40 percent of the constituency must be willing to address the subject. This has the effect of limiting self-serving and crazy legislation. Polling is sophisticated and accurate.

G. Communications.

Once an initiative is qualified, the title, summary, preamble, text and the identity of its sponsors shall be published on an Internet website and in various mediums of communication. Additional information: the Hearing Record; the Deliberative Committee report; the result of the Legislative Advisory Vote; statements prepared by the Sponsors, other proponents and opponents; and a balanced analysis prepared by the Trust of the pros and cons of the initiative, including its costs and benefits and societal, environmental, and economic implications, shall be added to the publications on the legislation’s web page as this information becomes available. Here again the goal is total and continuous transparency.

The level of communications in the Legislative Procedures far exceeds that of Congress and state legislatures. Initially setting up a web site for each qualified proposed law provides a vehicle where the resulting steps in the legislative process are communicated to the public as they occur. Holding hearings on legislation is similar to that of all legislative bodies. In this case, however, the hearings will be compelled to be implement by the newest technology some of which has yet to be developed.

H. Public Hearing.

After an initiative qualifies for election, the Trust shall appoint a Hearing Officer to conduct a public hearing. Representatives of the initiative’s Sponsors and representatives of the legislative body of the relevant government jurisdiction shall participate in the hearing in accordance with policies and procedures established by the Trust. Testimony on the proposed law by proponents, opponents and experts shall be solicited, and their testimonies shall be published as the Hearing Record.

I. Deliberative Committee.

After the public hearings the Trust shall convene a Deliberative Committee demographically representing the government jurisdiction to review each initiative. The Deliberative Committee shall be drawn at random from a pool of citizens previously developed and maintained by the Trust. Each member of the Deliberative Committee shall be fairly compensated for time spent and expenses incurred in performance of Committee duties. The Trust shall provide technical support and such additional resources as are necessary for the effective discharge of the Committee’s duties. The Deliberative Committee shall review the Hearing Record, secure expert advice, deliberate the merits of the initiative, and prepare a written report of its deliberations and recommendations. By two-thirds vote, the Deliberative Committee may alter the Title, Summary, Preamble or text of the initiative, provided that the changes are consistent with the stated purposes of the initiative.

Existing legislatures operate under a committee system where proposed bills are referred after first reading (introduction). Committees give the legislation the needed scrutiny to determine if it is worthy of enactment after which it is referred to the full legislative body for a vote. This committee process to is vital to the deliberative process. It is not entirely replicable in the Legislature of the People. However, a Deliberative Committee is specifically designed to capture all of the elements of a committee system and then some.

J. Legislative Advisory Vote.

Each initiative, together with its Hearing Record and report of the Deliberative Committee, shall be transmitted to the legislative body of the relevant government jurisdiction. The legislative body shall conduct a public vote of its members, recording the yeas and nays on the initiative, within 90 days after receipt thereof. The vote of the legislative body is non-binding, serving only as an advisory to the citizens.

This vote is unique to the Legislature of the People. It is based on the fact that full time representatives in legislatures have special knowledge about the issues affecting their constituencies. That being the case it makes sense to avail ourselves of that knowledge via a public advisory vote on the proposed legislation under consideration. This is a mandatory requirement on government representatives and is the only area where the enactment of the Legislature of the People impinges on the independence of representative government’s legislative bodies. This information, published in the legislation web site, serves as an informative cue to the general public before a final vote is taken.

K. Promotional Communications.

Any communication, regardless of the medium through which conveyed, that promotes or opposes an initiative shall conspicuously identify the person(s) responsible for that communication, in a manner specified by the Trust.

L. Campaign Financing.

Only United States citizens may contribute funds, services or property in support of or in opposition to an initiative. Contributions from corporations including, but not limited to, such incorporated entities as industry groups, labor unions, political parties, political action committees, organized religious bodies and associations are specifically prohibited. Such entities are also prohibited from coercing or inducing employees, clients, customers, members, or any other associated persons to support or oppose an initiative. Violation of these prohibitions is a felony punishable by not more than one year in prison, or a fine not to exceed One Hundred Thousand Dollars, or both, per instance, applied to each person found guilty of the violation.

M. Financial Disclosure.

The Trust shall establish financial reporting requirements applicable to initiative sponsors, proponents and opponents. The Trust shall make all financial reports available to the public immediately upon its receipt thereof. Failure of sponsors, proponents or opponents to comply with these reporting requirements shall be a felony punishable by not more than one year in prison or a fine not to exceed One Hundred Thousand Dollars, or both, per instance, applied to each person found guilty of the violation.

N. Election.

Upon completion of the Legislative Advisory Vote, or 90 days after the initiative has been delivered to the legislative body of the relevant government jurisdiction for an advisory vote, whichever occurs first, the Trust shall publish a schedule for the election of the proposed bill and shall conduct an election in accordance with the published schedule. The Trust shall conduct all initiative elections employing the most effective and secure technology. The Trust shall administer an election that is available to the constituency in question for twenty-four hours a day for seven days. The Trust shall make voting on proposed legislation as convenient as possible using the newest secure technology.

This election process is considerably superior to existing elections held by representative governments, which suffer from extensive voter suppression. After the enactment of the Citizens Amendment and the accompanying Act, the role of voters participating in the election conducted by the Philadelphia II shall be turned over to the Citizens Trust as a foundation of it to set up a process where every voter in the United States is registered for life. The Citizens Trust will conduct every initiative election at every level of government. This will require the national disbursements of Trust offices across the nation. I anticipate that this electoral process will be so efficient and fair that the public will clamor that the Trust conduct all elections for representative government.

O. Enactment.

An initiative that creates or modifies a constitution or charter becomes law when it is approved by more than one-half the registered voters of the relevant government jurisdiction in each of two successive elections. If the amendment is approved in the first election, a second ratification election shall occur no earlier than six months and no later than a year after the first election. An initiative that enacts, modifies or repeals a statute becomes the law when approved by more than half the registered voters of the relevant government jurisdiction who participate in the election.

P. Effective Date.

The effective date of an initiative, if not otherwise specified in the initiative, shall be forty-five days after certification of its enactment by the Trust.

Q. Judicial Review.

No court shall have the power to enjoin any election within the Legislature of the People except on grounds of fraud. After an initiative or proposed bill has been enacted into law, courts, when requested, may determine the constitutionality of the law.

R. Withdrawal.

The Sponsors of an initiative may withdraw an initiative from further consideration and processing at any time prior to a deadline established by the Trust.

Section 4. CITIZENS TRUST

The Citizens Trust shall administer the Citizens Legislative Procedures Act. A Board of Trustees and a Director shall govern the Trust. The Trust shall take advantage of contemporary technology in carrying out its mission. The activities of the Trust shall be transparent to the public.

A. Mission.

The Trust shall impartially administer the Citizens Legislative Procedures Act, so as to facilitate the exercise of each citizen’s legislative role. The Trust shall ensure that citizens may file, qualify and vote on proposed legislation relevant to any government jurisdiction at any time and from any location. The Trust shall neither influence the outcome of any proposed legislation, nor alter the substance of any bill, except as specified in Section 3.I. The Trust may promulgate regulations to more fully meet its responsibilities under this Act.

B. Board of Trustees.

The Board of Trustees shall establish policies for and perform oversight of the Trust.

1) Membership.

The Board of Trustees shall be composed of 30 members appointed for initial staggered terms by the board of directors of Philadelphia II.

2) Term of Office.

Members of the Board of Trustees shall serve a single six-year term except for those initially selected who will be divided into three classes serving two, four and six years respectively.

3) Removal Of Trustees.

Any member of the Board of Trustees shall be removed from office upon a three-fourths vote of the full membership of the Board of Trustees.

4) Vacancies.

The Board shall fill vacancies on the Board of Trustees.

5) Meetings.

The Board of Trustees shall meet at least annually and at such other times and in such places, as it deems appropriate to conduct its business. All meetings of the Board shall be publicized in advance and open to the public, except as required by law. The Trust shall promptly publish the minutes and audiovisual recordings of all meetings of the Board, except as required by law.

C. Director.

The Director of the Trust is the Chief Executive Officer of the Citizens Trust and is responsible for its day-to-day management and operations, consistent with the policies of the Act and those established by the Board of Trustees.

1) Term of Office.

The Board of Director of Philadelphia II shall appoint the first Director. The Director shall serve for a term of six years and is limited to an additional six-year term. The Board of Trustees shall appoint all subsequent Directors.

2) Removal of Director.

The Director may be removed from office upon a two-thirds vote of the full membership of the Board of Trustees.

3) Vacancy.

A vacancy in the position of Director shall be filled by majority vote of the full membership of the Board of Trustees.

D. Oath or Affirmation of Office.

Each Member of the Board of Trustees, the Director and each employee of the Trust shall execute the following oath or affirmation of office as a condition of his or her service: “I, (name), (swear or affirm) that there is no authority superior to the people and that I will, to the best of my ability, defend and uphold the Constitution of the United States and the sovereign authority of the People to exercise their legislative power.”

E. Organization and Responsibilities.

The Trust shall organize itself to fulfill its mission and shall develop policies, procedures and regulations to register citizens for life as they become eligible to vote, to assist sponsors in preparing initiative bills for qualification, to process initiatives, and to administer initiative elections. The Trust may select and contract for facilities and services, hire staff, and prescribe their duties and compensation. The Trust may also apply for and receive funds, and incur debt when necessary, and shall act in a responsible manner as an independent fiduciary agency.

1) Existing Law.

In fulfilling its responsibilities and performing its duties, the Trust shall comply with applicable laws and regulations of every government jurisdiction of the United States in which it operates that do not conflict with its mission defined in Section 4 A. Where laws are in conflict, this Citizens Legislative Procedures Act shall supersede.

2) Voter Registration.

The Trust shall develop requirements, facilities and procedures for universal lifetime voter registration of citizens of the United States, which shall be binding in elections conducted under the authority of the Citizens Amendment and this Act, in every government jurisdiction in which a voter is, or may become, a legal resident.

3) Research and Drafting Service.

The Trust shall establish and operate a legislative research and drafting service to assist citizens in preparing proposed initiatives .

4) Deliberation Committees.

The Trust shall establish a pool of registered voters, in each government jurisdiction, qualified as having some level of civic knowledge, from which can be randomly drawn members for the Deliberative Committees that are convened for each proposed legislation. Selected pools should demographically represent the government jurisdiction and be equally divided between men and women.

5) Communication.

The Trust shall establish the means, procedures, facilities and regulations to facilitate the communication of timely, comprehensive, balanced, and pertinent information on the subject matter of each bill. This information shall be conveyed to the citizens of the relevant government jurisdiction by electronic means and various media, including radio, television, print and the Internet.

6) Hearings and Deliberative Committees.

The Trust shall organize a Hearing to receive testimony and shall convene a Deliberative Committee to deliberate on each qualified initiative. The Trust shall provide or arrange for professional Hearing Officers and Deliberation Facilitators, technical consultants and support staff and facilities, as needed, for the effective conduct of Hearings and Deliberative Committee activities.

7) Election of Initiatives or proposed legislation.

The Trust shall devise and administer policies and procedures to conduct elections of initiatives. In doing so, it shall take advantage of contemporary technology in developing procedures for voting and validating votes. Elections shall be conducted twenty-four hours a day for seven days. All such policies and procedures shall be neutral with respect to the content and outcome of the election.

F. Budgets.

Budgets covering all elements of the Trust’s operations and activities shall be prepared and published consistent with government practices and the public nature of the Trust’s responsibilities.

Section 5. APPROPRIATIONS

The appropriation of funds is hereby authorized from the Treasury of the United States, pursuant to Article I, Section 9 (7) of the Constitution of the United States, to enable the Trust to organize itself and begin the performance of its duties. A sum equal to the annual appropriation for the operation of Congress shall be appropriated for the initial and annual operation of the Legislature of the People.

Section 6. SEVERABILITY

In the event that any of the provisions of this Act shall for any reason be held to be invalid as a result of judicial action, the remaining provisions of this Act shall be unimpaired.

To Reassert Congressional War Authority, Sanders Demands Vote to Override Trump Veto on Yemen

April 22, 2019 by Common Dreams

“For far too long Congress, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, has abdicated its constitutional role with regard to the authorization of war.”

by Jake Johnson, staff writer

 Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), flanked by Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), speaks after the Senate voted to withdraw support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen on December 13, 2018. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday called on his fellow members of Congress to come together and override President Donald Trump’s veto of the historic Yemen War Powers resolution.

“The president’s action is a very serious challenge to congressional authority that demands a response,” the Vermont senator and 2020 presidential contender said in a dear colleague letter.

The Yemen resolution aims to end U.S. complicity in the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe. Its passage of the House and Senate marked the first time Congress has invoked the 1973 War Powers Act.

“The president’s action is a very serious challenge to congressional authority that demands a response.” 
—Sen. Bernie Sanders

“For far too long Congress, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, has abdicated its constitutional role with regard to the authorization of war,” added Sanders, the lead Senate sponsor of the Yemen measure. “The Congress must now act to protect that constitutional responsibility by overriding the president’s veto.”

Trump’s veto of the bipartisan Yemen resolution last week, as Common Dreamsreported, was widely denounced by anti-war groups and progressive lawmakers.

In a statement following the president’s veto, Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) said Trump “signed the death warrant of countless innocent Yemeni men, women, and children.”

“Congress refuses to accept the president’s decision to condemn Yemeni civilians to unspeakable suffering and carnage,” Jayapal and Pocan said. “Despite this setback, the Progressive Caucus will pursue every legislative means of ending this immoral conflict, including a possible vote to override the president’s veto.”

The Senate passed the Yemen resolution last month by a 54-46 vote. With every senator in attendance, the resolution would need 67 yes votes to override the president’s veto.

In the House—where the resolution passed 247-175 earlier this month—the resolution would need 290 votes.

Sanders urged senators who support U.S. military intervention in Yemen to “bring that perspective to the floor of the Senate, debate the issue, and call for a vote.”

According to the humanitarian group Save the Children, at least 85,000 young Yemeni children have died of starvation over the past three years as a result of U.S.-backed Saudi bombing. The United Nations said last October that half of the population of Yemen is on the brink of famine.

“At the end of the day, however,” concluded the Vermont senator, “let us agree that it is imperative that Congress reaffirm the power given to us by the Constitution over matters of war, one of the most serious duties we have as members of Congress.”

Read Sanders’s full letter:

Dear Colleague,

On April 16, President Donald Trump used the second veto of his presidency to reject the Senate Joint Resolution directing the removal of United States armed forces from the Saudi-led intervention in the Republic of Yemen. This resolution was passed in the Senate on March 13, 2019, by a bipartisan vote of 54-46, and then in the House on April 4 by a bipartisan vote of 247-175.

I am writing to ask for your support for over-riding that veto.

The president’s action is a very serious challenge to congressional authority that demands a response.

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution states clearly: “Congress shall have power to… declare war.” While the president has the authority over the conduct of war once it has been declared, the Founding Fathers gave the power to authorize military conflicts to Congress, the branch most accountable to the people.

Under the War Powers Act of 1973, the assignment of a member of the United States armed forces to “command, coordinate, participate in the movement of, or accompany” another country’s military during a war constitutes the introduction of the United States into a conflict. Our military involvement in the war in Yemen, which has included logistical and intelligence support, as well as aerial refueling of Saudi war planes, clearly meets this definition.

For far too long Congress, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, has abdicated its Constitutional role with regard to the authorization of war. The historic passage of this resolution, the first time since the 1973 War Powers Resolution was passed that it has been successfully used to withdraw the United States from an unauthorized war, was a long overdue step by Congress to reassert that authority.

The Congress must now act to protect that constitutional responsibility by overriding the president’s veto.

I respect that some of you voted against the resolution and that some of you support our intervention in that war. If you feel that way, bring that perspective to the floor of the Senate, debate the issue, and call for a vote.

At the end of the day, however, let us agree that it is imperative that Congress reaffirm the power given to us by the Constitution over matters of war, one of the most serious duties we have as members of Congress.

I ask for your support in this effort.

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First They Came for the Homeless report

By Mike Zint, April 22, 2019 (facebook.com)

Meet Michelle Lot. Today she was told to reduce her tent to a 3×3 foot square, or 9 square feet.

A brief history. Michelle came to us while we were occupying the Berkeley post office. She decided to hang around and become active with us. Her first accomplishment was to maintain the post office occupation while I started another occupation at city hall. That occupation was called liberty city. That occupation was about criminalization of the homeless. Michelles presence allowed for both occupations to succeed. When the city destroyed liberty city, the post office occupation was safe. Liberty city rules of conduct are the same rules of conduct that our camp at here there uses. Michelle also participated in the poor tour. That protest is how camp got established. 3 months, 17 raids, 4 arrests, thousands of dollars worth of gear stolen, and a class action lawsuit finally gets filed.

Once camp was established is when she saved lives. One was a runaway she helped reunite with her family. Another was a victim of a mental predator. She intervened and helped separate the predator from the victim twice, with the police getting involved the second time.

Michelle is very sick. She has had serious health issues since the last protest. She needs her tent up. She cannot do what she needs to on a public sidewalk. This ordinance is torture for her. Its inhumane.

Tomorrow, the city will be back to enforce the sidewalk ordinance. They got their notice today. Michelle is a good friend and member of the ftcfth family. Her camp is located on shattuck at Carlton. If the city follows through, they will be endangering her life.

The city’s solution was to sign up with the HUB. She has been for years. No help at all. So, what does she do?

She leaves town, or she dies at shattuck and carlton. Think I’m exaggerating? The city seems to.

Extinction Rebellion

Days 6 and 7 of International Rebellion (Sat 20 – Sun 21 Apr)

London, England (rebellion.earth)

As spring now spreads its (record-breaking) warmth across the global north, London’s International Rebellion is entering a new phase of its own. After leaving four of five locations in good order, rebels will meet at Marble Arch on Monday to decide where they go next.

Being Easter, it’s a time for renewal and rebirth. The past few days have brought their share of sadness, as we’ve left behind spaces so lovingly cultivated and so bravely defended, each with its own story and style: the serene Parliament Square, the giddy Piccadilly, the joyous Oxford Circus and, the flourishing garden bridge. These spaces were amazing creations – but let us not forget: we came here to transform not London, but the world.

‘Phase One’ has been a huge success. Holding the locations brought enormous attention to our cause: from press to politicians to punters. As all of these examples show, we’ve succeeded in getting our message across – even to our critics.

This success can be expressed in numbers: at the most conservative estimate we’ve welcomed 30,000 new members, and have received almost £300,000 in crowdfunding, the great majority of donations being around of £10. And if it’s a metric you’re into, we’ve had almost 1,000 brave people arrested.

But our deeper success is something past the quantitative: the innumerable moments of love, empowerment and belonging fostered in and between our lovely London spaces; car-streaked streets converted to oases of calm; friendships made and strengthened in a common struggle; and the international solidarity brought about by acting in unison with brothers and sisters all over the planet.

And that’s just Phase One.

Where we go with Phase Two is up to us. A proposal has been circulated for entering a “negotiations” phase. Despite being presented otherwise in the media, this idea remains only a proposal – and is entirely subject to the feedback and consideration of the countless members who’ve done so much to get us to where we are now. The primary forum for this feedback will be a people’s assembly held on Monday between 3pm and 5pm at Marble Arch. There will be food after this. If you’d like to understand more about how the decision process looks as things stand, please watch this short video.

As XR UK begins a moment of reflection (however long or short!), rebellions across the world continue to thrive. To give just a taste: we’ve seen a disco in Denver, glue-ons in Chicago, the exciting arrival of XR Pakistan and XR Austria, and outreach events in Uganda and Ghana. Like in London, XR Australia has also made space to take stock, and XR New Zealand remains as subversively/submersively creative as ever.

Before any other news, we would first like to pay our sincere condolences and respects to the family and friends of Polly Higgins, who recently passed away. Our cause is her cause. She remains an inspiration to us all.

The newsletter team

Previous Updates are available here – MondayTuesdayWednesday,ThursdayFriday.

For a sonic supplement to our updates, please check out the XR podcast, releasing throughout the week.

If you’d like to help fund the mass rebellion as it expands across the world, please donate to our crowd funder.


Oxford Circus

Photo: Tom Hardy

Having mourned the departure of the boat on Friday night, those at Oxford Circus held a people’s assembly the following morning to chart their next course. Through a constructive dialogue, a consensus was reached that those holding the site would prepare to leave in good order, with the details of departure to be further considered and discussed – at which point the police arrived in numbers. Officers were by this point under instruction from the Home Secretary to use “the full force of the law” on protestors. We started to see what “a firm stance” can look like; we also started to see first-hand evidence – a daily reality to so many around Britain and the world – of an institutionally racist police-force (warning: the videos linked contain distressing material).

Such treatment of under-18s and bystanders can only be condemned. An assertive police response was understandable; blind aggression was not. But in the face of this escalation, despite raw emotions and tired minds, rebels refused to respond in kind and held fast to their non-violent practice. Over ten brave souls locked on and glued on in a successful bid to slow police; a crowd of hundreds cheered them on, accompanied by the sound and song of folk musicians. By staying for the intervening hours, the crowd tied up well over sixty officers from a concurrent push on Waterloo Bridge.

When the last rebel was removed – a 7-month pregnant marine scientist – those remaining began their move to Marble Arch. They sang the song of mourning from the night before, bringing their sincere and moving music down the length of Oxford Street. Shoppers stopped and watched this apparition from another world; they were given flyers, while six bin-bag-bearing rebels picked up any litter in the slow procession’s path, having first made sure that they left Oxford Circus in a spotless state.

Photo: Extinction Rebellion

The march reached Marble Arch to find a warm reception. Once again, the Oxford Circus rebels had faced a hard day and turned it into something beautiful. This work of sublimation found physical form in the shape of tens of ship-shaped pink hats, which bear the legend: “We are the Boat”.

Parliament Square

Photo: Ali Johnson

The Easter weekend began in a relaxed manner in Parliament Square, and most of the Saturday passed rather uneventfully, with tourists, passers-by and rebels alike enjoying the large car-free space opened up by the Rebellion. By evening however, police had managed to move in and finally take the remaining gazebo – though not before hours of toil, trying to unlock and unglue rebels determined to stay put. The gazebo gone, the police unexpectedly disappeared – and rebels were able to spend another quiet, chilled night beside the mother of all parliaments.

Early the next morning however, the police were back. Taken by surprise, a number of rebels were not able to lock themselves in time, and the police quickly moved in to release those who had glued themselves to tarmac and tents. Rebels began sensing that the space was lost and it was time to start packing, if only for a time. They loaded equipment and materials into vans headed for Marble Arch, and started tidying up the Square.

Photo: Bing

As dusk fell, the remaining Parliament Square rebels conducted a closing ceremony, described as both sombre and upbeat, and led a funeral procession to Marble Arch. One rebel commented: ‘We’re leaving for now, but that’s ok’, as the square returned to the bustling, car-filled district of old. By nighttime, only a lone rebel remained in the area, and it was of course the man living atop the very tall tree on the northside of the square. Yes he is just a man in a tree, but he is also a symbol of how our message will live on: in the minds of the many who joined us; in the history books of British politics; and in the corridors of power, as MPs return from their holidays to walk where we once stood.

Waterloo Bridge

What a difference a weekend makes in this crazy world of Extinction Rebellion. On Saturday morning, police liaison officers were patrolling through a verdant bridge community where rebels were eating their breakfast porridge and practicing their downward dogs. By Sunday evening, the bridge was open to traffic, a barren and flavourless landscape of tarmac and passing vehicles. Waterloo Garden bridge, for now, is officially over. 

The bell first tolled for our beloved bridge at lunchtime on Saturday, when a major police build-up began on the south end. From a herd of vans emerged another phalanx of officers, and they headed straight for the stage truck, the creative heart of the site.

Photo: Luke Fleg

Using a tactic straight out of the pink party boat playbook, the police encircled the truck and began to slowly peel off the rebels who had glued and locked themselves to it. The ever-ravishing Red Brigade mirrored the corden, kneeling before the stern agents of the law and imploring them with their mournful made-up faces. The police did well to resist their charms. As arrestables were carried away to cheers and chants (“we love you”), and refreshments were smuggled across to those rebels stuck in the kettled stage area, police set about dismantling the skate ramp.

By 9:30pm just a couple of protestors were left atop the stage truck, buoyed by the immense crowd delighting in their tenacity. Watching the slow, delicate dance of the harnessed police officers and the locked on rebels made for a mesmerising show. As dawn broke, the stage truck was finally towed away.

But the police weren’t done. They returned midday Sunday in similar numbers, stating their intention to clear the entire bridge. Police carting away rebels to distant vans is a sight we are all pretty used to by now, but this time the police started grabbing anything – chairs, bikes, plants – asking those nearest the objects if it was theirs and taking them if it was not. What resulted was something not unlike the final act of Macbeth, with rebels calmly picking up the many trees that lined the bridge and carrying them to the haven of a distant pavement – a silent marching forest. And as the great dismantling began, the rebel house-movers were encouraged by inspiring words from TV naturalist Chris Packham and Olympic gold-medalist Etienne Stott, both of whom made speeches from atop a nearby bus-stop. Stott then joined the remaining rebel arrestables on the tarmac, committing himself to a night in the cells.

By evening, police easily outnumbered protestors, and a made a few arrests on the pavement before deciding that the job was done. Our friendly, vibrant, verdant bridge finally returned to its joyless, carbon-pumping form at around 10:20pm. But Easter is a time of resurrection and the rebel soul still burns. Climate justice will one day be ours. And by Gaia, so too will this bridge.

Photo: Amber Hunt

Marble Arch

Our ‘designated protest area’ started the weekend in a typically family-friendly fashion, with a special children’s area being erected so the little ones could paint and play under the shade of an awning, and avoid the scorching sun. Training sessions in nonviolent communication were also launched and ran throughout the weekend.

Come evening, the wholesome atmosphere took a slightly new direction thanks to the annual 4/20 festival taking place in neighbouring Hyde Park – an event celebrating cannabis and protesting its illegality. The air was gradually infused with the sweet smell of marijuana, and the XR camp thronged with curious visitors. With a candlelit vigil happening that night, and tealights set around the campsite, there was worry this might be a recipe for a fire hazard – but thankfully the only thing to result from this mingling of protestors was a bit more site rubbish to clean away than normal. 

With sustained police clampdowns on Waterloo Bridge and Parliament Square, Sunday proved to be a day of consolidation at the Arch, with displaced rebels from the other sites welcomed with open arms, and the kitchen area quickly expanding to accommodate the growing number of mouths. Sunday also saw a record number of fresh faces entering the camp keen to join XR, and many were thrilled to find themselves instantly included and welcomed.

Photo: Annabelle Chih

The Sunday lineup on the Marble Arch main stage was truly outstanding, kicking off with an international solidarity event featuring the speakers Esther Stanfrod-Xosei, Esther Hashem, Rumana Hashem, Magero Otiena-Magero (spoken word), Adaeze Aghaji, Robin Ellis-Cockcroft (XR Youth), and Kofi Mawuli Klu. But the undisputed headliner was Swedish schoolgirl sensation Greta Thunberg, who made a brief but brilliant speech, telling the jubilant crowds, “We are the ones making a difference, we the people in this Extinction Rebellion and the children’s school strike for the climate.” 

A People’s Assembly then followed, with discussions focused on how XR might better develop links with the Global South where climate breakdown is already a reality. The weekend closed with a booming set from Bristol trip-hop sensation Massive Attack. With all the rebellion ground conceded elsewhere, one might have expected rebel energies to be low, but the vast crowd danced with joy.

Photo: Terry Matthews

Coming up in London…

  • People’s Assembly – Monday 22nd Apr between 3pm and 5pm at Marble Arch.

  • From 5pm, Monday 22nd Apr: Extinction Rebellion invites Londoners to share a feastcelebrating life, community and collectivity. Bring throws and flowers to decorate tables at Marble Arch, 5pm. We look forward to feeding you. Snack donations welcome.

Notices

Getting involved in the Rebellion

The rebellion won’t last without Rebels. To maintain the pressure necessary for change, we need fresh faces to help perform our various actions and functions. This could means being willing to sit in the road and face arrest – but there are many other ways to offer support, whether it’s stewarding, being a legal observer, bringing food to sustain fellow rebels or helping to organise an XR team or branch.

If you’d like to get started, sign up online – or, if you’re in London, come to Marble Arch, where inductions take place at 11am, 1pm, 5pm and 7pm.

Online Visioning Circles for the rebellion

Clare Palgrave and I have just come back from an incredible 3 days in London where we held intention and visioning circles in Oxford Circus. We have decided to continue them online. Join our Facebook group ‘Holding the World in our Hearts‘ and watch out for the event pages.

Heart-warming stories of human connection

In the intro, we mentioned “the innumerable moments of love, empowerment and belonging” which have made and will continue to make this movement so special to so many (very much including the person writing – you guys are the best!). We’d love to celebrate these experiences: wherever you are in the world, if you’d like to share yours please email xr-newsletter@protonmail.com with ‘XR Connects’ in the subject.


International Highlights

Disclaimer: we’re deeply, deeply appreciate of our fellow rebels around the world, and will do our best to cover their incredible, moving and inspiring exploits – but we can’t promise to catch everything! If you have a story that we’ve missed, please email us at xr-newsletter@protonmail.com with ‘Story’ in the subject line.

Germany

This weekend, rebels hold die-in in Munich and in Cologne at several locations, including in front of the cathedral.

Photo: @MucRebellion

A ‘’Red Line’ of Cologne rebels forms across the Rhine

Photo: @CologneXr

A die-in was also held at the Mall of Berlin to highlight harm of Fast Fashion, the Second Dirtiest Industry in the World, Next to Big Oil.

Photo: @XRBerlin

Italy

Saturday, rebels in Turin made a Dinosaurs standing déclaration of rebellion and die-in (video).

Belgium

On Saturday in Brussels rebels were called upon to ‘Raise your voice in a public space’ and held a Die In for the Future in Brussels (video)

Photo: @ExtinctionRebe6

Netherlands

In Rotterdam a funeral procession was held on Saturday morning. “We, rebels grieve for the loss of biodiversity, we #RebelForLife, calling governments to act today” @XR_Rotterdam (see video)

Estonia

To highlight the problem of overconsumption, rebels staged a hourglass-shaped die-in and a system-critical speech at one of the busiest malls in Tallinn. Security was quick to kick them out, but no arrests followed. A stream from the action is available here

XR Estoniahave also set up a temporary Climate Crisis Centre in Tallinn for people to make stencils, watch the UK live-streams together, discuss the various topics related to XR, grieve Hope and Future in our makeshift morgue (with a life-size coffin!) and educate themselves by watching the various XR talks. The centre will be open until Tuesday next week. 

Ghana

On Saturday in East Ghana at Agomenya Market in Krobo-Odumase, there was a rally to launch the Annual International Mother Earth Month “YAYOKPAKPA Sweet Mother Earth Rally for Climate Emergency” in Internationalist Solidarity with the Agomenya Market-Women and their Communities of Resistance.

Photo: XR Ghana

Uganda

Community outreach and environmental education on Saturday in Kampala.

Photo: XR Uganda

Austria

During the first XR actions in Vienna, Austrian motorists reacted mostly positively to road blockades. “The climate crisis threatens us all, Civil disobedience works!” Extinction Rebellion Austria (video)

New Zealand

Protests by Extinction Rebellion took place in Auckland, Thames, Tauranga, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch and Dunedin on Saturday. 

Photo: Dunedin @mark_mcguire

Over 100 people gathered as ‘the rising tide’ along the Wellington CBD’s waterfront. The ‘wave’ went onto the road at each intersection, blocking traffic, chanting, and chatting with drivers before returning to the footpath and repeating at the next set of traffic lights. The action finished up with music, open mic and XR themed hot cross buns at an inner city park.

Photo: @ExtinctionNZ

“The merpeople of Wellington have risen to demand #ClimateJustice NOW! THE SEAS ARE RISING BUT SO ARE WE!!!” @ExtinctionNZ

Photo: Wellington @ExtinctionNZ

Canada

Four bridges banner drop in Toronto on Saturday.

“Despite the rain we were everywhere today! On the first bridge we were getting so many honks and waves (and a few middle fingers). We were just laughing thinking every bridge you pass under until you’re most of the way downtown — we’re there too! Thanks to everyone who came out and stood up for our planet in the rain and wind.” XR Toronto

Photos: XR Toronto

United States

In Portland, Oregon, Extinction Rebellion PDX rebels are blockading the Zenith Energy facility, an international oil and gas production company, by growing a garden directly on the train tracks (video).

Photos: @XR_PDX

On Saturday, Extinction Rebellion Denver held a ‘disco dance party’ road blockade on the Speer bridge route into Denver, one of the major thoroughfares into the city. Rebels visited the delayed drivers, giving them paper maché flowers and snacks and telling them why the disruption was necessary.

Photo by XR Denver

Denver police quickly moved in and threatened to arrest any who remained in the road. Five brave rebels stayed, several being forcibly removed after refusing to be escorted. A scarier situation resulted when SWAT officers with assault rifles were used to apprehend the 5’2″ young woman, who had moved the party disco van in to place. Six rebels in all were detained and given summons for obstructing traffic.

In Austin, three Extinction Rebellion rebels were arrested after super-gluing themselves to Chase Bank in order to obstruct “business as usual” for the biggest funder of the extraction industry in the world. 

Photo: @ExtinctionRebel

In Chicago, teacher, parent and rebel Joe locked himself to the doors of Chicago Booth fossil fuel conference: “I am choosing to use non-violent means to put my body upon the gears of the fossil fuel death machine.”

In Hawaii, Malu Aina XR rebels did a bout of sign waving at Pohakuloa Military base then headed up to Mauna Loa Atmospheric Observatory. At first confused, the weather station crew cheered them on, asked for XR shirts, and invited the rebels on an observatory tour.

Even More… There’s been so much going on around the world that it’s hard for even us to keep track. See here for a nigh-comprehensive overview. Here are some amazing actions that we might have missed during this busy week of International Rebellion:

Bulgaria

Fridays for a Future, 19th Apr, Die in, Bulgaria.

Photo: XR Bulgaria

Pakistan

On the 15th Extinction Rebellion Pakistan joined the Global Rebellion movement. With banners and posters at the National Press Club in Islamabad, young rebels get their voices heard, watch a video here.

Turkey

XR Turkey rebels gathered in Istanbul’s Besiktas district on 15th April demanding government action. Elif Unal explained “we have a duty to act on behalf of our children” as “humanity finds itself embroiled in an event unprecedented in its history.” 

Istanbul, Photo: XR Turkey

United States

XR Los Angeles has set up a climate camp in East LA! Joining other frontline neighborhood environmental groups in solidarity actions, to march, rallies and held a die in with #YouthStrike4ClimateLA, and movie night with Sunrise Movement. Rebels at the camp have also been trained in non-violent direct action and shared other skills like painting the streets with stencils, wheatpasting, and projecting on buildings around downtown LA.

Los Angeles, Photo: XR LA

An XR die in in New York on Wednesday let to multiple arrests by the NYPD.

NYC, Photos: Hope Lourie Killcoyne

Australia

XR Australia have put together an excellent post on their first week of rebellion. Beginning on Monday in Melbourne and ending on a coal train in Brisbane. On Thursday a peaceful demonstration was violently attacked by police, six were arrested.

Photo: XR Australia

Anarchist hacker collective Noisebridge may be pushed out of Mission District

Group starts $4 million fund-raising drive toward acquiring real estate

LAURA WAXMANN

Apr. 21, 2019 1:00 a.m. (SFExaminer.com)

The internationally renowned anarchist hacker collective Noisebridge is seeking to raise $4 million to secure real estate — and its survival — in San Francisco.

Members of Noisebridge confirmed that the collective is planning to vacate its Mission District digs of nearly a decade by August due to an expiring lease.

While the space is supported entirely by those who use it, the collective recently came to a consensus that outside help is needed to ensure its longevity. To that end, the group is seeking donations, and on April 27 will host a fundraising gala at which it will auction off art and projects with an initial goal of raising $10,000 that evening.

Rumors of Noisebridge’s displacement from 2169 Mission St. have been brewing for some time. Fearing that it would be booted from the space last year, the collective was able to negotiate a one-time lease extension with its landlord.

But Noisebridge member Victoria Fierce, who is a housing organizer by day, told the San Francisco Examiner that Noisebridge’s growing membership and other compounding issues have made further extensions at its current home infeasible.

“We are outgrowing our space. Noisebridge is like a gas — it expands to fill whatever container it’s in, and we’ve filled this one up,” said Fierce. “Also, if we were to renew our lease with the landlord it would be prohibitively more expensive.”

Fierce said Noisebridge is facing a $30,000 fine for code violations and was cited by The City for unpermitted construction. According to the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection, the violations include two bathrooms that were semi-constructed without permits, unpermitted partitions and the addition of an industrial laser cutter.

“If we move out, chances are we don’t have to pay that. We are trying to work through that right now,” said Fierce, who admitted that raising $4 million is a daunting goal but said, “It can be done.” In December, Noisebridge, a nonprofit organization, managed to raise some $10,000 in donations via an email fundraising campaign.

Noisebridge’s space spans more than 5,000 square feet overlooking Mission Street. On a recent Tuesday, an elongated table in the center was occupied by more than half a dozen “hackers” — but neither hacking skills nor a membership are required to use the space, which is open to the public.

A mini library inside of Noisebridge features books on a variety of subjects, from learning Javascript to French.

Noisebridge is outfitted with metal and wood workshops, a virtual reality system, an area dedicated to 3D printing and laser cutting and two classrooms, among other things.

Architect Jarrod Hicks has been part of the Noisebridge community for some six years.

“I was an architecture student and heard that Noisebridge had a laser cutter. I was going to work on a book, but then I got involved here and I never worked on the book,” said Hicks. “The space exists as a sandbox for people to work on things that they are interested in without the pressure of having to pay for an expensive membership somewhere, or having to have a space in their own apartment.”

“A lot of people come here to do things that aren’t necessarily their job,” added Hicks. “You’ll be cleaning the bathroom with somebody at Noisebridge and find out they work on the search engine at Google.”

Most of Noisebridge’s offerings are built in-house, such as an arcade cabinet featuring different gaming systems, and its gadgets donated by members, some of whom work in tech.

“How many startups are going out of business every year? That’s a lot of inventory they are just happy to get rid of,” said Fierce. “So stuff shows up at Noisebridge, mysteriously, nobody asks questions about it.”

A precursor for maker and hacker spaces that have cropped up in San Francisco and across the country over the past decade, Noisebridge was conceived in the early 2000s in Berlin, Germany, after a group of San Franciscans attended the Chaos Communication Congress, an international hacker conference.

Upon returning, the group members began dreaming up an “anarchist utopia” that would become Noisebridge, one of the first hacker spaces in the U.S.

In 2008, Noisebridge moved into its first physical location in the Mission, which it outgrew within a year of opening, forcing the collective to relocate to 2169 Mission St.

“Noisebridge wasn’t really sure what it was going to turn into. It never really is sure. It’s whatever the community needs it to be at the time,” said Fierce.

At its current location, Noisebridge has grown into a thriving collaborative that operates as a self-described “do-ocracy,” based on consensus rather than leadership and open to anyone willing to contribute. Members and visitors are asked to follow just one simple rule: “Be excellent to each other.”

At times, that guiding principle has proven difficult to enforce.

Dark days came following the 2011 Occupy movement, which resulted in an influx of drifters and occupiers “occupying Noisebridge” — some without real investment in the community or its philosophy, according to Fierce.

“Occupy attracted a number of people who say they are anarchists but to them, anarchy means that you have boundaries and they are allowed to transgress them,” said Fierce.

The collective had earned a reputation as somewhat of a hostile environment for women, and is known to have pushed out members over claims of harassment or misogynistic behavior.

In 2015, Fierce was among a core group of Noisebridge members who initiated a nearly eight-month reboot of Noisebridge in an effort to clean house, rejuvenate its “cultural immune system” and return to its mission as a safe space for exploration, creative pursuits, learning and teaching.

For the first time, a lock was installed on Noisebridge’s front door, and the collective slowly began to recover from a period of chaos that nearly ended it.

But more setbacks followed. A former member banned from the space reported Noisebridge to The City for the unpermitted construction, and founding member Mitch Altman’s departure last year was considered a big loss by many in the community.

In the midst of internal healing, Noisebridge is now looking to the future.

The collaborative has not yet set its sights on a prospective new home, but will begin the search once it raises enough for a downpayment of a building. Fierce said that the only principle guiding the search is that any new space — whether initially rented or purchased — must be located in San Francisco, and close to BART.

“This is a place where hackers from all over the world get off the plane at SFO and they show up at our door at 3 a.m.,” said Fierce. “We want to keep encouraging that and stick around.”

lwaxmann@sfexaminer.com

Freelance coder Razzi Abuissa works on a project at Noisebridge hacker space in the Mission.

Victoria Fierce stands for a portrait at Noisebridge hacker space in the Mission District on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Jarrod Hicks uses a virtual reality system at Noisebridge hacker space in the Mission District on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Alyss Weissglass grinds a piece of metal as she works on a project at Noisebridge hacker space in the Mission District on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

A sign and mural at Noisebridge hacker space in the Mission District on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

California Progressive Alliance Green New Deal for CA Panel

Lauren Steiner Published on Apr 3, 2019

From the founding convention of the California Progressive Alliance, this panel features moderator Joe Galliani, founder of 350.org, Aura Vasquez, LA DWP Commissioner, Melvin Willis, Richmond City Council, Benjamin Eichert, Dir. Greenpower, Jessica Tovar, Coordinator East Bay Clean Power Alliance and short video from Bill McKibben.