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Sat May 02, 2015 at 05:03 AM PDT

We Are People for Bernie

by clenchner

Right after Bernie Sanders announced his intention to run, grassroots supporters from the occupy, labor, environmental and socialist movements published an open letter endorsing his candidacy.

We are activists and organizers trying to build a broad, effective movement for democratic change. We come from different backgrounds, and were inspired by different issues and fights for peace, rights and the planet. Our goal is a government that carries out the will of the people, and not serve to increase the profits of the 1% at the expense of the rest of us.

To that end we support Bernie Sanders in his bid to become the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party.  We stand firmly behind Senator Sanders as the strongest progressive possibility in the race right now. His commitment to our values is one of long standing commitment. Sanders is the bold alternative.

As a truly progressive candidate for the Democratic Party nomination, Senator Sanders has the chance to inspire millions of Americans with policy proposals that put the interests of the 99%, front and center.

Franklin D. Roosevelt called out the “economic royalists” of his day. Senator Sanders is picking up the banner. He answers to “We the People” and not to the corporate and financial sectors. Bernie brings the kind of leadership that is necessary to building a real, living democracy.

The initiators of this letter are veteran grassroots organizers of Occupy Wall Street, and are joined by many energized brothers and sisters we have met along the way. In September 2011, our efforts changed the narrative of American politics, helping to focus it on the issues of our time: inequality, surrender to the power of concentrated wealth, the corruption of our democracy by moneyed interests, and the need for solutions as radical as our problems.

We are signing as individuals hoping to kickstart a small ‘d’ democratic movement. People For Bernie won’t be a corporate-style, staff-driven, controlled-message, top-down enterprise. It will reflect diverse constituencies from a broad range of movements, which in many cases haven’t seen the Democratic Party as a home for their deepest aspirations. It will reflect our commitment to fundamental change, not just a change of faces at the top of the political pyramid. People for Bernie it will reflect the urgency of more and fiercer grassroots political activity at the base.

We call on all other progressive forces to unite behind Sanders so we can have a united front in this important campaign.

Moumita Ahmed
Phillip Anderson - The Albany Project
Betsy Avila - Young Democratic Socialists
Kazembe Balagun - Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung
Brett Banditelli - Occupy Harrisburg
Beth Becker - Occupy DC / McPherson
Nadine Bloch - Nonviolence International,(Ruckus Society)
Joe Brusky - Overpass Light Brigade
Melissa Byrne - Occupy DC-Mcpherson, Project Springboard
Isham Christie - OWS
Heidi Chua - Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung
Mary Clinton - OWS
Damien Crisp - OWS, Occupy Sandy, @OccupyWallStNYC
Kelli Daley - OWS, @occupywallstnyc
Ethan Earle - Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung
Shana East - Meme Against the Machine, Chuy Garcia Campaign
Rick Echevarria - Changer
Michelle Esi - OWS Labor
Caleb-Michael Files - Sankofa
Kim Fraczek - The Peoples Puppets of Occupy Wall Street
Amber Frost - Journalist
Gan Golan - MayDay Space, Movement Net Lab
Priscilla Grim - OWS Media Cleric, occupywallst.nyc
Lane Hall - Overpass Light Brigade
Gabriel Johnson
Aly Johnson-Kurts - Former staff, Teachout-Wu campaign
Howie Klein - Publisher, DownwithTyranny.com
Charles Lenchner - OWS Tech Ops, co-founder, RFW
Joe Libertelli - Co-Founder, Progressive Democrats of America
Angela Linneman
Lisa Moline - Overpass Light Brigade
Justin Molito - Ready for Bernie
Larry Moskowitz - Left Labor Project
Jesse Myerson - Occupy The Ballots
Ed Ott - Faculty, Murphy Institute/CUNY
Annabel Park - Filmmaker and founder of the Coffee Party
Mark Provost - Us Uncut
Jeff Rae - OWS, Ready for Bernie
Paul Russell - Occupy Faith, Judson Church
Audrey Sasson - OWS, 99 Pickets
Daniel Sieradski - Occupy Judaism
Andrew Smith - Rockaway Wildfire, OWS
Zak Solomon - MayDay Space, Rising Tide NYC
Nadya Stevens
Bhaskar Sunkara - Jacobin Magazine
Maria Svart - Democratic Socialists of America
Diane Sweet - Blogger, OWS, Occupy the Boardroom, Environmentalist
Robel Tekleab - OWS
David Unger - Labor Organizer/Educator
Harry Waisbren - Occupy Network
Stan Williams - OWS
Winnie Wong - OWS, @OccupyWallStreetNYC, Ready for Warren, Artists for Warren
Ethan Young - Left Labor Project, Portside.org

I'm kind of excited about this. While the Sanders campaign bigger lift will be to get primary voters in the middle to vote for him (and not HRC), the left shouldn't be ignored. This list includes many who under normal circumstances wouldn't be standing up for any candidate in a Democratic primary, either because they prefer a 3rd party or because they don't think this kind of electoral activity is useful in the long term.

But Bernie Sanders, a self-declared democratic socialist, makes things different.

Another item of interest has to do with trends in the global left. In Greece, a multi-tendency political party of the left (Syriza) has actually won power with an anti-austerity platform. In Spain, a party barely one year old (Podemos) is now more popular than any other. In both cases, the parties rapid growth is connected to the mass protest movements that began in 2011 - the same year as Occupy Wall St.

You can join People for Bernie here: www.peopleforbernie.com

Can Bernie Sanders be the umbrella under which American left movements can finally come together and build independent electoral power? Time will tell. But this is a good start.

The author is a founder of People for Bernie

Discuss
Full details - conference.organizing20.org

For six years now, a volunteer crew has been teaching organizing (and digital organizing) skills to thousands of people in New York - and elsewhere. If you haven't heard of it, maybe you should:

- At $35-$100, it's one of the best values in digital/organizing/fundraising/activist skills - - training around.
- For any of the 15 million folks living closer than an hour away, no need for expensive travel or lodging.
- The Organizing 2.0 trainers are well known experts and practitioners - take a look.
- The focus is on organizers and communicators working in labor, community organizing, local politics, and grassroots organizing (think Occupy or Black Lives Matter).

For all these reasons, and so many more, union staff, netroots activists, bloggers, leaders, electeds, staffers and gadflies might want to rush over and register today for the next Organizing 2.0 training conference. It's coming up soon, April 10-11 at the Murphy Institute in Midtown Manhattan.

Some highlights about our speakers and training sessions below the jump. RSVP today!

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[This is an announcement from some Occupy Wall Street folks in support of an action tomorrow, 12/18/14. I am one of the signatories.]

Occupy Wall Street is an idea whose time has come. And those of us inspired and awakened by this idea that our government should serve all of us, not only the 1%, have never stopped organizing to hold Wall Street accountable. Towards these ends, a group of us are now coming together to demand that Citibank be broken up.

Recently a number of groups have stepped up to call for an action on Thursday outside Citibank in New York City. This is in solidarity with Senator Elizabeth Warren's call last week to break up the biggest banks.

As activists and organizers who have helped shape and elevate the narrative around inequality and inform America about Wall Street rigging the system against the 99%, we know better than to hitch an entire movement to the coattails of one politician.

We also know that the mood in this country is on our side, and it's the right thing to do to push a main street agenda forward as creatively and as rapidly as possible.

The time to act is now.

For full details and to join our Occupy affinity group on Thursday, please RSVP here.

See you in the streets,

Kim Fraczek (People’s Puppets, Occupy the Pipeline)
Jackrabbit (Interoccupy)
Priscilla Grim (@OccupyWallStNYC)
Mark Provost (USUncut)
Charles Lenchner (Tech Ops, Occupy Network, Ready for Warren)
Stan Williams (Occupy Network)
Harry Waisbren (Occupy Network, Act.tv)
Winnie Wong (@OccupyWallStNYC)

Orgs are mentioned for identification purposes only

Discuss

As the Working Families Party (WFP) gathered for its state convention on May 31, it appeared the small but influential third party was set to turn New York politics on its head and challenge incumbent Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Zephyr Teachout.
Progressives’ frustration with “Governor 1%” has been building for years, to the point where statewide polls this spring showed a hypothetical WFP candidate getting more than 20 percent of the vote in a three-way race with Cuomo and Republican nominee Rob Astorino. And the party had a candidate waiting in the wings: Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham Law School professor and former Howard Dean campaign aide who was the favorite of many of the state committee’s 200 members. Yet by the end of a raucous convention, the WFP endorsed Cuomo, just as it had in 2010. In return, the party received a string of promises that no one believes the governor intends to keep — including WFP insiders.

The endorsement deal dismayed many WFP supporters who ask how a left-leaning party with strong ties to labor unions could back a right-wing governor who has cut the pensions of state workers, lavished support on charter schools and handed out tax breaks to millionaires while putting much of the state government on an austerity budget.

Eye On the State Senate

What critics of the WFP’s endorsement are missing is that the strategy isn’t about trusting Cuomo, but boxing him in so he won’t interfere with the real goal: restoring control of the State Senate to the Democrats. Large unions are promising to help bankroll this effort, which will almost certainly include deployment of the WFP field staff. And some of this has already happened; SEIU 1199 has committed to only supporting Democrats this year, while the UFT has told Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC) members they need to rejoin the Democrats ‘or else.’

Republicans have controlled the State Senate almost continuously for the past 50 years. The Democrats won a majority in the 2012 election, but soon afterwards, five Democratic state senators announced they would caucus with the Republicans. It’s widely believed that Cuomo encouraged this accord because it takes the pressure off of him to act on progressive legislation that regularly passes the Democratic-held State Assembly but dies in the Senate.

Senate Democrats have almost no money in their coffers. However, the millions that will now flow to contested races will enable the WFP to put boots on the ground in key districts and organize the kind of get-out-the-vote efforts that swing elections. They will target the five renegade members of the IDC plus a couple of vulnerable Long Island Republicans.

If the WFP can bring the Democrats to power in the Senate, a raft of progressive legislation becomes more likely, including a minimum wage increase, campaign finance reform, more funding for public schools and decriminalization of marijuana. These are all issues that Cuomo was forced to endorse publicly during the WFP convention. The WFP’s strategy is a gamble. The union leaders who cut a deal with Cuomo will feel like it was worth it if they can win a substantial boost to the minimum wage. However, if the Senate doesn’t change hands, don’t expect Cuomo to go out of his way to help the WFP.

Teachout’s Next Move

Meanwhile, Teachout and her supporters are now looking to run against Cuomo in the September 9 Democratic primary. As The Indypendent went to press, Teachout had not made a final decision to run but was moving quickly to raise the money to mount a credible campaign against Cuomo in the primary.

Should Teachout run, she will pressure Cuomo from the left. She could also help drive the turnout of progressive voters in districts where the WFP is trying to win primary races against the five renegade Democratic state senators. In the process of building a campaign and mobilizing supporters, Teachout may give birth to something akin to the WFP, but without the dominance of organizations that prioritize transactional politics.

Originally appeared on the Indypendent, an excellent resource for progressives in New York City.

Poll

Who do you support in the NY Democratic Primary for Governor?

78%73 votes
21%20 votes

| 93 votes | Vote | Results

Discuss

A new report published by a German think tank is worth looking at. World Protests 2006-1013 doesn’t contain any major surprises, but our communities should take a look. The short version: citizens are angry at the world’s elites. More of them are taking to the streets. And increasingly, the protestors are sophisticated enough to place a finger on the lack of real democracy because of unaccountable corporations and multinational institutions.


2nd anniversary of OWS. NYC.

Unfortunately, the authors do not address the question of what is to be done; that task is left to us.

Some of the points made:

  • We are in the midst of a major global upheaval comparable to 1848, 1917 or 1968.
  • The most sobering finding: the overwhelming demand is not for economic justice per se, but for “real democracy” which would allow national governments to address core economic issues.
  • This core demand is coming from every kind of society, from authoritarian to liberal democracies.
  • Protests are attracting sectors of the population historically less likely to participate.
  • Increasingly, protests include some form of civil disobedience or meaningful direct action.

The authors of this report are hoping to inform and guide elites to better evolve in a way that increases stability and restores trust. But we can read it as a how-to manual. This is what I took away:

Focus on the long term. Protests generally fail to meet their objectives. They make sense mostly as a way to generate attention, recruit more active participants in the movement, and then regroup – possibly years later – for more public direct action at the inflection points. Protests that are not built around the onboarding of new people to their movements will fail to sustain themselves.

Focus on the right issues. The large number of protests around governance and real democracy keep a needed focus on governance and real democracy. (In the U.S., that means addressing the power of corporate elites on our elected officials, aka the political corruption inherent in our system.) This is a long struggle; we need long term strategies that outlast the current upsurge in protest.

Power cannot function without legitimacy. It is essential for our systems to work: confidence in the banking system, trust in the results of elections, the willingness to pay taxes and even a society’s ability to accept scientific truths, like the current state of climate change. Progressives need to be clear: are we working to restore legitimacy to power as long as someone we prefer is nominally in charge, or do we help deny legitimacy until more far reaching reforms are enacted?

The Road to 2016

As I see it, this will play out over the next few years inside the Democratic and Republican parties as contests between the old elites seeking to revitalize themselves and restore the trust and challengers to those elites. The Democrats have Elizabeth Warren vs. Hilary Clinton and the Republicans have upstart Tea Partyers like Ted Cruz vs. Chris Christie or Jeb Bush.

As a progressive, I think our job is making sure that we defeat representatives of the old elites. First in our party, and then in the contest between the parties. There is no way in hell that our historic role in this moment is to strengthen Clinton’s left flank. As this massive upsurge in protests demonstrate, the right candidate - the best candidate - will advance the goal of transforming our corrupt systems, not serve as its most trusted confidante.

Discuss

Recent weeks have seen a lot of talk about an unprecedented Democratic takeover of Congress in 2014. (Here, here and here.) This would contradict a well-established pattern of mid-term elections favoring the party not currently in the White House.  While the pundits talk about the national mood and the Republican ‘Suicide Caucus’, some of us wanted to play with the data and see what’s possible.

Even political amateurs sort of understand that if a candidate won by a small margin last time, this can indicate a pickup opportunity in the next elections. This is true for primaries and the generals. But it’s a very bad guide for political spending if we follow a more comprehensive look at the data.

What Joshua Grossman of Progressive Kick has done is look at election districts in 2008 and 2012, looking for Republican incumbents in swing districts – those that leaned R or D by a small margin in the presidential race. Many of those districts didn’t have a strong Democratic challenger (or a weak one). The takeaway: a Republican Congress member’s last margin of victory doesn’t give an accurate estimate of our team’s likelihood of beating them next time.

In many of these districts, changing demographics are working in our favor, as well as a quirk of Republican redistricting strategy. By concentrating Democratic voters in a small number of districts and trying to maintain more House districts with a less decisive Republican majority, they have inadvertently littered the landscape with newly competitive districts. We might not win all of them – but to the extent we take their seats away, these are the districts where it will happen.

(Side note: I’m summarizing a 90-minute PowerPoint presentation that compresses a ton of data points. The takeaway here is that number crunching Democratic political strategists are not all alike. Using different methods they arrive at different conclusions, and some are more useful than others.)

Why Is This Important?

Two questions that come to mind are why does this matter and isn’t it obvious? In recent election cycles, Democratic shot-callers overspent on races that were either hopeless or are already in the bag while staying clear of winnable races. While this is a waste of tens of millions of dollars, the bigger point is that it costs us victories. We live in a world where the politically safe choices aren’t always the right ones even with an eye towards narrow self-interest.

Which is why none of this is obvious. Very few people are ever going to go deep into the data and compare methodologies to see which one makes more sense. That’s just not how decisions are usually made in political environments. Which is why spreading the word about this project can’t be just about throwing PowerPoints and data around. We also need a messaging campaign aimed at persuading decision makers that we can win, but we need this new playbook.

What’s Next?

Explaining how Democrats and progressives can take Republican seats away is nice and all, but it’s not the end of the story, or even the first part. It’s part of a strategic plan for victory comprising a few discrete steps:

  - Find great candidates in the 44 potentially winnable districts currently held by Republicans + other seats being vacated by incumbent Dems
  - Support the best candidates with training, funding and networking at the national level, even in the face of more mainstream forces backing a terrible (but wealthy) candidate
  - Repeat every two years

Join Us!

We’re asking progressive allies to help us in the short term to locate and recruit great candidates. (Look here to be part of that!) But in the longer term, we need to advance the basic project of using data and progressive principles to take back Congress in 2014.

The list of 44 House districts on Progressive Kick’s list is after the jump.

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Micah Kellner, Assemblyman and Candidate for City Council, spent vast amounts of time in Albany playing online Scrabble and harassing his own female staffers (at least twice that we know of.)
Yesterday the New York Times spilled the beans on yet another NYC politician caught disrespecting women:
Four years ago, a junior staff member in Assemblyman Micah Z. Kellner’s office complained to her supervisor that she was being harassed by Mr. Kellner, an Upper East Side Democrat.
And what kinds of pleasantries were exchanged?
In one exchange that took place well after midnight, Mr. Kellner told the woman that he had hired her because “you were cute during the interview.” He asked if she had a boyfriend and told her, “I guess secretly I didn’t want you to have one,” adding, “I like being the only man in your life” and “Don’t cheat on me.”
Was this a one time thing? No.
The 2009 matter was not the only one to emerge in The Times’s review. Another former staff member of Mr. Kellner’s voiced similar concerns two years later.
But That's Not All
In some ways, having Micah Kellner embroiled in a sex scandal is a shame. The evidence against his good judgement was already in. As widely reported in New York City, Kellner has become a poster child for legalized bribery and corruption.

Last year, a company called VPG persuaded Kellner to champion its version of the NYC taxicab for the TLC, the regulatory body for such things. Kellner prevailed, getting his favorite cab selected despite the much higher price. Part of that was getting the Assembly to vote for a $10,000 tax credit from the state for each and every new VPG cab. All of this might have been because this taxi is a hybrid and is more accessible for disabled passengers.

But that's not why Kellner was so interested in taxicabs. He also received $22,800 in campaign donations from VPG, and an additional $2,750 from VPG's Board chairman.

But perhaps what is most cringe-inducing about this is that VPG paid $90,000 to Dan Klores Communications for lobbying services between November 2011 and April 2012, and in that last month the firm hired Kellner's wife to be its vice president of government affairs.
The Fallout
Yesterday, Council Member Jessica Lappin withdrew her previous "wholehearted endorsement" of Kellner. The NYC chapter of the National Organization of Women held a press conference outside Kellner's office and announced their endorsement of Kellner's opponent in the race, Ben Kallos.

What's building across the city and perhaps the country, is a full court press linking Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer, Brooklyn's Vito Lopez AND Micah Kellner as the four horsemen of NYC's #PenisPolitics apocalypse. We could include the role of Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver and his office in shielding both Kellner and Lopez, and the echoes of all this in San Diego, what with that fine city's gropey mayor.

As a man, as a progressive, and (full disclosure) a strong supporter of Ben Kallos, my position is clear. Some of our electeds, including many who cynically use the progressive brand, are  deviant, corrupt, power hungry and criminally oppressive to women working nearby. Getting rid of these folks should be a priority.

Want More? Here's a Small Selection
Gotham Gazette
Forbes
Newsday
Politicker
Capital New York
Gothamist

Discuss

If you didn't know, Yetta Kurland is the phenomenal activist-candidate poised to make history in this year's New York City elections. Running in the same district that mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn is from, Kurland is essentially the anti-Quinn: a proud lesbian who isn't in the pockets of the real estate industry and who hasn't been anointed by 1 percenter Mike Bloomberg to carry on his legacy.

Here's her latest video, which dropped today:

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Organizing New York takes place March 22-24 at the United Federation of Teachers, 52 Broadway. Register here. A full schedule for Friday and Saturday is here.

Join us at Organizing New York - March 22-24
Who needs skills training? Well... everyone. Which explains in part why progressives, nonprofit staff and activists are inundated with capacity-building efforts of every stripe. Webinars, Meetups, trainings, workshops, conferences near and far, free e-books, and courses you can take at your own pace.

It's understandable really. New tools are coming out all the time, new research pours out with ever-changing best practices, and new people come up through the ranks with the unique lessons they want to share.

Organizing New York fits in this landscape by working with grassroots organizations and making sure our offerings match what they want, rather than serving as a vehicle to sell you products or services. Our larger purpose - beyond some session you find useful - is to create communities of practice that cross the silos that litter the progressive landscape.

Doing better at organizing is a shared interest for many. But it's often a struggle to find someone in your own organization who has the answer to a small but nagging software question, a good canvassing checklist, or a vendor recommendation. Good communities of practice exist, and should spread, beyond our narrow issue areas, geographic focus, and constituency boundaries.

We hope you'™ll come to one or more days of Organizing New York not only to learn, teach, share and network, but also to see yourself as part of more communities of practice than you knew existed. Even if you only wanted to learn how to organize your sock drawer!

Three Tracks, Three Days


Our sessions are formally divided into three tracks: online organizing, civic engagement, and grassroots fundraising. Practically, many of them cross those boundaries - and that’s on purpose. It'€™s hard to pretend anymore that online tools and traditional organizing methodologies aren'€™t so completely interwoven that you can'€™t do one without the other.

Highlights


Software and Tech Training: Many of our organizations use NationBuilder, Salsa, CiviCRM, and the VAN. Our priority is to offer basic training sessions AND opportunities for more advanced folks to get help. Staff from NationBuilder and SalsaLabs are coming to the conference, and we’ll have many experts around who can try and solve some of those harder questions.

Strategy and Tactics: What is digital strategy? How to campaign in low turnout elections? Can your organization run a successful crowdfunding campaign?

Fundraising: Most fundraising trainings in New York are geared towards foundation fundraising.  We know that only about 12% of foundation funding goes to social justice groups.  We need to create a funding base in our own communities.  This track will offer some of the best experts in the region training on everything from building a volunteer fundraising group,  running amazing events, building your online fundraising capacity to creating asking (and receiving) big gifts.

Racial Justice: Sometimes, tech-oriented conferences skew towards white dudes. But our mission is to advance all our causes, and to prioritize issues that impact low-income communities, communities of color, women and queer people. This means highlighting and foregrounding experts from grassroots communities and making sure the conference is accessible to everyone.  This also means addressing racial justice explicitly in a session about grassroots fundraising for people of color and sessions on working with the Dominican, Puerto Rican and African American online communities. We’re also happy to announce that some sessions will be offered in Spanish, with others having simultaneous interpretation, that we will have child-care throughout the entire conference. We are working in partnership with base-building communities from across New York City and the region to move this from an idea into reality.

Workshops from the Community: Our third day is also called Rootscamp. That means it is part of a New Organizing Institute tradition of putting on ‘unconferences’ that feature workshops proposed by attendees that become participatory skill shares. We are using this page to solicit workshop proposals and to learn what the community values the most. Submit your proposal today, and on Sunday morning volunteers will assemble the day’s agenda based on feedback from the participants.

Camp Wellstone: Politics, how does it work? That’s a question often asked by activists trying to master the detailed specifics of running an election campaign or winning victories on issues during and after election campaigns. Camp Wellstone participants will spend most of their time together, learning from professional trainers. This is a highly sought after training and registration will close soon. Camp Wellstone uses the same registration page, but you can learn more about them here as well.

Faith: We are also running a special session on Friday for organizers from the faith community. If this is of interest to you because your nonprofit has a religious or interfaith affiliation, or you work from a strong faith perspective - please contact us at ony@organizing20.org for more details. This session will only be open to those who have pre-registered for it.

Organizing New York takes place March 22-24 at the United Federation of Teachers, 52 Broadway. Register here. A full schedule for Friday and Saturday is here. A listing of approved sessions appears below, though it is subject to change.

There is more after the jump, but let's hear it for the great orgs that came together to put this on: NY Civic Engagement Table, New Organizing Institute, Working Families, Democracy for America, Organizing 2.0, Wellstone Action, Citizen Action NY, and our many sponsors and endorsing orgs from labor, Occupy Wall St., community organizing groups and candidates.

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One week ago (2/8/13) I was arrested in Brooklyn while driving a van outfitted with a projector. Long story short, it was pretty horrible; friends and fellow activists have encouraged me to set down precisely what happened and put it in the public record.

If you don’t know, there is a van with a heavy duty projector that comes out of the roof like a turret. It was created by an OWS offshoot with funding from Ben Cohen, and was named The Illuminator. Some months ago, ownership and control was passed on to a campaign called the Stamp Stampede, created by Ben Cohen, and was referred to as the Project-O-Van.

A month ago, Animal New York, a website that covers culture and politics, arranged to carry out a joint action with the Stampede campaign, using our van.. Together, we visited a number of locations throughout the city to project images highlighting the problem of money in politics corrupting our democracy. We visited the offices of Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, Trump Tower, some walls in Soho and the LES, and…. Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s home on 79th Street.


It was exciting to get a picture of a ballot box being stuffed with money projected onto Bloomberg’s 3rd floor. As the residence is protected by police, our team was approached by cops who chatted with Animal New York folks and filmed our van. I stuck around for about one minute – just long enough to take a few photos.


The next evening I got called at 11pm by police from the NYPD’s Intelligence Division. They wanted my address so they could visit me at home and ask a few questions. It turned out they were researching the ownership of the vehicle and trying to track me down for many hours. An entire team was active on this ‘case’ which included sending two officers to Ithaca (4 hours away) to track down whoever lived at the address on our registration form. (This was the head of a nonprofit used briefly as a fiscal sponsor of the nonprofit that actually owned the vehicle.)

My concern was having some cop cars with lights flashing show up at my apartment building and then getting arrested in full view of the neighbors. So I persuaded them to meet me at the nearby police precinct (the 90th). I spent an hour answering questions about the van, it’s history, ownership, how it operates, and the absence of any ongoing threat to Mayor Bloomberg. They explained that the order to take such drastic measures (midnight interrogations & a trip to Ithaca) came from very high up, and they simply had to make sure that any and all questions could be answered. Their immediate superior in this was Mohammad Newaz of the Intelligence Division – the same unit that engages in counter-terrorism.

Fast forward to last Friday. Our van had spent 10 days at a garage for repairs. I was driving in a light rain for two blocks, when an unmarked SUV pulled me over. A plainclothes officer told me I was driving with my lights off in the rain – very unsafe. A few minutes later I was arrested for driving with a suspended driver’s license.

The arresting officer? Mohammad Newaz of the Intelligence Division. Did I mention there were three unmarked police vehicles that were part of this operation?

[Side note: perhaps a year ago, I was given a summons for riding my bicycle on a sidewalk in Bushwick. Stupidly, I neglected to take care of the matter. This was the reason why my license had been suspended, and I wasn’t aware that this had happened.]

There are many things that could happen at this point. For example, they could have allowed me to leave the vehicle where it was (I pulled over into a legal parking spot) and given me a ‘desk appearance ticket.’ Instead, they impounded the van ‘for evidence’ and sent me to Central Booking. I ended up spending 36 hours in jail. When I appeared before the judge for arraignment, attorney Yetta Kurland helped me to plead guilty to a violation, amounting to a $75 fine.

Many of my friends have been arrested before, usually with other protestors engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience, or for things like stepping off the sidewalk during a demonstration. I’ve been arrested before, mostly in Israel, where I once spent two months in prison for refusing to serve in the Occupied Territories. If you haven’t been arrested, please know this: it can be traumatic. The facilities in Brooklyn are filthy beyond belief, the food is disgusting, some of those detained are pretty ripe, and folks have to arrange themselves on the floor with no bedding or bunks. On the other hand, most of the cops behaved decently towards the detainees. (Yes, that surprised me.)

Thinking about what happened to me, the first thought that keeps rattling around in my head is how stupid I was to have allowed my license to become suspended. And then there are some other questions:

-- Was I or the van being tracked closely by police from the Intelligence Division because of our one minute projection on Mayor Bloomberg’s home?
--If so, were they tracking it for a whole month, or did they wait until my license was suspended (this happened in that last few weeks!) so they could lie in wait for me?
-- Is there any justification for the massive expenditure of resources on ‘The Case of the Project-O-Van’?
-- Was I and/or the vehicle targeted because of the relationship to Occupy Wall Street?
-- Why did the police choose to arrest me and send me to booking, given my profile? (Employed, stable residence, no prior arrests in NYC, living with my family, etc.) Was that decision influenced by my political activism?
Not sure if this is the end of the story. Some say, there are grounds for – at minimum – demanding some answers from the NYPD and Mayor Bloomberg. What do others think?

PS: I mentioned Yetta Kurland briefly. Knowing that she was out there working on my behalf was part of what kept me sane in jail. She is a fighter, a friend, and a leader. And she refused to take a dime for her services. God bless her.

PPS: At the start of the video embedded above, you can hear me say "this is of dubious legality, but fuck it!" Folks should know that was part of a conversation about parking, not about the operation of the Project-O-Van.

Discuss

Obama’s State of the Union address last night addressed many of the issues on our national agenda. Like many of you, I was disappointed that he didn't refer to his prior support for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Disappointed, but not surprised.




"Over the longer term, I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United (assuming the Supreme Court doesn't revisit it). Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight of the super-PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change[...]"

Over the next few years, President Obama will be judged on how well he advances his most important policy proposals. To do that, he’ll need bipartisan compromises and delicate bridge building among many competing interest groups. And so we continue our headfirst march into corporatocracy – rule by corporate elites, for corporate elites, but through the appearance of a thriving democracy.

Washington DC is at the moment a cesspool of lobbyists, politicians who will someday become lobbyists, and lobbyists who aspire to become politicians. (Before going back to serve some more as a lobbyist.) The power of this lobbyist elite comes from Supreme Court rulings declaring that money is free speech and that corporations have some of the rights of natural persons.

Obama knows this. More than 80% of Americans support doing something about it. But there’s a difference between passively accepting that some change is needed and taking action to make sure change actually happens. Reforming the way our Republic operates will take more passion and commitment, the kind that politicians can see, hear and feel with great frequency.

By stamping money we can generate that groundswell for real change. It will be bipartisan and reflect the needs of diverse constituencies – most people, after all, are not corporations. There's a year of hard work in front of us, to make sure that next year’s State of the Union speech is different.

[Consider joining the Stampede, a campaign to stamp money out of politics.]

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Stamping money is just the latest in a long list of things regular people can do as part of the fight against money in politics. To promote this innovative, subversive and fun tactic, Ben & Jerry have launched a money stamping photo contest. It lasts from today to Jan, 15th, so we build up some momentum before the 3rd anniversary of the Citizen's United Supreme Court decision.

This is from the announcement sent out and posted on their website:

People send us great stamping photos all the time – and we love it! So we’ve decided to hold a photo contest.

Sharing photos of stamped dollars is a great way to spread the word about the Stampede and to help get money out of politics… But we also have some pretty cool prizes:

- Signed photograph of Ben & Jerry
- Pints of Ben & Jerry’s Ice cream
- Stampede T-shirts
- Collector’s edition rubber stamps

Submit Your Entries and Win Big. it’s easy – you can enter in two ways:

1. Submit a photo on our Facebook page or via Twitter. For Twitter entries, use our handle (@StampStampede) and the hashtag #GetMoneyOut..
2. Email us at charles@stampstampede.org and use the subject line Contest.

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield will be judging your entries. Visit the contest page now and get started on some fun and wacky photos today!

Looking for ideas on how to make your photo standout? Try submitting photos in one of the following categories: the holidays, strange places, furthest distance from Washington DC, and as something you wear/affix to your body.

The contest lasts until January 15th, and winners will be announced on Jan. 18th, the day before the 3rd anniversary of the Citizen’s United Supreme Court ruling. For more information and official contest rules, visit our contest page.

We’ll be posting your entries on Facebook and Twitter to help promote stamping activities and the contest. Remember to like, comment, and share.  Spread the word and help get money out of politics!

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