Incarcerated Activists Raise the Bar on Parole

Over-incarceration in this country takes many forms. One form that is
particularly egregious in Illinois is that of keeping people imprisoned for
years, or even decades, beyond the time that they pose any risk to public
safety—and even beyond their life expectancy.

Illinois stands out in this “lock ‘em up and forget about ‘em” form of
over-incarceration because the state has no inclusive system of
discretionary parole. For the vast majority of the 40,000 men and women
incarcerated in Illinois, the state has no mechanism for early release and
no periodic assessment of whether their continued incarceration is
necessary for public safety.  If nothing changes, the state faces an
impending crisis of geriatric prisons, and at least 5,600 people will die
behind bars. Continue reading

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May Day Rally 2019

This is the text of a speech given at the GEO May 1 rally on the UIUC Main Quad.

Thanks to the GEO for having me. Not just because May Day is truly and historically a celebration of anarchist labor organizing, but also because I usually feel very left out of May Day, despite being an anarchist. So I figure I’m going to talk about why that is, and about the kinds of labor that a lot of folks don’t care about and what it does to us.

My name is Kristina. I have three young children, all under the age of ten, and I have three part-time jobs. I currently have no health insurance, and a disaster or big emergency would likely destroy me financially or seriously injure my extended family should they offer to help. I have trouble with my eyesight, a natural part of aging, as well as needing regular dental visits; but I can’t attend to either. It’s too expensive. Continue reading

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Opposition to the Proposed ICE Dwight Detention Center Continues.

Detainees in a McAllen, TX ICE facility

Efforts to halt the construction of a 1200-bed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility in Dwight, Illinois continue at both the state and local level. The proposed facility would be built and operated by the Virginia-based, for-profit prison company Immigration Centers of America (ICA). Although the village approved the annexation of land for the project in March, the final paperwork has yet to be completed, and human rights groups across the Midwest continue to work to bring attention to the economic, moral and legal concerns about the proposed facility in hopes that the village will ultimately reject the project.

UIUCAyuda, an organization founded last year to give voice to the Latinx student community concerned with the inadequate federal response to hurricane damage in Puerto Rico, has planned a series of visits to the Dwight during the summer months. By reaching out to community groups, including churches, teachers, and service organizations at venues like the weekly farmer’s market, they hope to share information on the poor track record that for-profit prisons have in contributing to the local economy. Continue reading

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Need for System Change

The time is long past due for American citizens to realize that our political and economic systems are untenable.

Trump is awful, no question there. And for those who continue to support the Democratic candidates as the lesser evil—fine, that’s your choice. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting change is a sign of denial. Continue reading

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In Illinois and across the country momentum is building in support of implementing a Medicare for All Single-Payer health care system. This system would bypass profit-greedy corporate insurance companies and includes 100% free universal coverage for all.

The U.S. has the most expensive health care system in the world, and yet we are ranked 37th for the quality of care when compared to other advanced industrial countries. Over 40,000 people die unnecessarily and close to one million people are forced into home foreclosure and bankruptcy every single year because of our corporate-controlled health care system.

It is time to join the rest of the industrialized world and make access to healthcare and medicine a BASIC HUMAN RIGHT, regardless of ability to pay. Continue reading

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Occupy: Thirty Years In, Ten Years Out …

It’s been ten years since the Occupy Movement filled streets across 82 countries with protesters decrying the rampant political and economic inequality exposed in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. Davep, of the Public i editorial collective, looks back at his own long path to Occupy in this multi-part contribution.

Life in Late Capitalism: Freedom of Choice or Panic and Emptiness?

Prepare yourself: this isn’t a neutral, scholarly exploration of the most important social movement of our era. I am not an economist, or a business person, or a mathematician—I have a background and education as a musician, composer, poet, artist, anarchist and activist going back to the 1980s. I am also firmly in the 99 per cent that the Occupy Movement represented. I was born poor and remain poor, a fact I am not the least bit ashamed of, perhaps due to my ability to see my own history in light of a larger picture. It is that micro-macro perspective that I want to share with you now. Continue reading

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Defenders of the Bolivarian Republic Forcibly Evicted from Venezuelan Embassy

On May 16, supporters of the democratically elected government of Nicolás Maduro were forcibly evicted from the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C. by US police forces. Earlier this year, President Maduro’s embassy staff was ordered by the US to vacate the premises following the recognition by the Trump administration of Juan Guaidó as President of Venezuela (recognition that came, of course, via tweet). Before leaving, the staff handed the keys to the embassy over to the Protection Collective and other guests they had invited to guard the embassy. While the staff was still there, the embassy had been the site of numerous teach-ins and other events to raise awareness about the imperialist machinations of the US in the sovereign nation of Venezuela. Continue reading

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Faith in Place: Twenty Years Protecting the Earth and All Who Depend on It

At the dedication of a community garden, in a smallish county seat, I met Robyn, whose high school class had sown and nurtured the vegetable seedlings that we planted that day. She told me:

“My special-needs students learn so much as we plant and tend these plants. They may not be successful in regular classes, but here they succeed at making something grow. We bring the seedlings to the community garden, and know that families who are hungry will get fed. I love this project. And what do you do? You gave a prayer. Are you a pastor?”

“I work for a non-profit called Faith in Place, that helps diverse religious communities act on earth care and environmental justice issues.”

“Wow!,” she replied. “That’s a job? I bet you feel really lucky!”

And I do. Every day I get to interact with incredible people whose concern for all who share our planet involves them in energy and climate issues, water preservation, land stewardship and eco-advocacy. Continue reading

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Anti-Semitism: Still the “Socialism of Fools”?

Jews in Evanston protest Israeli policies

Scandals over alleged anti-Semitism have recently ensnared leftist British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn; the populist Yellow Vest movement, which leans both Left and Right (and neither, rejecting both); and Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), critic of Israel and supporter of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign, to cut off all trade and contact with Israel’s government, Israeli companies and institutions, including academic and cultural exchange. The characterization of anti-Semitism as the “socialism of fools” is attributed to German socialist pioneer August Bebel, who saw the late 19th-century rise of anti-Semitic politics as the cooptation of the masses, redirecting their resentment at their exploitation away from capitalism and towards the Jews, most of whom were fellow workers. This very phrase has been hurled at both Corbyn and Omar by opponents who are decidedly not striving for true socialism—in fact, who arguably hate their targets’ socialist tendencies more than the prejudice they are alleging. Many leftists decry the “weaponization” of (the charge of) anti-Semitism, as an effort to delegitimize the Left and undercut resistance to the oppression of Palestinians and to colonial and imperial practices in general. But is that the whole story, is anti-Semitism not an issue for the Left? Continue reading

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It’s Not an Immigration Crisis, It’s a Global Labor Tragedy

The number of Central American families seeking refuge in the US has greatly risen in the last few years.

An underclass of “undocumented” workers in the U.S., sweatshops in Asia, child miners in Africa, contract ironworkers in Dubai … we live in a world of globalized labor exploitation. This doesn’t just mean a world where workers in many countries suffer exploitation; it means a world in which labor is kept artificially divided and controlled by a regime of nation-state boundaries. If the problem of the twentieth century was the problem of the color line, the problem of the twenty-first century will be the problem of the borderline as the mechanism of human repression.

This global caste system is the new “prison house of nations,” although we don’t all feel the prison bars. A few, like many here in Champaign-Urbana, can soar across borders for career, education and vacation, or stay at home and enjoy food, clothing, and goods produced by others’ labor, but most of the world remains bound by an international economic system that allows produce to travel, but not the producers. This makes it easy to forget that it’s the absence of decent wages, environmental oversight, or social safety nets at the production end that makes things affordable at our end. We may come into contact with the victims of labor exploitation through travel, sporadic brand campaigns, or heart-wrenching profiles of child laborers, but we think of these horrors as anachronisms to be corrected by individual companies or countries, not symptoms of a global pyramid scheme. Continue reading

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