‘Fracked Gas is Environmental Racism’: Balloon Banner Released at Bridgeport City Hall

by Dan Fischer, Capitalism vs. the Climate

On February 1, Bridgeport residents flooded a public hearing with opposition to PSEG’s proposed fracked gas power plant, which would replace its coal plant in 2021. As 10 year-old Jaysa Mellers urged, “No coal, no gas, go green!”, a Bridgeport-based member of Capitalism vs. the Climate released a banner tied to a bundle of balloons. The banner floated to the high ceiling, and city councillors and residents read its message: “Fracked gas is environmental racism! No coal, no gas!”

gracked-gas-enviro-racism-300x283“Environmental racism is when an unfair share of pollution is placed on communities of color and low-income neighborhoods. That’s what is happening in Bridgeport. PSEG is making it worse by trying to open a new gas plant, which would continue to release pollution in the air for decades,” said Gabriela Rodriguez, a nineteen year-old Bridgeport resident and a member of Capitalism vs. the Climate.

PSEG reports that its new gas plant would release into the air nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, lead, and other pollutants, causing emphysema, bronchitis, learning deficits, heart disease, cancer, and asthma triggers. Moreover, fracked gas is highly flammable and known to frequently leak. The result can be deadly. From 1995 to 2014, there were 371 deaths and 1,395 injuries due to reported pipeline incidents.

PSEG wants to put the gas plant where the coal plant currently stands, locking in decades of fossil fuel infra-structure in an area where 30 percent of residents are black and 30 percent are Latino. To add insult to injury, PSEG’s proposed gas plant, like its existing coal plant, would stand adjacent to the Mary and Eliza Freeman houses, the oldest houses in Connecticut built and owned by African Americans. From 1821 until the Civil War, the neighbor-hood had been a prosperous community of free people of color including African Americans and indigenous Paugussets. Historians say it may have been a stop on the Underground Railroad.

“By putting a gas plant here, PSEG is basically saying that black lives do not matter to them,” declared Tiffany Mellers, a Bridgeport resident, mother of Jaysa. Visit http://capitalismvsclimate.org for more information.

Want to Be on a Delegation to Nicaragua?

Chris Schweitzer, Director, NHLSCP

New Haven/León Sister City Project has sent over 1,200 area residents to Nicaragua since 1984 to learn about development efforts there and support social justice. We are now organizing two new trips including an Educators Delegation, which will focus on education challenges in rural Nicaragua; strategies for improving quality; teacher training and curriculum support; and a cooperative project with the community, set for July 2016. Contact Chris at  cscschweitzer@newhavenleon.org, (203) 259-5760.

Also there will be a Women Rights Delegation in 2016. The focus will be on domestic violence; legal responses; community based advocacy; self help groups and building individual and collective power; sexual and reproductive rights; national realities, challenges and movements in Nicaragua; and will include a cooperative project with the community.  We will set the dates  (7 to 9 days) based on your availability. Contact Megan at mfountain@newhavenleon.org or (203) 562-1607.

Green Party Fund Raising to Get on 2016 Ballot

by Barbara Barry, Secretary, Green Party of Connecticut

The next State Central Committee (SCC) meeting of the CT Green Party is Wednesday, Feb. 3. Social time is from 6 to 6:30 p.m. The SCC meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Portland Waverly Center, 7 Waverly Avenue, Portland, Conn.

Jill Stein of Massachusetts has agreed to come to the GPCT event to raise funds for whomever is selected to be the GPUS presidential candidate at the 2016 GPUS Nominating Convention (likely to be in June or July). The purpose of the GPCT fundraiser is to acquire sufficient funds to successfully petition, i.e. acquire the CT ballot line for a GPUS presidential candidate.

Another fundraiser will take place from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13, at the Portland Waverly Center. Potluck food and beverages. Bring items for fundraising: books, etc.

William “Bill” Kreml of South Carolina is willing to be a speaker at a GPCT March 2016 fundraiser. He is one of five vetted persons seeking the nomination to be the 2016 GPUS presidential candidate. The other persons are Darryl Cherney, Sedinam Kinamo Christin Moyowasifza Curry, Kent Mesplay and Jill Stein. A specific date, time and place of this fundraiser are yet to be determined. All GPCT members are invited to the above events…and bring a friend!

Amistad Awards Rally Calls for Justice for All

by Joelle Fishman, CT People’s World

From Ariel Johnson’s beautiful rendition of Change is Gonna Come to the closing performance by Ice the Beef Stop the Violence Start the Peace, the 2015 People’s World Amistad Awards inspired young and old alike with its message of unity and struggle.

Themed “Justice for All – In Solidarity with Black and Latino Youth – Stop the Right-wing Attacks,” the event greeted actions by youth to end racism and achieve a future with hope and dignity.

“The 2016 elections are the battleground for every democratic right we’ve ever won,” declared Joelle Fishman in the Call to Action. “We can stop….candidates who want to bring us back 175 years. We will not go back! We must go forward!”

Awardees included Jill Marks, a leader of New Haven Rising and Alder-elect in Ward 28; Ciro Gutierrez, member-leader of SEIU 32 BJ building cleaners union in Hartford, and Cindy Harrity, Communication Workers of America Local 1298 organizer, retired.

Marks said she was moved to become a grassroots leader after knocking on thousands of doors and hearing the problems of ordinary families. She urged those present to join the fight for good jobs and attend a New Haven Rising rally Dec. 12.

Gutierrez, born in Peru, described how he became involved in the social movement during the right-wing coup in his country. When his family came to U.S. after losing their public sector jobs to privatization, he continued his commitment to workers’ rights through his union.

Harrity, unable to project her voice due to illness, prepared comments read by husband John Harrity. Cindy, well known for her successes as a union organizer, urged those present to “be unreasonable” when confronted with exploitation, unfairness or any injustice.

The awards were held on the 96th anniversary of the Communist Party USA. Edie Fishman, who joined the YCL at 14, now in her 80th year in the working-class movement, received flowers from the youth. She recounted experiences which won social security, unemployment compensation, health and safety on the job, and ending Jim Crow racial segregation. “When we stick together and fight together we can win,” she said.

Performances also included Capoeira by Raca em Moviemento Dance Studio and poetry by Gaylord Slaters and Aaron Jafferis.

We’ll Always Have Paris: Reflections from COP21

By Sarah Ganong, a New Haven-based climate activist

sarah-ganongBy the time you’re reading this, I’ll have been home from the COP21 climate talks in Paris for about six weeks. I attended the conference as an NGO observer, spending long days in the former-airport-turned-conference space running between meetings, negotiation sessions, press conferences, and approved “actions.” The 40,000+ attendees from nation-states, non-profits, universities, and, yes, the fossil fuel industry, came together for two intense weeks with the same goal—to leave with a global agreement to fight climate change, helped along by the four tons of free trade chocolate one environmental group distributed throughout the venue.

But Paris produced what 20 previous conferences did not—a global agreement which seems set up for success. The major takeaway from COP21 is the coalescing around 1.5 degrees C of warming, rather than 2 degrees, providing climate finance to vulnerable countries, and a process to evaluate and ratchet up emissions reduction pledges.

The theme of ending the reign of fossil fuels was central, from divestment actions to the planning for a global shutdown of fossil fuel infrastructure in May 2016. Keeping 80% of current fossil fuel reserves in the ground is essential if we’re going to come anywhere near meeting COP21 targets. In Connecticut, the battle is over the build-out of natural gas infrastructure, which will lock us into a fossil-dependent future for years to come. And on the national scale, ending fossil fuel subsidies must be a major priority—coal, in particular, wouldn’t be a viable choice without taxpayer dollars propping it up.

So we leave Paris with a lot of work left to do, but with knowledge of what lies before us. For me, the biggest victory from COP21 are the relationships I formed with activists from Brazil to Switzerland. President Obama called the Paris Agreement the “best chance we have” to save the planet. I disagree. The international process has been happening nearly as long as I’ve been alive, and in that time we’ve seen global emissions rise by 60%. We can’t wait on our governments anymore. The true hope lies with the people. We’re ready.

People Against Injustice welcoming newcomers to projects

by Jane Mills, PAI

People Against Injustice is currently involved in several projects and newcomers are welcome to join us in our efforts.

  • On November 19, PAI hosted Sen. Gary Winfield to discuss upcoming justice-related legislative initiatives. Sen. Winfield reviewed the package of justice reforms just signed into law. Going forward, a promising political climate appears to exist for slashing the prison population; raising the maximum age of juveniles to 20 (from 18); and bail reform, which would attempt to eliminate or curtail cash bail. PAI supports these efforts and will be focusing attention on the design of the Public Defenders system in Connecticut as well as how to boost its resources. PAI is also examining some problems that may be addressed by policy or rule changes rather than legislative reform, such as obstacles faced by minors attempting to visit family members in Whalley Avenue jail, and several rules and practices in the state courts in New Haven related to defendants’ rights.
  • PAI’s NHPD Freedom of Information request: PAI has uploaded dozens of New Haven Police General Orders and procedures to the Internet in order to make these documents available to the public. They are the result of a Freedom of Information request that PAI submitted in October. PAI will be submitting a second request for confirmation of completeness, as the documents, though numerous, do not appear to be a complete set. The public can access, download and even comment on the data here http://tinyurl.com/PAI-NHPDdocs.
  • Upcoming event: In the coming weeks, PAI will be announcing an event tentatively set for late January. To receive announcements, check our Facebook page periodically for an update, or send us your e-mail address. Our url is http://www.facebook.com/PeopleAgainstInjustice. PAI can be reached at peopleagainstinjustice@riseup.net.

City of New Haven Board & Commission Membership

by Aaron Good, New Haven Votes Coalition

The City of New Haven has 45 different Boards and Commissions which are filled by over 300 New Haven citizens from all neighborhoods and all walks of life who volunteer to serve the city. These posts range from such highly visible assignments as the Board of Education, the Housing Authority of New Haven and the Police Board to many less visible, but equally vital posts such as the Commission on Disabilities, the Historic District Commission, and the New Haven Democracy Fund. The City is always looking for people to serve in these important volunteer posts. While there is generally no pay, the opportunity for civic engagement can be tremendously rewarding.

Please take time to learn more about the various Boards and Commissions. If you find one that interests you, contact the chairperson and attend one of its meetings.

If you decide that you are interested in serving, you can fill out the application (contact City Hall or www.newhavenvotes.org) and mail it to City Hall (Mayor’s Office, 165 Church St., New Haven CT 06510). You can either express your interest in one or more specific appointments, or the Mayor’s Office can identify an appropriate choice for you based on the information provided in your application. CURRENT LIST OF BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS See: http://www.cityofnewhaven.com/Government/pdfs/Commissions.pdf.

Fast Against Fracking

by Melinda Tuhus, environmental activist and journalist

The bad news is that fracked gas pipelines exist and more are proposed all over the country. The good news is the same, meaning the front lines of the battle are everywhere, involving thousands of people – property owners, students, climate activists. Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE) was born in July 2014 when a group sat in and was arrested in D.C. at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), a quasi-governmental agency (funded by the industries that it regulates) that approves gas infrastructure, including interstate pipelines, storage facilities, compressor stations and super-high polluting liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals. We have done three multi-day actions at FERC in the past year. From September 8-25, a dozen members of BXE conducted an 18-day, water-only fast in front of FERC headquarters, demanding No New Permits.

Why a fast? Despite opponents attending meetings, speaking at public hearings, filing comments on dockets of proposed pipelines, carrying out civil disobedience in which hundreds of people have been arrested both at FERC and at various sites – all without having much of an impact – members of BXE determined that a fast would be a different kind of action and could reach the hearts of people in a way these other actions hadn’t. We distributed thousands of handouts and talked to hundreds of people, including FERC employees and even the chairman of the Commission.

I provided logistical support for the fast, including driving the van, writing flyers and contacting the media. We all stayed together at night at a D.C. church. And we didn’t just sit around at FERC – we were very active in supporting other issues and events, like the culmination of the NAACP’s Journey for Justice from Selma to D.C.; a major press conference to support Bernie Sanders’s Keep It in the Ground bill in the Senate to end permitting for fossil fuel extraction on public lands; a climate-conscious Yom Kippur service at the Lincoln Memorial and events related to Pope Francis’s visit to D.C.

No, FERC didn’t stop issuing permits – yet. But we feel we changed the tone of the conversation, solidified our commitment to stopping fracked gas and its infrastructure, and mutually expanded our connections with many other groups like Black Lives Matter, faith-based communities, and climate justice workers around the country.

For more information about BXE or groups in CT working on this issue, email me at Melinda.tuhus2@gmail.com.

Capitalism vs. the Climate vs. Spectra Energy

by Dan Fischer, Capitalism vs. the Climate

Early in the morning of Nov. 16, Bernardo McLaughlin of Capitalism vs. the Climate (CvC) obstructed the start of the work for Spectra Energy, locking himself to equipment at a compressor station in Chaplin, CT that Spectra is expanding as part of a massive expansion of fracked gas pipeline infrastructure. Police removed and arrested McLaughlin after he had disrupted construction for nearly three hours.

“I placed my body here because we’re out of options. The political class has decided they can survive climate catastrophe and written the rest of us off as acceptable losses. Nobody is coming to save us. Our only hope is organized grassroots power and direct action,” said McLaughlin.

Spectra’s billion-dollar “AIM Project” creates an incentive for increased fracking, a dangerous method of extracting methane gas from shale fields. Spectra plans to build part of the pipeline, which carries highly-flammable gas, just one hundred feet from New York state’s Indian Point nuclear power plant, running the risk of catastrophic injury to tens of thousands of people. The engineer Paul Blanch has said that a disaster at this part of the pipeline could cause the release of more radioactive materials than were released in Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The Federal Regulatory Commission has said that the Chaplin area construction would directly impact Mansfield Hollow State Park, twelve streams, two wetlands and habitat for state-protected species.

So far, activists have been arrested 66 times in the campaign against Spectra’s pipeline expansion. The actions have had an impact. Last week, dozens willing to risk arrest in West Roxbury, MA, arrived at a vacant construction site. Spectra had abruptly decided to pause construction in West Roxbury until the spring. Meanwhile, Spectra has been seeking $30,000 in damages from three protesters who nonviolently blocked construction in Burrillville, RI, in September. Activists see Spectra’s extreme responses as a scare tactic to deter future demonstrations and as an acknowledgment that the ongoing blockades and lock-downs are effectively disrupting the company’s construction plans.

You can help out with Bernardo’s legal costs at http://bit.ly/CVC-Action.

Picket at Goodfellas for Wage Theft Leads to Arrest of Protest Leader

by Unidad Latina en Acción

On Nov. 20, 2015, New Haven Police arrested John Lugo, one of the leaders of Unidad Latina en Acción (ULA), during a workers’ rights protest outside Goodfellas Restaurant. “You have no right to be here,” said the police to ULA. (Video at http://www.facebook.com/ULANewHaven/videos)

Stand with us: We will not be silenced. We will not be intimidated.

We have been picketing Goodfellas for 6 months. We have been picketing businesses that steal wages from workers for 10 years, and we will not stop. Arrest the owner of Goodfellas, not the peaceful protesters. Wage theft is a crime. Protesting for our human rights is not a crime. The CT Department of Labor and US DOL have found Gerry Iannaccone, owner of Goodfellas, guilty of stealing from dozens of workers. Yet this crime goes unpunished.

New Haven gets a lot of credit for being a welcoming city for immigrants. Is New Haven a welcoming city when immigrants are criminalized for peaceful protest and wage theft goes unpunished? Unidad Latina en Acción is currently supporting workers in cases of wage theft and discrimination in Goodfellas, Gourmet Heaven, 116 Crown, Thai Taste, Fair Haven Clam & Oyster, El Buen Gusto, La Carreta, among other local businesses.

In a press conference in 2014, Chief Esserman stated that wage theft is a crime under Connecticut law and that the NHPD is willing to act to enforce that law. In spite of those good words, the NHPD is doing the opposite: punishing the victims of wage theft and their advocates. On Nov. 6, 2015, Esserman walked into Goodfellas to eat dinner while ULA was picketing the restaurant, ignoring our attempts to speak with him. On Nov. 20, after the NHPD arrested John Lugo, one of the officers entered the restaurant and came out with a bag of food for the police. NHPD, which side are you on?

This is not the first time that the NHPD has colluded with the owner of Goodfellas to intimidate workers. In 2011, ULA filed an internal affairs complaint against NHPD after a sergeant demanded that protesters show ID at a workers’ rights picket outside Goodfellas, and he threatened that the owner of Goodfellas would use the IDs to create a “blacklist” so that protesters would not be employed by other restaurants. [See: http://www.nhregister.com/general-news/20110122/complaint-filed-against-new-haven-cops-over-goodfellas-protest.]

Dec. 10 Rally for Peace in New Haven: UN Human Rights Day

by Mary Compton, Greater New Haven Peace Council

The International Coordinating Committee of the Peace and Planet Conference, held in New York recently, called for public expressions on Dec. 10, United Nations Human Rights Day.

Many U.S. Peace organizations nationally have agreed to organize public expressions on Dec. 10, heralding the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights to create a peaceful world.

The Greater New Haven Peace Council and the City of New Haven Peace Commission have initiated a call for peace and will sponsor a public meeting on Thursday, Dec. 10 at noon, at the Amistad Statue in front of the New Haven City Hall. Speakers from a broad range of community organizations have been invited.

We call on all our friends who cherish peace to join us, to engage in creative peaceful, militant actions in our communities calling for ceasefires, an end to these wars, and peaceful inclusive negotiations including Syrian government. No U.S. troops to Syria. The human right to peace must be honored. Families, villagers and citizens have the right not to be violated by war. The enormous and irreplaceable resources spent on war are far better spent to address desperate human needs.

The surging dangers to world peace, including sending U.S. troops to engage in Syria, have created a crisis that with the slightest misstep can lead to World War 3. The bombings in France by terrorists are a blowback to the policies of accelerated aggression in the Middle East. The continued relations with the funders and sponsors of the various terrorist groups by the CIA and U.S. so-called allies, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have created a situation where U.S. weapons are fueling the terrorists and millions are fleeing for safety from the bombs for which the U.S. has a responsibility.

We must raise our voices for peace, against war! Insist on diplomacy and negotiations to end the wars in Syria, including the governments of Iran, Russia and Syria. Let us demand the Human Right to Peace.

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