24th Annual Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Legacy of Environmental and Social Justice

Sunday, January 19, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Monday, January 20, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Free admission. Note new locations.

The Yale Peabody Museum will sponsor this festival for the 24th year in honor of Dr. King and his efforts to ensure environmental and social justice among all people. The weekend’s activities will include world-class performances, a community open mic and poetry slam, and educational activities for visitors of all ages. Special Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. programming also includes the 11th Annual Youth Gathering, Professional Poetry Slam and Storytelling at the New Haven Museum.

On Sunday, Jan. 19 and Monday, Jan. 20, performances on the World Stage will be held at the Marsh Lecture Hall located in the Yale Science Building conveniently located next door to the Peabody Museum (170 Whitney Ave).

All teens are invited to the 11th Annual Teen Summit located in Kroon Hall, 195 Prospect St., on the 3rd floor, on Sunday, Jan. 19 from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Zannette Lewis Environmental and Social Justice Professional Poetry Slam and Community Open Mic also has a new location. Both of these popular events will take place at Kroon Hall, 195 Prospect St., on the 3rd floor, on Monday, Jan. 20. The Community Open Mic will take place from 11 a.m. to noon. The Professional Poetry Slam will start at 12:30 p.m.

Storytelling will take place at The New Haven Museum, 114 Whitney Avenue. Join local storytellers for family-friendly stories and other hands-on activities for children and families!

Check the website for the complete schedule. peabody.yale.edu/events/dr-martin-luther-king-jrs-legacy-environmental-and-social-justice.

Celebrating 50th Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Love March

On Wednesday, Jan. 15, at 10:45 a.m., the 50th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Love March will begin at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, 100 Lawrence St. There will be a program at the church following the march. The theme of the march this year is “Stepping Out of the Past, Into the Future.”
From the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church press notice:

We will march on this day rain or shine to commemorate the dreams and aspirations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Love March, which was started by Shiloh’s late Founder and Pastor, Rev George W. Hampton Sr., has been a positive force in the community of New Haven for 50 years. The Love March was created to preserve the notion of nonviolence. This is a historical celebration of 50 years. It is the longest-running event in the city of New Haven and all are invited to join us on this commemorable day. Scheduled to attend will be some of our political leaders from New Haven and the State of CT.

For further information, please contact the Shiloh Missionary Baptist by phone at (203) 776-8262, by email at mlklove100@gmail.com, or by web at www.smbcnh.org.

Building the Power of Immigrants to Defend Labor, Civil, and Human Rights Since 2002

by Megan Fountain, Unidad Latina en Acción

When we fight… we win!  2019 highlights:

  • 20+ immigrants met with 26 New Haven alders… and we won a new sanctuary city executive order.
  • 9 immigrants produced 81 radio shows… and we activated hundreds of listeners to defend their rights.
  • 50+ immigrants produced an art exhibit and an original theater performance.
  • 100+ allies were trained by ULA in nonviolent direct action… and ULA mobilized 100s to keep ICE out of our neighborhoods and courts.
  • 60+ community meetings united 80+ families fighting deportations and workers’ rights cases.

ULA, 37 Howe Street, New Haven, CT 06511. (203) 606-3484, admin@ulanewhaven.org.

Visit our website at ulanewhaven.org for information on making a tax-deductible donation for our work.

Fundraiser for Venezuela Embassy Protectors Jan. 28, New Haven

by Henry Lowendorf, GNH Peace Council

On (new date, place and time) Monday Jan. 27, 2020, the people of Connecticut will welcome the “Embassy Protectors.” We will be able to hear their story and will be raising funds for their defense.

UPDATE: Friends, Embassy Protectors Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers have to appear in court in DC on Wednesday morning the 29th. They would have had to face an overnight 7 hour trip back to DC if they spoke on the 28th.

Thus, we had to move the date for their fundraiser. Sorry for the abrupt change.

The fundraiser will be held and Zeese and Flowers will speak at the Performing Arts space in the New Haven Free Public Library on Monday, Jan. 27, 5:30 to 7:30 (the library closes at 8).

The forum is free and open to the public, although we will be fundraising. The host, the US Peace Council, is building a list of co-sponsors. For more information, please contact Henry Lowendorf, uspeacecouncil@gmail.com, (203) 389-9547.

On May 16, 2019, four US citizens were arrested in the Washington, D.C., Embassy of Venezuela after having occupied that Embassy with as many as 100 other activists over the course of 37 days.

Those final four “Embassy Protectors,” Kevin Zeese, Margaret Flowers, David Paul and Adrienne Pine, and the scores of others had been asked by the legitimate government of Venezuela to protect its embassy against being stolen by President Donald Trump in an intensification of the US political and economic war on Venezuela, started decades earlier.

“The Four are now facing misdemeanor charges of ‘Interfering with certain protective functions’ of the Federal government that carries a maximum of one-year imprisonment and $100,000 fine for each of them. The United States Government is intent on making examples of these citizens and is using its unlimited resources to make sure that they are penalized and incarcerated.”

Trump, in full regime-change mode, last winter decided who should govern Venezuela. He picked a rightwing parliamentarian, Juan Guaidó, relatively unknown to Venezuelans, to be president trying to force out the elected president Nicolás Maduro. Disagreeing with Trump, the people of Venezuela and their military stood behind the man they elected. In decimating the human rights of Venezuelans, Trump took the whole population hostage by illegally imposing deadly sanctions, threatening a military invasion and backing right-wing violence in the streets. By denying Venezuelans the ability to buy food and medicines the sanctions are intended to coerce that country’s citizenry to submit to the demands of the US.

In parallel to the oppressive measures taken by Washington toward Venezuela, Trump blockaded food, water, medicine and electricity from being delivered to the Venezuelan Embassy Protection Collective, to force them out.

 

Book Review-Transitioning to a Vegan Diet by B.W. Leete

by Owen Charles, environmental, peace, and community activist

There is a new book out from local author Brad Leete, an animal rights and vegan activist who hails from Guilford. Transitioning to a Vegan Diet is his first published book, available at Amazon. It offers practical information and advice to new vegans and those thinking of transitioning to a plant-based diet. As he states in cover notes, “Anything you can eat, I can eat vegan!”

After 35 years of being a vegetarian, I made the transition to veganism about 4 years ago, and have read a number of vegan books and seen all the great videos and documentaries, so my initial reaction was “Been there, done that.” But in addition to a lot of helpful guidance on the hows and whats of making the change to veganism, surprisingly Leete brings forth numerous examples of challenges that may confront even the most well-seasoned vegans… such as little-known non-vegan ingredients to watch out for on labels, common household products tested on animals (and alter-native brands), and issues with certain beers and wines. So, while I purchased several books to give to friends and family, I made damn sure to read it through myself and take some notes!

The book will especially hold appeal for young people, those on a budget, and the health-conscious, because while he offers a variety of information about ingredients, foods, commercial products and experiences in making the transition to veganism, he keeps a constant focus on how to make your new vegan diet affordable and healthy while not losing any of the fun. While largely practical, the book also has some humorous touches… and I may just take him up on his challenge to come up with a “vegan Ratburger.”

As the author notes, “I’m in a lot of beginner vegan groups and see the same basic questions asked over and over. I decided to write a book to help ANYONE transition to a vegan diet/lifestyle while making it fun, easy and affordable.” Old or new vegan, this is a worthwhile read!

And for his next book, Leete has just published this month his second book–The Newbie Vegan Survival Guide: Answers to 151 Common Questions.

Other vegan news:

The CT Shoreline Vegans hold monthly potlucks every first Sunday of the month, 5 p.m., at Shoreline UU Society, 297 Boston Post Rd., Madison. In summer the potlucks are held at the Surf Club in Madison.

Saturday, Jan. 4, 6 p.m. is the 1st Annual Vegan Mac & Cheese Cook-Off, sponsored by Compassionfest. UU Society, 608 Whitney Ave. https://www.facebook.com/events/2498756383726550.

Let It Grow! Let It Grow! Let It Grow! Winter Garden Workshop

by Tebben Lopez, NHS

The snow doesn’t have to keep you down. You’d be surprised with how soon in the year you can get started in your garden!

By January, most gardeners start to get an itch to throw their gardening gloves back on. But what they may not know is they can start much sooner than they think!

Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven organizes an opportunity for everyone – gardener and hopeful alike – to get a jump-start on the growing season. NHS helps to increase access to fresh, healthy food by offering the classes for a low-cost and free rate to community gardeners.

Advanced Certified Master Gardener Rachel Ziesk teaches six classes that are as accessible as they are informative. A seasoned teacher, who has worked with the UConn master gardening program & Yale University among others, Rachel specializes in organic vegetable gardening.

More information and tickets are available at NHSWinterWorkshops2020.EventBrite.com. NHS wants everyone to have access to these classes and encourages those with means to consider taking them at a help-a-neighbor rate.

The first workshop on soil and composting will be held Saturday, Jan. 25, 10 a.m.-noon at NHS, Building 3, 333 Sherman Ave. (203) 562-0598, Ext. 226.

Update on Green Fund Grants

by Lynne Bonnett, GNHGF

Are you interested in applying for a small grant?  The Greater New Haven Green Fund seeks innovative proposals from committed organizations and individuals for activities that advance our mission to promote environmental quality, public health  and equity in our community by providing grants and other incentives to support initiatives that contribute to a more environmentally sustainable future and reduce air, water and land pollution.

We will have an informational outreach session about the grant application process on Jan. 11 at 10 a.m.  Some members of our Board of Directors will help answer questions about our application process and also talk about possible measurement tools that you can incorporate into your project proposal. It will be held at the Whitneyville Cultural Commons, 1253 Whitney Ave., Hamden.  The session will end by noon.

Please RSVP or contact us if you have any questions at  info@gnhgreenfund.org.

We strongly recommend that you complete the paper version of your application prior to coming to the outreach session if you plan to apply for a grant in 2020.  If you are just curious for future reference, you are also welcome to come and please RSVP.

Applications are due by Jan. 24 at 5 p.m.

Youth Arts Journalism Book Launch Party

Join us in celebrating the students of YAJI Wednesday, Jan. 15, 4-6 p.m. at the Orchid Café at NH Free Public Library, 133 Elm St.

Please join the Arts Paper and the Arts Council for a party, reading and book launch of work from our second cohort of students in the Youth Arts Journalism Initiative. As we roll into 2020 with the application for our third cohort, learn more about the program and hear from some of the students who published work last semester. For more information and to RSVP, contact Lucy Gellman at lucy@newhavenarts.org.

The mission of the Youth Arts Journalism Initiative (YAJI)  is to use the Arts Paper to train 9th-12th grade students from New Haven Public Schools to independently research, report, draft, and publish articles about hyper-local visual, performing, and culinary arts.

Guilford Town Hall Dec. 15 With Sen. Chris Murphy

by Medicare4AllCT

We absolutely shook the walls at last night’s town hall. Nearly 3/4 of the questions for Murphy were about Medicare for All. The senator tried to gaslight the crowd with industry talking points and lies, but we were not having it. We are putting together a video of the event but, in the meantime, please like and share our Facebook and Twitter posts and help us keep up the pressure.

Football Versus Survival

by Melinda Tuhus, environmental activist

On Nov. 23 about 130 students from Yale and Harvard ran onto the field after the half-time show at the annual playing of a rivalry so iconic it’s simply called The Game. They unfurled banners calling on the two prestigious, almost unbelievably wealthy universities to divest their holdings in fossil fuel companies and Puerto Rican debt. I was one of a handful of baby boomers who joined them.

Divestment would help de-legitimize the fossil fuel industry, which is doing everything in its power to obstruct the transition to renewable energy that is so desperately needed to prevent climate disaster. Puerto Rico, still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Maria, urgently needs debt relief. Thus, the overall theme was “climate justice.”

To me this action was right in line with my involvement over the past five years with Beyond Extreme Energy, which has been fighting to stop the expansion of fossil fuels, especially fracked “natural” gas, which the Federal Energy Commission (FERC) routinely approves, and to call for FERC’s conversion to FREC – the Federal Renewable Energy Commission. Gas leaks methane at every stage of production and use, which makes it not a “bridge fuel” to a clean energy future as industry and politicians have touted for years, but actually a dirty fuel than can be worse for the climate than coal.

Since becoming active in the anti-Vietnam War movement in the 1960s, I have participated in an untold number of protests, but this was perhaps one of the most impactful. Time will tell if the global media coverage will help move Harvard and Yale to divest these holdings from their endowments ($39 billion for Harvard, $29 billion for Yale). But the action has already had an impact on me.

After we sat down in mid-field and prevented the second half of the game from starting, hundreds more students (and some others) flooded onto the field to join us. It was a beautiful sight. We chanted ’til we were hoarse: “What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now! If we don’t get it, shut it down!” The game announcer pleaded, “Out of courtesy to the players and the fans, please leave the field. The game must go on.” The absurdity of prioritizing a football game over the survival of life on earth as we know it was not lost on us. I wonder how many people in the stands noticed.

Climate scientists say we have until 2030 to reduce the emission of global warming gases enough to prevent irreversible climate chaos. The students know they are facing a changed, diminished and very scary world. Despite the exuberance and joy we all felt in accomplishing our goal of reaching the field and unfurling our banners, the overall feeling is one of trepidation. But also a fierce resolve.

I love these young people with all my heart. I love their commitment, their love for each other, their welcoming elders like me into their bold, creative actions. I love that one of the organizers said we might have to run onto the field and asked me if I could run. You betcha I could.

After 45 minutes, police threatened to arrest those who didn’t leave the field, and most did. Fifty of us stayed and were detained, charged with disorderly conduct. Our court appearance was the morning of Dec. 6 – the same day as another round of powerful and well-attended youth-led climate strikes. How fitting.

Why We’re Still Standing Out Here in 2019 (and Will Be Again in 2020)

Sunday Vigil flyer, Dec. 22, 2019

This vigil for peace and justice has been observed every Sunday from noon until 1 p.m. since May of 1999. Twenty years and four U.S. presidential administrations later, we are still here.

Often people ask us what we mean when we say, “RESIST THIS ENDLESS WAR.” What we mean is that the serial wars fought by the U.S. and its allies are one war being waged on many fronts. Men, women, and children are being slaughtered, maimed, traumatized and driven from their homes all over the world so that immense wealth and power can be concentrated in the hands of a very few people.
The weapons of this war are many. Here are just some examples: continued development and production of an ever more deadly nuclear arsenal; drone attacks against human beings many thousands of miles away (targets whose bodies the bombardiers, operating their weapons by remote control, will never have to see); mass incarcerations and deportations of immigrants and refugees (condemning them, in many cases, to a future of torture or death); the systematic dismantling of infrastructure and social programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security that most of us not only depend upon but have funded with our hard-earned tax dollars all our lives; the destruction of our environment; and the undermining of workers’ rights and the refusal to pass a national minimum wage that is a living wage.

In 2016, we had a presidential election in which the issues of war, peace and economic justice were never seriously addressed. The state of endless war was accepted as the norm. Now we are dealing with an administration that, during its nearly three years in power, has exponentially escalated on all fronts this war that we have been describing and resisting for two decades and more. The 2018 “mid-term” elections largely ignored these issues.

With its bloated military budget, its blatantly racist and xenophobic rhetoric and policies, its utter disregard for the U.S. Constitution and international law, its attempt to roll back even the modest attempts at addressing the climate crisis that are embraced by the Paris Agreement, its utter disregard for human rights at the borders, and its unapologetic war against poor, working-class and non-white people on behalf of the billionaire class it represents, the Trump ad-ministration has made transparent the existential threat of the 1% to all our lives and to the future of our planet.

RESIST THIS ENDLESS WAR

As this year draws to a close and a new one begins, and as we enter another election cycle, we ask you to think about the issues this vigil has been trying to address in a very modest way over the past 20 years. The war we now face on all fronts transcends partisan politics, and we didn’t get here merely as the result of one terrible election. Simply voting, while important, will not resolve this existential crisis or lead us to a just, peaceful and healthy world. Only a truly engaged citizenry, able and willing to think critically and to use every nonviolent tactic we can muster, will be able to make the serious, deep, systemic changes that are so very long overdue, changes upon which our very survival depends.
We invite you to join the conversation any Sunday, here at Broadway, Park and Elm Streets in New Haven, noon to 1 p.m. http://newhavensundayvigil.wordpress.com.

Mazin Qumsiyeh to Give Shafer Lecture Jan. 18

by Stanley Heller, Promoting Enduring Peace

On Saturday, Jan. 18 at 6 p.m., Mazin Qumsiyeh will speak at the Palestine Museum US, 1764 Litchfield Turnpike, Woodbridge. The Shafer Lecture is a continuing project of Promoting Enduring Peace (which gave its Gandhi Peace Award to Omar Barghouti in 2017). Qumsiyeh is the Director of the Palestine Museum of Natural History at Bethlehem U. See this National Geographic page about him: www.nationalgeographic.org/find-explorers/mazin-b-qumsiyeh. He was the Director of Cytogenetics at the Yale Medical School for a number of years and has written “Sharing the Land of Canaan” among other works. He lives in Palestine near Bethlehem.

Nuclear Weapons and Democracy — Do they co-exist?

by Marge Van Cleef, former New Haven resident and member of CT Peace Coalition. In Philadelphia, she organizes a monthly Death Walk Against Drones, participates in the Brandywine Peace Community and WILPF. This article first appeared in the monthly Catholic Peace Fellowship newsletter.

We continue to call ourselves a democracy, “rule by the people.” A monarchy means “rule by one,” a state or nation in which the supreme power is actually or nominally lodged in a monarch. Monarchy has existed since the earliest history of humankind and was often established during periods of external threat or internal crisis because it provided a more efficient focus of power than a democracy, which tended to diffuse power. Apparently, the U.S. considers its possession of nuclear weapons justification for one-person rule, that of the President.

Elaine Scarry, Harvard Univ., has written a book entitled “Thermonuclear Monarchy” (2014) based on her extensive research into U.S. nuclear weapons and who decides when and how they are used. The facts are alarming. She has undertaken a serious study of the U.S. Constitution and what it says about who can declare war. She provides many examples of the situations in which U.S. Presidents, since WW 2, have been the sole decision-makers regarding going to war and possibly using nuclear weapons.

In August 1945 Pres. Truman himself made the decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the first time nuclear bombs were dropped on a population, without any warning. This first use of nuclear weapons caused the death and permanent radiation illnesses for hundreds of thousands of civilians. That decision changed our country and the world. It was mass extermination, and there’s been no apology from any U.S. President in office since 1945.

On July 25, after receiving Stalin’s pledge to join the U.S. in the war against Japan in the Pacific, Truman casually informed the Soviet leader that the United States had a new weapon of unusual destructive force. Although Stalin did not appear to be impressed by the news, Truman hoped the information would increase the pressure on Stalin to concede to the Allies’ demands regarding the post-war agreements. But Stalin asked Truman to turn the bomb over to the UN and put it under international control. Truman refused to surrender US control so Stalin went and got his own bomb. And the arms race was on.

But there is useful background information to this story –

The United States had successfully tested the world’s first atomic weapon near Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945. Truman received the news while in Potsdam, Germany, conferring with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin on post-World War II policy in Europe. On July 17, Truman told Churchill of the test’s success and the two agreed to put off telling Stalin about what Truman called the dynamite news until later–Truman first wanted to get Stalin to agree to enter the Pacific war on the Allies’ side with no strings on it. To that end, the Soviet Union maintained an active espionage program to follow the military activity of the country’s rivals. Through these channels, Stalin became aware of the Manhattan Project’s existence before future President Harry Truman. The first Soviet bomb was completed in 1949.

While U.S. Presidents have clearly pondered their decisions to declare war, including the use of nuclear weapons, some of their personal statements are alarming and indicative of their cynicism and distance from the outcomes, even if nuclear weapons were used. Pres. George H. Bush, “I’m the commander—see, I don’t need to explain why I say things. That’s the interesting thing about being president.” (Bob Woodward 2002)

This is not how the Constitution was intended to be interpreted, but how it has been ignored or “misinterpreted” in the case of declaration of war. In fact, every war since WW2 has been declared by a U.S. President acting alone. Yet the Constitution states that Congress alone has that right.

Scarry includes remarkable facts on the weapons and carriers in the U.S. arsenal, and frightening quotes by former Presidents Eisenhower, Bush, Kennedy, Nixon, et al regarding their power to make decisions to go to war, even deploying nuclear weapons.

In 2019-20, Pres. Trump could make the decision to use nuclear weapons without consulting Congress. Yes, in 2019 with Pres. Trump’s personality defects, his politics, and lack of interest in who might die, who he personally wants to kill, or what happens to the climate, we are facing a very dangerous period for any one person or President, to possibly make the decision to use nuclear weapons.

The last time Congress made the decision to declare war was against Japan on Dec. 8, 1941. Since then, the United States has only issued five other war declarations: against Germany and Italy (on December 11, 1941) and against Bulgaria, Hungary and Rumania (on June 4, 1942). Countries that have nuclear weapons include, China, India, Pakistan, UK, France, No. Korea, U.S., Russia, Israel (not declared). Whether they are called democracies or something else, it is likely that their leaders will make solo decisions on the use of nuclear weapons.

U.S. military drones are used at the will of the President in consultation with the CIA so that they are not included in a state of undeclared war. The people targeted by a drone commander receive no warning and thousands of civilians have been killed by U.S. drones. Those in the U.S. military who control the drones and decide on targets, sit at computers thousands of miles away. They suffer the psychological damage of being the deciders. Ralph Nader recently said, “… you [can’t] keep allowing presidents to run away with illegal presidential power, decide they can send drones, armed drones, special forces anywhere, killing anybody in the world, becoming in the White House their own prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner… ”(2019).

And yet the U.S. will continue to build new and more powerful weapons, i.e. 12 new Ohio-class Trident submarines, each armed with 16 nuclear-armed D5 missiles with the explosive power equivalent to 1,825 Hiroshimas. The total cost of building 12 new Tridents will be $100.2 billion dollars. Who decides to build them? The defense industry and the Pentagon. Again, not a specific decision of Congress, though they approve the defense budget, and they will not decide when and where Trident missiles will be fired. THE TRIDENT STORY today…..

In Brunswick, GA on October 24th, the King’s Bay Plowshares 7 were found guilty on four counts in a jury trial. They committed acts of civil disobedience in attempting to symbolically dismantle a Trident submarine, of which there are six stationed at Kings Bay Naval Station in GA. They could be sentenced to 20 years in prison. They sacrificed their freedom to bring to our attention the destructive power of a nuclear-armed Trident submarine, the most powerful weapon on the planet, and in the U.S. arsenal. The nuclear missiles from one Trident submarine could obliterate any nation on earth. Each missile can travel 1370 miles in 15 minutes.

What would a democratic decision look like for the U.S., militarily the most heavily armed country on the planet? What would a vote to say that for our survival, we must resist starting more wars, and not settle for “never-ending” wars. Whether or not we call our system a “monarchy” it functions like one, to our peril, particularly in regards to warmaking and the control of nuclear weapons.

The UN will be holding meetings in 2020 to reconsider the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which entails a major decision for nations holding weapons and those who might be targeted by them. Pres. Trump has threatened to withdraw from the Treaty. Presently, there is no official Supreme Court ruling on whether the President has the power to break a treaty without the approval of Congress. The courts declined to interfere when President George W. Bush unilaterally withdrew the United States from the ABM Treaty in 2002.

In summation, we must pay attention to decisions to go to war made by U.S. Presidents without the officially required approval of Congress, as stated in the Constitution. Otherwise we are living in a “monarchy”, one-person rule.

At the risk of being naive, I recall this song and I think of “the people” deciding on war including, nuclear attacks… “Last night I had the strangest dream….I dreamed the world had all agreed to put an end to war……And the people in the streets below were dancing round & round while swords and guns and uniforms were scattered on the ground.” ~ Ed McCurdy, 1950

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Let a Thousand Actions Bloom | Melinda Tuhus

By Melinda Tuhus

I’ve been arrested several times in DC doing non-violent direct actions (NVDA), protesting FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) as a rubber-stamp agency that is contributing mightily to the cooking of the climate and destruction of local communities and landscapes, but Nov. 5 was my first arrest in the Capitol. It was at a Senate hearing of the Energy & Natural Resources Committee to consider the nomination of James Danly to be the third Republican member of the five-member FERC.

The hearing room is small, so we had to get in line two hours early to guarantee our spots. (We took a break in the women’s bathroom to video record our statements, which is why it sounds sotto voce.) We took our seats and observed some of the senators greeting the nominee, at least one – ranking member Joe Manchin (supposedly D-WV) declaring his support even before the hearing began.

As I sat in that ornate room, each side of the aisle alternating in their questions and comments to the nominee, I felt viscerally that the plodding pace of the Senate is all out of whack with the scope and immediacy of the crisis. When I couldn’t stand it any longer, I stood up and declared, “We’re in a climate emergency, and FERC is fanning the flames of the crisis. We need to convert FERC into FREC, the Federal Renewable Energy Commission.” I was taken out of the room, but let my demand echo down the hall, and I know they could hear me inside.

After being handcuffed, I was escorted down the stairs very gently by two officers who said they didn’t want me to trip. I don’t know if that’s because I have gray hair, or I’m white, or a female, or if they would have treated any other arrestee the same. (Somehow I doubt it.) I asked the young arresting officer what he thought of the climate crisis, and of course he didn’t answer, but he smiled seemingly sympathetically.

I loved that I wasn’t taken to a freezing cold holding cell! I was held for maybe an hour to 90 minutes before being released after paying a $50 fine.

There are many ways to raise the alarm, and disrupting a staid Congressional hearing is just one of them. We often don’t know what impact our actions will have until more time has passed. I’m hoping some of the senators, their young staffers, or some audience members – including the mom and three-year-old girl who were relatives of another nominee – will consider my plea for climate justice.

Update: Manchin was the only “Democrat” to join all the Republicans in approving Danly’s nomination and moving it on to the full Senate. Even though there is an opening for a Democratic appointee, and the Dems have what looks like a good candidate, Trump has so far declined to make that nomination. Minority Senate Leader Chuck Schumer had earlier pledged to hold up all legislation coming out of this committee unless they gave the Dem FERC nominee a fair hearing. Stay tuned.

Then two weeks later I attended an amazing NVDA action 90 minutes across the New York state line in Duchess County, in a last-ditch effort to stop the biggest fracked gas power plant in the Northeast from coming on-line, which would spew 279 tons of nitrogen oxides, 570 tons of carbon monoxide, and more than 60 tons of sulfuric acid pollution, plus a shocking 6 million tons of greenhouse gases annually. People locked down to a tractor, above, signifying support from some local farmers. And four people scaled a 275-foot smokestack that’s part of the plant, and stayed there for almost 12 hours. They got on the property before dawn, and the company called out the few workers on the overnight shift, shutting down the plant for the day. The photo below of the smokestack doesn’t convey its height, except for a tree branch very low for comparison.

One of the protesters explained, “The longer they’re not doing construction the better. But the long-term goal is to hopefully awaken Cuomo’s conscience and get [the plant] shut down.”

The action was enlivened by the beautiful harmonies of the choir of the Church of Stop Shopping, as well as a big brass band.

I read one article saying this plant could replace half the power of the Indian Point nuclear plant nearby, which Cuomo plans to shutter in late 2021, but renewable forms of energy are available and cost-competitive with dirty gas. The plant is due to open in early 2020. Opening gas plants is not the way for Gov. Cuomo to meet his own stated goal of making New York’s grid carbon-neutral by 2040.

Twenty-nine people were arrested, charged with trespass or, for the climbers, criminal trespass. Let’s hope they touched Cuomo’s conscience.

 


 

Melinda Tuhus reported for decades for a variety of national and local radio and print outlets, including Free Speech Radio News, WINGS, the New Haven Independent, In These Times and The New York Times. She is moving toward retirement and spending more time volunteering in the climate justice movement.

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