Appalachia rises: Let's do the same
Media reports of the massive and important One Nation Working Together demonstration at the Lincoln Memorial yesterday reported on its diversity, the mix of cultures, and issues represented. Indeed, when compared to the Tea Party/Glenn Beck, virtually-all-white event on August 28, the contrast is striking.
This isn’t surprising, of course, given that the Tea Party is essentially re-packaged, big money-supported, ultra-right-wingism: hostile to affirmative action, immigrants, an African American president, low-income people, the idea of health care for all, equality, justice, and much more.
Regarding diversity at yesterday’s rally, the Washington Post commented in its news story that “members of the mine workers union rallied with environmental activists.”
It was intriguing to read this just a few days after helping to organize and participating in the very successful “Appalachia Rising” conference and demonstration September 25-27 in Washington, D.C. The major emphasis of this mobilization was to demand an end to the devastating practices of mountaintop removal and strip mining. On a rainy Monday morning, the 27th, hundreds of Appalachia residents joined with hundreds from outside of Appalachia, 2,000 or more strong, for a rally at Freedom Plaza in downtown D.C. and a march to the White House.
At the White House, in the biggest climate-related civil disobedience action ever in the United States that led to arrests, 118 people were arrested as they conducted a sit-in in front of the White House. Four others were arrested down the street at a sit-in inside PNC Bank, one of the major financers of mountaintop removal coal mining.
The importance of this action for the climate movement and for the broader progressive movement cannot be overstated. As Gary Houser put it in an article about Appalachia Rising on the Common Dreams website, “Those who traveled to Washington DC to take part in ‘Appalachia Rising’ represent a tremendous breath of fresh air. After years of trying to appeal to policy makers through lawful means, they understand the extent to which government has yielded to the power of the coal industry and have gained the clarity of vision to know that the struggle must now be taken to a higher level.”
Whatever happens on election day — and it is very important that the progressive vote, broadly speaking, be mobilized to come out on November 2 to prevent a Republican takeover of one or both houses of Congress — we need to escalate our tactics to demand what people and the planet badly need. We need to use organized people power to counter the influence of big money over both major political parties.
A couple of weeks before Appalachia Rising happened, an open letter, “A Call for Direct Action in the Climate Movement,” issued by Bill McKibben of 350.org, Phil Radford of Greenpeace, and Becky Tarbotton of Rainforest Action Network, was published in Yes! magazine and circulated widely. It stated, in part, “Time is not on our side, so we’ve concluded that going forward, mass direct action must play a bigger role in this movement, as it eventually did in the suffrage movement, the civil-rights movement, and the fight against corporate globalization. History suggests that one way to effectively communicate both to the general public and to our leaders the urgency of the crisis is to put our bodies on the line.”
Here’s a thought: what if those of us who are against mountaintop removal, who see the urgent need to shift from fossil fuels to renewables and efficiency, who want strong action by the federal government to create clean energy and other needed jobs, who want our taxes invested not in endless wars for empire but for what we need here at home — what if we began to discuss a coordinated mass direct action campaign this spring, in Washington, D.C. and all around the country, at key targets? What if many thousands of us risked arrest on the same day?
Why don’t we send a loud and clear message to Democrats and Republicans, but more importantly to the American people, that we get it, that we are the leaders we’ve been waiting for and we’re acting accordingly?