Friday, June 22, 2018

"A plan for action": Families and children belong together, as a new colossus of bikes and people, a counter movement builds #FreeOurFuture and #FamiliesBelongTogether

A crazy day of immigration activism.
Top Queen Mother Dr. Delois N. Blakely at a Vigil at the Processing Center for Separated Children,
middle Bikes Against Deportation for Roxsana Hernandez, and bottom,
Parents with Babies Occupy ICE office in New York City yesterday morning.

Image may contain: one or more people and text
John Moore—Getty Images
ICE killed Roxana Hernandez, holding her in custody without care. 
As Lea Ramirez puts it: "Members of the LGBTQIAP+ community and pro-migrant NGOs march in demand of justice for the death of Roxsana Hernandez, a trans Honduran migrant traveling with the Central American Caravan who died while in custody of US authorities, in downtown Tijuana, Baja California state in northwestern Mexico, on June 6, 2018."
GUILLERMO ARIAS / AFP / GETTY IMAGES" 



Great photos by Erik McGregor.
 https://erikmcgregorphotography.blogspot.com/2018/06/parents-with-their-babies-occupy-ice.html

Thursday was a crazy one.
After writing all morning, the little one and I strolled out for lunch on Smith Street.  On the way, we ran into George Sanchez at a Bar Tobac, watching the Argentina game. After that, the day was a whirlwind, running over to the Federal Plaza with some other families to occupy the ICE building, where they are deporting people, to Bikes Against Deportation for Roxsana Hernandez, and a vigil at the processing center where they are separating children, right here in New York City. Queen Mother Dr. Delois N. Blakely of Harlem was there.   “Not here, not in Harlem,” she explained emphatically.
What’s the score, I asked George, after lunch.   Still no score.  Ok, I’ll see you after delegate assembly.  I can’t even think about what is going on. It makes me sick.
And I was off, riding my bike to Foley Square where activists had tricked into the Federal Building across the street.
All week, we saw the images of kids separated from their parents. We talked about the problem at hand.
On Monday, I posted:
I was about to write happy Juneteenth, the celebration in Texas for the liberation of the last enslaved people in the US on June 19th, 1865. Then I remembered the kids locked up in Texas right now.
My friend Spence noted out that he does not like make Nazis comparisons.  But the Nazis separated families.  So did slaveowners. The trauma does not heal any time soon, if ever.  He wrote: “Trump used the word infest to characterize immigrants, including the children he separated from their parents. The Nazis called Jews vermin. An infestation of vermin that must be eradicated. The Nazis began by separating families, and parents from children. This is not a stretch by any means. We have a nascent Nazi party.”
Later, he posted a note from two survivors:
“As former Hidden Children of the Holocaust, we know that the trauma of separation from parents lasts a lifetime,” Goldstein said. “Now in our late 70s and 80s, we still ache from the losses we suffered as a result of this separation. It is very difficult for us to see such inhumanity taking place today at our southern border. Let’s be clear: We are not comparing what is happening today to the Holocaust. But forcibly separating children from their parents is an act of cruelty under all circumstances.”
And then we started hearing some of the kids were being sent to New York.
As my friend Jacquie wrote:
Fuck Trump's executive order. It's Bullshit! This is happening here right now!
Right now: Working Families Party is live from NYC's LaGuardia Airport where Trump admin has sent immigrant children separated from their parents. They are there along with Make the Road New York and Center for Popular DemocracyBend the Arc Jewish ActionUnited We Dream + many others to witness where they are taking them.
My friends started writing me from LA.
Did the kids show up in LaGuardia?  Are you going one asked.
And we wondered what to do.  So I asked what people had planned around town.
At the least we could make a stink to highlight the injustices or perhaps put our bodies on the machinery, shining a light on what was happening.
My friend Yotam Moran had planned an action at Federal Plaza on Tuesday.
  • We are standing up as parents and kids against families being torn apart, against people of any age being put in cages, and against deportations. Trump's executive order halting family separation is a result of our pressure, which we need to continue - and it doesn't immediately reunite families, nor in an way signal a victory in immigration policy more broadly. We won't let families be torn apart and removed from their homes.
  • We're going to disrupt business as usual at a government agency responsible for carrying out these policies. We'll do it as families, in a way that's bold and fierce, but also loving and thoughtful.
  • We'll be singing songs, doing arts and crafts with the kids, speaking about why this is important. After the rally, we'll go back to Foley Square and talk about next steps.
  • We're doing something meant to inspire other people to action, with the possibility of them replicating this model.
After saying goodbye to George, I joined Moran and company, wandering up into the nameless, faceless federal building, thinking about the beaurocratic violence which takes place here, the banality of it all.
“We’re here to disrupt everything,” noted one woman, pushing a stroller.
“Woke up with morning with my mind, set on freedom,” the group began to sing, kids with books and their parents.
“Free our families, children belong in playgrounds, not prisons,” noted one woman.  “We have to welcome people the way we would want to be treated.  Children and families belong together. We demand that Trump end zero tolerance.  We demand that all separated families be united.
“I’ve got two kids who want to say something,” noted another woman, her child pulling up to her, as children do.
“Mamma, I don’t want Donald Trump to take me away from you,” noted her small boy.
“We’re here with our children who know the truth… families do not belong behind bars.  It’s a jail sentence.”
Winding out way downstairs we sang:
“All my brothers and sisters, I’m gonna let it shine.  Let it shine, let it shine…
Shine all over the border, I’m gonna let it shine…
Shine on kids and families, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
And we made our way outside, joining countless activists making signs and speaking out.
“I’m here because I do not want to see others separated,” a small child declared into the human mic.
“We’re here to abolish ICE, keep families together, and get justice,” a woman concluded. “Sessions and Miller need to be called out as oppressors.”
Walking out the action, I saw my friend Jeremy Varon who wrote a book about the post war Red Army Faction in Germany.  My friend Emmaia Gelman, one of the fiercest queer activists I know, stood with her kids. And my friend Christo stood with his young child.  I’ve known him my whole life.
After the action, Jodeen posted a note:
Hi friends-
I woke up this morning, and on my lips were two things: (1) tremendous gratitude to all of you and your little ones who did something powerful and important yesterday (2) a song for our babies: "I woke up this morning with my mind...set on freedom!"
When we started organizing this (less than 48 hours ago!) -- we said that our goal was to come together to do something disruptive, powerful, and with a clear message -- a message that we could get out to other people to support and inspire them to take action. We did that -- YOU did that. The video from inside the action already has over 1.1_MILLION views, and there are more videos and news stories coming today. We also are getting requests from parents all over the country who want to do something similar -- and through the amazing work that Ilana Berger and her team at Hand-in-Hand have done, there is a toolkit (see below) that other people can use to organize similar actions. And... there are big actions being planned next week that we can all continue to participate in.
It's clear people are HUNGRY to do more. We wanted to help people take action, with their families and do things like what we did today, so through our Sanctuary Homes campaign, we  put together this   toolkit  to help people do family friendly actions - but actions that are more disruptive, less symbolic, and a chance for families to safely escalate and show our rage and heartbreak. It's a work in progress, and we'll keep fixing and adding (and making it look nice) but we'd love for people to share this and let us know what you think.

The #FreeOurFuture hashtag is helping to build momentum and visibility for other civil disobedience actions being planned, and we want to help keep building that momentum.
....and, most importantly...thank you. Thank you for waking up yesterday with your minds and hearts, and hands set on freedom and acting on that.
#FreeOurFuture.
Un abrazo,
-Jodeen and baby Alejandro
Finishing the action, I rode up to Stonewall to greet my friend Jenny. We talked about the fate of Elizabeth Street Garden.  There is a hearing for the garden Monday, she told me and then I made my way down to Varick and Houston.
Standing in the street, I greeted Bill Talen, whose sermons about the arteries of people and streets, of immigrants and laborers, who fill the city, who are being torn from their homes, his sermons about our neighborhoods and the lady on the water and her new colossus have taken an increasingly poetic tone.
This is your Paterson Bill, I chimed in, referring to William Carlos Williams’ epic narrative.
“A man is indeed a city, and for a poet there are no ideas but in things,” writes Williams, describing his method for the poem.
“The first idea centering the poem, Paterson, came alive early: to find an image large enough to embody the whole knowable world about me.  The longer I lived in my place, among the details of my life, I realized that these isolated observations and experiences needed pulling together….I already had the river…we live on a river, that we are a river town.  New York was far out of my perspective; I wanted, if I was to write in a larger way than the birds and flowers, to write about the people close about me: to know in detail, minutely, what I was talking about, their very smells…”
I can feel Whitman’s words coming through Carlos Williams’ words, channeled through Ginsberg, reading the opening lines:
: a local pride; spring, summer, fall and the sea; a confes-
sion; a basket; a column; a reply to Greek and Latin with
the hare hands; a gathering up; a celebration;
 
in distinctive terms; by multiplication a reduction to
one; daring; a fall; the clouds resolved into a sandy sluice;
an enforced pause;
 
hard put to it; an identification and a plan for action
to supplant a plan for action; a taking up of slack; a dis-
a metamorphosis.

Over the years, each sermon gets closer to this image of a metamorphosis, with plans by supplanted by plans, as bikes and immigrants, anarchists and trouble makers converge.
P(RIDE) AGAINST DEPORTATION 
at 201 Varick St #1140, New York, NY 10014:
“STOP THE DEPORTATIONS 
RALLY or RIDE with us! In honor of the thousands of people
fleeing sexual oppression, homophobia and transphobia and in loving memory of Roxsana Hernandez, a trans Woman from Honduras who died of complications from AIDS in ICE custody on May 25th.

Roughly one million immigrants living in the US came here to express their sexual freedom and live and love without persecution. It is estimated at least 1/3 of them are undocumented. Being Gay is still dangerous and deadly in most of the world, deporting Queer and Trans people is, for many, a death sentence. 

P(RIDE) AGAINST DEPORTATION 2018 
Bikes Against Deportation! Thursday JUNE 21st, 5-6 pm 
ALL KINDS OF WHEELS WELCOME.”
Riding around the ICE building a man on a bike hauled a photo of the trans activist, Roxsana Hernandez, seeking asylum.  She died under ICE custody on May 25th.
Activists pulled a sign declaring: “Jeff Sessions, go to Hell!”
“We’re here, we’re queer, we’re coming to save your children!” Radical Faerie, Donald screamed, referring to the old gay liberation chant.
You always wonder what you would do if it happened now under you.
Roxsana Hernandez died of AIDS in detention,” screamed Savitri D. “… fleeing danger as trans person in her home.  Say her name. She should have not have died.  She spent four days in an ICE box. ICE killed her.  Abolish ICE!”
She repeated her story again and again.
Roxsana Hernandez died of AIDS in detention…in a holding cell.  Say her name.”
“Abolish ICE!” Abolish ICE!”
“We have to push back against these Gestapo tactics,” noted Ravi, who was detained by ICE earlier this year.
“No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here!!!”
“Lets go to Washington Square Park,” suggested Billy.
“Lets occupy this space.  This is where people are being held!” countered a veteran occupier.
“Lets stay here.”
He was in jail, I’m glad he still has some fire in him, noted Barbara.
Democracy is controlled in the streets.
I’ll see you in Harlem, I told Barbara riding off my delegate assembly for the professional staff congress of our union.
Nine speed-camera demonstrators arrested at protest outside Cuomo's Midtown office
Some were staying at Varick street, starting an occupation.  Others were riding to join families for safe streets, engaging in civil disobedience over the state’s failure to support speed cameras.
"The protesters stretched a large banner across Third Ave. that said “Children are going to die” — in a bid to shame Governor Andrew Cuomo into expanding the city’s school-zone speed-camera program."  the New York Daily News later wrote. “Nine speed-camera demonstrators arrested at protest outside Cuomo's Midtown office - NY Daily News Cops arrested nine transportation activists who blocked traffic outside Gov. Cuomo’s Midtown office Thursday afternoon office to push for more speed cameras. The protesters stretched a large banner reading “Children are going to die” across Third Ave. Thursday.”

Back at my meeting, Barbara Bowen, our union president lamented the possible Janus decision, we were waiting on from the supreme court. While we’re fighting ICE, a gradual assault on working people is taking place every day. “The Janus case is a turning point in our country.  At stake is a question about who can have health but the rich, who can prosper but the rich. Remember Flint Michigan. Its the poor who get the dirty water, whose movements are being curtailed and limited. It’s a case pushing attacking working people and our historic gains, the steps forward we took with the labor movement to combat income inequality.
We can go in any number of directions, so lets push forward and be in the streets when the ruling finally takes place.
With so much happening in the streets, I had a hard time staying in the meeting for too long. But I stayed till 845 as we passed our statement of opposition. to the trump administration's border policies.
I love the union, but the meetings are long and tedious. Boredom is counterrevolutionary, noted Guy Dubord of the situationists.  This boredom wears into my soul at these meetings. If we have votes to take place, I wish they would do them at the beginning of meetings.
Leaving the Delegate Assembly, the sky was illuminated.  I was going to ride, but time was short so I caught the 4 up to 125th street for the vigil.
What would we do if never again happened in front of our faces, I wondered, feeling sick making my way up to the NYC Vigil at Processing Center for Separated Children - Stop Tearing Families Apart
“Reports are coming in that hundreds of children separated from their families at the border are now being "processed" in New York--some are as young as 9 months old. Currently, there are reportedly 239 children being held in Cayuga Children's Center in Harlem, at 1916 Park Ave. Join us as we hold a silent vigil as an expression of our demand that they be reunited with their families--but NOT in concentration camps. Invite all of your friends, religious communities, classmates, and families to be part of standing up for humanity tomorrow evening. 
This nightmare must end! Trump and Pence Must Go!

**Please bring children's shoes and candles for a visual installation.**

Trump's new executive order isn't a win: it means families will be detained in cages INDEFINITELY. This nightmare must end, the Trump/Pence regime must go! Check out 
RefuseFascism.org, the movement organizing for mass protest in the streets every day and every night until this regime is out of power!

Join the Drive Out the Trump/Pence Regime BLOCK PARTY all tomorrow afternoon, from 3pm until we leave ~8:45pm to meet folks at the Cayuga Center--less than half a mile away. 


Arriving at the action, people stood holding candles, laying out shoes for the kids, declaring they are welcome here.  We love you.
Standing outside the anonymous building, my friend Owen said he hated to refer to Germany, but similarly, the people there did not know what was happening behind the closed doors.  Its a quiet foster care agency at 1916 Park. But kids are people separated and rooted out to new families.
“But knows what’s really happening to them?” noted one woman.
“Is that where the kids are?” noted another tears welling up in her eyes.
“Get the kids back to their families,” screamed my friend Mel, from ACT UP.
I recalled the session on immigration at Judson a few weeks prior.
“If the criminal justice system is our new slavery, foster care is the auction block.”
Looking around I saw another familiar face, Queen Mother Dr. Delois N. Blakely of Harlem.
We met during Occupy Wall Street, talking for about an hour during the Mayday action in 2012.
“This is not going to happen here in Harlem,” she declared, her anger and raw courage, giving me courage.
It s a moral outrage. 
They have no idea how to connect these kids with their families again.
What’s our next step?
Come back tomorrow, noted one man.
After the vigil we walked into the night.
You guys need anything, a young woman asked us as we walked.
A bar.
We have drinks inside.
Come on in, she smiled, showing us a menu of pina coladas.
I ordered a couple for Barbara, Judy, and I.
What are you guys doing up here?
A vigil for the kids.
I know I heard about that.
Thanks for representing, noted the bartender.
I’m worried about those kids.
This can’t happen here.
The beauty of the moment is countless people are taking the lead, not any one leader or organization.
So we drank and talked, telling our New York origin migration stories.
Come back again, they declared, friendly people all over New York, trying to make this place work for all of us, sharing our multiethnic urban village.
The people are pushing back, putting their wheels on the machinery, calling out those in the spaces where kids are detained, screaming at politicians at restaurants, letting no one off.   Conscientious objectors are arising.  And the secrets which allow tyrants to thrive are being exposed.
Today, its moms and kids, young people and anarchists, liberals and queer kids, anyone out in the streets pushing back against the nascent fascism in the air, trying to create a new kind of city.
As Sharon Cohen put it in her story, “New wave of protests depends on masses, not dynamic leader”:
“The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. marching arm-in-arm with other civil rights activists. Cesar Chavez hoisting a picket sign in a farm workers' strike. Gloria Steinem rallying other feminists for equal rights.
During the 1960s and into the 1970s, amid the turbulence of protests for civil rights and against the Vietnam War, every movement seemed to have a famous face — someone at a podium or at the front of a march who possessed a charismatic style, soaring oratory and an inspiring message.
Not so today.
The new wave of political activism, marked by protests in the nation's capital and cities across America, looks more anonymous.”
And autonomous. The leader is the body of the movement, reminding us we can all act.

And we are.