Sunday, July 1, 2018

“learn from this:” From Ella to Jennifer, Amy and the Best Organizers of My Generation! Speed Cameras Vigil, Keep Families Together Rally on Our Road Trip to Vermont, and other battles in our new civil war. #EndFamilyDetention #FamiliesBelongTogetherAndFree#EndFamilySeparation #AbolishICE

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Top, Jennifer Flynn Walker by Elizabeth DeutschBottom, at the Hart Senate Building in DC. Sisters are doing it for themselves!
#FamiliesBelongTogetherAndFree#EndFamilySeparation #AbolishICE — with Tracey LittLizzie ScottL.A. KauffmanJody KuhLaurie CotterJenny HeinzAlexis DanzigJo Macellaro,Jamie R Bauer and Betsy Malcolm. photo by Jackie Rudin
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#FamiliesBelongTogetherVT , Church Street — in Burlington, Vermont photo by Janet E Hunt‎ 
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Last Saturday, at the #AbolishICE-themed NYC Dyke March (has it only been a week?) — withAlexis Danzig and LA Kauffman.
I spent the week trying to figure how to get to DC on Thursday and Vermont on Friday to pick up our little one from summer camp. Finally, I realized it was not going to happen. Family obligations are important and a privilege.  Like aging, they are not something not everyone gets to experience. But they make the world worthwhile.  No family is the same.  There is no one right family. And not all families will be reunited, not in this lifetime. But those that can be, should be. 

The Women's March outlined the terms for the action. 

On Thursday, June 28th, Womens March and partners  are organizing a mass civil disobedience in Washington, D.C.We call on women from all communities to descend on our nation’s capital and demand the safety and freedom of immigrant families and children. We will put our bodies on the line to demand an end to this administration’s the zero-tolerance policy that automatically criminalizes undocumented immigrants and tears families apart, and to call on congress to abolish ICE, an agency that is terrorizing our communities every day.We will take escalated action in D.C. on June 28th demanding lawmakers and federal officials do everything in their power to #EndFamilyDetention. On Saturday, June 30, we will rise up in cities across the nation to say #FamiliesBelongTogether in freedom, not in cages. We cannot allow these atrocities to go unchallenged. The time to ACT is NOW.
Marching is no longer enough, not when this administration is enacting policies that violently separate families, incarcerate children in detention camps and criminalizes human beings coming to our country in search of safety. Not when we see photos and videos of children separated from their families and held in child prison camps. Not when we hear their cries for their parents and see their fear and trauma. 
​We now know what immigration enforcement does, and what it looks like. The images we have seen, the cries we have heard evoke the worst moments in our country’s history, and we can no longer turn away.
​This is a DEFINING moment. One that will shape our generation. We need bold, strategic and targeted resistance. We cannot be silent. On Thursday, June 28th, women TAKE ACTION!

All day long on Thursday, I watched videos of Jennifer Flynn and the Center for Popular Democracy’s 2000 Women Action, that amounted to six hundred arrests in a mass civil disobedience action at the Hart Senate Office Building over the US zero tolerance policy.

“We do care!” thousands of women screamed, making a point that they were not going to stand by while the US gradually descends into an American exceptionalist form fascism, based on exclusion, income inequality, family separations, weakened unions, mass incarceration, and racist segregation.  The US feels like Germany 1929.  But urbanites, the majority of the US population, appreciate the gifts immigration brings to communities, creating a dynamic urban cultural mix.

As the women were getting arrested in DC, Amy Cohen was initiating a 24 vigil to call for State Senator Marty Golden to expand New York’s speed safety camera program.
My brother and his family and I met Cohen in front of Golden’s Bay Ridge office.
Why don’t you leave the Senator a note, suggested Amy.
So I drafted a postit note for his office.
“@SenMartyGolden do the right thing!!! Speed cameras save lives!
Cohen explained she’d spoken with the governor today.  He said he’d hold an extra session if Golden said he was on board.
So keep calling him, Amy reminded me.
I looked at a sign she had posted declaring: "Our Children Have Been Killed.  We have nothing left to lose!"
Earlier in the day, my arm bracelet for her son, who was killed by a speeding car on Prospect Park West before his Bar Mitzvah, broke. I always show Amy my bracelet.
Do you want to get arrested with us tomorrow, Amy asked.
I’d love to but I can’t I am picking up my kids from camp, I said, immediately regretting referring to my kids.

It’s a complicated story.  While some have seen their families separated.  Others, such as Jennifer Flynn Walker have reminded us that families come in countless forms.  And they behong together.  Others, such as Cohen,  have seen their kids killed by speeding cars.  So they have organized, reminding us to do the right thing, using their tragedies to point us in more intelligent, more just directions.

According to Families for Safe Streets:

“Drivers Have Killed Nine Children in First Half of 2018, Matching Total Child Deaths for All of 2017.”
Cohen’s vigil ended Friday at 9 a.m., coinciding with the release of a report co-authored by Transportation Alternatives and City Council Member Justin Brannan which shows New York City drivers have killed at least nine children in traffic crashes less than six months into 2018, the same number of children killed by drivers in all of last year.
With two child pedestrians killed earlier this week, New York City is now on pace to see twice as many child fatalities in 2018 as last year. On Monday, four-year-old Luz Gonzalez lost her shoe on a sidewalk in Bushwick. Her mother ran back for it and bent to strap it on the little girl. Then, with her mother at her feet, a driver ran over Luz with a Nissan Rogue. Earlier that day, 17-year-old Madeline Sershen was crossing the street in front of her school, St. Francis Prep High School in Queens, when an elderly driver sped through a red light and crashed into her. Madeline was pronounced dead less than 30 minutes later.
Lawmakers can and must do more to protect children on New York City's streets, especially where they should feel safest: on the sidewalk and in crosswalks in front of schools. But the city's proven school-based speed camera program will expire on July 25, at which point the 140 speed cameras currently protecting children outside their schools will be turned off. A bill which would renew and expand the speed camera program, S6046-C, is currently being held in committee by Senate Republicans who oppose the child-protection devices.
Key findings from the report:
An analysis of publicly available data and news sources found that, as of June 26, New York City has seen at least nine children aged 17 or younger killed in traffic crashes on New York City streets in 2018. Two-thirds of children killed by drivers so far this year were pedestrians.
New York City is currently on pace to see twice as many child fatalities in 2018 as last year , and the highest annual total since 2012, before the implementation of Vision Zero.
While overall traffic fatalities citywide have declined since Vision Zero was implemented, child traffic fatalities continue to grow year-over-year.
At the 24-hour vigil outside Senator Golden's office, Families for Safe Streets, anchored by founding member Amy Cohen, honored their loved ones and the nine children killed by drivers this year in New York City, demanding action from the senator to renew and expand the city's school-based speed safety camera program. Expanding school zone speed safety cameras across New York City is the single most effective way to prevent child traffic deaths. That’s why 64 percent of New York voters, including 70 percent of seniors and 60 percent of car owners, strongly support more speed safety cameras near schools. In order to ensure the cameras continue doing their job, state Senate leaders and the governor must reconvene the Senate and vote on S6046-C.
"We will not sit idly by while an elected official who himself has been caught speeding in school zones 10 times tries to deny us the tools that we know are making the streets safer for our children," Cohen said. "Senator Golden told us with a straight face that he supported expanding the speed safety camera program, only to turn around and suggest scrapping the cameras in favor of stop signs. He should be ashamed."
"This is a crisis. Children are dying, and once speed safety cameras are switched off, drivers are going to be emboldened to break the law and endanger our kids," said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. "One has to wonder, where does a person find it in themselves to publicly oppose a solution that has proven time and again to reduce speeding, prevent crashes and save lives?"
The 24-hour vigil for speed safety cameras outside State Senator Marty Golden's office was held to demand the Senate reconvene and guarantee a vote on S6046‑C, the bill to extend and expand New York City’s proven school-based speed camera program. In New York City school zones where speed cameras have been deployed, speeding dropped 63 percent and pedestrian injuries fell by 23 percent in the first two years. S6046-C would continue the program until 2022 and allow the City of New York to expand the program from 140 cameras to 290.
As we were heading up to Vermont to pick up the little one from camp, Cohen was staging her civil disobedience in front of Golden’s office to draw attention to these preventable deaths.
The next morning we stopped by the Families Belong Together rally in Burlington VT, meeting outside an old Church and Pearl in front of the Unitarian Universalist church for initial speakers.
“We are outraged by the atrocities ICE and DHS are wreaking on immigrants and asylum-seekers on the southern border of the USA. These concentration camps hold men, women, and children ransom for bond money, traumatizing them physically and psychologically. The American immigration system must be completely reformed. We demand that for-profit detention centers be banned, families be released and reunited, and immigrants welcomed….We'll march down South Winooski, past the Farmer's Market, up Church Street, and follow Pearl Street to Battery Park.

I talked with one women who appeared to be in her 1970’s carrying a sign declaring:
“Immigration makes America great.”
Others pointed to a humanitarian need to keep families together.
What about family values another asked.
Jews Against Concentration Camps, noted another sign, making an analogy between today’s anti-immigrant policies and those family separation polices of past eras.
Thousands of us marched for a more inclusive caring America.
Walking out of the rally, a man wrote me a poem:

“Jesus Christ would say
Forgive them for they know not what they do;
            Jesus Christ has hung on a cross,
                        his followers hunted down,
                        his word made perverse
                        and his memory pimped
                        on daytime radio

            his image work around the neck
            of a modern professional nazi.

we learn history
so as not to repeat it,
learn from this.
            j.o. 6/30/18
            Burlington vt.”

Driving home I reflected on Amy Cohen and Jennifer Flynn and the other women I know taking the lead, organizing communities to resist the rising tides of fascism in the US lurch to the right.  Like Ella Baker, they all revel in the lesson that the body of the movement is the leader, not the top.  We don’t want charismatic leaders.  We will lead ourselves. We will resist, even as the right rigs the system.  We will fight using every tool in the toolbox.Soon enough four of nine of the judges on the supreme court will have been appointed by leaders who lost the popular vote.The majority in 2000 and 2018 called for a different urban focused agenda, friendly to climate science, reproductive autonomy, and community health.The gains of the last four decades are in question now.

As my friend Andy Humm put it, this is a civil war.  He wrote Thursday:

I'm 64. Until I was 26, "sodomy" was a crime in NY and I had a good time breaking the law. When I was in high school, abortion was a crime in New York and good people--including a whole cohort at the Judson Memorial Church--helped women find safe abortions. When I was in grade school, African Americans in the South were, for the most part, not even allowed to vote but they were well into a movement that transformed the heart and soul of the nation.
We are in the midst of an enormous backlash and people are saying "it's over" and "we've lost."
If abortion is once again made illegal, we will help women obtain them safely.
If the sodomy laws are reinstated, we will still make love with people of the same-sex.
If private businesses are allowed to discriminate, we will not patronize the businesses that do.
If benefits are taken away from us by this cruel and uncaring regime, we will take care of each other.
We will never bow down to the false gods that they worship.
We will never give respect to the government they have stolen from us.
We will work for the day when our country finally has a government worthy of its people and responsive to us.
They can spew all the racism they want, but they will only further isolate themselves and never earn anything but our contempt and pity--never our complicity.
When they shout their racism and sexism and homophobia, we will not be silent no matter how much temporal power they illegally acquire.
While they wallow in their bigotry, we will continue to build a society that embraces diversity and consigns their hatred to the dustbin of history.
When they pass evil laws, we will disobey them no matter how often an illegitimate court declares them constitutional.

@senmartygolden do the right thing!!! Speed cameras save lives!

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