Latest updates & projects from Lisa Fithian.
YES – as of my most recent flights to Chicago to do trainings around school closings and then to NY where I facilitated an Action LAB for Occupy and another strategy session with youth on student debt and Sallie Mae – I was able to print out my boarding pass and fly free of security, searches and escorts.
For all of 2012 Homeland Security had me on their terrorist watch list. I could not print my boarding pass but had to go to the ticket agent who then had to go through a 45-60 min process on the phone with Homeland Security to get clearance for me to fly. I then had to be searched fully– 4 SSSS’s on my boarding pass! There were so many stories from being followed by security at some airports, to the manager of one of the ticket counters said – they told us you were coming, to being dog sniffed and then a blatant escort when I exposed the silliness of them following me!
There is no question in mind that this had to do with the Occupy movement and the fact that we were back on the offense against capitalism while modeling alternative ways of living and means of exchange. The absurdity of it all does not escape me. The truth is the US Government is not afraid of violence, in December it was revealed that in a collaboration between the FBI the police and the corporations they even considered assassination by sniper of people in the occupy movement. They easily embrace violence.
It is the ideas and practices of a radical democratic and economic alternatives rooted in peace with justice that they are afraid of.
I would like to think that they awoke to a new level of consciousness in 201, but really I think that Occupy is no longer on the offense. The occupy multitudes have been unleashed and things are brewing now for what I image can be another powerful year of transformative action! Let’s keep feeding that vision and the creative processes of building a new world!
I have done lots of different creative tactics over the years, but this action offered a chance to do something new – we replicated an EARTHQUAKE to dramatize what is happening in Texas because of fracking!
In March, I lead an Organizing for Power Training at the Stop the Frack Attack Summit in Dallas Texas which culminated with an action at the State Capitol in Austin, TX on Monday while the Legislature was in session. In preparation of the event I was learning more about fracking in TX and how in Dallas they were literally fracking in public parks and schools. Areas with a lot of sand were being decimated by the greed for sand in the fracking process, just like the need for waters – millions of gallons needed to frack one well! I looked in on a hearing dealing with fracking and the Senators were giddy with glee about the money being made. It was quite amazing to see how drunk they were on fracking. The Conference was a great success and people, many of whom have been directly impacted by fracking, came ready to make their voices heard.
We had a strong, colorful rally and an unpermitted march around the Capitol and in the streets to the State Office Building where the Texas Railroad Commission office was located (they issue the permits for fracking in Texas). It was a big building with big windows and a large outside area surrounding the front of it. We had all been prepped on what would happen and what we would do before we arrived. I then spoke about how fracking was creating earthquakes and on cue, a friend who had is pick-up truck with 4 giant speakers, power and a sound track hit play. KA-BOOM went the explosion of the fracking machines followed by the sounds of an earthquake rumbling roar for a minute and a half. Everyone inside the building heard it and watched as we did the earthquake dance down below. As I was stumbling around I looked over and saw a cop b-line for the truck. He was yelling at my friend on the truck, who kept saying, “Can’t hear you?” The cop finally reached in and yanked out the cords! Our action had been successful already and we made our closing comments and headed back to the Capitol so some could go make legislative visits. Since then, the people of Dallas have stopped fracking in parks and schools!
I carry such sadness these days with the loss of Becky Tarbotton, an emerging, visionary, bold and charismatic leader serving as the Executive Director of the Rainforest Action Network. These tragedies are hard to bear. Why, how, it makes no sense. Just a freak accident that leaves us all weighed down in sorrow. I say “we” because Becky was core to a large extended community and family.
We will all find ways to carry on with her passionate vision, being inspired by her dedication to justice. Becky was working hard to build bridges between movements. She always kept focus on the root causes and honoring the wisdom of indigenous and other impacted communities in creating resistance and solutions to the oppression and exploitation they face. Becky did not just fight, she also won. Bringing some justice where there was none. Goddess why did you take this woman from us? Maybe to remind us just how precious each and every one of our lives is and how important it is to appreciate and care for one another as we carry on our work for justice. This is what Becky would want….
To learn more about this amazing woman go to the Rebecca Tarbotten Tribute page.
I was pulled from my “sabbatical” in Austin when I got a phone call from Bob King’s office at the United Auto Workers. They said “ We are in an emergency and we broke the emergency glass and your name came out…can you please come help?” I have a long history working with the UAW and Bob King’s team and this was clearly a big fight so it was pretty hard to say NO. I even knew this was likely a losing battle, but I took my own advice when fighting a big fight – Let’s give ’em hell as we go down! And that is what we did!
Gov. Snyder made it easy through his dishonesty, his railroading tactics and his anti-democratic actions like locking people out of the Capitol. A legal injunction declaring it unconstitutional opened the doors but not their minds. I arrived this day and began a 10 day journey working to turn this around, and while we lost this battle, we woke up and turn public support and energy into action. Gov. Snyder a very popular Gov saw his approval ratings plummet after the lame duck session to 38%
The Governor and the Republican lead House and Senate passed some outrageous legislation – over 220 bills passed in the lame duck alone. He sign the Right to Work law along with legislation that will further limit women’s access to abortion, citizenship signatures in order to vote and a measure that will allow hunting of wolves. He fortunately had the wisdom to veto one of the new laws that would have allowed guns in schools, churches and daycare centers….. Much of what the Gov. did was drawn directly from the playbook of the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC and was funded by people like the Koch Brothers.
There is no question we gave them a hell of a fight. We did actions in almost every major city across the state, mobilized to protest where ever the Gov. was. On Monday we did a dramatic blockade of one ramp to the bridge to Canada.
On a Tuesday, we took over the Capitol inside and out, with 17,000 people in a day of action. The police mobilized in kind with plenty of Riot police and pepper spray on hand that was used more than once.
I took this from inside the Capitol
Here Jessie Jackson joins the sit-in of the Capitol Rotunda
On Thursday we organized a dramatic torchlight march taking to the streets to keep the heat on! Huffington Post covered the Torch Light March here.
In all we generate over 225 pages of media hits. But media is not enough. The creative direct action opened up a new space for people to feel their power. The people of Michigan, especially the unions, have had a rude awakening that will require organizing in a whole new way. Building a people powered movement rooted in social unionism that bridges and brings together many movements ….I’m excited about what 2013 might bring and will continue to add my energy to that fight to make Michigan’s great union legacy of direct action against corporations vibrant again!
Check this out! MICA, the Maryland Institute College of Art, and the ACLU hosted this event where I spoke with Cornell West and artist Lize Mogel. Thanks to Ingrid B for making it happen. It turned out to be an awesome event and I am so glad that we can film this stuff and share! Lize’s slide show was spot on, Cornell was brilliant as usual and I did pretty well too! Hope you enjoy! (more…)
One of my biggest challenges and areas where I lack confidence is finally beginning to change – my ability to write about the work that I do!
I was published in two books this year: Beautiful Trouble and We Are Many. In Beautiful Trouble, I wrote a case study about the DC Justice for Janitors campaign and the art of escalation, as well as a piece on anti-oppression. We Are Many is a compilation of pieces by about 50 different writers about the Occupy movement. My piece was based on a talk I gave at the Left Forum this year with Frances Fox Piven and Stephen Lerner.
The Left Forum talk was great, and I was honored to be with such brilliant trouble makers (though I don’t think we got this one on film). In my talk, I outlined the first few strategies while wearing one of my favorite t-shirts, with the words “STAY HUMAN.” When we got to the action strategies I whipped off my shirt to reveal one of my other favorite t-shirts which reads “TROUBLE.” That might sum it up – Stay human and make trouble! Many thanks to Laurie Arbeiter and Sarah Wellington for keeping me so well messaged!
Many thanks to the crew from Beautiful Trouble and We Are Many for including me in your work! Now if I can just keep writing…
This summer I thought I was going to have some free time for a change before the political conventions heated up in August. I was just starting to unwind when I got a call to help the California Statewide Homecare Workers campaign pull off some nonviolent civil disobedience at the Capitol in a fight to prevent the defunding of that program. Instead they were moving a proposal for a restructuring of the industry that would save the state more money over time. The homecare workers and their clients had mobilized for days at the Capitol talking to legislators all day and doing education and outreach at night. I had the privilege of working with an amazing group of about 60 people who had made a decision to block the Governer’s office on one day and then take over the Rotunda the next. The pictures tell the story. They prevented the worst of the cuts and won a commitment to move in a new direction.
This spring I help put together, train and coordinate folks to confront Wells Fargo and Bank of America investors at their annual shareholder meetings in San Francisco and Charlotte NC. In both cases new and emerging movement relationships keep growing and building trust and experience. With Occupy being a strong force in each area, blended with the strength of the community-based organizations and labor union skills and resources we successfully impacted both shareholder meetings. In both places we were able to use multiple marches, giant props, nonviolent civil disobedience and escalating actions in the lead up. These were part of a larger initiative by a coalition of groups that has been growing for several years. Some of this is rooted in the work of the New Bottomline and synergy with Occupy during the fall of 2011 when a Fall campaign of actions was launched in 8 cities at about the same time that Occupy took root. This collaboration has continued to grow and evolve spawning things like Occupy Our Homes and work around debt.
I have just recently returned home from Greece on my own volition, not deported from Israel as I had expected. I am alright with that to. My work as part of the US Boat to Gaza and the International Freedom Flotilla II/Stay Human was to get a message out to the world that the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza must come to an end. Our message went further than our wildest dreams, as millions of people around the world watched. Israel threw everything they could at us: lies about the passenger, sabotage of boats, threats of being homophobic, threats of chemical to attack soldiers, complaints against our boat, petty bureaucracy to tie us in, economic and political threats against Greece and neighboring countries. The list goes on. Well, Israel did succeed in stopping our boats by moving its own blockade into sovereign waters but our messages traveled in waves across the world. The people of Gaza know we are still coming. Our solidarity and global movement for a free and just Palestine grows. And our movements still have most of the boats!
Victor Hugo once said that “Nothing can withstand the force of an idea whose time as come”. Just like South African aparthied came down, so to must the occupation of Palestine end.