Archives for posts with tag: United States

100 Rosa Park
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a 42-year-old African American woman who worked as a seamstress, boarded this Montgomery City bus to go home from work. On this bus on that day, Rosa Parks initiated a new era in the American quest for freedom and equality.

She sat near the middle of the bus, just behind the 10 seats reserved for whites. Soon all of the seats in the bus were filled. When a white man entered the bus, the driver (following the standard practice of segregation) insisted that all four blacks sitting just behind the white section give up their seats so that the man could sit there. Mrs. Parks, who was an active member of the local NAACP, quietly refused to give up her seat.

Her action was spontaneous and not pre-meditated, although her previous civil rights involvement and strong sense of justice were obvious influences. “When I made that decision,” she said later, “I knew that I had the strength of my ancestors with me.”

She was arrested and convicted of violating the laws of segregation, known as “Jim Crow laws.” Mrs. Parks appealed her conviction and thus formally challenged the legality of segregation.

At the same time, local civil rights activists initiated a boycott of the Montgomery bus system. In cities across the South, segregated bus companies were daily reminders of the inequities of American society. Since African Americans made up about 75 percent of the riders in Montgomery, the boycott posed a serious economic threat to the company and a social threat to white rule in the city.

A group named the Montgomery Improvement Association, composed of local activists and ministers, organized the boycott. As their leader, they chose a young Baptist minister who was new to Montgomery: Martin Luther King, Jr. Sparked by Mrs. Parks’ action, the boycott lasted 381 days, into December 1956 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the segregation law was unconstitutional and the Montgomery buses were integrated. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was the beginning of a revolutionary era of non-violent mass protests in support of civil rights in the United States.

It was not just an accident that the civil rights movement began on a city bus. In a famous 1896 case involving a black man on a train, Plessy v. Ferguson, the U.S. Supreme Court enunciated the “separate but equal” rationale for Jim Crow. Of course, facilities and treatment were never equal.

Under Jim Crow customs and laws, it was relatively easy to separate the races in every area of life except transportation. Bus and train companies couldn’t afford separate cars and so blacks and whites had to occupy the same space.

Thus, transportation was one the most volatile arenas for race relations in the South. Mrs. Parks remembers going to elementary school in Pine Level, Alabama, where buses took white kids to the new school but black kids had to walk to their school.

“I’d see the bus pass every day,” she said. “But to me, that was a way of life; we had no choice but to accept what was the custom. The bus was among the first ways I realized there was a black world and a white world” (emphasis added).

Since May, artist Brandan Odums has been painting graffiti-style murals inside the ruined remains of the Florida public housing complex in the 9th Ward. His energetic spray-paintings depict many of the heroes of the civil rights movement: Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, James Baldwin, Gordon Parks and several others. He calls the suite of paintings Project Be. Notice the rusty water mark on the iron back staircases that marks the height of the 2005 flood.

Since May, artist Brandan Odums has been painting graffiti-style murals inside the ruined remains of the Florida public housing complex in the 9th Ward. His energetic spray-paintings depict many of the heroes of the civil rights movement: Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, James Baldwin, Gordon Parks and several others. He calls the suite of paintings Project Be.

Only a handful of people have walked through Brandan Odums’ graffiti masterpiece “Project Be,” a series of bigger-than life portraits of civil rights heroes painted on the walls of the ruined Florida public housing complex in the 9th Ward. Photos of the work have made it possible for many more to appreciate the project from a distance, but Odums’ suite of stunning paintings has special power when viewed inside the empty, once-flooded buildings.

Unfortunately, the site is off-limits to the public. The dilapidated pastel townhouses where the murals are located are scheduled to be demolished and redeveloped in 2014.

What if, however, the custodian of the buildings, the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO), would join forces with a local art organization to make a weekend tour possible? The art organization that jumps to my mind immediately is Prospect New Orleans, the folks that brought us Prospect.1, the phenomenal citywide art exhibit that took place in 2008.

Prospect New Orleans is going to present another big international show in the fall of 2014. In the meantime, they plan to whet the appetite of the Crescent City public with educational programs and other preliminary projects.

A weekend tour of a civil rights-oriented series of graffiti murals in a flood-ruined, old-style, public housing complex sounds like a teaching moment to me. And Odums’ paintings would tie in perfectly with Prospect New Orleans’ plans to exhibit works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, a graffiti tagger turned New York art scene superstar.

Sure, somebody would have to sweep up the broken glass in the Florida complex apartments and carpenters would have to replace broken steps, but with plenty of security and volunteer guides to help visitors safely navigate the site, it could be done.

The artwork is undeniably a product of trespassing. But, as far as I know, no one was harmed and no property was damaged – if you allow that the property was already slated for demolition. Anyway, civil disobedience is an American tradition, right? Without it, there would have been no civil rights movement. I’d agree that illegal graffiti shouldn’t be encouraged, but this was hardly what I’d call an antisocial enterprise.

A tour of Odums’ paintings is worth doing.

96 Amnesty International

This Essay by John Greenwell, originally prepared in 1970, was intended as background to the problem of civil disobedience which then confronted Amnesty International.

Amnesty International’s mandate was “to work for the release of and provision of assistance to persons who in violation of the provisions of (the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) are imprisoned, detained or otherwise physically restricted by reason of their political, religious or other conscientiously held beliefs or by reason of their ethnic origin, sex, colour, or language, provided that they have not used or advocated violence”.  During the 1960s as a result of the war in Vietnam, the civil rights movement, the struggles against colonialism and apartheid, many people refused to obey laws and claimed the right to break them on the ground they conscientiously believed them to be wrong.

Amnesty International was born in the cold war and its work had at the outset focussed upon the prisoner of conscience who was being physically restricted for his or her conscientiously held ‘beliefs’.  Questions arose at the time this essay was written whether and to what extent the organisation should work to sustain those imprisoned for conscientious civil disobedience.

It’s excellent and well worth a read:

94 Seven_Dirty_Words_WBAI

The seven dirty words (or “Filthy Words”) are English-language words that American comedian George Carlin first listed in 1972 in his monologue “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television”. The words are: shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits.

At the time, the words were considered highly inappropriate and unsuitable for broadcast on the public airwaves in the United States, whether radio or television. As such, they were avoided in scripted material, and bleep censored in the rare cases in which they were used; broadcast standards differ in different parts of the world, then and now, although most of the words on Carlin’s original list remain taboo on American broadcast television as of 2013. The list was not an official enumeration of forbidden words, but rather was compiled by Carlin. Nonetheless, a radio broadcast featuring these words led to a U.S. Supreme Court decision that helped establish the extent to which the federal government could regulate speech on broadcast television and radio in the United States.

In 1972, George Carlin released an album of stand-up comedy entitled Class Clown. One track on the album was “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television,” a monologue in which he identified these words, expressing amazement that these particular words could not be used, regardless of context. He was arrested for disturbing the peace when he performed the routine at a show at Summerfest in Milwaukee.

The following is a link to the verbatim transcript of “Filthy Words” (the George Carlin monologue at issue in the Supreme Court case of FCC v. Pacifica Foundation) prepared by the Federal Communications Commission:

93 NSA Shirt

Liberty Maniacs is a merchandising company known for taking smart and snarky digs at the government; its parody T-shirts contain slogans like “Santorum Happens” and “The CIA: Democratizing the Shit Out of the Third World.”

Not surprising then was the company’s recent decision to make a product line that parodied the dreaded NSA. Liberty Maniacs’ new line of merchandise carries the official agency seal, edited to read, “Peeping While You’re Sleeping,” along with the slogan, “The NSA. The Only Part of the Government That Actually Listens.”

Funny, right? Apparently, not to everyone.

According to The Daily Dot, the popular online market site Zazzle quickly removed the line from its site almost as soon as it went live. The reason cited was that Liberty Maniacs’ use of the NSA seal “may infringe upon intellectual property rights.”

But considering the company’s products are an obvious parody, it would seem that T-shirts like this are a protected form of speech and fall under Fair Use.

The NSA categorically disagrees. The agency issued its own statement about the shirts to The Daily Dot:

    The NSA seal is protected by Public Law 86-36, which states that it is not permitted for “…any person to use the initials ‘NSA,’ the words ‘National Security Agency’ and the NSA seal without first acquiring written permission from the Director of NSA.”

The agency also claimed it didn’t contact Zazzle about Liberty Maniacs’ products in particular, but confirmed its policy is to take “appropriate measures” against any attempts to co-opt their logo.

Video at the antiwar demonstration to commemorate 10 years of the war in Afghanistan – Trafalgar Square, London – 08/10/11

We all have a choice, 25 March 2003

When Bush and Blair begin their illegal and immoral attack on a country that offers us no threat, we all have a choice.

We can wring our hands and say there is nothing we can do in the face of such powerful piracy – or we can reclaim the democracy that has been so corrupted by an elected dictatorship (in Bush’s case, unelected).

There is only one responsible way to achieve the second goal. The polite term is civil disobedience. The street term is rebellion.

In 1946, Justice Robert Jackson, the chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials of the Nazi leadership, said that the “very essence” of international justice “is that individuals have international duties which transcend national obligations of obedience imposed by the state”.

The British government is about to commit a great criminal act. That is not rhetoric – it is true. Every tenet of international law makes that clear, not least the United Nations Charter itself. Indeed, the judges at Nuremberg were quite clear about what they considered the gravest of all war crimes: that of an unprovoked invasion of a sovereign territory.

In the face of this impending crime, the “international duty which transcend national obligations of obedience” now belongs to you, the millions of people who have understood the nature of the crime. Now, you have both the right and the duty to act.

Rebellion against a government committing a crime in your name is now of vital importance. Silence and inaction will only embolden Blair, this man who has taken this country to war unnecessarily five times in his six years in office. Remember his remark that North Korea, a nuclear power, is “next”.

On the day of the attack on Iraq, leave what you are doing if you can. Leave your home, work, college, school. Join a demonstration. If you are unsure where to go, contact the Stop the War Coalition on 07951 235915. Their website is
Or get in touch with Globalise Resistance, which is organising mass walkouts and street blockades in the cities. Phone them on 020 7053 2071. Their website is
Amnesty International is another source: 020 7814 6200.
Their website is
There will be non-violent protests by Reclaim the Bases, which is organising gate blockades and peace vigils at military bases. Contact 07887 585721. Their website is
Be encouraged that the revolt is already under way. In January, Scottish train drivers refused to move munitions. In Italy, people have been blocking dozens of trains carrying American military personnel and weapons, and dockers have refused to load arms shipments. US military bases have been blockaded in Germany, and thousands at Shannon in Ireland have made it difficult for the US military to refuel its planes on their way to Iraq.

Propaganda is a weapon almost as lethal as any bomb. For months, “weapons of mass destruction” has been a phoney news issue. As former chief UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter has said constantly, Iraq is “90-95 per cent” disarmed. The current head of the weapons inspection team, Hans Blix, has all but called Blair and Bush knaves and liars. When asked what secret arsenals there were in Iraq, one of his inspectors said: “Zilch”.

And yet we have been forced to participate in this charade: to debate and analyse its specious agenda. BBC current affairs programmes, on radio and television, have consistently promoted the government’s warmongering as legitimate by channelling and echoing its ever-changing deceptions.

A memorandum leaked last week, written by Richard Sambrook, a senior BBC executive, warns programme makers against broadcasting too much dissent and “attracting some of the more extreme anti-war views (even though) there is no question there is a majority public view which is against unilateral US action.”

That he regards principled objection to the killing of innocent people as “extreme” while saying nothing about the murderous willingness of Blair and his apologists reflects the distortion of intellect and morality that pervades so much of BBC current affairs.

When a maverick BBC documentary dared to investigate Israel’s weapons of mass destruction and the use of gas by the Israelis, thus showing the hypocrisy of Bush and Blair, it was dropped from a prime slot on BBC2 at the last moment and put out at 11.20 pm – when most people were asleep.
In the United States, where a recent survey found that 75 per cent of current affairs interviews were with either current or former government or military officials, censorship is more entrenched. However, when the attack begins, watch how politicians and former military brass and assorted “experts” fill the small screen in this country.

Propaganda may well have made the difference between war and peace, and life and death for untold numbers of Iraqi men, women and children. Had the great broadcasting institutions and the great newspapers, on both sides of the Atlantic, not channelled and echoed the lies and the false agendas, but relentlessly exposed them, the Bush gang, I believe, would not have been able to go ahead with this outrage. Neither would Blair.

For this reason, journalists and broadcasters now have a special duty to rebel. Wherever they are, they should follow their conscience, not the demands of a propaganda machine, however subtle and seductive, and materially rewarding.

They might compare their comfortable lives with those of journalists in dangerous countries, like Turkey, an American satellite, which, like Britain, has a population overwhelmingly hostile to an attack on its neighbour, Iraq.

Many Turkish journalists have done their job fearlessly and exposed the mendacious nature of what George Orwell called “official truth”. Some have gone to prison and others have been murdered by the state; but their courageous actions have provided millions of their compatriots with the truth.

Unlike in Britain, for example, a great many Turks are aware of the deaths and suffering of Iraqis caused by the American and British led embargo.

Winston Churchill, when he was colonial secretary, said: “I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes.” Nothing has changed. That was 80 years ago. He was referring to Kurds and Iraqis.

When the Bush/Blair attack begins, the insidious equivalent of Churchill’s poison gas will be used by the Americans and almost certainly by the British.

This is depleted uranium, a sinister component of tank shells and airborne missiles. In truth, it is a form of nuclear warfare, and all the evidence suggests that its use in the Gulf War in 1991 has caused an epidemic of cancer in southern Iraq: what the doctors there call “the Hiroshima effect”, especially among children.

America and Britain have denied Iraq equipment with which to clean up its contaminated battlefields, and towns and villages, which are about to be poisoned all over again, just as they have denied cancer treatment equipment and drugs, just as this week they caused the United Nations to dismantle an efficient Iraqi food distribution system.

As the dissident reporter Robert Fisk asked recently: Who will have the courage to describe the effects of depleted uranium, a true weapon of mass destruction, a crime against humanity, as part of the “liberation” that will be the headlined propaganda?

By refusing to echo state lies, and by recognising and rebelling against censorship by omission, no British journalist risks jail, or worse, as in Turkey.

Instead, they begin to restore honour to their craft and, along with millions of their readers, listeners and viewers, the very best of people, reclaim democracy from its powerful thieves.


Conflict Kitchen is a restaurant that only serves cuisine from countries with which the United States is in conflict. Each Conflict Kitchen iteration is augmented by events, performances, and discussions that seek to expand the engagement the public has with the culture, politics, and issues at stake within the focus country. The restaurant rotates identities every few months in relation to current geopolitical events.

Our current Cuban version introduces our customers to the food, culture, and thoughts of people living in Cuba and those that have immigrated to the U.S. Developed in collaboration with members of the Cuban community, our food comes packaged in wrappers that include interviews with Cubans both in Cuba and the United States on subjects ranging from culture to politics. As is to be expected, the thoughts and opinions that come through the interviews and our programming are often contradictory and complicated by personal perspective and history. These natural contradictions reflect a nuanced range of thought within each country and serves to instigate questioning, conversation, and debate with our customers.

Operating seven days a week in the middle of the city, Conflict Kitchen uses the social relations of food and economic exchange to engage the general public in discussions about countries, cultures, and people that they might know little about outside of the polarizing rhetoric of governmental politics and the narrow lens of media headlines. In addition, the restaurant creates a constantly changing site for ethnic diversity in the post-industrial city of Pittsburgh, as it has presented the only Iranian, Afghan, and Venezuelan restaurants the city has ever seen. Upcoming iterations will focus on the U.S. involved boarder conflicts of North/South Korea and Palestine/Israel.

Great Depression


Unorganised workers in textile plants and coal mines, hammered by the recession but also inspired by Franklin Roosevelt’s promise to look after industrial workers, began a series of desperate struggles against pay cuts and job losses. In order to win, they had to opt for the most disruptive tactics, weathering the violence of strikebreakers, police and in some states the imposition of martial law.

These tactics included the “flying squadrons” of pickets marching from town to town during the textile strike of 1934, urging workers to walk out. This was particularly important because these workers were often distributed in small production facilities, and had little industrial muscle by themselves.

A second key moment was a series of sit-ins by workers in steel and auto factories. This involved workers obstructing production simply by occupying a strategic area of a plant and refusing to move: a highly effective tactic that was also less violent than the picket lines and was later used by civil rights and anti-Vietnam war campaigners.

Tim De Christopher Bidder 70

Tim DeChristopher is an American climate activist and co-founder of the environmental group Peaceful Uprising. On December 19, 2008 he protested a government oil and gas lease auction of public land in Utah’s redrock country by successfully bidding on 14 parcels of land (totaling 22,500 acres) for US$1.8m with no intention to pay for them. DeChristopher was removed from the auction by federal agents, taken into custody, and questioned and served 21 months in prison, from July 2011through April 2013. His actions are referred to as “creative acts of protest” in times when “morality and law are on opposite sides” by C Guillebau (The Art of Non Conformity). The story has been made into a feature length documentary ‘Bidder 70’.