“As Kinder Morgan tries to force through a pipeline without our consent—risking polluting the land and poisoning our rivers—we are rising up to create a resistance rooted in family, community, and hope.”
Greenpeace Canada helped build the first of 10 tiny houses in the path of the pipeline, which will cross through hundreds of miles of First Nations territory. (Photo: Ian Willms/Greenpeace Canada)
First Nations and allies in British Columbia, Canada, are protesting an expansion of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline by building 10 tiny houses in its proposed path, which runs through more than 300 miles of Secwepemcul’ecw, unceded tribal territory.
“We, the Secwepemc, have never ceded, surrendered, or given up our sovereign title and rights over the land, waters, and resources within Secwepemcul’ecw,” tribe leaders said in a statement, adding that they “have never provided and will never provide our collective consent to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Project. In fact, we hereby explicitly and irrevocably refuse its passage through our territory.” Continue reading →
“This is the time to confront white supremacy in our government and throughout our history,” the organizers of the march wrote. (Photo: Baynard Woods/Twitter)
The 118-mile March to Confront White Supremacy arrived in Washington, D.C. Wednesday after ten days of walking from Charlottesville, Virginia, the site of white supremacist violence that left one woman dead and many more injured. The march was organized to both denounce systemic racism and demand justice.
“We are marching from Charlottesville to Washington, D.C. to demonstrate our commitment to confronting white supremacy wherever it is found. It’s clear that we can no longer wait for Donald Trump or any elected official to face reality and lead,” the organizers wrote on their website ahead of the march. “This is the time for us to stand up for justice and equality. This is the time to confront white supremacy in our government and throughout our history.” Continue reading →
Desiree Fairooz (left), seen on May 10, 2017, just days after she was convicted of disorderly and disruptive conduct during Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing. (Photo: Susan Melkisethian/flickr/cc)
CODEPINK activist Desiree Fairooz, who was arrested after laughing during Attorney General Jeff Sessions‘ confirmation hearing, will face a second trial this fall after she rejected a plea deal on Friday.
“I still cannot believe the government refuses to drop this. Vindictive!” she wrote on Twitter, while CODEPINK called it “ridiculous.”
As Common Dreamsreported, she was convicted in May of disorderly and disruptive conduct during the hearing. While Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) argued that Sessions’ record of “treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented,” Fairooz, who was in the hearing room, laughed. She held up a sign that read “Support Civil Rights; Stop Sessions” as she was placed under arrest and taken out of the room. Continue reading →
Following reports that President Donald Trump would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) as early as Friday, immigrant rights activists and supporters of the program reacted with immediate outrage and promises to oppose the president if he makes such a move.
The end of #DACA would rip apart families, instill fear in communities, make our nation less safe, and hurt our economy.
In the wake of Charlottesville, thousands gathered across the country—including outside the White House—to denounce white supremacy. (Photo: Ted Eytan/Flickr/cc)
In response to the violent white supremacist gatherings that killed one and injured dozens in Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this month, a coalition of community members, students, and clergy have organized a 10-day, 112-mile march from Charlottesville to Washington, D.C., which begins Monday, August 28 at Emancipation Park.
“We are answering the call from faith and community leaders in Charlottesville to dismantle white supremacy in our country by taking their demand for moral leadership to Washington D.C.,” declares the group’s website, which features details about their march route, and their plans to launch a wave of actions in Washington. Continue reading →
In an act of civil disobedience and solidarity, more than 200 citizens offered to turn themselves in for toppling a Confederate monument in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo: @pharris830/Twitter)
More than 200 Durham, North Carolina residents stood outside a jail on Thursday, attempting to turn themselves in for the removal of the city’s Confederate Soldiers Monument—to protest the arrests of eight people who have been accused of dismantling the monument. The group chanted, “Thank you, we love you,” in support of those who were arrested. Continue reading →
The only sounds were those of muffled drums, the shuffling of feet and the gentle sobs of some of the estimated 20,000 onlookers. The women and children wore all white. The men dressed in black.
On the afternoon of Saturday, July 28, 1917, nearly 10,000 African-Americans marched down Fifth Avenue, in silence, to protest racial violence and white supremacy in the United States.
New York City, and the nation, had never before witnessed such a remarkable scene.
The “Silent Protest Parade,” as it came to be known, was the first mass African-American demonstration of its kind and marked a watershed moment in the history of the civil rights movement. As I have written in my book “Torchbearers of Democracy,” African-Americans during the World War I era challenged racism both abroad and at home. In taking to the streets to dramatize the brutal treatment of black people, the participants of the “Silent Protest Parade” indicted the United States as an unjust nation.
This charge remains true today.
One hundred years later, as black people continue to insist that “Black Lives Matter,” the “Silent Protest Parade” offers a vivid reminder about the power of courageous leadership, grassroots mobilization, direct action and their collective necessity in the fight to end racial oppression in our current troubled times.
Racial violence and the East St. Louis Riot
One of the great accomplishments of the Black Lives Matter movement has been to demonstrate the continuum of racist violence against black people throughout American history and also the history of resistance against it. But as we continue to grapple with the hyper-visibility of black death, it is perhaps easy to forget just how truly horrific racial violence against black people was a century ago.
Prior to the “Silent Protest Parade,” mob violence and the lynching of African-Americans had grown even more gruesome. In Waco, a mob of 10,000 white Texans attended the May 15, 1916, lynching of a black farmer, Jesse Washington. One year later, on May 22, 1917, a black woodcutter, Ell Persons, died at the hands of over 5,000 vengeance-seeking whites in Memphis. Both men were burned and mutilated, their charred body parts distributed and displayed as souvenirs.
Even by these grisly standards, East St. Louis later that same summer was shocking. Simmering labor tensions between white and black workers exploded on the evening of July 2, 1917.
For 24 hours, white mobs indiscriminately stabbed, shot and lynched anyone with black skin. Men, women, children, the elderly, the disabled – no one was spared. Homes were torched and occupants shot down as they attempted to flee. White militia men stood idly by as the carnage unfolded. Some actively participated. The death toll likely ran as high as 200 people.
The city’s surviving 6,000 black residents became refugees.
The devastation of East St. Louis was compounded by the fact that America was at war. On April 2, President Woodrow Wilson had thrown the United States into the maelstrom of World War I. He did so by asserting America’s singularly unique place on the global stage and his goal to make the world “safe for democracy.” In the eyes of black people, East St. Louis exposed the hypocrisy of Wilson’s vision and America itself.
The NAACP takes action
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People quickly responded to the massacre. Founded in 1909, the NAACP had yet to establish itself as a truly representative organization for African-Americans across the country. With the exception of W.E.B. Du Bois, one of the NAACP’s co-founders and editor of The Crisis magazine, the national leadership was all white. Branches were overwhelmingly located in the North, despite the majority of African-Americans residing below the Mason-Dixon line. As a result, the NAACP had largely failed to respond with a sense of urgency to the everyday horrors endured by the masses of black folk.
James Weldon Johnson changed things. Lawyer, diplomat, novelist, poet and songwriter, Johnson was a true African-American renaissance man. In 1916, Johnson joined the NAACP as a field secretary and made an immediate impact. In addition to growing the organization’s southern membership, Johnson recognized the importance of expanding the influence of the NAACP’s existing branches beyond the black elite.
Johnson raised the idea of a silent protest march at an executive committee meeting of the NAACP Harlem branch shortly after the East St. Louis riot. Johnson also insisted that the protest include the city’s entire black community. Planning quickly got underway, spearheaded by Johnson and local black clergymen.
A historic day
By noon on July 28, several thousand African-Americans had begun to assemble at 59th Street. Crowds gathered along Fifth Avenue. Anxious New York City police officers lined the streets, aware of what was about to take place but, with clubs at the ready, prepared for trouble.
At approximately 1 p.m., the protest parade commenced. Four men carrying drums began to slowly, solemnly play. A group of black clergymen and NAACP officials made up the front line. W.E.B. Du Bois, who had recently returned from conducting an NAACP investigation in East St. Louis, and James Weldon Johnson marched side by side.
The parade was a stunning spectacle. At the front, women and children wearing all-white gowns symbolized the innocence of African-Americans in the face of the nation’s guilt. The men, bringing up the rear and dressed in dark suits, conveyed both a mournful dignity and stern determination to stand up for their rights as citizens.
They carried signs and banners shaming America for its treatment of black people. Some read, “Your hands are full of blood,” “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” “Mothers, do lynchers go to heaven?” Others highlighted the wartime context and the hollowness of America’s ideals: “We have fought for the liberty of white Americans in six wars; our reward was East St. Louis,” “Patriotism and loyalty presuppose protection and liberty,” “Make America safe for Democracy.”
Throughout the parade, the marchers remained silent. The New York Times described the protest as “one of the most quiet and orderly demonstrations ever witnessed.” The silence was finally broken with cheers when the parade concluded at Madison Square.
Legacy of the Silent Protest Parade
The “Silent Protest Parade” marked the beginning of a new epoch in the long black freedom struggle. While adhering to a certain politics of respectability, a strategy employed by African-Americans that focused on countering racist stereotypes through dignified appearance and behavior, the protest, within its context, constituted a radical claiming of the public sphere and a powerful affirmation of black humanity. It declared that a “New Negro” had arrived and launched a black public protest tradition that would be seen in the parades of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, the civil rights demonstrations of the 1960s and the Black Lives Matter marches of today.
The “Silent Protest Parade” reminds us that the fight against racist violence and the killing of black people remains just as relevant now as it did 100 years ago. Black death, whether at the hands of a Baton Rouge police officer or white supremacist in Charleston, is a specter that continues to haunt this nation. The expendability of black bodies is American tradition, and history speaks to the long endurance of this violent legacy.
But history also offers inspiration, purpose and vision.
Ida B. Wells, James Weldon Johnson and other freedom fighters of their generation should serve as models for activists today. That the “Silent Protest Parade” attracted black people from all walks of life and backgrounds attests to the need for organizations like the NAACP, following its recent national convention, to remember and embrace its origins. And, in building and sustaining the current movement, we can take lessons from past struggles and work strategically and creatively to apply them to the present.
Because, at their core, the demands of black people in 2017 remain the same as one of the signs raised to the sky on that July afternoon in 1917:
Protesters across Poland have flooded the streets for the past week, condemning judicial reforms that will give the right-wing ruling party control over judge selections. (Grzegorz Żukowski/Flickr/cc)
Tens of thousands poured into the streets in Poland Thursday night, condemning proposed laws that would dramatically weaken the nation’s judicial system, just two weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump visited the country and praised its commitment to freedom and democracy, speaking to “an audience of close to 15,000 enthusiastic, flag-waving Poles—many of them bused in by Poland’s ruling right-wing” party.
The pending judicial reform is just the latest in a series of anti-democratic measures adopted in Poland since the far-right Law and Justice Party (PiS) came to power in 2015. As the New York Timesnoted, the party has “increased government control over the news media, cracked down on public gatherings, and restricted the activities of nongovernmental organizations.” It has also limited female reproductive rights. Continue reading →
“We’ve been known, historically, to welcome the stranger and offer refuge to persecuted individuals.” YES! Illustration by Jennifer Luxton.
After two hours of public testimony, Ralph Nava was the last of 60 speakers to testify in favor of the Santa Fe City Council’s resolution to reaffirm and strengthen its welcoming policies toward immigrants. As a native of northern New Mexico whose family’s presence in the region dates back generations, he implored the audience and council members to consider the history. “All of this area was Mexico just a few generations back,” Nava said. “All of a sudden, we’re trying to make all of these artificial barriers and walls that don’t make sense.”
He went on to tell a story about taking his grandmother to Mexico. On their way back over the border, she kept telling the U.S. border agents she was Mexican even though she had lived her entire life in New Mexico. “She wouldn’t say she wasn’t Mexican,” laughs Nava, who insists that for her, it was not a symbolic stand. “She genuinely thought of herself as Mexican.” Continue reading →
Jeremy Corbyn speaking in Parliament Square. Photo: UnitePolitics/Twitter
Tens of thousands marched through central London on Saturday to protest privatization and austerity that has led to cuts in spending for education and public services.
Many carried signs reading: “Austerity Kills,” “Cuts Cost Lives,” “Not One Day More,” and “Tories Out.”
After holding a minute’s silence in honor of the victims of the deadly Grenfell Tower fire in London, which killed at least 80 people, those in the crowd also staged a round of applause for the emergency services. Continue reading →