The snow has fallen, the Christmas trees have gone up, and the lights have been strung. The Holiday season is here. New York City is known for going out all out with decorations. It is also known for being home to over 62,000 homeless people, for whom the holidays may have a different tone. For those who call the streets their home, the holidays may be a reminder of the things they don’t have like a Christmas tree, someone to celebrate with or even being able to be inside for a week.
The Dakota Access Pipeline project has been a strongly opposed development for the past 18 months. It would create a new underground oil pipeline designed to carry roughly 470,000 barrels of oil across 1,172 miles of land per day. The pipeline would pass through four Midwest states – North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois – connecting Bakken and Three Forks oil production areas in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois.
The most active opposition has come from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Sections of the pipeline would cut directly through sacred holy ground and potentially damage their water supply, so protestors have been drawn to the land to stop construction. Many camping at Standing Rock have faced attack dogs, pepper spray, and even fires being set to camp grounds.
Social media users across the nation took to action with the hashtag, #NoDAPL. Towards the end of last month, demonstrators in North Dakota requested Facebook users to check-in at Standing Rock. This was done in an effort to create a cyber smokescreen, and prevent local law enforcement from using the social media platform to target protestors. This past week, New York joined the fight.
Green Party candidate Jill Stein rails against ‘greater’ and ‘lesser’ evil political parties at rally
Around 150 people rallied for the Green Party in the South Bronx Wednesday night where nominee Jill Stein pitched herself as an alternative to the “greater evil and the lesser evil” candidates in the 2016 presidential election.
“We’re looking at Hillary Clinton, who wants to start an air war with Russia over Syria, said Stein at the Hostos Community College Arts Center in the South Bronx. “We are looking at a climate which is in meltdown. One candidate believes in climate change, the other one doesn’t, but both of their policies will destroy the planet, so it doesn’t matter so much what you believe, it matters what you do.”
Stein’s running mate and human rights activist Ajamu Baraka and New York Senate candidate Robin Laverne Wilson were also at the rally.
Faye Gotlieb, 27, of St. George, Staten Island, said she had mainly been a Democrat supporter over the years, but felt she could no longer support the party when Bernie Sanders conceded the primary election.
“I feel like I can’t support Hillary Clinton based on her history and her policies,” she said. “I would like a better alternative—at this point, I think Jill Stein is actually the strongest candidate running, and the most progressive candidate running.”
Stein was not included in the debates because her national polling average of roughly 3 percent did not meet the 15 percent threshold set by the Commission on Presidential Debates.
Political cartoonist Eliot Crown, of the East Village, said he believed the Republican and Democratic parties were conspiring to keep Stein from having a legitimate shot at winning the election, pointing to the fact that Stein was not included in the presidential debates.
Crown said Stein was a needed alternative to the other parties, which he alleged are driven by corporate interests.
Stein said the Democrats have been disingenuous in their support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“We’re looking at a crisis of racism,” Stein said. “The Democrats told their candidates, ‘Just pat Black Lives Matter on their heads and send them on their way. Don’t make any concessions.’
“That’s not how we’re going to solve this problem,” Stein said.
The Stein/Baraka ticket is on the ballot in 44 states, and the District of Columbia. The candidates qualified for write-in status in three additional states, which brings the number of states where voters can cast their ballot in support of the Green Party to 47.
“We’re looking at a crisis of immigration,” she said. “Donald Trump has said bar the gates to Muslims, but Hillary Clinton supported that policy towards Latinos. And the Democrats have been the party of deportation, detention and night raids.”
Paul Gilman, 57, of the South Bronx, is a spokesman for the New York Green Party on drug policy and was outside of the Hostos arts center demonstrating for the legalization of marijuana prior to the start of the rally.
Gilman said drug policy was one issue that was connected to other social and racial problems.
“As as the drug war itself, we’re totally aware of Black Lives Matter and what I call “the Michelle Alexander paradigm” of slavery to Jim Crow to the drug war,” Gilman said. “Once Jim Crow was collapsing, they reinvested in the drug war as a way of disenfranchising blacks, and some Latinos, but mostly blacks. They can’t vote; they lose their gun rights”
Asked how she responded to those who called her campaign a spoiler for the major progressive candidate in the race, Stein said abolitionist parties that stood up against slavery were also called spoiler parties.
“The establishment uses that name for anything they don’t like.” she said. “Right now we are looking at a race to the bottom between the greater evil and the lesser evil political parties.”
Slideshow by Lisa Setyon and Cora Cervantes
The sound of nearly two hundred demonstrators could be heard throughout the Upper West Side last night declaring “Black Lives Matter” in Columbus Circle.
“People tell us we’re wasting our time, but civil rights wouldn’t have been passed if the people then didn’t do what they did,” said Priscilla Ortiz, 38, from Jersey City.
Hoods4Justice, a community organization in New York fighting for black and brown liberation nationwide, organized Saturday’s march. The march began at Columbus Circle, continued through Central Park, down Madison Avenue, and ended at Rockefeller Plaza with an uplifting call and response led by one of the organizers.
Some demonstrators wore t-shirts with “Black Lives Matter” proudly inscribed on their chests, and others wore Kaepernick jerseys in support of the NFL player’s recent stance behind the movement.
The demonstration was called “an emergency rally and march” on the Facebook event in response to recent cases of police brutality.
Tensions rose nationwide after the fatal shooting of Terence Crutcher, 40, of Tulsa Oklahoma last week and Keith Lamont Scott, 43, of Charlotte North Carolina this past week, and protests erupted nationwide.
But beyond these two recent killings, Saturday’s demonstration in New York was part of the larger mission to effectively end police brutality. A mission that carries many more names on its list of victims – Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Kendra James, Alton Sterling and others.
“Listen, I don’t believe all cops are bad, but I think it’s come to a point where they’ve become a cult, and that’s not okay,” said Ortiz.
The New York Police Department was in full attendance. Blue uniforms lined the streets with barricades, vans, motorcycles and a helicopter patrolled overhead. The whirring of the propellers turned several eyes to the sky and provided an added layer of unease.
Ortiz has been an active demonstrator for most of her adult life. Growing up in Texas, she experienced first hand the tension between police and minorities.
“I was visiting Texas in 2012 and my car had New Jersey license plates. The cop pulled me over and said my backlights were out. My backlights weren’t out. You’re a minority driving down the street and they find a reason to pull you over,” said Ortiz.
Ortiz heard about the event on Facebook and came with her 3-year old daughter Elizabeth, who was wearing a button that read, “We need a Political Party of the 99%”.
“I’m here for one reason, justice. I bring my kids with me because this is where it starts from,” she said. “I’m fighting for my daughter’s future, my son’s future, and my own.”
As the crowd formed, Ortiz grabbed her megaphone, commanded the crowd’s attention and led them in several chants.
“Say his name.” “Terence Crutcher, Rest in Power.” “I Can’t Breath”
Also chanting in the crowd was Mimi McDermott, 74, of the Upper West Side.
McDermott was a part of many rallies in the sixties and has continued to participate throughout the years. She supported several movements including the anti-war movement, the civil rights movement, and now, Black Lives Matter.
“We thought we made progress in the sixties, and I guess we did, but it’s back and even more vehement now because we know the problems and here we are again,” said McDermott.
McDermott reflected on her years of rallies and demonstrations.
“The issue is systemic and until it starts to change from the top, there won’t be any change,” she said. “It’s almost like a bacteria or a virus that’s become stronger.”
McDermott was uncertain of the lasting impact of the evening’s rally, but shared hope for an increase in the number of marchers.
As the rally began, more and more people passing by could be seen joining. The occasional scoff or “Blue Lives Matter” could be heard. But they were overpowered by the number of people stopped with a raised fist or a raised iPhone, which recorded a quick clip of the event.
Noreen Abouelnaga, 16, of Astoria Queens was out taking pictures at Plaza Hotel and eating lunch in Central Park when she and a friend stumbled onto the rally.
“In the media there’s a lot of anti-black especially when it comes to white people and police brutality, and so I thought it was okay to stop and say that black lives matter,” said Abouelnaga.
Abouelnaga comes from a Muslim household with immigrant parents. She talked about the constant struggle she has with them to understand race relations in the United States.
“I don’t want to say this, but my mom is really racist because she sees like, what the media shows,” she said. “So I have a black friend and she doesn’t let me hang out with her because she’s black.”
As a muslim, she said she can identify with the movement.
“I think if I stand here supporting black lives and Snapchat it or put it up on Instagram, and my friends see it, I think it gets the message to people my age that it’s not ok,” said Abouelnaga.