Peter Rothberg | The Nation

Peter Rothberg

Peter Rothberg

Opposing war, racism, sexism, climate change, economic injustice and high-stakes testing.

Defeat of the XL Pipeline Is a Signal Achievement

Anyone despairing over the immense power of the corporate sector to dominate world affairs should watch this video documenting the power that grassroots protest can still muster in the face of mass injustice. To me, the successful effort to forestall the XL Keystone Pipeline was the signal achievement in a year of significant activist efforts.

Thank you to the 1,253 nonviolent, direct action heros who took arrests to underscore the fervid opposition to the ecologically devastating project and to the unprecedented coalition of ranchers, indigenous groups, environmental organizations, labor unions and students who united to stop this dangerous pipeline.


Occupy Our Homes

In what is fast becoming the most prominent, and promising, new front in the Occupy Wall Street movement, the effort to forestall foreclosures is taking center stage as Occupations from Los Angeles to Minneapolis to Atlanta to Boston are turning empty and unused buildings into commonly held resources for local communities.

The defense of homes from foreclosure and forcible eviction could cement OWS’s relevance in a new post-encampment period. That’s why December 6, the National Day of Action to Occupy Our Homes, is shaping up as one of the movement’s most important actions to date. Hopes are riding high that the day can galvanize a new frontier for the occupy movement: the liberation of vacant bank-owned homes for those in need.

The new Occupy Our Homes movement also aims to shed light on the housing and mortgage crisis which precipitated the great recession in 2008. Activists say that the Obama administration’s efforts to help homeowners with “underwater” properties is woefully inadequate and drastic action is needed to prevent more human suffering from this persistent recession.

Numerous actions planned take place in some of America’s most impoverished urban neighborhoods. In my hometown of Brooklyn, activists will gather in East New York (L train to Livonia) to tour foreclosed properties for the growing Occupy REAL Estate Listing Service, donate holiday gifts and food, and connect with allies at a house warming and block party.

Find an event near you this Tuesday, take the “Pledge in Defense of Our Homes and Neighborhoods,” and find out how you can otherwise help stop wrongful foreclosures and evictions.

Occupy Our Homes from Housing is a Human Right on Vimeo.

Miley Cyrus Comes Out for OWS

I’ve never paid much mind to Miley Cyrus but her new video commands attention. “Liberty Walk,” the one-percenter teen sensation’s catchy, if repetitive, remixed single sets her music to laudatory images from OWS encampments throughout the nation.

With the new video, the teenage star joins fellow celebrities Russell Simmons, Michael Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Alec Baldwin, John Cusack and Lupe Fiasco in coming out strongly and squarely in favor of the OWS movement. There are far fewer bold-faced names publicly supporting OWS than you’d think. (Paging Tim Robbins, Angelina Jolie, Bono, Matt Damon, Bruce Springsteen.) So support from a pop superstar is both unusual and useful.

It’s unlikely that Occupiers will adopt “Liberty Walk” as a movement anthem, but Cyrus’s rap break in the middle of the song should help her cause. In any case, I think it’s heartening to find support from, literally, one of mainstream America’s most popular stars.

Targeting Media Who Cover OWS

Early Tuesday morning, the New York Police Department forcibly evacuated Zuccotti Park, epicenter of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

In what appears to have been a premeditated and coordinated effort to block media coverage of the raid, many journalists said they were barred from reporting the police action. Ten reporters were arrested, another was put in a choke hold and numerous others described extensive police harassment, including, perhaps ironically, a New York Post scribe who told the New York Times’s Brian Stelter that he’d been “roughed up.”

Lindsey Christ, of local cable-news channel NY1, said on-air that “the police took over, they kept everybody out and they wouldn’t let media in. It was very planned.” One of the few reporters in the park when the police moved in, Josh Harkinson of Mother Jones, was roughly dragged out of Zuccotti and was told by police that reporters had to stay in a “press pen”.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said authorities kept the media away “to prevent a situation from getting worse and to protect members of the press.” But according to the New York Times, one journalist told a police officer “I’m press!” and the officer just responded “Not tonight.”

This type of police response is typical nationwide. Police harassment of the press has been reported during Occupy protests in Chicago, Denver, Oakland, Portland, Salt Lake City, St. Louis and beyond. Josh Stearns of Free Press has been tracking media arrests and reports that the ten arrests on Tuesday (including reporters from the Daily News, NPR and AP), brings the total since OWS started to twenty-six around the country. Stearns adds: “Just as bad was the purposeful efforts by police to interfere with coverage and roughing up of numerous journalists.”

It’s time for the public to stand up. The group, SaveTheNews.org is launching a new effort asking Mayor Bloomberg and the US Conference of Mayors to publicly commit to protecting press freedoms in their cities. Add your name to the call. Public pressure is the only hope we have of forcing municipalities to protect the rights of their citizens.

You can also call Mayor Bloomberg at 212-639-9675 to speak out against the most recent arrests of journalists, demand that all charges be dropped against journalists covering OWS and implore his office to protect the rights of journalists covering protests in the future.

Occupy Everywhere on November 17

With last night’s surprise NYPD clearing of Liberty Plaza, the epicenter of the Occupy movement, this Thursday’s already-planned International Day of Action to mark the two-month anniversary of the Occupation of Zuccotti Park will grow far larger and more resonant than it would have been otherwise. 

In New York City:

Starting early, at 7 am, demonstrators will attempt to “Shut Down Wall Street” by telling stories of people on the frontlines of economic injustice. The idea is to peacefully but firmly “exchange stories rather than stocks” and, at the very least, change the covnersation for the day.

At 3 pm, activists will gather at sixteen central subway hubs and take their own stories to the trains, using the “people’s mic.” This is not an effort to disrupt or delay the subways, rather an attempt to better explain the movement to busy people getting to and from their jobs. Find a subway station in one of the four boroughs near you and explain why you support Occupy.

In the evening, at 5 pm, tens of thousands of people are expected to gather at Foley Square, across from City Hall, in a permitted rally in solidarity with workers demanding jobs to rebuild this country’s infrastructure and economy. A gospel choir and a marching band will also perform; a nighttime march to the Brooklyn Bridge (sans permit) will commence after the rally.

At the same time, Occupy Colleges will stage campus solidarity rallies coast to coast. There are currently twenty-seven schools signed up with many more likely to come. If you don’t see your school represented, find a friend and organize something yourself. In New York City, the Student Assembly has called a student strike for the day and actions are planned throughout in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx, including at New York University, The New School, Columbia University and most CUNY campuses.

Meanwhile, Occupy supporters around the globe will stage a series of coordinated actions.

In Spain, a general strike of university students has been called in Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, Tarragona, Palma, Sevilla, Santiago de Compostela, Murcia, Madrid, Valencia, Castello, Alicante and Zaragoza.

In Germany, student strikes, flash mobs, rallies and other actions are expected in dozens of cities across the country. 

In Belgium, activists are mobilizing for sit-ins at universities and schools to discuss the ongoing protests around the world and, specifically, how they can resist the increasing commercialization of education in their country.

In Greece, thousands of students and workers will take part in an annual November 17 march marking the anti-junta student uprising in 1973, threatening Lucas Papademos’s political honeymoon as Greece’s new prime minister. Shops will shut down and traffic will to come to a halt as the march wends its way to the US embassy—which is blamed for supporting the junta forty years ago.

Please use the comments field below to let me know about other November 17 Occupy actions.

Top Ten Veterans Day Songs

Updated on November 10, 2012

I’ve always thought that the best way to support our troops is to make every effort to keep them out of harm’s way. That means avoiding unnecessary wars and engaging in combat only as a true last resort. In this vein, here are my Top Ten Veterans Day Songs paying tribute to those who serve.

The list is highly debatable, largely because songs about war and attendant suffering cut across all musical genres. Old-timers will rightly wonder about the omission of classics like “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?,“ “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Imagine” and “Give Peace A Chance.” Others will fairly say I’ve neglected an important sub-genre of vintage heavy metal antiwar anthems (think Metallica’s 1989 classic, “One,”) while also giving short-shrift to the rich history of punk rock treatment of the subject.

So, please use the comments field below to help create a new list of all the great songs I’ve missed.


Top Ten Veterans Day Songs

1) Bill Withers, I Can’t Write Left-Handed

2) Bob Dylan, Masters of War

3) Phil Ochs, I Ain’t Marching Anymore

4) Edwin Starr, War

5) Eric Bogle, The Green Fields of France

6) Freda Payne, Bring the Boys Home

7) Liam Clancy, The Band Played Waltzing Matilda

8) Bob Marley, War/No More Trouble

9) Loretta Lynn, Dear Uncle Sam


10) Stiff Little Fingers, Tin Soldiers



Bonus Track: Big & Rich, 8th of November

The Story of Broke

When filmmaker and activist Annie Leonard set out in 2007 to share what she’d learned about the way we make, use and discard “stuff,” she thought 50,000 hits would be a great audience for her “twenty-minute cartoon about trash.” Today, with over 15 million views and counting, “The Story of Stuff” is one of the most watched environmental videos of all-time.

Earlier this year, Leonard came out with “The Story of Citizens United,” the best short history of the growth of corporate power I’ve ever read, heard or seen.

Now, Leonard is back with “The Story of Broke,” a new eight-minute animated movie that directly challenges those who argue that America is penniless and incapable of paying its bills, let alone making investments in a more sustainable and fair economy. Released seemingly in perfect harmony with the growth of the Occupy movement, this film explains why the economic crisis we find ourselves in is the result of choices made and how we, the public, can force different decisions.

“It turns out this whole ‘broke’ story hides a much bigger story—a story of some really dumb choices being made for us, but that actually work against us,” said Leonard. “The good news is that these are choices, and we can make different ones.”

The video ably details numerous examples of these “dumb choices”: tax breaks for oil companies reaping record profits; public roads that only go to one place—a new Walmart; mining permits that cost the same today as in 1872; and public loans and insurance for corporations doing risky things, like building nuclear reactors. The alternative, as the video points out, is for public funds to be used as tools to help companies that are supporting the public good rather than becoming a slush fund for powerful interests.

Watch and share the video and check out a raft of valuable activist resources at the “Story of Broke” website.  


What Is Occupy Wall Street About?

If you’re having trouble understanding what’s driving the “Occupy” protests, here are some numbers that help explain what’s at stake and why the new movement against economic inequality is growing so rapidly. The video is courtesy of the new solidarity group Occupy Animators.


David Strathairn: Stop Keystone XL

Watch celebrated actor and anti–Keystone Pipeline activist David Strathairn explain why he's coming to Washington, DC, on November 6 to join a symbolically powerful encircling of the White House, and why he thinks we should all join him.



Get more information and sign up for the November 6 action; dig into research about the Tar Sands; join the Tar Sands Action Facebook page for updates; organize an event in your community; and donate directly to the cause of stopping this devastating ecological peril.

Heed the call. Stop the pipeline!

Occupy Tucson Needs Our Help

As my friend and colleague Greg Mitchell noted today in his invaluable live-blogging of the Occupy movement, “Perhaps the biggest little-told OWS local story is the massive number of arrests for OccupyTucson. Another 20 yesterday boosts overall total to an astounding (for the size) 351.”

And, unlike in Oakland, local authorities aren’t even trying to convince the rest of us that the Tucson police reacted defensively and appropriately in trying to ward off anarchist attacks. According to what Tucson Sergeant Maria Hawk told the weekly New Times, “most of the arrests were for remaining in a city park after hours.”

Hawk also estimated that on any given weekday in Tucson, there are about 100 “occupiers” demonstrating in city parks and on Tuesdays—when City Council meetings are held—and on weekends, that number increases to as many as 1,000 demonstrators. These are impressive numbers for a state without the liberal infrastructure of organized labor and nonprofit anti-poverty groups that has been supporting protesters in New York City, Boston and Washington, DC.

According to local activists, the Tucson Police Department is utilizing a strategy of financial and legal attrition to kill the movement by issuing criminal citations to occupiers who remain in any city park past 10:30 pm. This citation carries a $1000 fine, a potential prison sentence of six months in jail and up to three years probation. The rather sophisticated idea is to bleed the movement financially instead of using pepper spray and batons, which will only engender outrage and foster larger demonstrations.

So, here’s how to help:

Contact and implore members of the Tucson City Council to call for immediate dismissal of the charges against the occupiers and for the TPD to refrain from its strategy of legal harassment of nonviolent demonstrators.(Contact info here.)

Make a donation, if you have the means. You can rest assured that the money will go to a worthy cause.

Send food to the occupiers. Check out this list of participating local restaurants from which you can order food with your credit card. (I just had a pie sent over from the Brooklyn Pizza Company, 520-622-6868!)

Send supplies. Activists have singled these items as among their greatest needs: water proof tarps, heavy trash bags, dish soap, dry storage containers, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, blankets/sleeping bags and prepaid Wi-Fi/Internet/3g/4g cards. Mail what you can to: Occupy Tucson 1830 E Broadway #124-258, Tucson AZ 85719.

Like Occupy Tucson’s Facebook page for updates.


Voices of the 99% Uninsured in America at OccupyTucson from Mar K. Johnson on Vimeo.

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