FIGHTING ‘FISCAL CLIFF’ FICTION: As conservative lawmakers stoke a media-generated panic over the so-called fiscal cliff, Americans across the country have begun pushing back. The protests began when members of ACT UP staged a mock Thanksgiving meal outside John Kerry’s home in Boston, putting pill bottles on their plates instead of food and saying they want Kerry to fight for full funding of the threatened AIDS programs. Soon thereafter, three AIDS activists from Vocal-NY were arrested after they stripped naked before the office of House Speaker John Boehner. “We wanted to strip away the rhetoric of the fiscal cliff,” director Sean Barry told The Washington Post, adding that the cuts would affect tens of thousands of people. In Maryland, activists protested at the office of Representative Andy Harris, with Carl Widell of Organizing for America Eastern Shore saying that the congressman has “never [cast] a vote for the middle class.” (Harris’s office responded with the usual tired “raising taxes on the wealthy stifles job creation” sound bite.) Protesters in Wisconsin lined the sidewalk outside Representative Sean Duffy’s office to send a “clear message,” according to Wisconsin Action: “Put the middle class ahead of millionaires and end tax breaks for the top 2 percent.”
In New York, activists staged a protest on the Staten Island Ferry targeting lawmakers like Representative Michael Grimm. “Will you stand up for regular New Yorkers who need help?” the Strong Economy for All Coalition asked. “Or do you stand with the millionaires and billionaires?”
And in Tennessee, protesters will gather in Jackson in order to support President Obama’s call for pressure on Republicans. “He asked us to be behind him—the same message that got him elected,” resident Alma Jones told reporters. “He needs supporters.” ALLISON KILKENNY
A LEGACY TO BE PROUD OF: On December 3, at The Nation Institute’s annual gala dinner, NAACP president and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous was awarded the 2012 Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship, an honor presented to those who have “challenged the status quo through distinctive, courageous, imaginative and socially responsible work of significance.” Perry Rosenstein, president of the Puffin Foundation, describes Jealous as “a front-line fighter for justice and equality, and a visionary who sees the interconnected nature of all kinds of human rights struggles.” Jealous has also reinvigorated the NAACP, with membership in the historic civil rights organization growing three years in a row, for the first time in more than twenty years.
On particularly prominent display that night was Jealous’s passion for ending the death penalty. Formerly the program director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty—and once an investigative journalist who exposed injustices in the criminal justice system—Jealous has put the issue at the center of the NAACP’s work. He fought hard against the execution of Troy Davis in September 2011, alongside Davis’s sister, Martina Correia, a courageous activist who succumbed to breast cancer mere months after her brother was killed by the State of Georgia.
Correia’s son, De’Jaun, was Jealous’s guest at the dinner. Upon accepting the prize, which is accompanied by $100,000, Jealous said it would allow him to “keep a sacred promise” he made to Davis and his sister before they died: “That I would continue to support Troy’s nephew and Martina’s son in his journey from boyhood to manhood, no matter what happened. A significant portion of this money will be used to help pay for De’Jaun’s college education.” In addition to carrying on his family’s legacy, De’Jaun says he plans to go to Morehouse College and study engineering. LILIANA SEGURA