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"The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today." —  August Spies, one of eight men convicted of the Haymarket Square bombing, moments before he was executed by hanging
The American labor movement first celebrated May 1 as a day for labor solidarity in 1886. On that day, as many as a quarter to half a million workers went on strike and held rallies across the country to call for an eight-hour work day. "Eight-hour day with no cut in pay!" was their rallying cry.

The date had been set two years earlier by the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, which set May 1, 1886, as the target date to make the eight-hour day a standard.

But that didn't happen. An event three days later in Chicago not only set the eight-hour-day movement back by years, but changed the course of labor history and the way that unions are viewed in this country. The May 4 Haymarket Square bombing and ensuing trial mark the labor movement to this day; 129 years later, we're still dealing with its legacy.

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A few days ago, a Facebook (and actual) friend of mine asked what I thought about a story and photo showing the Pacific Ocean irradiated from Japan to Hawaii as a result of the nuclear “incident” caused by the devastating tsunami two years ago this month. According to the article posted by “A Sheep No More,” it’s not just the entire Pacific Ocean that’s gone nuclear, and residents of the West Coast should avoid consuming or contacting: all water (including rain and snow), all seafood, all produce, all meat, and all dairy products.

The Facebook comments basically fell into four categories:

1) It’s not only true, it’s probably worse, and our fear-mongering government, media and corporations are trying to cover it up by raising the standard for “safe” levels of radioactivity and blacking out news coverage.

2) If you believe #1 you’re a conspiracy theorist; oceanic cesium really hasn’t remained at 10,000 times safe levels except in the minds of misinformed wingnuts.

3) I live in California, I can’t eat anything, I can’t drink anything, and I can’t move anywhere. Besides, where in the world is not radioactive?

4) Will I grow three heads?

Here’s what I told my friend:

“Eat consciously and fight for open government.”

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[Fourth and final part of my reporting from Take Back the Capitol]

Take Back the Captol closed out its week of actions today with a rousing dinner celebration and inspirational live performance from the African-American femaie a capella group Sweet Honey in the Rock.

But today's action was of a markedly different tenor than the big public/media splashes of Tuesday and Wednesday. The air was cold and crisp, but for the first time the sky was clear and blue. The media was still here, but no traffic got disrupted (except briefly when we crossed the street); we stayed away from congested commercial areas, didn't descend on Congress en masse (although small delegations paid visits to the home and office of House Speaker John Boehner, and the Miami delegation stopped by Florida Senator Marco Rubio; all were denied an audience); and instead of civil disobedience and arrests, when the Capitol Police asked us to get off the Capitol steps or clear a walkway, we complied quickly and peaceably.

Tuesday and Wednesday were for public consumption; today was for ourselves.

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Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 08:40 PM PST

Word Up: Streets and Sidewalks

by SwordsandPens

I experienced a humorous example of mixed messaging while marching down K Street today – Day 3 of Take Back the Capitol. Literally at the same time, right next to me, march organizers were chanting “Off the sidewalks, into the streets!” while orange-vested crowd control marshals exhorted us to “Get off the street. Stay on the sidewalk.” The marchers around me appeared visibly confused as to where they should be.

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Wed Dec 07, 2011 at 07:10 AM PST

Update: "Illinois Duck and Cover"

by SwordsandPens

Here's the video of yesterday's visits to the Illinois delegations:

http://www.youtube.com/...

Thank you to Stand Up Chicago for the video and for being here. While occupying Kirk's lobby, they used the time to hold a teach-in/discussion about the economy and the issues behind this week of action. After discussing the role of banks and how foreclosures are ruining their neighborhoods (every single person in the room had at least one foreclosed property on their block; one had 7 in her immediate vicinity), you should have heard the room explode when someone read out Kirk's committee assignments: Appropriations and Banking, Housing and Urban Development.

"You mean he can do something about this and he's not doing it?!" was the gist of the outrage. Many of them had tried to meet with Kirk at his home district office. "We got rejected three times and came all the way to DC to meet with him, and he still won't meet with us." By that time we already knew he was hiding out in the back.

In a couple hours we head to K Street. Follow the action on Twitter #99indc.

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[Technical note: The editing box doesn't work on the rental laptop I'm using at the Media Center, so I have to include full URLs instead of using the link tool.]

The state of Illinois makes a lot of popular candy: Lemonheads, Jawbreakers, Mars/Snickers/Milky Way bars, Jelly Bellies, Tootsie Rolls and more. I found this out while visiting the office of Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) during today’s march on Capitol Hill for Day 2 of “Take Back the Capitol.” Indeed, to promote his state’s candy makers , Kirk now sits at -- and volunteered to supply -- the Senate’s famous candy desk (http://kirk.senate.gov/...), located in the back of the Republican side near a main entrance to the chamber.

Kirk’s projects director, Aaron Winters, told us Kirk wasn’t in (more on this in a moment), but he offered us water and a large tray of candy from his home state and said we could stay as long as we wanted. We took him up on all counts. In fact, Winters was nothing if not polite and accommodating toward the two dozen Stand Up Chicago (www.standupchicago) activists who occupied his boss’ office lobby for nearly four hours this afternoon. He stood, even took notes.

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It’s begun. Activists – that is, ordinary people compelled by circumstance or conviction to take action – have begun assembling on the National Mall in Washington DC for three days of marches through the halls of power to “Take Back the Capitol” from the banks and corporations who run the place now.

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