A diverse array of Sacramento community groups participated in the "ChangeFest: A Climate Mobilization" rally on the north steps of the Capitol on January 21 from 11 am to 3 pm, as part of a week of anti-Trump street protests in Sacramento centered around the Presidential Inauguration.
Speakers and musicians covered a range of issues, ranging from violence against women, to the Driscoll’s boycott in support of indigenous farmworkers in Mexico, to successful campaigns to ban fracking in San Benito and Monterey Counties, to the No DAPL struggle at Standing Rock, to the successful struggle by the City of Benicia to stop oil trains from running through the city.
Musicians performing at the rally included Raging Grannies, Veins to Wires, Cresca Band, Steven Payan and Mentes Diferentes, Bicicletas por la Paz, and the Sacramento Labor Chorus.
Fatima Garcia spoke about the Driscoll's Boycott that supports the struggle by indigenous farmworkers in Baja California, in light of the bigger picture of neoliberal policies that are ravaging the world and indigenous communities in particular.
“It’s empowering to see the community take action against neoliberalism, inequality and taking a stand for justice,” said Garcia. “Borders around the world are being militarized and states are turning immigration into scapegoats all for global capitalism. The workers here in the US and workers in Mexico are not to blame for the lost of jobs; it’s greed by the corporations that value profit over people.”
“Immigrant labor is extremely important for transnational corporations economy such as Driscoll’s, the largest distributor of berries in the world,” said Garcia. “Driscoll’s justifies the pay of $6 a day for ten-plus working hours in San Quintin, Baja California, 5 hours from the Mexican border in San Diego California.”
“Agricultural workers are the sector most exploited and forgotten yet one of the most vital for survival around the world,” she explained. “Over 80,000 agricultural workers, a great portion of them women that harvest the fields to put food on our table, went on strike in March 2015 denouncing the inhumane living conditions by transnational corporations like Driscoll’s. Women agricultural workers are being sexually harassed in the field without any legal representation instead retaliation by the employer and threats of losing their jobs when they speak up.”
”In May agricultural workers faced federal and state repression leaving many elderly women injured by rubber bullets and tear gas. The federal and state authorities went into indigenous communities started shooting at children, adolescents, and elders; women, men, boys and girls,” noted Garcia.
She also talked about the devastating impact that NAFTA has had on these communities.
“The massive displacement of farmers in Mexico was unleashed by the North American Free Trade Agreement, also known as NAFTA, which completely ruined the market for small farmers. Before NAFTA small farmers were able to self sustain and survive in their communities; now families are forced to migrate because of the necessity to survive! Many of the agricultural workers in San Quintin, Baja California, are indigenous people of Oaxaca that speak their native language and are forced to leave their communities in search of work. In solidarity with agricultural workers that work the fields from sunrise to sunset and put food on our table!" she concluded.
Board members of Women Take Back the Night — Tina Marie, Maryanne, Dianna, Sunny, and Jen — spoke on continuing violence against women across the nation that threatens to get only worse under the Trump administration.
The facts and statistics Tina Marie outlined on domestic violence and sexual assault are very alarming.
• “There are 9 states where medical insurance doesn’t cover domestic violence,” she said. “The coverage is denied because it is considered a pre-existing condition.”
• On Indian Reservations, 90% of sexual assaults reported on native women are committed by white males.
• According to a report by Amnesty International, 7/8 of the woman farmworkers in the U.S. interviewed reported sexual abuse and/or assault by their employers.
• In Mississippi the “whore law” provides that if a unmarried woman has a second child by another man, she can be incarcerated for a year, said Tina Marie.
“The United Nations has declared rape as a weapon of war and yet the United States government continues to allow the legal rape of women here in this country,” she explained. “Over half a million women go missing every year in the United States alone. In addition, 700,000 women are illegally sterilized every year without their consent. Most of them are incarcerated women of color.“
“It’s sickening,” she emphasized. “Nothing has changed here in the U.S. I recently went to Standing Rock to protect the water from the Dakota Access Pipeline. During the arrests of water defenders by police, women were strip searched, fondled, put in dog kennels naked and not allowed food or water by law enforcement. The government has no accountability.”
She also criticized use of our tax dollars for the “exhorbitant militarization” of local, state and federal law enforcement authorities. “The money is not used to protect women from violence or to prosecute child abuse,” she said.
“With the new administration taking lead in the country, we expect to expect the crimes against women to increase. Trump has openly exhibited misogynist behavior and has no intention of supporting equality for women and instead is retracting the progress that has been made for women over the past several decades,” said Tina Marie.
Saeeda Islam, of Pakistani and Mexican descent, told the crowd he she decided to wear the hijab as “my first feminist declaration when I was 18 years old as an act of liberating myself.”
“I liberated myself from the pressure to conform to the societal norms of beauty,” she said.
Andy Hsia-Coron of San Benito County Rising reported on the successful campaign by local activists to ban fracking in San Benito County in 2014. He said they won by over 50 percent of the vote, in spite of the oil industry outspending them by 96 to 1, making San Benito the first county to ban fracking in California.
“In November 2016, the voters passed a resolution to ban fracking, acidization and oil injection in Monterey County, the fourth biggest oil producing county in the state,” he said.
Elizabeth Patterson, the Mayor of Benicia, discussed the successful campaign to block oil trains carrying Bakken Crude Oil from going through the city, and outlined seven concrete things that people can work for in order to replace fossil fuel with green energy:
• Support a resolution of sustainability based on science.
• Set a cap on all refinery and power plant emissions.
• Support a carbon tax that is fair and progressive for disadvantaged people.
• Create or join a community choice aggregation to 50 or 10 percent green energy
• Hold the legislature and California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) accountable for their rate policies and benefits.
• Lobby for and get an initiative to obtain transit funds for operating and maintaining affordable affordable transit.
• Make campaign contributions over a certain amount a disqualifier for legislative decision makers.
Marge Grow-Eppard, Miwok, began the event with a prayer.
Galeson EagleStar, a member of the Lakota Nation and the American Indian Movement, reported back from Standing Rock after spending 4 months there.
Betsy Reifsnider, the Bishop's Climate Ambassador, Sacramento, discussed the Pope's Encyclical on Climate.
Desiree Rojas, LACLAA, talked about the relationship and connections between women's liberation, anti-racism, and the climate justice justice movement.
Chris Brown, Sacramento Oil Trains Coalition, discussed the campaign to stop Phillips 66 from getting a permit in San Luis Obispo County.
Dr. Janice Kirsch of the Climate Mobilization, spoke about why activists need to organize rapidly across the board now
At the end of the event, I briefly spoke about the enormous power that the Western States Petroleum Association and Big Oil wield in California politics. For the transcript of my speech, go here: www.elkgrovenews.net/…
The ChangeFest took place concurrently with the Women's March from Southside Park to the Capitol, where over 20,000 participated; a number of people spent time at both events.
On Friday, many of the same activists participating in the ChangeFest protested for several hours opposing the presidency of Donald Trump – including marching from four different locations to converge together at a big Capitol rally.
The ChangeFest was part of the Trump Inauguration week protests held throughout the U.S. – including Sacramento, where the coalition of local community groups held” first-of-a-kind protests and marches of 144 hours (#The144) surrounding Trump and local issues that already exist and will likely become worse under Trump’s reign,” according to organizers.
"We are challenging not just Donald Trump’s presidency and the reek of fascism that permeates it, but the institutionalized system of supremacy that has enabled and empowered him. This series of events is the first of its kind, and will definitely not be the last," said #The144 coalition in a statement.
The Coalition includes many groups, including Black Lives Matter Sacramento, HELLA (Health Economics Life Liberty for All), Democratic Socialists of America Sacramento, NoDAPL Sacramento, PSL (Party for Socialism and Liberation) Sacramento, Occupy Sacramento and Community Dinner Project.
Original Call for ChangeFest: A Climate Mobilization: 2016 is already predicted to be the warmest year on record, and much warmer than any previous year. A global call has arisen for a mobilization to halt our slide toward irreversible climate catastrophe.
As part of this call, one step is to sign a pledge to help launch a Climate Mobilization similar to the efforts during World War II that completely transformed the US economy in less than four years. Now is the time for such an effort, and we are holding an event at Capitol Park in Sacramento to launch local efforts to get people to pledge to mobilize for our future. A number of local groups focused on climate change have formed the Sacramento Climate Coalition to put on a pre-election event promoting the mobilization.
While California has been a leader in greenhouse gas reductions, we need to do more. Our current state plans show that the rate of future reductions needs to double, and yet as we have seen, such as with Cap n Trade, we are barely meeting 1/2 that rate. There is much that our social and political structures and individuals can do to accelerate our efforts. But it will take a "We're all in this together," attitude and actions to achieve our goals.
Here are links to the pledge, www.theclimatemobilization.org/..., and to an article explaining the need for a global mobilization: newrepublic.com/…