Repression

Notes from the class session on Repression

Part 1. Book Review Presentation

We started this class with a book report from Garrett on Saving Florida by Leslie Kemp Poole. Saving Florida offers a historical account of environmental activism and its intersection with feminism in Florida. For the book review, check out Garrett’s blog post.

Some key takeaways from Garrett’s presentation:

  • In early 20th century, women “considered home and garden their domain,” and engaged in environmental issues by participating in women’s clubs and Audubon societies. While women were disenfranchised politically, they undertook grassroots activism to influence policy decisions. The tactics they employed include: gathering petitions; influencing public opinion by contributing articles to local newspapers; convincing their husbands using the Lysystrata strategy.
  • The mid-20th century saw the growth of ecological arguments. Women were gaining political equity and disrupting the dominant male hegemony. They play a key role in shifting the public opinion around pollution. Whereas the male-dominated government considered pollution as a by-product of “progress,” women took a moral high ground in arguing for the preservation of the environment for the future of their children.
  • Poole also discusses the question of environmental justice and inequalities faced by Black people and Native people. Race is a strong predictor of environmental injustice. African Americans were more likely to live near hazardous waste (Superfund sites) compared to whites. Garrett finds the data for this discussion are thin. EPA steps in to clean up hazardous waste (Superfund sites), but poor implementation of Superfund site cleanup by EPA caused additional issues.

Further discussion:

  • We talked about white feminism, settler colonialism, native genocide and displacement.
  • Women took on heavier organization roles in movements that also included men.

 

Part 2. Discussion of Readings

We then turned to discuss readings assigned for the week:

 

  • We used the protest in Puerto Rico that was taking place on May 1 (International Workers Day) as a starting point for this discussion. The Puerto Rican government is bankrupt (with $72 billion in debt), and workers and students were leading the protest against the government.
  • What kind of protest policing is used? The Puerto Rican government militarized protest policing. Police infiltrated student and worker movements, kidnapped students without identifying themselves, circulated false narratives via mass media to shift public opinion (e.g., police said protesters had bombs when in fact they didn’t). Information on social media revealed that this was not true, and the public was upset. People used social media to circulate alternate information and kept track of protesters who were taken away but not released.
  • Any changes in protest policing since the period covered in the “Policing Protest” article (1960-1995)? Overall, the policing pattern kept up. But there has also been militarization of protest police. Why?
    • 1980’s war on drugs framing: More money allocated to support certain types of militarization of local protest police.
    • Federal program to resell/grant surplus military weapons from the Gulf War. By 2002-3, many local forces had acquired weapons from the Gulf War. Many people argue that such program should be dismantled.
    • Much of these came after this article was written.
  • Sasha brought up the concept of differentiated policing. Both types of protest policing (escalated and managed policing) are used today, differentiated by race and geographical location (e.g., racially diverse group of MIT students protesting vs Latin or Black Americans in east Boston protesting). Sasha also noted that people have vastly different experience of protest policing depending on race, class, etc. Part of what makes conversation about protest policing so difficult is that there is differentiated policing.
  • It’s hard for police to maintain control over protest policing narratives with the advent of handheld camera. It’s easy to capture video and circulate counter-narratives.
  • Escalated force policing often leads to more cycles of protest/struggles. If police uses force to shut down protest, more sympathy goes to the protesters.
  • In non-US contexts: A little bit of violence can be counter-productive, but if you are willing to be forceful, you can keep residents from protesting in the short term. Direct experiences in state violence can silence people, especially if recourse seems unattainable. State oppression PTSD is very common.

 

Part 3. Guest speaker, Mike Lee, Co-founder, With Purpose

With Purpose is an organization raising money for childhood cancer awareness. There has been little progress on treatment of childhood cancer from over 30 years ago. Childhood cancers are under-researched, because market is small and not profitable.

With Purpose works primarily with youth-led activism, a lot of it online. They have formed academic and community partnerships and worked with service learning groups. They have organized activities with a wide range of age groups from kindergarteners to college students. How can the org get more students and people interested?

Questions & suggestions from class:

  • Consider confrontational direct action tactics. Act Up was brought up as an example of medical activism. Act Up used confrontational direct action tactics: throwing dollar bills at the NYSE got them a lot of press. They were successful in shifting policy and redirecting large amounts of research funding.
  • Identify key social influencers, and tap their networks.
  • Think beyond viral content. Think about what you will do when your content goes viral.
  • Work with youth organizations who already host events and have strong youth bases. Groundstar and Idealist (database of non-profits) may be useful. Also reach out to student orgs on college campuses and identify federated forms of organizations.

 

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