I have no scandals to report on today. No political outrages that can’t wait. Instead, I want to pass along some success stories.
From Chicano Park to the Jacobs Center to Mission Valley and beyond, people stood up for noble causes and dedicated themselves to continued political action. There’s more to politics than working for a win in elections; community activism, education, and coalition-building go a long way toward getting desired results at the ballot box and improving opportunity.
Fighting the Right… A motley crew of white nationalists came to Chicano Park looking to be martyrs for their reverse discrimination trope. It didn’t work out so well.
The “Patriot’s Picnic” was organized via claims made about the park’s depiction of the Chicano civil rights struggle, through painted murals and flags, making the park discriminatory to other groups.
They ended up quarreling amongst themselves, failed to provoke their sought-after violent confrontation, and ended up departing with a police escort. And their numbers paled beside the turnout of Barrio Logan residents and other local activists organized as Chicano Park Autodefensa, a community united to preserve a National Historic Landmark, symbolic of their rich heritage and culture.
From the Union-Tribune’s coverage:
The event started about 10 a.m., with police initially reporting both sides to be “law-abiding and peaceful.” Dozens of officers were at the scene, closely monitoring the crowd that grew to an estimated 700 people, with park advocates far outnumbering the 50-or-so “picnickers.”
Several of the park critics wrapped themselves in American flags, while others wore protective vests and military-style helmets, and covered their faces with scarves. The participants sent out different messages: One man who said he was running for the U.S. Senate railed against “Jewish communist agitation”; others wore shirts and hats expressing support for President Donald Trump, or said they were there to oppose illegal immigration; still others said they simply wanted to ensure that Chicano Park was accessible to everyone.
Even though both groups were yelling at each other, things ran peacefully until police asked the Patriotic Picnic group to leave. A video posted on Facebook shows a police group arresting a man after he punched a policeman in the face, staining the floor with his blood. Three people were arrested. A fourth man was freed after he was found urinating in front of a mural.
No arrests were made on the Chicano Park Autodefensa side, but one of them was pepper-sprayed in the face.
“Autodefensa means the people’s police and when these Neo-Nazis and ‘American Patriots’ came throwing up White Power signs, our people and allies from all over the United States showed up to help defend us,” Alexis del Castillo, an activist and one of the Chicano Park organizers, told teleSUR.
“Today, we showed to not only him but the world why us as a people shall be respected and treated as a strong political force.”
The house was packed for the Women of Color ROAR Breakfast on Saturday at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation.
The three-hour event featured films, music, and speeches. Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, San Diego City Councilwoman Myrtle Cole, Lemon Grove Mayor Racquel Vasquez, and activist Kathleen Harmon received awards honoring them as Black Women History Makers.
Organized by Indivisible Watu (Watu means “people” in Swahili), the ROAR Breakfast’s goals were to encourage women candidates and promote women of color running for office. Eighty young black women attended as special guests.
Providing additional support for the event were the Black Political Association of California, Congressman Scott Peters, the Democratic Woman’s Club of San Diego County, San Diego Indivisible, San Diego City Council Member Barbara Bry, Southwestern Community College District Governing Board member Nora Vargas.
Candidates Geneviéve Jones-Wright (District Attorney), Ammar Campar-Najjir -(CA49), and Dave Meyers (SD County Sheriff) were also there to offer support.
From the Union-Tribune coverage:
[Assemblywoman Shirley] Weber told the crowd that women, particularly black women, are vastly under-represented in political and business leadership roles.
“They say this is the year of the woman, but it’s not the women who look like me,” she said. “There’s no more powerful women in the world than black women.”
Attendee Geneviéve Jones-Wright said black children benefit from seeing people of color in positions of influence. The San Diego native said she was 8 years old when U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall inspired her to pursue the law. Now, the 12-year public defender is running for district attorney. If elected, she’d be the first black woman in the job.
An estimated 300 people attended the San Diego Progressive Labor Summit on Saturday at the DoubleTree Hilton in Mission Valley. It was a day for inspirational speeches, panel discussions, and workshops, all focused on improving the working relationships between labor and community groups.
I attended this event, as did many Democratic candidates for office. It was a day of networking and education for everyone who was there. And, yeah, I know this part of the column will read like a book report, but I was impressed and inspired by what I saw and heard.
Tasked with keeping the morning program on a schedule was Carol Kim, Political Director for the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council. She was fierce.
- Keith Maddox, the man brought in by the national AFL-CIO as interim director of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, was announced as no longer being “interim,” and welcomed the crowd.
- Daraka Larimore-Hall, Second Secretary of the California Democratic Party, known for his fierce, take-no-prisoners brand of progressive politics, addressed the potential impacts of a negative Supreme Court ruling in Janus v AFSCME, a right-wing led effort to undermine public sector unions.
- Juana Melara, the Long Beach hotel worker and Unite Here member selected as one of Time Magazine’s “The Silence Breakers” as its 2017 Person of the Year spoke on sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace.
- Organizer Terra Lawson-Remer and SEIU activist Emilina Sparaco told the audience about Flip the 49th, a grassroots effort to drive progressive turnout for the upcoming Congressional race. The group has not endorsed any of the five Democratic candidates vying for the post but is conducting extensive polling–which will be shared with the public– hoping to help voters in assessing the viabilities of candidates. They’re hoping to mitigate the possibility of a fractured electorate enabling two GOP candidates making it through to the general election.
- A union member panel discussed their motivations for political activism and offered up suggestions on building public support or the movement.
- The keynote speaker was longtime activist Fred Ross Jr, who started out in 1970 with the United Farm Workers, worked supporting Salvadorean refugees during the Reagan era, became Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi’s chief of staff in the 90’s, and subsequently returned to the labor movement, working with SEIU and most recently with IBEW 1245.
- Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez moderated a panel on legislative priorities featuring Cesar Diaz (CA Building and Construction Trades Council) and Steve Smith (California Labor Federation. Gonzalez ended the session with a plea for people in the local labor movement to find a way to repair the rift between the Working Families and Central Labor Councils.
After lunch, there were a dozen workshops, featuring some of the best and brightest progressive activists in San Diego.
I attended one on Economic Development led by Kyra Greene (CPI), Lucas O’Connor (Councilman Ward staffer & policy wonk), and Murtaza Baxamusa (San Diego Building Trades Family Housing Corporation). My takeaway from the session was the need to see development thru a ‘people-first’ rather than a ‘building-first’ lens.
My second workshop focused on Immigration Policies and Enforcement Dave Myers (SD Sheriff candidate), Christian Ramirez (Human Rights Director at Alliance San Diego) and Mark Lane (Who doesn’t have a title, as far as I know, but he’s the guy immigrant families call when they’re in trouble). The news here wasn’t so good, with the conversation focused on mitigation of consequences and education for immigrants.
I attended this last session because of a growing belief that the Trump administration’s policies and practices on immigration/border security/hating on brown people are going to be a major political flashpoint in the near future.
Special Counsel Mueller may investigate and (perhaps) get indictments, but the Republicans in Congress have already demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice any sense of decency or respect for the rule of law. I have a difficult time imagining the criminal/conspiracy aspects of the current political situation will amount to much in the short term.
It’s becoming apparent to me that the “activism in the streets” part of the resistance is more likely to be in response to government actions directly affecting people in the communities than in the corridors of power in DC.
Looking for some action? Check out the Weekly Progressive Calendar, published every Friday in this space, featuring Demonstrations, Rallies, Teach-ins, Meet Ups and other opportunities to get your activism on.
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