A couple of weeks ago, local organizer and activist Cristi Linn asked me if I would co-present on the subject of solidarity with Phil Ateto at a meeting to work on a response to the fact that the Republicans of the U.S. House of Representatives are coming to town for their annual fall retreat this month. I was extremely honored, and collaborated with Phil on how to cover this complex and important topic in just ten minutes.
One of his big points was that while you may not agree with tactics, tone, or messaging used by others, it is imperative that you don’t condemn the people involved if you agree with the ends they seek, because it causes a fracture that our opponents exploit. I focused on Do’s and Don’t’s, like “Don’t use your privilege against others by talking over people, pulling rank via ‘proper’ language, etc.” and “Do recognize that allyship is something you practice, not something you ARE. You will mess up, and you may not understand why or how at first. Accept corrections and advice with grace.” Ultimately our message was the same — we can’t win without each other.
Since then, I’ve signed on to help lead one of the events under the umbrella of the Baltimore Welcoming Committee, an LGBTQ+ & Allies Dance Party on Friday the 13th (spooky!) at 7pm — https://www.facebook.com/events/2397399847247248/. We’ll be on the waterfront promenade adjacent to the Harbor East Marriott, where the retreat is taking place. I’m working on recruiting a DJ (update: got one!), people to help with making banners and flyers, and on donations for things like printing, biodegradable rainbow glitter, materials for a life-size guillotine, etc. (donations can be sent to https://www.paypal.me/WorkersMarch). **Any and all help would be greatly appreciated!**
In addition to the dance party, other scheduled events include:
- Art build and planning meeting with Extinction Rebellion Baltimore tomorrow night, 9/4, at the Baltimore Free Farm https://www.facebook.com/events/2439391603053287/,
- Anti-racism rally on Thursday, 9/12 at 4pm by Peoples Power Assembly, ICE Out of Baltimore, Youth Against War and Racism, and the Prisoners Solidarity Committee https://www.facebook.com/events/510783109697396/,
- Musical labor protest on Friday, 9/13 at 5pm, right before the dance party (singers and musicians needed!) https://www.facebook.com/events/932291697124845/,
- Rally for decency on Saturday, 9/14 at 10:30am by Indivisible Baltimore https://www.facebook.com/events/1558225877647823/ [not under the Welcoming Committee banner], and
- “Apocalypse is Now” protest on Saturday, 9/14 at 1:30pm by Extinction Rebellion Baltimore https://www.facebook.com/events/491136858377495/
I decided the best thing I could do this week would be to uplift the voices of some of the fascinating people organizing and promoting these actions. Below are a selection of the responses I received, edited for length and clarity. Thank you so much to everyone for their time!
Abby: What got you involved in politics and protest?
Cristi Linn: Occupy was definitely an awakening for me. I always, since I was little, felt that something was not right in our society, like a lot of the things we’re told are legitimate are actually BS, especially around the economy. One thing that never made sense to me was that healthcare is attached to your employer.
Abby: Was that a big issue for you growing up? I think as a kid I didn’t have much awareness of it.
Cristi: I grew up pretty much dirt poor, it wasn’t just like “oh, you go to the doctor.” My mom had Hepatitis C. After my parents got divorced, my dad kicked her off his insurance and she was too sick to get a full-time job. It was very hard to get disability back then. When I was 16, I had braces and I couldn’t get them off, I had them until I was 21. It wasn’t covered because it was pre-existing. I finally had to get a dentist to like yank them off with pliers, my teeth are still crooked.
Abby: Wow, that sucks, I’m sorry. So, was it your idea to have a response to the Republicans coming to town?
Cristi: A lot of people had the idea at the same time, I was one of them. My idea was to make it Baltimore-focused and centered. I was seeing people from Harford, Carroll, Anne Arundel, saying they wanted to come out and protest Trump, protest Moscow Mitch, and not make it anything to do with policy or people who live in the city. I wanted to connect those people with people who are more targeted.
Abby: Anything coming up after this?
Cristi: We’re preparing for the 2020 state legislative session. On 9/25, Represent Maryland is having a legislative forum on the case for election reform [https://www.facebook.com/events/218767339029218/]. The Public Election Fund bill for Baltimore is moving forward, there’ll be a hearing for that on 9/17 [https://www.facebook.com/events/2482152818680228/], we need people to show up and support, testify in favor of it, and call and email the members of the Judiciary Committee [http://www.baltimorecitycouncil.com/committees], especially the chair, Eric Costello.
Ranked-choice voting is a local campaign that has to be allowed by the state, we need to get the city delegation [of state delegates and senators] on board with that. Brooke Lierman introduced it last session, but the old guard is very against it because it would challenge the security of them winning reelection each term.
Phil Ateto: I’m trying to get more engaged locally because I feel that’s where we have the deepest relationships and can make the biggest impact. The organization I work for, the Backbone Campaign, is conducive to my activism style because our goal is to empower local groups with high-visibility, artful tactics and teach them to other people so they can go forth and do it on their own.
Abby: How did you get involved in the Welcoming Committee?
Phil: My friend and fellow activist, Cristi, jumped in to form this coalition. I’m looking to get out and light-project messages every night in line with the theme of each day. Thursday is anti-corruption, Friday is human rights, and Saturday is the environment and climate. I’d love to teach people the in’s and out’s of the equipment so they can use it in the future.
Abby: I saw your light projection stuff at West Wednesday [pictured in OB #11: https://one-baltimore.org/2019/07/22/one-baltimore-11-a-single-life/%5D, it’s so cool! How did you get involved with that group?
Phil: I have long respected Tawanda Jones and her steadfast dedication to getting justice for her brother. Around the time they partnered with the JHU Sit-In, I messaged her and said hey, I’m here if you ever want to mobilize this tactic. For the six-year anniversary of her brother’s murder, she reached out. I was out of town, but my partner in crime took up the mantle and made it happen. I was very happy we could show up for her. That’s an example of the kind of connections I want to make.
Abby: Anything coming up next?
Phil: On 9/23 in DC, a coalition is aiming to disrupt the morning commute by blocking key intersections. This is all public, it’s on http://www.strikedc.org. If there’s no way you can be arrested, there are still plenty of roles for you. We can’t afford business as usual. We’re demanding that our government declare a climate emergency. On 9/20 it’s kicking off globally [https://www.facebook.com/events/1752039468427922/]. Plug in however you’re able, go to the website and sign the pledge if you’re in a position to not go to work.
Abby: Tell me about ICE Out of Baltimore.
Sharon Black: It’s a coalition of a whole bunch of groups and people who want to work on the issue of the detention camps, both in regards to immigrants and refugees and also prisons and jails here in Maryland. I’m with the People’s Power Assembly, we’ve been in existence for many years and have fought around not only police terror but also justice for Amazon workers, LGTBQ issues, we’re a multi-issue organization.
We’ve called for a demo with the Prisoner’s Solidarity Committee on 10/5 at the Harford County jail [https://www.facebook.com/events/679350922477255/]. Our next target will be on the Eastern Shore at the detention center there, we’re in the process of setting dates for banner drops and getting Know Your Rights posters and leaflets out.
Another major thing for PPA, we have a petition campaign around Amazon. I’m a former Amazon worker. We have been demanding that Amazon divest from any of their technologies that enable detention centers or ICE to target refugees. As soon as we get to a specific number of signatures, we’ll present it to the local management. Here in Baltimore, it’s been horrific for the workers, close to 300 were fired for failure to keep up with production rates that are impossible to keep up with.
Abby: Anything coming up after this?
Ben: With election season coming, I want to get more involved with Baltimore Democratic Socialists of America. Elections aren’t the lone answer, but they can improve things, reduce harm. I’m excited on a big picture level because there are gonna be a lot of opportunities to get involved, a lot to fight for.
Abby: I really appreciate you seeing it that way, I do too, but I know a lot of people feel very hopeless and helpless right now.
Ben: We all have those moments when we’re like “fuck everything”, it’s about pushing yourself to keep going. You gotta fight, it’s all we can do. Every day, I try to tell myself to think positive and picture a better future, if not for us then for people who come after.
Abby: What made you decide to get involved?
Rebecca Forte: Cristi asked for support from surrounding counties of Baltimore. She already knows me because I volunteer with her work for Represent MD, so she recruited her Anne Arundel activist arm.
Abby: Very cool. Are there particular issues in AA that you all are working on right now
Rebecca: My most recent demonstration was bringing peaches to an Anthony Brown townhall to get him to support impeachment on the record. It took a couple of weeks… but it worked!
Abby: What kinds of events has Extinction Rebellion Baltimore been doing so far?
Dominc Serino: In April, XR Baltimore held an Earth day vigil at the monument in Mount Vernon. Since then, our Baltimore-specific work has been more focused on expanding our network, recruitment, coordinating with other activists/groups in Baltimore and planning for the future. However, several of us participated in Extinction Rebellion Washington DC’s direct action in July when we superglued our hands to doors to try to block access to the Capitol building from the House office buildings, to demand that congress take action on climate change.
Abby: Wow, intense! Anything in particular coming up for the group?
Dominic: Yes, many of us are planning to support/participate in the Shut Down DC action on 9/23, co-coordinated by XR DC. We also are hoping to coordinate a disruptive action here in Baltimore on 10/7 that coincides with Extinction Rebellion’s day of “Worldwide Rebellion”.
#BaltimoreWelcomingCommittee #FreeKeithDavisJr #OneBaltimore
Cultural Event of the Week: [***UPDATE: This event has been postponed, new date TBA***] Sometimes, in the midst of heavy shit, you just need to enjoy some absurdity. And what could be more absurd than “Love on a Leash”, the tale of a woman who falls in love with a golden retriever who turns into a man at night? Catch it this Thursday at Ottobar, presented by Mondo Baltimore, which brings us the finest in terrible films each month, paired with hilarious clips, jokes, games, and karaoke by Patrick Storck afterwards, all free!
Green Event of the Week: This Friday and Saturday are Household Hazardous Waste Collection days, courtesy of the Baltimore City Department of Public Works. Bring your old batteries, paint, fire extinguishers, etc. to the Northwest Convenience Center at 2840 Sisson Street, and they’ll take care of them properly for you. Info on accepted items and future dates here: https://publicworks.baltimorecity.gov/events/household-hazardous-waste-collection-7
Song of the Week: “Which Side Are You On?” by B. Dolan
Grasp for the straw man, born again cynics / Fair-weather firebrand; spark my suspicion / We knew you were the type to take the fight like a gimmick / And rock the t-shirt when your sweat wasn’t in it / The clock is still ticking for the victim of the future / You’re waiting til’ they look like you to ever choose, but — / Which side are you on? / Which side are you on?