Thursday, October 1, 2015

Arrests and Creative Nonviolent Actions at Atlanta's TPP Negotiations

As the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade talks unfold in Atlanta in an effort to finalize the pro-corporate deal, the quickly formed Atlanta #StopTPP Coalition, which includes American Friends Service Committee has come together to organize a number of rolling nonviolent actions to make it clear that the anti-democratic trade deal is not in the best interest of regular everyday people around the globe. The citizens in Atlanta and the global community have continued to nonviolently resist the agreement. We won’t stand for a wholesale auction of our rights, our freedoms and our democracy to multinational corporations who put profits over people.

Community members and concerned citizens from labor, faith, youth, senior, environment, LGBT, and others are coming together and inviting all within our United States and the global community to draw a line in the sand in Atlanta and to demand that the TPP shall not pass!

The Atlanta and global community will not stand for the TPP corrupting our democracy and eliminating our rights by putting corporations such as Walmart, Chevron, Cargill, and McDonalds in greater control of our daily lives leading us into a global race to the bottom. The undemocratic and secretive TPP would threaten good jobs, public services, access to affordable life-saving medicines, the environment and our climate, consumer health and safety and much more in our communities across the world.

Yesterday, during the TPP negotiations, cancer patient Zahara Heckscher was arrested after disrupting the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in a protest aimed at maintaining access to affordable cancer medicines in the 12 countries affected by the trade treaty.

Heckscher, in a t-shirt reading "I HAVE CANCER. I CAN'T WAIT 8 YEARS", and holding an IV pole that read "TPP: Don' t Cut My IV,” refused to leave the Westin Hotel, the site of the negotiations between U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and the other TPP trade ministers. She demanded that they show her the secret TPP text to verify for herself and other people living with cancer around the globe that TPP would not include a "death sentence clause," the text of the U.S. proposal to extend de facto monopolies on biological medicines by up to 8 years.

Heckscher, a seven-year breast cancer survivor, calls herself a cancer thriver. She has been treated by biologicals including trastuzumab (Hercepin) and pertuzumab (Perjeta). She is currently undergoing chemotherapy as part of a clinical trial, and continues on denosumab (Xgeva) treatment as well.

According to Heckscher, "For thousands of women to die unnecessarily of breast cancer because of the TPP is a horrible, cruel, premeditated, and avoidable catastrophe. The provisions being decided by TPP ministers today could allow drug monopolies on biologics for 8 years. Some of these medicines cost up to tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars a year."

"When you have breast cancer today, you can’t wait 8 years or 7 years or 6 years for a treatment to become available or affordable. When you have cancer, even a one-year delay in affordable medicine can be a death sentence. That is why we call this proposed provision of the TPP a 'death sentence clause.' If it passes, thousands of women like me will die waiting."

As the day progressed there were dozens of creative actions including a disruption of a TPP reception hosted by the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and the use of high powered projection devices to project images on the hotel negotiations are taking place in.

Today community members disrupted the lobby chanting, "Stop TPP, no corporate greed" as longtime human rights activist Daniel Hanely attached himself to a railing on the floor that negotiations were happening. Daniel was eventually arrested and is still incarcerated. Daniel made sure that these trade negotiators got the message that the people across the world absolutely will not stand for these corporate dominated trade deals. Daniel took a big risk today, and his bail is likely to be high, please consider contributing and sharing his to his bail fund by clicking here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Displacement of Residents in Historically Black Neighborhood in Atlanta, Georgia


By Resident Fighter Tanya Washington

The City of Atlanta, under the direction of Mayor Kasim Reed, is displacing residents to create a new park and a pond. The plan is being billed as a solution to flooding that the targeted residents don’t experience. However, the proposed park and pond will displace Peoplestown residents to make room for the development anticipated after the Atlanta Braves move out of Turner Field. The City’s plan tracks the demolition of the nearly 100-year old African-American church in 2014 to make room for the construction of the new Falcon’s stadium.

The human impact of the City’s plan, which independent engineers and environmental organizations have described as fundamentally flawed, is to displace families and to destroy a community. In fact, the City rejected a proposal submitted by an engineering firm it hired to turn parking lots in Turner Field into permeable space to absorb the water that floods the area, during intense storms. The City rejected the proposal in favor of one that would destroy a historically black community. The City’s priorities are clear: development is more important than neighborhoods and parking lots take precedence over people.

Despite the City’s promises that residents “would be made whole” and people would be “happy” with the offers they received; the City has reached out with offers to people that don’t even allow them to pay off their mortgages, let alone move into comparable homes in comparable neighborhoods. Furthermore, the settlements are communicated against the backdrop of a disturbing threat: if you don’t accept these insultingly low offers we will take your homes. Displacing people for a plan that will not work is irresponsible government. Destroying black neighborhoods is unconscionable. The City says it is taking homes to save residents from phantom flooding they don’t experience. But, who will save the people of Peoplestown from the City?

Please consider signing our petition and join more than 4,000 others opposed to the City's plans to displace Ms. Jackson, a civil rights legend who carried the Olympic torch in the 1996 games, and her neighbors!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Residents Proclaim, "Peoplestown Will Not Go Down"

This past Tuesday  93 year old Mattie Jackson and the remaining residents on her block held a press conference declaring that they will refuse to leave their homes despite the City’s threat to demolish their homes and build a park and a Japanese style retention pond. Immediately following the press conference residents and supporters, including dozens of children marched through the community passing our yard signs and advertising a  “Save Our Block” BBQ Thursday 9/17 at7pm at 163 Ormond Ave SE.

Peoplestown residents attended an Urban Design Commission meeting last week to express outrage that their homes, which do not flood and require no flood insurance, are slated to be demolished to make way for an Old Fourth Ward style park and pond.  It has become clear that the City does not plan to budge, despite the community’s concern over mass displacement and gentrification and concerns expressed by several members of the Urban Design Commission about the efficacy of the proposed plan.

93 year old neighborhood hero Mattie Jackson stated, “I’m not leaving, if I have to sleep on the floor I will.” But it’s not just Mattie Jackson who plans to stand her ground. Tanya Washington, a law professor who lives at 148 Atlanta Ave states, “I’ve worked with engineers who say the City’s plan is flawed and reflects outdated engineering.  The City rejected a plan presented by the firm it retained that would not require displacement.  We’ve been told by the City if we don’t accept insultingly low offers they will take our homes. Displacing people with a plan that does not work is irresponsible government, and I shall not be moved!” 

On Tuesday the remaining Peoplestown residents made it it clear why they have decided not to leave their homes and presented the press with information on alternative plans to deal with flooding that wouldn’t require demolishing a block in the heart of the Peoplestown community.

Last week an online petition was launch that’s already approaching 5k signatures: 
The Dept of Watershed's own expert, other engineers and environmental organizations have proposed plans that will be less costly, more efficient, and more sustainable and will not call for the displacement of homeowners.

The Urban Development Commission expressed concerns about the City's plans to demolish homes in Peoplestown and about the City's failure to provide residents with any notice of the petition hearing. Despite these concerns, the City is moving forward with its plans which includes demolition of several homes that the City does not own and which do not flood.
 Residents of Peoplestown, including 93 year old civil rights activist Mattie Jackson, are opposed to these plans and refuse to give in to the City's threats to take and demolish their homes.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Building Tenant Power South of I-20

American Friends Service Committee is excited to be working alongside long term residents in Peoplestown, Mechanicsville, Summerhill and beyond in an effort to build and strengthen tenant associations in low income apartment complexes. Atlanta is many decades behind other cities it's size when it comes to a culture of tenant associations and tenant rights.

For over a year we have partnered with Peoplestown Revitalization Corporation, Occupy Our Homes Atlanta, and a number of other community groups to build the SMP(Stands for Summerhill, Mechanicsville, and Peoplestown) Housing Justice Movement.

Last month with the help of Right to the City Alliance we launch a monthly training curriculum specifically for tenant leaders designed to help them build and strengthen tenant associations in the area. Mass displacement is a dynamic problem that happens when communities are developed too fast. It's not a simple problem, and there's not one way to combat the issue. One way mass displacement happens is the destruction of low in complexes, but with strong tenant associations residents can fight back and in some cases force owners to sell the property to tenants at a fair current market price. We've already had some success and we're really excited to be working with a new group of strong emerging tenant leaders in the area!

Right now the project could use support. One way you can support this important work is by making a contribution of any size to our fundraising drive by clicking here!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Training For Change In Atlanta

 This past Sunday American Friends Service Committee had the pleasure of working with the Atlanta chapter of Zulu Gatekeepers to facilitate a community organizing 101 workshop. Participants learned the basics of how to build a new group, develop and launch an issue based campaign, identify allies, and build power in Atlanta communities.

The turnout and energy was so great that we have decided to start offering regular organizing workshops again in partnership with Zulu Gatekeepers. Workshops will focus on base building strategy, media messaging, the art of activism, and campaign development. We will work to keep workshops free to community member's and grassroots organizations.