Forgiveness

This morning’s prayers led me to reflections about forgiveness. This might be because we will be talking about Indigenous boarding schools at my Quaker meeting this morning. There were many terrible things about kidnapping native children and taking them far from home. To schools where they were forced to try to learn how to assimilate into White culture. Where many were abused, many died. Though we can’t know what they did, some of our ancestors were part of these schools.

From September 1 – 8, 2018, a small group of native and non-native people walked and camped along the route of the Dakota Access pipeline in central Iowa. This was called the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March. One goal was to bring attention to the abuse of eminent domain to force landowners to permit the pipeline to be built on their property.

But the other goal was for this group to get to know each other. Begin to trust each other, so we could work on things of common interest or concern together. I didn’t know how that would develop. One thing that was on my mind was the Quaker involvement in the native boarding schools. I didn’t know whether to bring this up. For one thing I didn’t know if that would be traumatic for the native folks, and/or for me.

A friendship quickly developed with one particular native friend, Matthew. To the extent that when the Spirit moved me to do so, with some trepidation I brought up the native boarding schools. Apologized for my relatives’ involvement. He didn’t say anything at the time, but later that day he told me his family’s story related to forced assimilation.

Months later there was another opportunity to thank him for sharing his story, and he said “thank you for listening.” I like to think of this as asking for forgiveness and laying down our burdens next to each other.


When we made it back home, back over those curved roads that wind through the city of peace, we stopped at the doorway of dusk as it opened to our homelands.

We gave thanks for the story, for all parts of the story because it was by the light of those challenges we knew ourselves— We asked for forgiveness.

We laid down our burdens next to each other.

Harjo, Joy. Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings: Poems. W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition

I think back to the years I spent with the Kheprw Institute community in Indianapolis. A black youth mentoring and empowerment community. Of course the history here relates the enslavement and white supremacy.

Sharing stories was a large part of the work we did together. Imhotep, one of the Kheprw leaders, said these shared discussions were revolutionary. “We gave thanks for the story, for all parts of the story because it was by the light of those challenges we knew ourselves— We asked for forgiveness.

This past year has been one of much learning and change for me. It was over a year ago that I began to make connections with Des Moines Mutual Aid. I don’t know why I hadn’t known about Mutual Aid prior to that, but am so grateful that I have.

There are two parts of this that I’m reflecting on this morning. One is my Mutual Aid friends are a very diverse community. Being an older white male, I sensed the hesitancy of many toward me. There is a wariness in general for any new person because these people are sometimes involved in things that bring attention from law enforcement. Not for doing anything wrong. Just because of peacefully protesting.

And just as important, anyone who comes to be involved in Mutal Aid has to learn a whole different way for being and working together. A fundamental part of Mutual Aid is learning to work without the vertical hierarchy that is present in almost all our relationships in our current cultures. Learning to work in ways without the vertical power structures.

These are some reason I’m thinking of forgiveness this morning. I have noticed a gradual acceptance of my presence as a white male. And as someone who has benefitted from white superiority

These things are the beginnings of forgiveness as I think of it.

Paying attention to past and present wrongs by white people in general, such as racial injustice, and finding ways to seek forgiveness, has been cathartic for me.

I’ve been involved in so many meetings and conversations about white superiority and racial justice. Most of those experiences are oriented toward identifying concerns in general, and don’t usually offer much more than going to more conferences, reading books, etc.

As I’ve tried to show here, I think it is important to think of what white people need to be forgiven for. I know many white people reject ownership of things done in the past. The problem is, trauma is passed from generation to generation. People today continue to suffer from past traumas. White people suffer transgenerational trauma, too.

For these things to happen, white people need to find ways to be with black, indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC).

We gave thanks for the story, for all parts of the story because it was by the light of those challenges we knew ourselves— We asked for forgiveness.

Joy Harjo
Posted in #NDAPL, Dakota Access pipeline, Des Moines Mutual Aid, First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March, Quaker, race, Uncategorized, white supremacy | Leave a comment

The XR activists who took on oil giant Shell – and won

Below this story of yesterday’s victory of Extinction Rebellions (XR) activists is story of my friends from Bold Iowa who also argued the necessity defense in 2019.

Six Extinction Rebellion activists have been acquitted in a landmark verdict at Southwark Crown Court this afternoon.  

The jury delivered its not guilty verdict for each defendant, despite Judge Perrins ruling that five of the six had no defence under the law. 

The trial, for criminal damage to the Shell HQ building in London’s Waterloo in April 2019, which could have led to a maximum five year prison sentence and / or a £10k fine each, is XR’s second only case to be heard before a jury. [1]

The verdict is being hailed as a major victory for climate campaigners everywhere facing increasing criminalisation. Defendant Simon Bramwell, 49, cofounder of Extinction Rebellion, said: “It is a significant victory for the truth of these times, when despite the letter of the law, jurors can clearly see that a broken window is a just response to a breaking world.”

“How fitting that this comes after Earth Day and the two year anniversary of the death of environmental lawyer Polly Higgins, founder of the Stop Ecocide campaign, to whom we dedicated our non violent direct action against Shell. With today’s verdict, it is clear who the real climate criminals are in the climate and ecological emergency. ‘Shell knew’ as we wrote.” [2] [3]

BREAKING: The XR activists who took on oil giant Shell – and won by Extinction Rebellion, April 23, 2021



Jury nullification is what such a jury decision is called in the USA. It is a rare and brave jury that will stand up to the prosecutors and judge to situationally apply morality as a standard superior to some laws. “A jury’s knowing and deliberate rejection of the evidence or refusal to apply the law either because the jury wants to send a message about some social issue that is larger than the case itself, or because the result dictated by law is contrary to the jury’s sense of justice, morality, or fairness.”

https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/jury_nullification

https://youtu.be/cBYs-6T9YD8

Transcript:

On April 15th, the first day of Extinction Rebellion protests in London, an associated action took place at the Shell Headquarters on the South Bank near the London Eye.
Three activists glued their hands on to the entrance doors of the lobby, while two others climbed onto the glass canopy high up over the entrance. One more sprayed slogans on the wall to the right of the doors. The protesters planned to commit criminal damage worth more than £6000, which although small change for the oil giant, will ensure that they’d be prosecuted in a crown court in front of a jury. Using a punch tool, they also managed to shatter or damage several of the glass doors. The pair on the canopy hung a ‘Stop Ecocide’ banner, sprayed slogans, and dripped thick oily black paint down the walls.

In court, the campaigners hope to present evidence of Shell’s willful ecological destruction, citing internal documents that show the corporation’s own climate scientist were issuing warnings nearly 40 years ago, which the company has done its best to hide and ignore. They will defend their actions as ‘crimes of conscience’.

We recently interviewed international lawyer Polly Higgins, who is helping island states to amend international law and bring in a new crime of ‘ecocide’. She also spoke of how activists can use a ‘crime of conscience’ defense. Five people were arrested at the scene, but the other two remained on the glass canopy overnight, and came down after 25 hours. As they descended, another highly respected international lawyer, Farhana Yamin (one of the chief negotiators of the Paris Agreement) glued herself to the floor by the front doors, and two other protesters joined her.



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, November 11, 2019, 10:00 a.m. CT

Contact: Miriam Kashia at (319) 459-1154 or miriam.kashia@gmail.com
Contact: Ed Fallon at (515) 238-6404 or ed@boldiowa.com
Website: www.boldiowa.com

Trial of five Iowa climate activists set for November 12

Dressed in black and wearing adult diapers, Bold Iowa supporters were arrested at a GOP rally and fundraiser for President Trump on June 11, 2019 while holding a sign reading, “Climate Denier in the White House scare the S#*T outta you? IT DOES US!”

DES MOINES, IOWA — The trial of the Iowa Climate Defenders Five (Todd Steichen, Martin Monroe, Miriam Kashia, Kathy Byrnes, and Ed Fallon) is scheduled to move forward on Tuesday, November 12 at 2:00 at the Polk County Justice Center, 222 5th Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa 50309. Before the trial at 1:30, the five will hold a press conference outside the building.

Bold Iowa climate activists arrested at Trump/GOP fundraiser

On June 11, 2019, President Trump visited Hy-Vee’s Ron Pearson Center in West Des Moines for a GOP rally and fundraiser. Thirty Bold Iowa supporters called out the president’s climate denial to him and attendees. Initially, protesters blocked one of the entrances to the facility’s parking lot. Later, five carrying a banner approached the building, hoping to enter and bring their urgent message to the attention of the president and the audience. At that point, they were arrested by West Des Moines police for simple misdemeanor trespass.

“Women’s right to vote. Civil rights. Stopping the Vietnam War. Environmental protections. The Women’s Movement. LGBTQ rights and marriage equality. These and so many other significant social justice shifts were accomplished because ordinary citizens were willing to take to the streets, and in many cases, willing to commit civil disobedience,” said Kashia. “History tells us that this is what has turned the tide.”

“We risked arrest because it’s urgent that we capture the attention of politicians, the press, and the public in this unprecedented moment where saving human life and the planet is on the line,” said Fallon. “We wanted to emphasize to those gathered at the rally and fundraiser that climate change threatens our very survival, and a president who denies the problem — whose policies in fact greatly exacerbate the threat — must be called out and challenged.”

Because of the worsening climate emergency, the Iowa Climate Defenders Five feel called to act in the interest of present and future generations and the planet. Similar cases across the country have seen judges responding more sympathetically to the climate necessity defense.

The urgency of climate change is also shared by Iowa scientists in the Iowa Climate Statement and in a report by the Iowa DNR. Both warn about the harm being done because of our dependence on fossil fuels.

Furthermore, earlier this year, the Iowa Supreme Court stated in its ruling in Puntenney vs the Iowa Utilities Board (the Dakota Access Pipeline case), page 37, “We recognize that a serious and warranted concern about climate change underlies some of the opposition to the Dakota Access pipeline.”

Bold Iowa’s mission is to build rural-urban coalitions to (1) fight climate change, (2) prevent the abuse of eminent domain, (3) protect Iowa’s soil, air, and water, (4) defend the rights of farmers, landowners, and Indigenous communities, and (5) promote non-industrial renewable energy.

Climate Activists Go to Trial by Ed Fallon, Bold Iowa, November 11, 2019

The urgency of climate change is also shared by Iowa scientists in the Iowa Climate Statement and in a report by the Iowa DNR. Both warn about the harm being done because of our dependence on fossil fuels.


Last week, a Polk County District judge ruled against the Climate Defenders Five, finding us guilty of misdemeanor trespass in our protest against President Trump’s abject denial of climate science during the president’s visit to West Des Moines in June.

Climate Defenders Five after being released from jail: Miriam Kashia, Kathy Byrnes, Marty Monroe, Ed Fallon, Todd Steichen (Photo by Shari Hrdina)

With all due respect, the Court completely failed to understand the growing urgency of the climate emergency, and thus the necessity justification of our defense. In saying that it recognized our “concern for the President’s policy on climate change,” the court got it wrong. The president has no policy on climate change. It’s his complete denial of the scientific proof of climate change that concerns us, not his nonexistent policy.

The Court also claimed that the “Defendant(s) did not present substantial evidence for the affirmative defense of justification in remaining on the Property.” Yet what could be greater cause for justification than an existential threat to our very survival?

Court fails to understand urgency of climate crisis by Ed Fallon, Bold Iowa, Dec 4, 2019

See more in my posts about Bold Iowa “necessity defense” | Search Results | Quakers, social justice and revolution (jeffkisling.com)

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Multisystem Failure

By far the largest system failing is our environment. The Biden administration announced the goal of greenhouse gas reduction of 50% from 2005 levels by 2030. It is an outrage that legislative proposals consistently fail to even begin to address the reality of the problems we face today. It was this climate announcement that led me to write about multiple systems failing.

Not only is the climate plan short on details, a reduction of 50% is not nearly enough. And the consequences of rapidly evolving environmental chaos will increasingly lead to all kinds of systems to fail. Infrastructure in general will be damaged and destroyed. Power and communication systems will collapse. Transportation systems will be impacted.

It has been excruciatingly painful to see so much police violence. Finally, many white people (I’m “white”) see and hear the stories of what life is like for people of color. What black, indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC) live with every minute of every day. Police violence that kills men, women and children, or locks them up for years.

This is just one example of the racism that permeates every system in this country. This language demonstrates racism and white privilege. I say locks “them” up because police abuse and violence is not much of a problem for white people.

At least until we white people begin to show some public support. Then we lose our privilege and become “them” too. There is the onslaught of legislation to subvert civil liberties. Legislation to punish anyone who dares to protest. Legislation to protect police abuse. To protect anyone driving into a crowd of protesters. How insane are these policies?

There are increasing calls for police reform. Even further, for the abolition of police and prisons. I’ve been involved with the Quaker Abolition Network. And last night attend my first meeting with Democratic Socialists of American. Abolition is one of the main things they are working on. abolition | Search Results | Quakers, social justice and revolution (jeffkisling.com)

The political system is broken. Representatives don’t even try to pretend they represent their constituents any longer. Decline to support legislation that is overwhelmingly supported by the public. And pass legislation their constituents oppose. Corporate money, gerrymandering and all kinds of voter disenfranchisement subvert the democratic process and ways to change the system.

What is portrayed as truth has also been subverted. The last administration lied repeatedly to manipulate their supporters. Deliberate misinformation has become the norm for many political groups.

Endless wars in so many countries to protect resources like oil kill combatants on all sides. Kill civilians and destroy their infrastructure. This is morally reprehensible. While politicians resist the small funds for the public good, they continue to budget vast sums for the military. This administration is no exception.

The COVID pandemic has nearly destroyed our medical systems and our economy. Have strained education systems.

As more and more people are forced to recognize these multisystem failures, they wonder what to do.

It is clear to many of us that you cannot use a system that causes these problems to fix them. It is so frustrating to me to see all the work of well intentioned people wasted on trying to make incremental changes within these systems when the systems need to be replaced instead.

For example, the economic system of capitalism has been severely damaged by the COVID pandemic. But capitalism is based on extraction of resources, mainly fossil fuels, and continuous growth. Capitalism is designed to create the vast imbalance of wealth that we have. And capitalism is used to keep so many worried about surviving, so they won’t have the energy to agitate for change.

What is the answer? I believe we have to create communities that reflect our values. This is why I’ve been so invested in learning about, participating in Mutual Aid. For me, Mutual Aid shows how to build such communities, beloved communities.

You can click on the full screen symbol to more easily read this flip book.

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Religious Socialism

My friend Fran Quigley is director of the Health and Human Rights Clinic at Indiana University McKinney School of Law and has been teaching me about Religious Socialism. This began when he contacted me about writing I have been doing related to the evils of capitalism. The Evil of Capitalism. I suggested that he contact the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) and he had done that.

Great post, as always! Thank you for prioritizing solidarity with our Black sisters and brothers in your advocacy.

This post of yours struck me close to home. I too have become fully convinced of the evils of capitalism. Moreover, I have come to the conclusion that my faith dictates that I work to replace it. Turns out I am far from alone, so I’ve been devoting much of my time this past year to the Religion and Socialism Committee of the DSA, www.religioussocialism.org .

And, as part of a book project on religious socialism, I have published several articles profiling activists from different faith and spiritual traditions who feel called to advocate for a socialist society.  (Examples, if you are interested: a Catholic socialist, a Jewish rabbi socialist, a Black Presbyterian minister socialist, a Liberation Theologian Lutheran minister/professor,  Muslim socialists , a Buddhist socialist and a Black Baptist minister socialist.  I also co-wrote with longtime Religion and Socialism activist Maxine Phillips a short, one-stop primer on the argument for Christian socialism: https://mphbooks.com/democratic-socialists/ )

Fran Quigley

Among the things he shared with me is an article he wrote about sometimes negative views about socialism.

I will be interested to know if you get any negative response to your socialism discussion. U.S. Americans of a certain age, especially those of us who can remember the Cold War, often have some knee-jerk resistance to the term. I recently wrote about that a bit in this article profiling a Black Presbyterian woman minister who is a socialist: https://jacobinmag.com/2020/12/angela-cowser-institute-for-christian-socialism

Of course, identifying as a socialist can create some challenges in that organizing. For example, Ray Sells, the retired Methodist minister, is not as excited about her embrace of socialism.

“I don’t see the reason to use that word,” he says. “It just turns off so many people from the start. Why can’t we just advocate for things like affordable housing and good public education without putting on a label with all those negative connotations?”

When Cowser is told about Sells’s objection, she nods in understanding. But her experience is that talking about socialism in faith communities is less problematic than Sells and others expect — especially when the conversation is with younger Americans, who polls show prefer socialism over capitalism on average, and black Americans, who similar polls show are likely to hold favorable views of socialism.

“I actually don’t get much pushback on it,” she says. She points out that church communities with strong tithing and aid cultures and healthy union workplaces are already quite socialist, as are many American institutions like public schools, infrastructure, and public safety.

“Plus, the biblical basis for socialism is just undeniable. Just look at the early books of Acts, where the body of believers responded to poverty — and a very gendered poverty — by organizing money and resources for the benefit of poor people,” she says. “And the Jubilee platform in Deuteronomy lays out the whole program for a sharing economy where no one person can be strong without the community being strong.”

To Rev. Angela Cowser, “the Biblical Basis for Socialism Is Undeniable”
BY FRAN QUIGLEY, Jacobin, 12/25/2020
Rev. Angela Cowser, a cofounder of the Institute for Christian Socialism, argues that a society rooted in the dictates of the Gospel would look radically different from the one we have now. There is a name for what that change should look like: socialism.

Following is some general information about Religious Socialism (RS) from Maxine Phillips.

The RS group is older than DSA, having been started in the seventies by John Cort, a Catholic activist in the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee. It published a print newsletter for about thirty years. You can find pdfs of some of those old newsletters at religioussocialism.com. Click on “issues.”  This is a dead site, so nothing else works on it.  After John’s death (at age 92) and some other changes, we stopped publication for a while, but rebooted a couple of years ago with a website.

At the moment, our primary activities are the website (religioussocialism.org), a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/religioussocialism/) as well as a Twitter feed https://twitter.com/religsocialism ,  a podcast series https://soundcloud.com/religioussocialism and a Twitter page for the podcast at https://twitter.com/religsocialpod 

We are not out to “convert” anyone but to bring a socialist perspective to our work with faith communities. We have an intersectional approach, i.e., class always matters, and so do other identities, and we can work on what unites us.

During this time of uprisings and a pandemic, we can reach out to others in our faith communities and in other organizations to work in coalitions for racial and economic justice.

As I’ve learned more about Religious Socialism, I’ve written a few blog posts related, including Religious Socialism – Introduction | Quakers, social justice and revolution (jeffkisling.com)

Fran and Maxine also wrote Christian Socialist. Before Karl Marx, there was Jesus Christ. And before secular socialism, there was Christian socialism by MAXINE PHILLIPS and FRAN QUIGLEY.

This weekend will be a series of presentations related to “Building the Religious Left” Virtual Conference.

This weekend, we welcome the largest gathering of the multi-faith religious Left in DSA’s history, perhaps in U.S. history. Each of our traditions has a history on the Left, and we will continue to work within our own traditions. But we can also work together. This weekend, more than 600 of you want to create a different story than the one the religious Right tells. This conference marks the beginning of that journey.

We are working on uploading some fascinating short talks and interviews in conjunction with the conference and will update registrants by Saturday morning about those.

If you have not done so, please register for specific sessions through the links in this document and for the conference as a whole here. We will be sending out emails if/as panels or workshops change, and the only way that we can have your email is through this form.

If you can’t attend the whole conference, no problem. All panels and workshops will be recorded and links sent to you if you register here.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

(All times are U.S. Eastern Time)

11-a.m.-noon: Shabbat Room: Join Rabbi Robin Podolsky for a time of centering prior to the conference opening

Noon-1:15 p.m.

The Fire This Time: Forging a Multi-Faith Movement for Religious Socialism

There is a resurgence of socialist analysis and organizing, but little attention has been paid to the increased amount of religious commitment–the fire of both embodied analysis and practice– being brought to bear in the moment. In the spirit of James Baldwin’s iconic texts, communities of faith, in the wake of union organizing in Alabama and pending prospects of the PRO Act in Washington DC, have the opportunities to help spark the fires of our verdant, variegated religious traditions toward transforming our political economy, undoing white supremacy, and realizing a more just society. Join us as we talk through the possibilities, challenges, and pathways for religious socialism in this critical moment. Panelists Andrew Wilkes, Xavier Pickett, Jazmine Brooks, and Samy Amkieh.

1:30-2:45 p.m.

Multi-faith Perspectives on Medicare for All

Panelists–including Hebah Kassem of the Green New Deal Network; Sanjeev Sriram, M.D., of the National Physicians Alliance, David W. Greene, Sr., President of Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis and Pastor of Purpose of Life Ministries; Rabbi Robin Podolsky, who teaches Jewish Thought at California State University at Long Beach and serves as affiliated clergy at Temple Beth Israel of Highland Park and Eagle Rock–will discuss what their religious traditions have to say about the moral imperative of ensuring healthcare for all. Fran Quigley of the DSA Religion and Socialism Working Group will be the moderator.

Strategies of De-escalation: What Muslim Thought Contributes to the Practice

Waleed Sami will explore ways that political activists can de-escalate tense situations, with special reference to the impact of Muslim thought on de-escalation strategies. He is a doctoral student at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Counselor Education program and is particularly interested in looking at how inequality and the political economy impact mental health. Imaan Javeed of the DSA Muslim Caucus will moderate the session.

Refugees at the Border: How do we respond?

Duane Campbell, co-chair, DSA Immigrant Rights Working Group, and Eddie Chavez Calderon, member, Arizona Jews for Justice will separate fact from false news about the situation at the border and engage with participants about how to convey information to potential coalition partners and move them to action.

3-4:15 p.m.

Black Church Radicalism

Joshua Davis, executive director of the Institute for Christian Socialism, will moderate a panel with Andrew Wilkes, co-pastor of Double Love Experience; Angela Cowser, Associate Dean of Black Church Studies and DMin programs at Louisville Seminary; and Obery M. Hendricks, author of many works on Christianity and politics, including The Politics of Jesus

Mutual Aid: Connection and Change, not Charity

Megan Romer of DSA Southwest Louisiana speaks with Shabd Singh of Metro DC DSA and Zellie Imani of BLM Paterson (panel in formation) about Mutual Aid and why it isn’t just charity repackaged.

Democratic EcoSocialism & the Green-Red-Black New Deal: Getting the Change We Need

How can environmental justice advocates bring about real change for all affected communities? Marie Venner, whose family is part of the Juliana v. United States case, is co-chair, CatholicNetwork US and an applied researcher with the National Academies Cooperative Research Programs. She will talk with Desiree Kane, a two-spirit Miwok storyteller, multimedia journalist, and co-founder of Grinding Stone Collective; George Lakey, nonviolent direct action trainer and activist for climate justice and author, among other works, of Strategy for a Living Revolution and How We Win; and climate justice activist Rodney S. Sadler, Jr., Associate Professor of Bible and Director, Center for Social Justice and Reconciliation, Union Presbyterian Seminary.

Worthy of Their Hire: The Alliance of Labor and Faith

UMC pastor Don Jones of Knoxville DSA, will moderate a panel on worker justice with DSAer Lisa Rung, East Tennessee Poor People’s Campaign; Jim Sessions, former director of the Highlander Center and retired UMC pastor; and David Linge, professor emeritus, Department of Religious Studies, University of Tennessee and community activist.

4:30-5 p.m.:

Create a ‘Zine to Remember this Day and your Takeaways

Bring some paper, pens, markers, collage materials, whatever strikes your fancy to this art-making event with Nicole-Ann Lobo to finish off this stimulating and inspiring day. (Link will be sent.)

Sunday, April 25, 2021

2-3:15 p.m.

Views from Left Field: Mapping the State of Contemporary Jewish Life

Join moderator Lawrence Dreyfuss and the staff of Jewish Currents for a panel discussion on how the divided political landscape in North America is shifting Jewish communal life in the synagogue and the home. We will consider the recent rise of socialism, the schisms exacerbated by the Trump presidency, and how these changes have altered social bonds within Jewish community. Jewish Currents is a widely read magazine committed to the rich tradition of thought, activism, and culture of the Jewish Left. Participants: Editor-in-chief Arielle Angel, Assistant Editor Mari Cohen, Managing Editor Nathan Goldman, and Managing Director Joe Roberts.

Abolition: Can Religion Help Us Imagine a World Without Policing and Prisons?

Stephen Crouch of the NYC RS Group will speak with abolition activists Rabbi Barat Ellman, Anthony Jermaine Ross-Allam, and Nura Ahmed to explore such questions as, What are the religious roots of abolition? What should the role of faith communities be in abolition? How might religious imagination help us in imagining a world without policing and prisons? Is “Defund the Police” an effective slogan? Is abolition socialist? But what do we do with all the “bad” people? What spiritual resources from your tradition, maybe ritual or textual, do you see as pointing to the abolition of the Prison-industrial Complex (PIC)?

Using Values to Drive Social Change Around Poverty Issues: An experiential workshop

In their book, Broke in America: Seeing, Understanding, and Ending U.S. Poverty, authors Joanne Samuel Goldblum and Colleen Shaddox lay out the case for what is essentially a democratic socialist revision of the U.S. economy. The authors have spoken with many groups, religious and otherwise, about these reforms and built support by linking the change they advocate with values that the audience already embraces. This workshop will consist of three parts. The authors will present information on the science of persuasion and what research tells us works and doesn’t work; each author will model   arguing a socialist reform from the basis of her faith tradition – Joanne (Judaism) Colleen (Roman Catholicism); and participants will work independently for 10 minutes developing an argument for a socialist reform from their faith tradition. We will return to the group and share as many of these as time allows.

Civil Disobedience from the Soul: Preparing Spiritually for Protest and Direct Action

Charles “Chaz” Howard , vice president for social equity and community at the University of Pennsylvania will lead this experiential workshop in which participants will reflect on the spiritual, mental, and emotional preparations that might make for more effective protesting and direct action. Attendees will consider historical change makers as well as some contemporary examples, all the while looking ahead to what our own practices could look like in the future as we seek to engage a range of systems of oppression and injustice.

3:30-4:45 p.m.

Intra-group Organizing by Religion

Do you want to meet other DSAers who share your faith tradition to talk about next steps in countering the religious right? Sign up and then break into groups for Buddhists; Catholics; Earth Religions; Hindus; Humanists, Jews; Muslims; Protestants, Quakers,LDS, and Nondenominational; Unitarian Universalists; and Others. If there are only one or two people in some categories, we encourage you to join another group or attend the workshop on one-on-one organizing.

How to Organize One on One

Former DSA staffer, Boston DSA activist, and current rabbinical student Lawrence Dreyfuss will take you step-by-step through the structured organizing conversations so crucial to every organizing campaign.

5-6:15 p.m.

How to Start a Local Religion & Socialism Group

Learn from different groups in various stages of formation and share your experiences and questions with other DSA activists.

6:30-7 p.m.

Create a ‘Zine to Remember this Day and your Takeaways

Bring some paper, pens, markers, collage materials, whatever strikes your fancy to this art-making event with Nicole-Ann Lobo to finish off this stimulating and inspiring day. (Link will be sent.)

Posted in abolition, capitalism, Democratic Socialists of America, Religious socialism, socialism, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Time Stood Still

Yesterday time stood still. Images of crowds of people staring at their phones all over the country. Those inside focused on television, cell phone, tablet or computer screens.

A collective silence. It’s almost too ironic to say a collective holding of breaths.

Because we knew what would happen if, once again, there were no consequences for police who continue to kill black, indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC).

We thought police body cameras might reduce police abuse, but studies haven’t found that to be the case. What has been effective are videos from bystanders’ cell phones. These videos make it difficult to ignore police abuse. Such videos brought attention to the killing of George Floyd. The police report made no mention of Derek Chauvin’s knee on George Floyd’s neck. There would have been no investigation were it not for the civilians’ videos.

Video after video clearly showing police killings, with no police accountability, and widespread public protests, finally sensitized White people’s awareness to what BIPOC people have always known.

The world changed following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black women and men. Millions of people were motivated to publicly protest these brutal murders and to proclaim that Black lives matter. Their deaths were the tipping point that roused the public’s conscience to confront racism publicly.

As people of faith, we believe that there is that of God in every person, and we are called to create a society free of racism. At the center of our witness is an unwavering commitment to “the fundamental equality of all members of the human race.”

The re-emergence of white supremacy today elevated the need to be vigilant and be more persistent in our anti-racist advocacy. We cannot afford to sit back as white supremacy wrecks our society, our democracy.

We Cannot Afford to Sit Back as White Supremacy Wrecks Our Society
By Adlai Amor, Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), August 10, 2020

We, like our ancestors, believe in abolition. Our hope is that, one day, prisons and police will vanish from this earth. We believe that justice will be served when no more blood from Black peoples’ bodies is spilled in the street. One murderous cop’s conviction isn’t enough to ensure it will never happen again. We believe George Floy’s legacy to be more than another human put into prison, but to put an end to policing. To abolish a system the perpetuates the enslavement and slaughter of Black folks. To end the pigs ability to murder, manipulate, abuse, traumatize and terrorize our community. To eradicate all systems that uphold white supremacy.

Des Moines Black Liberation Movement

Des Moines Black Liberation Movement


Great Plains Action Society

4/20/2021 · Judiciary justice is not real justice. Though we used what we currently possess to prevent one corrupt pig from causing further harm, we know that white supremacist systems remain in place–murderously violent systems that have actively targeted black and brown bodies for centuries out of fear, hate, and greed.

And the mass imbalance of power remains. In the end, colonial-capitalism sacrificed only one foot soldier to ensure its survival.

May this encourage us to keep up the fight.
May we win so we can see authentic justice.
Rest in Power, George Floyd.

#DefundThePolice
#AbolishWhiteSupremacy
#SayHerName
#GeorgeFloyd
#ZacharyBearHeels
#BLM
#GreatPlainsActionSociety

Great Plains Action Society

Blog posts on abolition abolition | Search Results

What would it mean for us to take seriously and collectively as a Religious Society a call to finish the work of abolition, hand in hand and side by side with those affected  and their loved ones? What would it mean for us to stand fully with the calls to abolish the police and fully fund community needs instead? What would it mean to reckon with our past complicity with harm and fully dedicate ourselves to the creation of a liberating Quaker faith that commits to build the revolutionary and healing faith we long to see come to fruition? What would it look like to finally and fully abolish slavery?

A Quaker Call to Abolition and Creation by Lucy Duncan, Friends Journal, Friends Journal, April 1, 2021

Photo from the “Back the Black” protest at the Des Moines City Hall, 4/17. 2021

“Back the Black” protest at the Des Moines City Hall, 4/17. 2021
Posted in abolition, Black Lives, Des Moines Black Lives Matter, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Great Plains Action Society, prison, race, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I hope you choose that path, no matter how hard it is

As a White person, it grieves me deeply to watch so many of us (White people) continue to try to hide behind our privilege. As I was thinking I would not have to enumerate the following atrocities, I realized there are so many who do not fully know this history. This history we White people have worked so hard to hide. But as Barry Lopez tells his grandson, “this is what we do.”

Myself, I’ve got to get to a place where I can accept what Stalin did to people in the Siberian gulags, the scale of it. This, too, is us. This is what we do. That’s why I told my grandson in the book’s prologue, as we stood over the wreckage of that battleship at Pearl Harbor, “This is what we do.” He had no idea that we killed each other on that scale. But I could say to him, “I love you, and I want you to know that this is what we do. And as you grow, you will see a way to help. And I hope that when you do, you choose that path, no matter how hard it is.” Barry Lopez

The World We Still Have, Barry Lopez On Restoring Our Lost Intimacy With Nature By Fred Bahnson The Sun Magazine December 2019

We avoid thinking of the carnage White people committed as we hunted black people in Africa, packed them into the notorious slave ships, and sold those who survived that journey. Giving no thought to separating families.

Indigenous peoples were slaughtered or forced off their lands, their buffalo killed for sport and to intentionally starve the native people. Their culture intentionally erased by kidnapping their children and forcing them to try to assimilate into White culture. Which left them stranded with no culture.

Thousands of black people were lynched. And continue to be lynched today. George Floyd was lynched. There is no doubt he was murdered. The verdict we anxiously await is not whether Dereck Chauvin killed George Floyd. It is whether the unjust justice system will acknowledge that.

I understand the reason prosecutor Steve Schleicher said the Derek Chauvin trial is not a “prosecution of the police, it is a prosecution of the defendant,” who he claimed was responsible for killing George Floyd.

It is awful he thought he had to say that, in order to make it easier for some jurors to return a guilty verdict. So they could convince themselves they weren’t condemning the police in general.

The fact is this trial is absolutely a “prosecution of the police.” Three other police officers simply watched, allowing George Floyd to be killed. If not for the videos taken by bystanders, I have little doubt there would have been any consequences from this. And as black, indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC) know, this abuse from the police and criminal justice system is pandemic. Another insidious and often fatal virus.

What will be the verdict for us White people? What path will we choose? Those who haven’t been doing anything to support BIPOC people are not on the right path.

The verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial will likely be an inflection point. Will this be yet another instance when incontrovertible evidence is disregarded and the police protected?

The past year, in response to the blatant public murder of George Floyd, there have been widespread, sustained protests. Not only that, but Black Lives Matter activities like agitating against repressive legislation, and for just legislation.

Yesterday’s blog post is about the criminal justice system and abolishing police and prisons. Bail Bonds

There is a lot of information about #FreeThemAll:

Immigration activists, prison abolitionists, and those calling to defund the police are organizing across the country under the call to #FreeThemAll. Together, we’re calling for the immediate release of people from behind bars as we continue to work for a future without incarceration. 

#FreeThemAll booklet FreeThemAll_one-pager.pdf (afsc.org)

I’ve become involved with Des Moines Mutual Aid. There are mutual aid groups all over the country/world and more being organized all the time.

I would encourage you to seriously consider what you might do to help. A conviction of Derek Chauvin in no way means police and prisons not should be abolished.

As Minneapolis braces for a verdict, grassroots activists told Newsweek that even if the jury convicts Chauvin on all charges, it is not enough.

Oluchi Omeoga, the 28-year-old co-founder of the Black Visions Collective, said she has “no faith” in the criminal justice system, noting that the only Minneapolis police officer who was convicted of murder was Mohamed Noor—a Black man who fatally shot a white woman.

But Omeoga told Newsweek that even if Chauvin is convicted, “justice is not served until we radically imagine what the system of policing actually is.”

They added: “Regardless of the outcome, I already know that justice is not going to be served in this specific way. Even if he was found guilty of all of the charges that are brought against him, I actually don’t think that’s justice because it doesn’t stop that from happening again.”

Derek Chauvin Conviction Isn’t Enough, Say Minneapolis Activists by Khaleda Rahman, Newsweek, 4/20/2021

Now is an important time. We White people need to help our BIPOC friends bring about change, to create radically different, better communities and systems for us all.

But I could say to him, “I love you, and I want you to know that this is what we do. And as you grow, you will see a way to help. And I hope that when you do, you choose that path, no matter how hard it is.” 

Barry Lopez

Posted in abolition, Black Lives, Des Moines Black Lives Matter, Des Moines Mutual Aid, police, prison, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Bail Bonds

I’ve recently written about the Des Moines Mutual Aid Bail Fund. Concentration camps versus abolition

A Quaker friend reminded me that some early Friends (Quakerism began in the mid 1600’s) refused to be released from prison by posting bail. For some it related to why they were incarcerated. Refusing to take oaths, for example. So paying bail could be seen as an implicit acknowledgement of wrongdoing. Or refusing to pay bail could be related to causing a continuing financial burden and/or embarrassment for the government.

What do we do about posting bail today?

The bail bond system currently exists as a part of the unjust criminal justice system in this country. Those with money can bail out. Those who can’t are incarcerated until their trial. If you or your supporters have the money do you pay?

I believe our work should be to abolish the criminal justice system as it exists now. A bail bond system would not be part of a just system of community justice.

But while that is happening, I believe we should pay bail for those who are arrested for agitating for the abolition of this very system. They are arrested to silence their voices. We need them out in public to continue the work of abolition of policing and prisons. This is financial privilege. But when we abolitionists are successful, no one will be incarcerated just because they don’t have money. (see #FreeThemAll below)

“Back the Black”, Abolish the police. Des Moines, Iowa 4/17/2021

The idea of abolishing police and prisons seems threatening to our safety, at first. Of course who is “our” is the fundamental part of this. The current system of policing and incarceration is certainly not making things safe for black, indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC). It’s not only the dangers of engaging with police. It’s the constant state of terror in BIPOC communities.

I’ve been participating in the Quaker Abolition Network that was started by Mackenzie Barton-Rowledge and Jed Walsh. The following is from an article they wrote in the Western Friend.

Mackenzie: Let’s start with: What does being a police and prison abolitionist mean to you?

Jed: The way I think about abolition is first, rejecting the idea that anyone belongs in prison and that police make us safe. The second, and larger, part of abolition is the process of figuring out how to build a society that doesn’t require police or prisons.

Mackenzie: Yes! The next layer of complexity, in my opinion, is looking at systems of control and oppression. Who ends up in jail and prison? Under what circumstances do the police use violence?

As you start exploring these questions, it becomes painfully clear that police and prisons exist to maintain the white supremacist, heteronormative, capitalist status quo.

Abolish the Police by Mackenzie Barton-Rowledge and Jed Walsh, Western Friend, November December, 2020

Abolition of slavery and its afterlives arises from a sense that the system of policing, prisons, and detention, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, is corrupt at its root: we cannot reform or tweak our way to a better system. The story of the Walnut Street Jail and Eastern State Penitentiary, both arising from Quaker and Protestant efforts to ameliorate suffering, demonstrates the dangers of innovating on systems and methodologies that foundationally dehumanize; criminalize; and do not offer justice and healing for victims, or true transformation for those who cause harm.

Abolitionist thinking is holistic—that ending the system of punishment and incarcerating control itself is necessary—and invites us to imagine a whole new way of not only dealing with harm but of how we think of ourselves in community. It provokes questions like, what does true justice look like? What does it mean to center healing and transforming relationships and create community safety from authentic accountability and relational reconnection? Abolition does not minimize the reality of harm or violence but rather invites us to consider a way of doing things that interrupts cycles of harm, violence, and trauma, and restores perpetrators and victims into community and their humanity.

What would it mean for us to take seriously and collectively as a Religious Society a call to finish the work of abolition, hand in hand and side by side with those affected  and their loved ones? What would it mean for us to stand fully with the calls to abolish the police and fully fund community needs instead? What would it mean to reckon with our past complicity with harm and fully dedicate ourselves to the creation of a liberating Quaker faith that commits to build the revolutionary and healing faith we long to see come to fruition? What would it look like to finally and fully abolish slavery?

A Quaker Call to Abolition and Creation by Lucy Duncan, Friends Journal, Friends Journal, April 1, 2021

Historically, the police and other law enforcement were formed to protect the interests and property of the moneyed classes from the rest of the People. This “property” included the bodies of the enslaved, and was the justification for brutally repressing the righteous and inevitable revolts born from the atrocity of slavery. This same philosophy of endless possession was the bloodlust that fueled the “Indian Wars” and the theft of Indigenous land and bodies that continues to this day. (Wampanoag, 2020)

Today, this same war of conquest, the repression of the many for the benefit of the few, continues. 

Currently, Des Moines Mutual Aid and it’s many accomplices have been fighting a battle with the city of des moines and it’s foot soldiers trying to repress our houseless population from utilizing unused “property”. The basic universal need of a place to rest and be safe is trumped by the need of the wealthy, and the wannabe wealthy, to control every inch they can possess. It is a war for control, and the pigs have enlisted willingly.

This same war of conquest is currently using the mass incarceration machine to instill fear in the populace, warehouse cheap labor, and destabilize communities that dare to defy a system that would rather see you dead than noncompliant. This is the same war where it’s soldiers will kill a black or brown body, basically instinctively, because our very existence reminds them of all that they have stolen and the possibility of a revolution that can create a new world where conquest is a shameful memory.

As bleak as this is, there is a significant amount of resistance and hope to turn the tide we currently suffer under. We stand on the shoulders of giants that have been doing this work for centuries, and there are many lessons we can learn from.

The first, and possibly the most important, is that it was not always this way, which proves it does not have to stay this way. 

Ronnie James, The Police State and Why We Must Resist


The Des Moines Mutual Aid Bail Fund provides bail for protesters arrested in Central Iowa. Call us or leave a voicemail to request aid! Organized by Des Moines Mutual Aid, a group of street medics, social service providers, and community members.
Des Moines Mutual Aid Bail Fund


My friend Ronnie James told me how Des Moines Mutual Aid was started.

It started as group of my friends working with the houseless camps some years back. It has now grown into a solid crew that runs a free food store started by the Black Panthers, still work with the camps, we organized a bail fund that has gotten every protester out of jail the last few months, and we just started an eviction relief fund to try to get a head of the coming crisis, in cooperation with Des Moines BLM. We have raised $13,000 since Wednesday and the application to apply for the grants goes live this week.


The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) supports #FreeThemAll

Immigration activists, prison abolitionists, and those calling to defund the police are organizing across the country under the call to #FreeThemAll. Together, we’re calling for the immediate release of people from behind bars as we continue to work for a future without incarceration. 

#FreeThemAll booklet FreeThemAll_one-pager.pdf (afsc.org)

Join the call to #FreeThemAll

FreeThemAll_one-pager.pdf (afsc.org)

The peace testimony challenges Friends to be critical of the coercive aspects of imprisonment and to think creatively of ways of responding to crime that are less damaging.

Truth and integrity led many individuals to become prisoners of conscience. They are equally fundamental to restorative justice approaches. These seek to work towards the truth as represented in the experience of those involved so that they may be able to learn about others whilst experiencing that their own story is validated. Truth and reconciliation processes that seek to enable individuals and societies to move on and experience a degree of healing are forms of this. Friends in Rwanda were very active in this after the 1994 genocide.

Community is also a key motivation for advocating restorative justice, as it reminds Quakers that members of the community are damaged by crime.  Quakers also have a longstanding concern for the relief of suffering due to famine, natural disasters and war. More recently concerns for situations nearer at home have emerged, especially for homeless, disadvantaged or elderly people and those who are particularly vulnerable, such as political prisoners, those with AIDS and those who are addicted to drugs. All these matters have a close connection to the causes of crime and Friends’ wish to meet needs, rather than punish behaviour.

The equality testimony leads Friends to seek a fairer distribution of wealth, and equal opportunities for employment, education, housing and health services. Fairness in these areas is key to preventing offending and to addressing the underlying causes rather than the symptoms.

Quakers in the World, Testimonies and Crime and Justice

What would it mean to reckon with our past complicity with harm and fully dedicate ourselves to the creation of a liberating Quaker faith that commits to build the revolutionary and healing faith we long to see come to fruition? What would it look like to finally and fully abolish slavery?

Lucy Duncan, American Friends Service Committee

If we are proud of our heritage of opposition to slavery, we have no choice but to take a stand on mass incarceration. Last spring Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting passed a minute in opposition to mass incarceration. As one step in bringing that minute to life, to test the role of outside observers in the effort to end cash bail, several members of our meeting recently ventured through a metal detector and down to the small basement room in Philadelphia’s Criminal Justice Center where bail hearings take place. There we found the court players separated by a glass wall from a few benches for observers. People who have been arrested appear via a video screen from where they are being held at different police districts around the city.

It was hard to watch people attempting to dispense justice in the midst of such an unjust system. There was no uniform treatment here. The Commissioner and DA’s rep in the second session were both much more punitive than those in the first. At one point, the latter recommended a bail of $300,000! That the Commissioner came down to $50,000 was probably of scant comfort to the guy on the screen. The $5000 required up front was clearly beyond his reach or the reach of anybody else we saw that day. Even the challenge of finding $500 for bail of $5000 would keep most of these folks in jail or send them straight to the bail bondsmen and their extortionate rates.

Did any of the thirty or forty people we observed need to be behind bars before their arraignment? Maybe the guy who had missed 23 of his last 26 court appearances.  Possibly the two who had threatened family members. If so, then why not just say that those few need to stay in jail, rather than using a bail system that punishes the poor and lets the rich buy their way out? Looking at the bigger picture, the people who are seriously endangering us and eroding the quality of life in our country have fat wallets, work in high places and would never be caught by this system.

We now carry the weight of what we witnessed. How can those of us who have some protection from this part of our penal system take in its enormity?  How can we face squarely the incredible injustice and pain that permeate it, and acknowledge how we have acquiesced to its existence? In a situation where silence implies consent, what needs to happen for us to speak out?

Slavery, Mass Incarceration, and Ending Cash Bail, Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, by Terry Roberts  06/19/2018

David Wills (1903-1980) was a centrally important figure in the development of what is regarded as being one of the most just and humane types of holding regime. In the 1930s and 40s he developed the concept of therapeutic communities in Hawkspur Camp and the Barns Hostel School, based on principles of relationships and self-learning. His was a strong influence at Glebe House in Cambridgeshire, set up in 1969 as a therapeutic community for teenage men. His understanding of punishment as intrinsically evil led British Friends to take up this issue, and ‘Six Quakers look at Crime and Punishment’ – published in 1979, was the result.

Quakers in Action: Reformers in Criminal Justice, Jane Coppock, New Haven Friends Meeting 01/17/2018


In the story Diary of a Jailbird, my late friend Sherry Hutchison was arrested at a protest at the National Guard in Johnston about sending the Iowa National Guard to the Middle East in 2002.

After a long morning, it was time for lunch — a repeat of last night’s supper menu. A person could get malnutrition while gaining weight on jail food. It was late afternoon when a jailer came and told me to bring my mat and blanket; I was being bailed out! (Owen & D.J. Newlin were my benefactors.) The bail money had been brought that morning; it took all day for the jail & court people to labor through their paperwork. 

Wendy and Carla had spent the night in the holding tank with Desiree and another young woman who was brought in. She’d been arrested on a warrant for missing her court date; she’d been giving birth to a baby at that time. 

It was a relief to be able to change back into my own clothes, get my wrist watch back, and to be able to discipline my hair again with the clips and hair band I’d had to take off — and to see cars driven by friends ready to take us all back to our cars or home. I was thankful merely to feel like a human being again.

Sherry Hutchison



Posted in abolition, Black Lives, Des Moines Black Lives Matter, Des Moines Mutual Aid, police, prison, Quaker, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hassan Ramazani Kooshan

My friend Hussain Leo Kooshan is a Senior at Scattergood Friends School. He is asking for help so his younger brother, Hassan Ramazani Kooshan, currently living in war torn Afghanistan, can attend school in the United States. Following is Hassan’s story.

GoFundMe https://gofund.me/d5f7542c

Meet Hassan.

Hassan is 16 years old and a 9th-grade high school student in Kabul, Afghanistan.

His school, the Rishkhoor Families Boys School, has been burned and where he has been studying Math lessons has been bombed by the Taliban. He has lost friends and teachers because of the violence. Despite the tragic situation, Hassan has stayed on top of his studies.

Hassan remains hopeful and is committed to studying to become a doctor in the future. He is goal-oriented, passionate, and strong. At the same time, he is caring, loving, observant, curious, and unfailingly polite.

Hassan’s father is a day laborer who works for local people in Kabul, and he earns $4 per day which barely supports his family. Hassan works with his father to help pay for math lessons for himself and notebooks for his siblings.

After much work, Hassan has been admitted to The Orme School, a unique college preparatory school in Mayer, AZ, and has received nearly a full scholarship to begin in the Fall. Still, he needs additional funds to pay for room and board, books, and airfare, and other costs of being a US high school student.

The funds collected here will go to meeting those other costs. Will you please help us help Hassan continue his education in the U.S. and work toward his dream/?

In gratitude for your help,

Penn Valley Friends Meeting, Kansas City, MO

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Concentration camps versus abolition

This is some follow-up related to yesterday’s post, Today Where I try to answer yesterday’s question, “what will you do?”

I had forgotten to mention my reaction to writing the Des Moines Mutual Aid Bail Fund phone number on my skin. “Don’t go to a protest without it!” Doing that makes the idea of being arrested real.

Bail Fund phone number written on my arm

It also brought to mind the identification numbers tattooed on the skin of Jewish and other people when they were taken to the Nazi Germany concentration camps. Where most of them were killed. I wonder how much of that, if any, is taught these days. Which seems important as I’m wondering how close we are to concentration camps right now.

Today we have tremendous numbers of people in prisons. Where some are put to death.

There are scary similarities in far right politics. The America First’ Caucus proposal to Protect ‘Anglo-Saxon Traditions’. Removing restrictions on guns. The plethora of restrictions on voting rights. The criminalization of protests. The idea that an attack on the US Capitol is called for.

The greatly enhanced militarization of police. We see constant images of large numbers of police who look like solders. Who are equipped with military vehicles, equipment, and tactics.

Which is why calls to abolish the police are so important now.

The idea of abolishing police and prisons seems threatening to our safety, at first. Of course who is “our” is the fundamental part of this. The current system of policing and incarceration is certainly not making things safe for black, indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC). It’s not only the dangers of engaging with police. It’s the constant state of terror in BIPOC communities.

I’ve been participating in the Quaker Abolition Network that was started by Mackenzie Barton-Rowledge and Jed Walsh. The following is from an article they wrote in the Western Friend.

Mackenzie: Let’s start with: What does being a police and prison abolitionist mean to you?

Jed: The way I think about abolition is first, rejecting the idea that anyone belongs in prison and that police make us safe. The second, and larger, part of abolition is the process of figuring out how to build a society that doesn’t require police or prisons.

Mackenzie: Yes! The next layer of complexity, in my opinion, is looking at systems of control and oppression. Who ends up in jail and prison? Under what circumstances do the police use violence?

As you start exploring these questions, it becomes painfully clear that police and prisons exist to maintain the white supremacist, heteronormative, capitalist status quo.

Abolish the Police by Mackenzie Barton-Rowledge and Jed Walsh, Western Friend, November December, 2020

Why Abolition?

The criminal justice system is violent and harmful: The UK’s prison population has risen by 90% in the last two decades, bringing the number to over 90,000. At the time of writing we are 156 days into 2018 and already we have seen at least 129 deaths in prison, immigration detention centres and at the hands of the police. As the effects of neoliberalism and austerity deepen each day, increasing numbers of people find themselves made disposable by our economic system and structural inequality, targeted by the agencies of the criminal justice system simply for being homeless, experiencing poor mental health or being born in a different country.

The criminal justice system does not reduce social harm: Policing, courts and the prison system are presented to us by politicians and the media as solutions to social problems. Yet, as the prison population has soared, we have continued to seen violence and harm in our society on a massive scale. Violence against women and girls is endemic, racism and the far right are on the rise in Britain and rates of murder and violent assaults are beginning to increase again. As politicians continue to scapegoat those with the least power in society, the conditions of structural violence that so often precede interpersonal violence remain in place.

We can build a world based on social justice, not criminal justice: All over the world, communities are coming together to build real solutions to societal problems. These solutions lie outside of the criminal justice system, in preventing harm through building a better society. By bringing together groups and organisations working for social justice, we want to demonstrate and strengthen the links between prison abolition and wider struggles for housing, health, education, and environment; and for economic, racial, gender, sexual and disability justice.

Abolitionist Futures, Why Abolition?


We are in perilous times. White supremacists are desperately implementing any way possible to retain their privilege. On the other hand, widening protests to abolish police and prisons are rapidly gaining strength.

So we return to the question, “what will you do?”

Des Moines Black Liberation asks us to create mutual aid. Asks our places of worship to open their doors. Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting supports Mutual Aid by offering their kitchen for preparation of food for those who are houseless.

mutual aid is the new economy. mutual aid is community. it is making sure your elderly neighbor down the street has a ride to their doctor’s appointment. mutual aid is making sure the children in your neighborhood have dinner, or a warm coat for the upcoming winter. mutual aid is planting community gardens.

capitalism has violated the communities of marginalized folks. capitalism is about the value of people, property and the people who own property. those who have wealth and property control the decisions that are made. the government comes second to capitalism when it comes to power.

in the name of liberation, capitalism must be reversed and dismantled. meaning that capitalistic practices must be reprogrammed with mutual aid practices.

Des Moines Black Liberation


So many people are showing what it looks like when we take care of each other!
Thanks to everyone whose donated to help houseless folks survive the extreme weather! Let’s keep this going!!
Des Moines Mutual Aid – Camp/General aid
Venmo: @DesMoines-MutualAid
https://tinyurl.com/DSMCampAID

Funds needed for winter survival. Donate to these mutual aid groups to support our houseless neighbors!!
Then, think of how you can create mutual aid!
Call upon the city council.
Ask your place of worship to open their doors.
Ask friends to donate.
Des Moines Black Lives Matter


Des Moines Mutual Aid
https://www.facebook.com/Des-Moines-Mutual-Aid-108955753983592/
Des Moines Black Lives Matter
https://www.facebook.com/desmoinesblm/
Des Moines Rent Relief
https://www.facebook.com/DSMBLMRentRelief/
Des Moines Bail Fund
https://www.facebook.com/dsmbailfund
Edna Griffin Mutual Aid
https://www.facebook.com/Edna-Griffin-Mutual-Aid-104364828102971
North Des Moines Mutual Aid
https://www.facebook.com/NorthDesMoinesMutualAid/

“Back the Black” Des Moines City Hall, 4/17/2021
Posted in abolition, Black Lives, Des Moines Black Lives Matter, Des Moines Mutual Aid, Mutual Aid, police, Quaker, Quaker Meetings, race, Uncategorized, white supremacy | Leave a comment

Today

Such a variety of things happened today, I can’t come up with a good title. So today.

It was kind of a stream of conscious day.

I have a routine that involves writing first thing in the morning. If it doesn’t happen then, I usually can’t seem to get into the state that allows me to write.

Often Saturday mornings break that routine, since I usually sign up to help put boxes of food together with my Mutual Aid friends. Which means getting to the church in downtown Des Moines at 9:00 am. Those who know me well understand that it has to be something important for me to consider driving.

That means leaving Indianola a little after 8:00. I rarely have the day’s writing finished before then. As was the case today. I did begin writing, hoping I might be able to finish it later. I was thinking about what I wrote yesterday, What will you do? I had written about a photo I’d taken at a Black Lives Matter gathering in Indianapolis in 2016.

And they seem to be asking me/us, “what are you going to do?  Do you have a little courage yourself?  Will you make yourself, and others uncomfortable by speaking the truth about these things?”

I had planned to attempt to answer that question myself in today’s blog. And that is what I’m trying to answer here. But what I had begun to write this morning was going in a totally different direction. So this is a reset.

Participating in Des Moines Mutual Aid is one of my answers to “what are you going to do?” Building community is what Mutual Aid is about. Our Mutual Aid group is diverse in many ways. And there is a tight relationship with Des Moines Black Liberation.

mutual aid is the new economy. mutual aid is community. it is making sure your elderly neighbor down the street has a ride to their doctor’s appointment. mutual aid is making sure the children in your neighborhood have dinner, or a warm coat for the upcoming winter. mutual aid is planting community gardens.

capitalism has violated the communities of marginalized folks. capitalism is about the value of people, property and the people who own property. those who have wealth and property control the decisions that are made. the government comes second to capitalism when it comes to power.

in the name of liberation, capitalism must be reversed and dismantled. meaning that capitalistic practices must be reprogrammed with mutual aid practices.

Des Moines Black Liberation

But I skipped a part of today’s actions. The trees and flowers are blooming, and the lighting is great in the early morning. So I stopped several times to take photos on the way to Mutual Aid. It’s a warm sunny day.

I arrive at the church and about 6 of my friends are there. We have to wait for Ronnie to arrive and unlock the door. Like a well-oiled machine we begin putting together about 60 boxes of food. Vegetables are taken from a back room, and then laid out in piles on the tables. There is some visiting, but often we just move around in silence.

Once we are done with the vegetables there is sometimes a pause as we wait for the food from the grocery stores to arrive. So I asked a new friend what else she was doing this weekend. Not surprisingly she said she was going to the Black Lives Matter gathering that afternoon (see below).

And she mentioned doing laundry. I remarked that I usually lived in apartment buildings, so would go to the basement to use the laundry. I went on to say since I didn’t have a car, whenever I moved I needed to make sure there was a laundry in the building or nearby. And a grocery store, and being on a bus line.

When she asked if I was doing anything tomorrow I said something about going to Quaker meeting.

When she asked if I’d always lived in Iowa, I explained how I came to live in Indiana most of my life. I mentioned spending 2 years in inner city Indianapolis in the early 1970’s for alternative service for the draft. She asked if it was easy to be classified as a conscientious objector. I told her how unfair it was, that if you were a member of a peace church, like Quakers, it was usually pretty easy to get that classification. I went on to tell how I’d turned in my draft cards as a draft resister.

She told me she had lived in Sioux City before moving to Des Moines. I asked if she knew my friend Trisha CaxSep GuWiga Etringer, who lives in Sioux City, and she did.

Then the rest of the food arrived, and it was back to work.

I remember when Ronnie was explaining this to me, he said at the end of the food distribution you were tired, sweaty and feeling good. And it was so.

On the way home, I noticed the leaves beginning to come out on the trees at Ewing Park. So I stopped in and took about 70 photos. Each set of trees led me deeper into the woods.

Back in Indianola, I edited those photos and tried to decide if I was going to go back into Des Moines for the Black Lives Matter gathering at the City Hall. I had attended a lot of Black Lives Matter events in Indianapolis. I was friends with those involved. But had not, yet, here in Iowa.

I was actually thinking about “what are you going to do?” when I decided to go back to Des Moines. REALLY driving too much today, but important work.

I knew Des Moines Mutual Aid had a bail fund.

Des Moines Mutual Aid Bail Fund

The bail phone number is 515.218.1994.
Don’t go to a protest without it!

My arm

I put the bail number on my arm above. I’m going to have to practice writing on my skin. How permanent is permanent ink? 🙂

There was an announcement for “Back the Black” earlier, but the location was not published until a few hours before the rally began.

One thing Ronnie had spoken with me about was how important it is these days to not take photos of people’s faces, because law enforcement uses online images to identify people to bring charges against them. So this is the photo I took today. Definitely no faces.

Everyone was of course outraged by all the killings of Black men and children in just the past few weeks. There were many calls to abolish the police.

I’ve become involved in the Quaker Abolition Network. It seems obvious to me, and many others, that police and prisons need to be abolished. But those are discussions for another day. abolition | Search Results | Quakers, social justice and revolution (jeffkisling.com)

The Des Moines Register has a story about today’s gathering.

Hundreds march in Des Moines to ‘Back the Black,’ protest deaths at hands of police, present list of demands by Andrea May Sahouri, Des Moines Register, April 17, 2021

Indira Sheumaker, who is a local activist and City Council candidate, said part of that fight is a list of demands that activists presented at the police station:

  • Terminate Des Moines City Manager Scott Sanders, Police Chief Dana Wingert and “all officers with violent records.” Numerous activists have argued that the department should not allow Sgt. Michael Fong to help lead the department’s de-escalation training. Fong and another officer were involved in an incident that resulted in an $800,000 settlement of a lawsuit accusing them of excessive force. He was also disciplined for an excessive force incident in 2007. Sanders and Wingert have defended Fong and have said they don’t plan to remove him from his position.
  • Legalize and decriminalize cannabis. The city created a task force that recommended cannabis possession be the lowest enforcement priority for police. But Wingert stated the DMPD would not comply with city policy if it conflicts with state law.
  • Defund and abolish police. Calls for defunding and abolishing the police in Iowa began last year after the death of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis who died under the knee of a police officer in May 2020. Des Moines City Council members have balked at activists’ calls for defunding and abolishing the police.
Posted in abolition, Black Lives, Des Moines Black Lives Matter, Des Moines Mutual Aid, police, Quaker, race, Uncategorized | Leave a comment