Climate Strike!

The day after I wrote this post lamenting the lack of a local climate strike action, I got an email from a local climate champion saying that there would be an event in Binghamton on Friday, the day that millions of people took part in thousands of actions around the world.

We met in front of the building that houses Senator Schumer’s office. As Senate minority leader, he is our most influential representative in Washington. In keeping with the youth leadership of climate strikes, this was organized by local university students, with lots of energy coming from the students who gathered. There were also a number of allies, many of whom were veterans of the fight against fracking in New York State.

I was pleased to be able to attend and lend support and happy to be part of three generations in my family there. Daughters E and T were both there; granddaughter ABC, at two years old, was the youngest attendee. Several people commented that we were gathered there for climate action for her and her generation, so that they will have a livable planet.

Our climate strike event on Friday was very grassroots, with the co-organizers speaking and then offering the mike to anyone that wanted to speak. Next Friday, September 27th, will be a larger and more formal event with several local organizations as sponsors, featuring speakers, music, tabling, and food. I hope to be able to attend that, too.

There is a lot of work to do in order to keep global temperature rise in check, so much that it often seems impossible, but I am more hopeful than I have been for a while. With young people around the world rallying and demanding action, maybe national leaders will finally find the political will to make a rapid and just transition to a sustainable, though still damaged, world.

Another Congressional office visit goes awry

On February 21st, I wrote about going to Representative Claudia Tenney’s new Binghamton office to deliver my message about health care, which involved my sliding my message under her locked door.

Representative Tenney has refused repeated invitations to meet with constituents and to attend town hall meetings on this topic, so there was a planned event near her office this morning to try again to get our message to her.

I arrived early and met up with several people in the hall outside her office. The office door was locked, but there was a doorbell and people, presumably staff, were arriving and being let in.

To our surprise, Rep. Tenney herself appeared, hurried past us, and tried to open the locked door, before a staffer arrived to let her in. She did not acknowledge that there were constituents of hers standing there with our signs about saving our health care.

Word got to us that a larger group had gathered down in the first floor atrium, so we went to join them, just as they were being re-located to the outdoors, with temperatures in the teens Fahrenheit.

But, we, the people, are intrepid and would not be silenced!  We had our signs, some media coverage, leadership from Citizen Action, and a portable sound system. People were sharing stories about how the Affordable Care Act had helped them and what it would mean to their health and their lives to lose the health insurance and medical care access they had gained through the ACA, detailing specific problems with the current House Republican bills dealing with health care, and writing messages to deliver to Tenney’s office (despite it being so cold that our pens weren’t working). We were supposed to be able to deliver messages to the office in groups no larger than three people.

When I went back into the building to warm up, one of the longtime leaders in the Catholic social justice community was on her way to the office, so I joined her. While we were still in the hallway, a woman who was with the management of the building met us, saying that Representative Tenney was no longer accepting visitors to her office, that she did not want us there, and that she was calling the police so that we could not gather outside the building, either. (She also told us that Representative Tenney was in Washington, which was odd as it certainly looked like her entering the office an hour earlier and we had thought that the official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the office was scheduled for today.)

We went back outside and stood our ground. We thought that the entrance plaza where we were gathered was public property and we were not blocking the entrance to the building, so we were within our rights of assembly, freedom of speech, and petition. Two police officers arrived, spoke to a couple of people from our group, and confirmed that we were fine to continue as we were.

Rep. Tenney is apparently not very familiar with the law.

By trying to silence us, she actually gave us an even stronger voice for our message as the rally went on longer than anticipated and will draw more media attention.

She also did not endear herself to the other tenants in the building because she had the management lock the main doors into the building, presumably to keep her constituents at bay. I’m sure the other offices, including the Chamber of Commerce, were not amused about the inconvenience to their clients.

So, Representative Tenney, I ask you once again to vote against any repeal of the Affordable Care Act and to take action to enhance the ACA by permanently securing Medicaid expansion in all states, by making a public option available to everyone, and by negotiating drug prices for Medicare and other public programs so that medications become more affordable.

My thanks to my fellow protesters, the great people of Citizen Action, the Binghamton police officers, and the kind people of Bistro 163, the new coffee shop and boutique that is tucked next to Metrocenter who gave us free coffee and a place to warm up.

And Representative Tenney, you will be hearing more from us, your constituents, on health care and many other vital issues.

Feeling the Bern in Binghamton

I wrote about experiencing a few bubbles of near-normalcy after Grandma’s death almost three weeks ago.

This morning was another bubble, but “normal” is not the proper adjective to describe it.

Today, I attended a Bernie Sanders rally at Binghamton’s Veterans Memorial Arena. After arriving before 7 AM in a cold drizzle and snaking through a line with thousands of people – a few of whom I knew from my social justice and environmental work – I went through a metal detector and found a seat in the stands where I could see a profile view of whoever was at the podium. There was a HUGE American flag taking up most of the curtain at the end of the hall. While we were filling the seats in the stands, hundreds of people were gathering on the floor in front of the podium. I could have joined them but I didn’t think I would have the stamina to stand for a couple more hours on the very cold floor. The home ice of the Binghamton Senators is under those 4x8s.

The crowd was predominantly millennials with a good representation of us older adults and a smattering of children. I happened to be sitting with some students from my town’s high school, who said that attendance at school is low because everybody is at the rally!

There were lots of creative signs and apparel. A woman wearing an entire outfit made with cloth printed with Bernie’s face. A “Feel the Bern” sign with Bernie as an adorable-yet-terrifying, fire-breathing dragon. A large cloth sign with a very good, larger-than-life portrait of Bernie painted on it. Lots of Bernie 2016. A future to believe in. Feel the Bern.

Because of the security, it took a long time to assemble the crowd, but the Arena was filled to capacity. I heard later that more people wanted to attend but were turned away. The press area across the hall from me had over a dozen cameras on tripods and a couple dozen more journalists with laptops. About 5,000 of us were waiting for Bernie to arrive.

As I have posted about before, I am a supporter of Bernie Sanders because he comes closest of any candidate to my own views. On April 19, New York State will have its primary, but I won’t be able to vote for him. Like Bernie, I am an independent, which makes me ineligible to vote in the New York primary. I do support the campaign financially, though.

There were several introductory speakers. First, there was a woman representing the CWA, followed by one from the IBEW, who highlighted Bernie’s experience and support for labor unions and against unfair trade practices.

Next was Conrad Taylor, 20-year-old Binghamton University sophomore and Binghamton City Council member. Remember his name. Maybe in 24 or 28 or 32 years, he will be running for president. Conrad spoke about Bernie being the first presidential candidate in sixteen years to come to our area because he cares about us. He also represented Bernie’s appeal to young people because Bernie is forward-thinking, as young people need to be. The reaction to his mention of climate change was the biggest thus far.

Next up was Jim Hightower, who reminded us that agitators are”what gets the dirt out!”

The final introductory speaker was Gasland director Josh Fox, who got the crowd even more fired up, reminding us all of the grassroots strength that powered the movement to ban fracking in New York. When he introduced Senator Sanders, the crowd jumped up and made so much noise that I’m not sure what song they were using to introduce him.

Bernie told us that he was there to tell us the truth.

While some people complain that Senator Sanders is a one-issue candidate, although they don’t seem to agree on whether the one issue is campaign finance reform or income inequality, they are just wrong.

Topics that Bernie addressed included: campaign finance, oligarchy, Citizens United, income inequality, living wage, the challenges facing the young generation, the broken criminal justice system, youth unemployment, education, community policing reform, removing marijuana as a federal Schedule 1 drug, special interests and PACs, TPP and other trade issues, foreign policy, expanding Social Security, pay equity for women, student loan debt, comprehensive immigration reform, taxing Wall Street speculation, changing the government’s relationship with the First Nations, rebuilding inner cities and infrastructure, and health care as a right.

Two issues received special attention from Bernie. The first was climate change, which involved a long discussion of the dangers of fracking and methane emissions. This led to a second theme, the strength of grassroots organizing. It was especially powerful for those of us in the audience who are fractivists. Bernie’s message was that that kind of grassroots action has led to other needed changes throughout US history and that it can lead to more needed changes.

Together, we can make it happen.

Feel the Bern!

Update:  As a New York fractivist, I was honored that right after the Binghamton rally, the Sanders campaign released a new ad focused on Bernie’s opposition to fracking. I’m so happy that we were the springboard in bringing greater attention to Bernie’s stance on this important issue.  https://morningconsult.com/alert/bernie-sanders-new-ad-targets-clinton-fracking/

 

 

 

 

Climate Rally!

As you may know, the climate talks in Paris have reached their halfway point.

To support their efforts, last week there were climate rallies and marches around the world. I attend one in Binghamton NY.  We shared our thoughts about climate change and headed outdoors for photos:
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A group photo which was sent to 350.org
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A close-up with yours truly in the lower left corner

And a link to us learning and singing a climate song:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s__Ba9saX7E&feature=youtu.be

The COP21 talks continue to be on my mind. I hope and pray for an accord that will have the world united in rapidly reducing carbon emissions while sharing resources to conserve energy and ramp up renewables and offering assistance to those most affected by climate change, including those living in poverty, those in low-lying areas, and those impacted by drought, severe storms, and other problems brought on by global warming.