Yesterday, I drove down to Raleigh, NC with two friends. What motivated us to hop in the car and drive nine hours was not just a fun road trip, though we did have fun. We wanted to go down to see the growing “Moral Mondays” protests at the NC state capitol. Spearheaded by the NAACP and rooted in Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s principles of non-violent civil disobedience, it is a call to North Carolina’s religious leaders and their communities to advocate for the poor and speak out against Governor McCrory’s right wing agenda, which targets the most vulnerable North Carolinians.
Each of the past several Mondays, North Carolinians have flocked to the statehouse to protest a government that they view as failing the needs of the people. In the previous two Mondays alone, two hundred people were arrested for civil disobedience and led out of the statehouse in handcuffs.
As someone involved in the Occupy movement, I was intrigued to see for myself, as were my friends. When we arrived in Raleigh and walked to the great lawn outside the capital, we were impressed by what we saw.
Under a gray, rainy sky, hundreds of people were gathered, many carrying signs advocating for issues of all sorts. I didn’t need to ask “What are their demands?!” I knew damn well…
The 25-person “Occupy Neighborhood” meeting last Sunday (6/9) at Left Forum 2013 included people from New York neighborhood general assemblies in Kensington, Harlem, Astoria/LIC and Sunset Park, and also from OccuEvolve, Granny Peace Brigade, Green Party, “No 7-11″ and La Jornada. Others came from as far away as Syracuse, Vermont, St. Louis, Los Angeles and Spain. Sofya Aptekar has produced a record of it in nine parts on the Occupy Astoria LIC youtube channel. (Further comments, see FB event.)
1) Which New York Occupys Are in the House (0:00)? Opening statement by Nicholas Levis, Occupy Astoria LIC (5:00).
2) …Levis. Nellie Hester Bailey, Harlem General Assembly (2:49).
All Films: Tuesday evenings at the Church of the Redeemer in Astoria. Doors open 6:30. Film starts at 7:00. Lively discussions, usually hosted by the filmmakers or experts on the issue. Light refreshments served. Potluck is invited!
6/18: THE YES MEN FIX THE WORLD
(with Comedian Lee Camp)
*** 6/25: HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE
(with activist and “St. Pat’s For All Parade” founder Brendan Fay)
*** 5/7: BROTHER OUTSIDER – LIFE OF BAYARD RUSTIN 5/21: #whilewewatch – #OCCUPYWALLST MEDIA REVOLUTION 5/28: GREEK AMERICAN RADICALS – THE UNTOLD STORY
(with AKNY-Greece Solidarity Movement) 6/4: INCONVENIENT TRUTH BEHIND ‘WAITING FOR SUPERMAN’
(with educator, filmmaker and performer Brian Jones)
Sunday, March 17th, Occupy Astoria Long Island City was out in force supporting the locked out workers of the Trade Fair supermarket on 30th Avenue in Astoria. Shoulder to shoulder, we stood with the workers and representatives of their union, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 342. We handed out flyers and helped to alert the community of the lock out.
Employees of nine Trade Fair supermarket locations throughout Queens have been locked out of their jobs since Wednesday, March 13th. The chain’s 100 meat department workers have been working without any type of contract since the last one expired in October of 2012.
In a letter to his constituents, NY Councilman Daniel Dromm of Jackson Heights succinctly explained the situation the workers are facing:
“Trade Fair has refused to bargain fairly. Instead they have insisted on wage freezes throughout the length of a new contract, cutting workers’ hours, taking away workers’ Sunday premium pay, and gutting their healthcare benefits.”
As the workers have been locked out, Trade Fair has hired replacement employees. Displayed outside the store, were oversized posters advertising help wanted for part-time meat workers. The qualifications of these new workers were brought into question this past brisk Sunday afternoon. Locked out workers informed OALIC that the meat being marked Halal by the replacement workers was not in fact Halal. This is a serious issue considering that many Astoria residents shop at Trade Fair specifically for their Halal meat. On the street, we encountered a Bengali Astoria resident who has shopped at Trade Fair for his Halal meat and who also had heard the startling news that the meat being put out on the shelves was not Halal. He seemed very dismayed by the news and supported the workers. He made a point of saying that local Muslims developed a relationship and trust with their butchers and that the situation with the Halal meat should be made aware to the larger Muslim community. We also met other residents who also were supported the workers and therefore were boycotting until the unfair labor practices were resolved.
As for now, the workers are locked out in the cold. Their union is continuing to work toward better working conditions and a fair contract. Until then, OALIC supports the Trade Fair workers both in spirit and in the streets.
The auditorium at P.S. 122 was filled with over 600 people on March 6, 2013. Parents, teachers, students and neighbors showed up on a cold night, whose forecast called for snow, in order to voice their frustration at the recent Department of Education announcement to phase-out the gifted program at the school. Among the panelists were Costa Constantinides, an alumnus of the coveted Academy for the Intellectually Gifted, Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.
Parents, students, teachers and residents rallied at P.S. 122.
According to the Department, they’ve decided to enforce Chancellor’s regulation A-101 after never having done so in the past. In short, this regulation mandates that any zoned K-8 school allow all students that entered the school in kindergarten to remain in the building through the terminal grade. In order to apply this logic, all students that are admitted to P.S. 122 in September of 2013 will complete their tenure there upon graduating from the eighth grade.
At this point, one might be wondering what all the fuss is about. The problem is that P.S. 122 has never been a zoned K-8 school. The building, located at 21-21 Ditmars Blvd, Astoria, has historically been the home of an elementary school until about 1985. At that junction, a very small yet distinct District 30 gifted program, grades 6-8, was opened which eventually grew in size and scope. The specific goal of this new program was to serve the needs of District 30’s gifted middle school students. Such a program did not exist until this one was opened. Over time, “The Academy” expanded to include a strand of gifted classes within the existing elementary school. These changes never constituted the creation of a zoned middle-school at P.S. 122. The neighborhood’s zoned middle-school was and still is I.S. 141. At this point I must add something critical to the conversation. At many schools, similar constructs have been created and staffed by an additional school administration. The cost savings, coupled with stellar academic results, which no one refutes in relation to 122, would be more than enough to characterize the 122 community as successful and innovative.
On Tuesday evening, March 19, I took the 3-train out to the Saratoga Avenue stop in Brooklyn. I was hoping to get to my destination — East 55th Street and Church Avenue in East Flatbush — by 7 o’clock. That was the start-time set for the nightly vigil for 16-year-old Kimani Gray, shot and killed by New York police on March 9. The neighborhood was new to me, so I had no idea if I’d be able to find my way to the vigil by 7:00. I was a little nervous.
I had heard that Jumaane Williams, the City Council member for the area, had angrily demanded that people from outside the neighborhood stay away from the vigils. He was obviously concerned about the violence that had broken out in the neighborhood the night of March 13, when about 40 people were arrested.
Yet OALIC member Jenna Pope, who photographed the protest and march that night, reported to our General Assembly that cops on scooters cut off the marchers, blocking their way. There is nothing illegal, of course, about walking down the sidewalk, even with a large group of people. According to Jenna, this blocking the crosswalk was the NYPD’s way of provoking the marchers and, as it were, inciting the disturbance that followed. I couldn’t help remembering the reports that journalists were arrested at Zuccotti Park on the night of November 15, 2011 — a clear case of City government stomping all over the First Amendment…
NYPD scooters flood the streets of East Flatbush at the Kimani Gray vigil.
So I’m walking on Steinway earlier and at the corner of Broadway, a man is handing out papers. Someone is always doing that. I generally try to take these off the leafleters’ hands and recycle them. A block later, it was still in my hand, so I had a look. It was not an ad for a gym. – NL
This week, there have been vigils and marches in response to the NYPD shooting and killing Kimani Gray in Brooklyn. I was there on Wednesday, and although the vigil and march started out peacefully, the cops decided to block us from using a crosswalk while we were on the sidewalk, and continued agitating the whole night. I believe that’s what we call a “police riot.” Click here for more info. Below are two of my photos from the night of March 13, 2013. Follow this link for more photos. – Jenna Pope
Candlelight vigil for Kimani Gray in East Flatbush
Friends of Eire! Join Occupy Astoria LIC as we march for the second year in
OA-LIC at St. Pat’s For All, 2012
This is a festive, family-friendly event! Look for the big yellow “Occupy Astoria LIC” banner at the 12:30 pm Assembly Point, 47th Street and Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside, Queens. The parade begins at 2 and marches to Woodside Ave and 58th Street. Annual post-parade party at Saints & Sinners, 60th Street and Roosevelt Ave. The whole universe is welcome!
The St. Pat’s for All parade celebrates the diversity of the Irish and Irish American communities of New York. First held in 2000, St.Pat’s for All cherishes and celebrates an inclusive St. Patrick’s season. Ours is the first in the 260 years + of Irish parades in New York City to be open and welcoming to all who wish share the spirit of the day. We err on the side of hospitality.
For directions by subway and bus and the full story of St. Pat’s For All, see the St. Pat’s For All site.