Saturday, June 30, 2018

See Something, Do Something about ICE

My friend saw ICE a few blocks from her house last Sunday morning around 5:30 am. She said there's a closed Mexican restaurant there, and she said they were peeking in through the windows.

She didn't know what to do, so she kept driving.

Ok, so here's what you do if you see ICE (or see an anonymous post saying "there's an ICE checkpoint at such and such intersection/ subway stop")

Contact Make the Road NY. They have a Facebook page, you can even message them. They have people who are trained to investigate this and do it in a way that does not further terrorize vulnerable people.

I'm not a quiet person; silence is compliance and I always thought discretion was a polite form of cowardice.


I'm a white person and this isn't about me.

First of all, do less harm.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

4th of July

Independence Day is a week away.

I will honor the sacrifices my ancestors made, both those who fought and those who refused to shed another's blood, by renewing my commitment to justice for those who have been abused, and shelter for those who flee one life in hopes for a better one.

I will teach my children that we are stronger together, that honesty is the best policy, that justice is what love looks like in public. Those are the American values that inspire the best in people, and I want the best for them and for our country.

And after the fourth of July, I will buy the discounted flag-stamped napkins. I am tired of cowards and charlatans clutching the flag in their tiny hands, they desecrate it with the flatulence that comes out of their mouths.

I am going to rescue these symbols of the values my ancestors -- and what all Americans are supposed to share, the hope and the mercy that is our shared light in the darkness -- I am going to rescue the symbols from the recycling bin, and I am going to take them back.

I am going to bake.

July 14th, we are going to hold a church basement bakesale at Saint Mary's near Times Square. We are going to wrap baked goods in the flag-stamped napkins and we are going to donate all proceeds to Make The Road NY, a local non-profit run by and for immigrants.

Because immigrants are as American as apple pie.

Vamos Ramos!

So you might not know this about me, gentle reader, but I work within the system when I can.

Yesterday, standing not-too-close to my local polling place, we collected signatures for Jessica Ramos. She needs 1,000 signatures to be on the ballot, but her team is hoping to collect 5,000 because every one will be contested in court. Whee!

I had tried knocking on doors a week ago, but as my kid sister says, "I don't open my door to a stranger unless they're carrying pizza" and I left the pizza at home. No luck.

A friend who had done this before kick-started us, but pretty soon ProtestTeen and I had a rhythm going. He is not burdened with my shyness or discernment, so he approached every warm body who looked like they were over the age of 16, asking if they were a registered Democrat in NY. He got rebuffed more often than I could have handled in his shoes, but he also got a lot more yesses than I would have been brave enough to get.

Then he worked out whether they lived in the 13th State Senate district or not.

If they were indeed lucky enough to live in the colorful part of the map, I stepped in and explained that their current state senator was a member of the IDC-- and got to explain what the IDC was doing in Albany, even if they didn't live in the district but were curious. (Education is crucial to a robust Democracy! Rah!)

A couple of people wanted to do their own research before they signed  their names-- we ran out of flyers before we ran out of enthusiasm-- but we collected 3 pages worth of signatures, and I'm really proud of the diverse and passionate folks who stopped to chat with us.

Yes, there was a guy who walked past saying "Trump is my president!" but he didn't engage further than that and neither did we.

There was also a woman who signed, saying she was no longer voting for men. "You had your turn," she said, nodding towards her (male) partner by her side.

I did not witness this myself, but my signature collecting partner said that Peralta, the incumbent Ramos is competing against, had hired signature collectors from Baruch College. Apparently that's completely legal. I can see why having a bigger war chest is important-- not just for the advertising, but for paying feet on the ground/hands holding petitions.

We, of course, were unpaid volunteers.

I don't know how many of my signatures will be "good enough" to count towards Ramos's 1000. I'm still pretty new to this part of civic action, and I'm pretty sure at least one of my mistakes can't be fixed with a cross out and initial. But I did find  that after 2.5 hours of talking up democracy with my neighbors I wished I had my bag of Ricola handy.

Some parts of my exploration of demoracy in this peak capitalist era don't change.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Playdate Protest Debrief

Playdate Protest Action Guide

That's the important part, right there-- how you can do what we did.

But here's what we did, because writing it down makes it feel more real and important, and I need that right now.

(I struggle with my ego and also with maintaining privacy, and whether I should share what I'm doing in this post-Trump/scarier world, but then I remember how scared I was the first time I crossed the police line to bring donations to Occupy Wall Street... fear is fear, and protesting my government's actions is scary whoever is president. ...I've never been good at hiding, so I'm going to embrace that and shout instead.)

Tuesday I got a PM from a friend, linking an invitation to parents (of young children) who wanted to take direct action with their children. There was a vague assurance that it was low arrest risk, but in that moment my main response was YES. It absolutely helped that I recognized one of the organizers' names as a mutual friend of a parent I met through Occupy Wall Street. But I think if Chucky Cheese had offered me a Direct Action response to the mounting horror I would have listened with an open mind.

There was a virtual meeting Wednesday night where they described what the plan was, and gave everyone a chance to ask questions and offer resources. ("What's your name and what are you bringing to this?" everyone else said lovely things like "strength" and "passion"... I don't even know if I have a sense of humor left, so I said "Ricola".)

I picked up ProtestKid (who is now ProtestTeen, I guess...) from school early, and even then we were a little late to everything. But late is better than never! (This is my mantra when people who have been fighting longer, harder, or more efficiently side-eye me, or I feel myself starting to side-eye people who have been apolitical up until now.)

#solifuckingdarity, whenever we get to where we're going.

We met up with the larger group, and I realized that most people already knew at least one other family there. That was hard-- I don't want to minimize anything, here, because I want You The Reader to know that you might show up and not know anyone and you still should stay. You still (really really) matter.

They wanted us to go inside in small groups of 7-10 people. I could have maintained my Cool ProtestMom diffidence, but instead I turned to the mom with a stroller next to mine and asked if we could join her group. And she said Yes, and that made *so much difference*. (Thank you, StrollerMom, wherever you are!) Suddenly it wasn't just me and ProtestTeen and ProtestTot against the world. I had another adult (I had 4 other adults, because she had come prepared with a posse. Smart StrollerMom!) keeping an eye on the small people, and that lowered my cortisol levels to manageable levels.

Lesson learned/reinforced: Make friends with strangers at protests. It is crucial.

There was a technological glitch, so instead of heading to the ICE office when we got a group text, they changed plans on the fly and said "try to get there by 3:15"... 

Things don't always happen as planned. It's not a failure, it's just different.

Our strollers slowed us down through the metal detectors, so we were late again. OTOH, ProtestTot is too huge for me to carry, and too young to join in the shouting ("I no like 'Fight the Power'" he said, the last time I asked him to punch the air on demand) so I needed the stroller. And I couldn't take many photos, because he was busy playing Peppa Pig's Paintbox on my phone. But you know what? We were there. That's what matters.

(And other people took pictures, and other people had cute babies to hold and charming children to hold relevant signs. It takes a village to raze a fascist regime.)

We were far from the center of the direct action, because of being slow-- that meant we were next to the DHS (Yes, Department of Homeland Security) cops when they arrived. They mostly lounged against the wall, because there were a lot of livestreamers and no one wanted to be That Guy who arrested a white baby on TV. But they did enforce the "no sitting on the floor because it's a fire hazard" rule and when ProtestTeen asked about that the cop did start to lose his temper "I'll make you the first one out the elevator" so that was a little alarming.

But we stayed there until the office closed at 4 pm, and we people's mic'd our demands (That children and parents be reunited. That families belong together) to each other and the folks at the ends of the hallway. We sang, we drew on paper butterflies, and we slowly left in our groups back to the lobby on the ground floor where we sang some more and played with playdough.

We left the building and reunited with the parents and children who were unable to go inside. (Whether because they couldn't get there in time, or because they couldn't risk any arrest at all, no matter how small.) They drew on the sidewalk and held signs and sang, just like those of us inside. They, too, had DHS cops, but they had more exits so were as safe as anyone is.

ProtestTot was getting restless (he had heard someone say "Ice cream" and decided that was the only thing in the world that mattered. He gets his lungs from his mama.), so we left-- but first I said goodbye to the folks who had been our group-- it's important for closure and so that no one thought we had been disappeared. It's good manners, too.

And then we went home.

ProtestTeen says, "I'm glad I went."

Yeah, me too.

I hope you can come with us next time.