SF arts institution celebrates 40 years of making art and community

from September 8, 2017 at 08:42AM http://bit.ly/2wQmVGG

A community hub that began as an empty furniture store will celebrate 40 years of supporting artists this Saturday as the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts throws its 40th Anniversary Gala.

The focus and feel of the center has shifted dramatically through the decades, from its international political roots to its role as a community center for local artists to grow.

The center was founded in 1977 in a definitively political way, its funding the result of a concession by the city granted to neighborhood activists who were incensed at the upcoming construction of the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall. That investment, activists and artists argued at the time according to Cary Cordova’s book The Heart of the Mission, pandered to the tastes of affluent suburbanites rather than the cultural needs of neighborhoods.

With help from city funding the building at 2868 Mission Street was purchased and turned into a cultural center with strong support for a Nicaraguan revolution right from the start. Cordova reports in her book that Sandinista poet Ernesto Cardenal spoke at an opening ceremony that drew some two thousand people and included a baptism ceremony proclaiming to shield the children from “spirits of greed, capitalism, egoism and Somoza.”

Even its logo proclaimed its rebellious nature – tezcatlipoca, a jaguar that according to Adrian Arias’ 2003 documentary about the center “represented anti-establishment art.”

“It was political times, not just in the U.S. but throughout Latin America, and I think the Mission and the Mission Cultural Center reflected that historical moment,” said Alejandro Murguía, a poet, the center’s first director and more recently a San Francisco State University professor.

By the time Arias made that documentary for the center’s 25th anniversary, the Cultural Center had established itself as a hub for dance, printmaking, and music – serving as a performance space open to many young musicians who later made a name for themselves right alongside established musicians, much as it does today.

In the year leading up to that milestone, the gallery space found itself in need of some serious elbow grease, according to its incoming curator at the time, Patricia Rodriguez.

About a year before the center’s 25-year anniversary, she had been hired on to do some typing work to get her feet under her as she returned to San Francisco. Instead, she was told she would be managing the gallery, and found it not up to snuff.

“I looked around and the walls were painted yellow and there were a lot of drips on the floor,” she recalled, plus a somewhat laissez-faire attitude to exhibiting in which artists who wandered in looking to exhibit were simply told to choose a spot on the wall and hang their work.

While archival footage points to ample participation in classes and workshops, Rodriguez remembered exhibitions attracting a less enthusiastic crowd. At one opening, she estimated some 35 people showed up.

“There was a big table like a kitchen, with hot beans and soup and all these people were lined up to eat and once they ate this hot food, they split. They weren’t there for the art,” she said. “And I said, oh no, there’s something wrong with this picture.”

So Rodriguez got to work. She convinced her employers to patch the holes, clean up the drips, paint the walls white and generally get the gallery to sparkle. She reached out to, then followed up, and followed up again, with artists she knew. The result was a 25th anniversary exhibition that drew several hundreds, she said.

Programs at the center continued to develop and grow, particularly as it began to charge admission for some events, Rodriguez said. The annual mole contest was started, press releases began finding their way to the local newspapers’ fax machines, and young artists came in for access to mentors. Rodriguez would sit down with them for hour-long sessions and help them polish their portfolios and send them to the galleries downtown to see who was making and exhibiting the kind of art they liked.

“Some of them disappeared and I never saw them again, but once in awhile I’d get someone who would come back and say, guess what, I just won an award in Sacramento,” she said.

Rodriguez spent 10 years at the cultural center as its curator, eventually moving on to teach again, but acknowledges the work of her current successor, Angelica A. Rodriguez, and the continuing role of the cultural center as a focal point for the community.

“It is a really vital center for the community in all aspects, from conventions to music to arts to children,” she said. “and then of course they’re part of the Carnaval, which always participate in.”

Carnaval and Día de los Muertos were also elements of the local culture the center was intimately connected with. In Arias’ documentary, Cordova says some of the dancers and artists who launched San Francisco’s carnaval events also participated in work at the center, and collaborations between the cultural center and the neighborhood arts organizations helped plan the first Día de los Muertos processions.

As it prepares for its 40th year, the cultural center has maintained that role as a supporter of the local arts – including local photographer Lou Dematteis.

“As an artist overall I really appreciate the support at the Mission Cultural Center has really extended throughout its whole time of being in existence,” Dematteis said. While he wished the center could find more support to update its various systems and infrastructure, he praised it for being consistently willing to foster talent and help artists grow – including his daughter who, like her father, has exhibited her photography there.

“I think providing the facility to be able to exhibit, that in itself, that’s a growing process for an artist,” he said. “I think every time you have to prepare your work for an exhibit and actually go through it and make prints and put them up on the wall, that’s a very important learning experience.”

From the start and through its modern function, the center has promoted art from a plethora of cultures, looking beyond the Mexican and Chicano art that was flourishing at the time of its founding to works influenced by cultures across Latin America. Now, it is a constant – a stability it didn’t have in its early days.

“Obviously at the beginning it was exactly the opposite, no budget, no staff, day to day operations with no real sense of stability,” Murguía said. “That was the constant struggle in that sense.”

Now it’s an anchor.

“I just think it’s so important that these kinds of anchor arts and cultural organizations and spaces are still here and continuing to function and be vital parts of the community,” Dematteis said.
You can get tickets to the Gala here.

Read more at: MissionLocal http://bit.ly/2pgo3iW

Kyle Chapman, Out On Bail, Ordered To Stay Away From Berkeley Rally

from August 26, 2017 at 12:16PM http://ift.tt/2wI7MHz

based-stickman-chapman.jpg Photo: Youtube via Altright.com

Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman was remanded to custody Friday by a judge in the felony case stemming from his appearing to wield a leaded stick at a March 4 alt-right rally in Berkeley. As KQED reports, he was arraigned in an Alameda County court on a charge of felony possession of a billy club and ordered to be held on $135,000 bail. As reported earlier, Chapman has two previous felony convictions on his record, and therefore could face stiffer sentencing if convicted again.

An attorney working on his behalf has previously said that Chapman is “severely mentally ill.”

Chapman has previously said on social media that the charges against him are “trumped up” and “bogus.”

NBC Bay Area reports that Chapman posted bail Friday night and one condition of his bail is that he must remain 300 yards away from any rally that occurs in Berkeley on Sunday.

Chapman, a resident of Daly City, has been hailed as a hero on the alt-right and turned into a meme because of the helmet, mask, stick, and American flag shield he appeared with at the March rally in Berkeley.

Also on Friday, the Daily Californian reported that Chapman had partnered last month with Berkeley rally organizer Amber Gwen Cummings to sell autographed sticks and shields for $50 and $250 respectively.

Chapman can be heard in the video below, posted July 12, discussing the “war against whites in Western society,” referring to the “three battles” in Berkeley, and saying that the only way the country will be saved is if “patriots” are willing to do physical battle in the streets and risk their lives.

Previously: Alt-Right Figure ‘Based Stickman’ Faces Felony Charge, Three Strikes Stemming From Berkeley Rally

Read more at: SFist http://sfist.com/

Protesters fill the Mission District in a day of peaceful rallies and marches

from August 26, 2017 at 12:21PM http://bit.ly/2wIukbs

We will be updating throughout the day. If you’ve read the top, jump to the new material below. 

By 2 p.m. today a variety of counter-protests against a right-wing rally called Patriot Prayer arrived in the Mission District. One, a dance party at Dolores Park, drew upwards of 300 people. More than 500 people marched from Alamo Square, where Patriot Prayer organizers had announced they would hold a press conference after canceling their Crissy Field event, to Mission and 24th streets. Meanwhile, a massive counterprotest also gathered at Harvey Milk Plaza and joined another gathering at Civic Center.

“No fear, no registry, stop white supremacy,” the marchers on Mission Street chanted.

(See time stamped updates throughout the day below) 

Around 11:30, revelers began to gather. Photo by Laura Wenus.

 

12 p.m.

Some 250 to 300 people, some in funny hats and flower crowns, had gathered near the 19th Street palm trees at Dolores Park in one of several events planned to counter the message from those who had planned a Patriot Prayer rally at Crissy Field and then Alamo Square.

The Loved Up event at Dolores Park started at noon with around 100 people and grew over the next hour. Even before it started, a dozen San Francisco police officers were scattered around the perimeter of the park.

Just yesterday, the organizers of the rally that Loved Up was meant to protest canceled their event, settling for a press conference at Alamo Square. Police, however, closed the square.

“I am excited and highly encouraged,” said David Walzer, one of the organizers of Loved Up. “It’s obvious that the original goal of the Patriot Prayer freedom rally was attention and confrontation. The whole strategy is trying to provoke a violent response. It’s obvious that no one really fell for it.”

Walzer said that a key part of defusing the potential for violence was the SFPD’s response and learning from earlier protests that keeping sufficient police presence and keeping opposing groups separated was the key.

“You do that and it defuses everything,” he said. “We’re dancing and they [the Patriot protesters] look like fools.”

If all goes as planned, those gathered in Dolores Park will move on to Harvey Milk Plaza at 1 p.m. Already helicopters could be heard overhead.

12: 15 p.m.

The crowd has grown to 200 and a lot of cake is being handed out.

Michael Dillard and Kim Kirk were wearing their Star Trek T-shirts. Why?

“Think about what Star Trek is – it is a lot of different people all coming together for a common cause.” said Dillard.

“This is the future we want,” said Kirk.

“Contrast that with the other group, that is all about hate,” said Dillard.

“I want to join the dance party with a cake,” said Kim. “It really shows that when people come together in the spirit of non violence and solidarity that we can push back on hateful ideals…it’s also San Francisco – they kind of came to the wrong place.”

Susan Reeves with cakes being passed out (inspired by Tina Fey skit). Photo by Laura Wenus

12:33 p.m.

What do you dance to at a counter protest? Apparently “Love Shack” and “Respect.”

Some tweets from elsewhere in the city:

12:59 p.m.

Angela Noble and Toni Marie both appreciated the cancellation of the Patriot Prayer event.

“I respect them for canceling it,” Marie said. “They’re welcome to don some colors and have a nice time if they like.”

Of the dance party, Marie said, “The media really zeroes in on the negative stuff. It’s the new opium for the masses.”

“It’s showing that different people can get together and organize and have a good time and we don’t have to be haters,” Noble said.

Noble (left) and Marie. Photo by Laura Wenus

 

1:24 p.m.

The crowd at Dolores Park has grown to close to 300, but not everyone is dancing. Instead, many are sort of bobbing, waiting for the move to Harvey Milk Plaza in the Castro. From the sound of the helicopters over head there are more people there.

Photo by Laura Wenus

Looks like they will be moving at around 1:45 p.m.

Our political representatives, current and former, are at Harvey Milk Plaza.

1:42 p.m.

As the love-in or dance-in waited to move, they watched from afar the two banner tow planes circling the marchers on Market street. One bore a message that appeared to read something like, “hate is a thought so is love.” Another proclaimed, “$130K raised adopt a Nazi not really.”

This is the scene at Harvey Milk Plaza:

1:51 p.m.
There is a crowd of 500 or more  protesters coming south on Valencia street toward 16th Street. Lots of police officers are escorting the crowd. They appear to be turning toward Mission Street.

Protesters on Valencia Street. Photo by Mark Rabine

Protesters at Valencia and 15th Streets. Photo by Mark Rabine

 

When one marcher appeared ready to start a confrontation, other marchers confronted him and told him to get out. With police nearby watching the scene, he did.

A confrontation quickly ends. Photo by Mark Rabine

2:05 p.m.
The marchers are headed toward 24th Street on Mission Street. All traffic has been blocked off.
“No fear, no registry, stop white supremacy,” the marchers chanted.

2:12 p.m.
Ricardo Zegri, one of the marchers on Mission Street, said the group had come from Alamo Square, which had been closed off. There was no sign of any right wing rally, he said, and after they had a rally of their own, they marched from Steiner to Waller to to Market, and then up Valencia to 16th and over to Mission Street. They plan to go to 24th Street.

“It’s been a huge victory, where so many people came out to say hell no,” said Zegri. “We scared them back into the shadows where they belong.”

Zegri said he’d been moved to join the counterprotest after hearing President Donald Trump respond to Charlottesville.

“Last week when we heard the President of the United States essentially endorse neonazism, I got sick to my stomach and was unable to sleep,” he said. “It seemed irresponsible to do anything but scream at the top of my lungs.”

Ricardo Zegri at the march on Mission Street. Photo by Laura Wenus

 

Ezequiel Bronstein said to him, much of the political movements recently have been very personal, as a gay jewish immigrant from Latin America.

“It’s important for us to speak up,” he said, then added, “But I present as a white straight male, so I enjoy some privilege. It shouldn’t be like that. So it’s very important for me to stand up.”

2:30 p.m.

Marchers stopped briefly at 22nd and Mission Street, the site of a massive fire in 2015 that was destroyed in a fire, displacing dozens and killing one.  There, neighborhood activist Roberto Hernandez talked to the crowd about displacement.

“A brother died in that building,” Hernandez said. He reminded marchers that Latino families have been displaced from the Mission.

And, then it was onward toward 24th Street. The crowd remained upbeat and peaceful.

2:37 p.m.

The marchers are at the 24th Street BART Plaza and the speeches have begun,

Benjamin Bac Sierra, a vocal advocate for the family of police shooting victim Alex Nieto, encouraged those at the march to make an effort to get to know one another, dance together, even share kisses.

“We defeated white supremacy, we defeated hate,” he told the crowd.

 

At 24th Street. Photo by Laura Wenus.

Meanwhile the Dolores Park dancers had moved on to Harvey Milk Plaza leaving behind those enjoying just another beautiful day at the park.

Photo by Mark Rabine.

2:50 p.m.
Chanters and poets have taken over the microphones at 24th Street and so between spoken word on oppression there are shouts, “This is the power of the people and we won’t stop.” or “fuck Trump fuck Nazis.”

A group of protesters briefly set up rainbow banners surrounding the protest in the middle of the intersection, but those were quickly moved onto the plaza.

The march concluded with words from Equipto, a local rapper and and activist, Nicolette Portillo, a Los Angeles based poet, and Oakland organizer and activist Gina Madrid.

Bac Sierra advised people to get together and dance after the rally, and to take care heading home.

On possible encounters with violent racists, he added, “If you can, handle that shit, but if you feel like you need to take a step back, take out your phone and video them. Put them on blast.”

The rainbow banners that went up for a bit. Photo by Laura Wenus.

3 p.m.  The speeches are over, the band is playing and the crowd at 24th Street is down to less than 100. One protester has set a Trump piñata on fire. A few feet away, there’s live music and dancing.

Photo by Laura Wenus

 

Mission street is still blocked from 23rd to 26th Streets.  And while drivers can get through on Bartlett and Capp streets, both are backed up. Advice: If you are parked nearby, wait for a bit. Dance, have a bite…

Or meditate?

Around 3 p.m., Mission Street and 24th. Photo by Laura Wenus

3:19 p.m.  The crowds have left Harvey Milk and at Civic Center, the message is love.

3:36 p.m.

The traffic is flowing again on Mission Street, Capp and Bartlett and the police are leaving the scene.

We will keep an eye on Dolores Park, but otherwise we won’t be updating until something happens.

Julian Mark and Mark Rabine contributed to this report. 

Read more at: MissionLocal http://bit.ly/2pgo3iW

Counter Protests Planned At City Hall And In Castro This Weekend Whether Alt-Right Rally Goes On Or Not

from August 21, 2017 at 03:24PM http://bit.ly/2vdQJIV

sf-city-hall-stock.jpg Photo: Shutterstock

This Friday, city leaders will rally concerned citizens and host an afternoon event on the steps of City Hall to condemn hate and the presumed racist overtones of a planned rally in Crissy Field this Saturday. The rally, which still needs a final permit from the National Park Service, has been the source of extensive hand-wringing and much bluster on social media in the Bay Area, despite denials from its organizer that it will have any neo-Nazi or white supremacist elements like those who showed up in Charlottesville.

The counter-protest and rally will take place at noon on Friday on the steps of City Hall.

Having observed several earlier dustups in Berkeley in which the word “patriot” was put in the title and to which many armed individuals showed up on both the far right and far left ends of the spectrum to do battle, SF Mayor Ed Lee has urged the NPS not to issue a final permit for the rally out of concern for public safety.

Supervisor London Breed tells the Examiner, “Many members of the public have reached out to me and other officials to express their outrage. They have also expressed a strong desire for a peaceful anti-protest.” She added, “As a city, we believed it was important to provide that alternative, on our own day on our own terms, to hopefully change the narrative from violence and racism to love and unity.”

Meanwhile on Saturday, multiple other protest and rally events are planned in different parts of the city in order to give protesters outlets to express their anger and displeasure over the Patriot Prayer event and racist rhetoric in general on the alt-right, all without having to confront any attendees directly in Crissy Field — something that may lead to physical altercations.

SF drag queen Juanita More!, along with multiple local organizations, is hosting a Saturday afternoon event in the Castro called “Come Together,” with the tagline “Celebrate love and say no to hate.” Longtime activist Cleve Jones has already given the event his ringing endorsement, and over 1200 people have expressed interest in attending on Facebook.

“Our city is coming together this weekend to resist hate and bigotry,” Juanita tells SFist. “There are protests, non-profit events, dance parties and marches being planned from one end to the other. All of them to express our collective disgust with white supremacy, facism, and nazism. I am in support of all of the events and stand with the community and will not let the alt-right take us back in time.”

She continues, “In my heart the best place for me to bring my San Francisco family together is at Harvey Milk Plaza where I will be joined by leaders from the Transgender Law Center, SF NAACP, SF LGBT Center, The National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Immigration Law Center , API Wellness Center, The Women’s March, The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Bay Resistance, Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice and more.”

The Castro event is planned to go from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, and will likely be followed by a march to Civic Center culminating in another planned rally there that will include music performances, comedy, and more.

There is also a candlelight vigil being organized Friday night by the San Francisco Interfaith Council, and the previously announced counter-protest involving a whole lot of dog poop in Crissy Field.

Several other gatherings that are not advocating violence are nonetheless planning to confront the Crissy Field gathering head-on, including this one that will gather on Fort Mason Green, this one involving a call for clowns to mock to the alt-right rally attendees, and this larger one that is advocating for “fighting back,” however a much larger planned event called “Unafraid” that was likely to draw hundreds if not thousands of counter-protesters to Crissy Field has now been canceled and its Facebook link redirects to the peaceful Civic Center rally instead.

You can read my thoughts, if you haven’t already, about why I think giving the Crissy Field event any direct attention is a terrible idea.

Previously: Dog Owners To Dump Poop On Crissy Field Ahead Of Rally; Organizer Tells Fox He’s Not A White Supremacist

Read more at: SFist http://sfist.com/

Bay Area Rallies, Raises Funds In Protest Of Planned Alt-Right Event

from August 21, 2017 at 11:23AM http://bit.ly/2wDMV7G

A couple of demonstrations over the weekend showed Bay Area folk on the left of the political spectrum coming out in defiance of the recently defiant displays by those on the far-right end of the spectrum. First, on Saturday, a planned counter-protest for a March on Google organized by alt-right figure Jack Posobiec (of Pizzagate fame) went on despite the march itself getting postponed last week. The rally, titled Stand Up for Equality and Diversity, drew a couple of hundred people outside City Hall in Mountain View, as NBC Bay Area reports, and the event, originally meant to counter a right-wing rally in protest of the firing of Google engineer James Damore, took on greater significance for some attendees after the events in Charlottesville the week before.

“I don’t support violence, and I certainly don’t support terrorism and people marching around with tiki torches,” said protester Elizabeth Beheler to NBC Bay Area. “So yes, I think that I am a suburban soccer mom here peacefully expressing myself.”

Protesters chanted things like “What do we want? Equality. When do we want it? Now!” Indybay has some more photos here.

The March on Google was postponed due to what Posobiec claimed were credible threats of violence from the “alt-left,” and it comes just as the Bay Area is bracing for two other planned rallies this coming weekend in SF and Berkeley by the alt-right/conservative group Patriot Prayer — one or both of which, some fear, will attract the type of extremist and neo-Nazi elements who showed up in Charlottesville.

Separately on Saturday the group Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ) staged a rally in Justin Herman Plaza in SF in protest of the upcoming rallies and white supremacists in general, with attendees hoisting signs that said “White Supremacy Sucks!” and “Make America HUMAN Again!”, as NBC Bay Area reports.

In related news, a fundraising campaign by a Bay Area lawyers’ group has quickly raised over $80,000 for the Southern Poverty Law Center — the non-profit group based in Alabama that tracks and documents hate groups of all kinds in the US.

The GoFundMe campaign, titled “Adopt a Nazi (Not Really),” was launched last week by Jewish Bar Association of San Francisco board member Cody Harris. He tells NBC Bay Area that the idea was inspired by a 2014 campaign launched in the small German town of Wunsiedel, where they “decided to combat an annual neo-Nazi march through town by donating money to an anti-extremist group for every marcher.”

“These extremist groups are spoiling for a fight,” Harris tells the station. “They are basically trolls — they want a reaction, they want violence in the streets. It serves their purposes. Decent Americans cannot respond like that, tempting as it may be. We instead must channel our anguish and anger towards something positive. This campaign is an easy way to do that.”

Previously: Dog Owners To Dump Poop On Crissy Field Ahead Of Rally; Organizer Tells Fox He’s Not A White Supremacist

Read more at: SFist http://sfist.com/

Tenant convention rallies the displaced

from June 9, 2017 at 02:21AM http://bit.ly/2sno9XE

Along with legislative solutions to curtail real estate speculation and luxury developments a tenant forum on Wednesday night stressed that community resistance and engagement are key to halting displacement.

“There are speculators who come in with a lot of money to get us out,” said Alicia Sandoval, a counselor with the Housing Rights Committee referring to a 27 percent decrease in the Mission’s Latino population from 2000 to 2013. “You know your community best, you all have the power as tenants and as neighbors who know each other. It’s important to create a type of family to support each other – especially in the Mission.”

Working class families living in the neighborhood have also been hard hit by the displacement crisis, shrinking by 26 percent between 2000 and 2013, according to Carlos Bocanegra, an attorney with La Raza Centro Legal.

The forum at  Buena Vista Horace Mann attended by 50 people was conducted in Spanish and centered around four key key housing issues – habitability, tenants rights after a building changes ownership, luxury development and evictions. Participants were instructed to split into groups depending on the specific issue had inspired their attendance.

“We’ve come here looking to find out information about what we can do to help,” said a woman who gave her name as Julietta, a Mission resident for 18 years. The woman said that many families who attend her church have been effected.

“One family has been here for 34 years and another for 17, and they were each given a verbal eviction,” said Julietta. “Because the landlords are going to fix up their homes.”

Such evictions are illegal, said Deepa Varma, executive director of the San Francisco Tenants Union, who informed tenants of their rights in the event that their buildings are sold. Varma advised tenants who are living in a building that is in the process of being sold or tenants facing an eviction to capture all communications with their landlords in writing.

Varma shared her personal experience with eviction when her three-unit building changed hands some four years ago.

“The family downstairs was undocumented and they were really scared and immediately they left,” said Varma. “I noticed that the landlord kept finding ways to talk to me verbally. I started reaching out to organizations and do everything by writing. All of a sudden everything changed.”

Mission District tenant convention at Buena Vista school. Photo by Lola M. Chavez

Varma managed to stay in her building, and made it her goal to help others in the same predicament. Fred Sherburn-Zimmer, of the Housing Rights Committee, said that according to the organization’s data, three-quarters of the people who move out in such situations “probably didn’t need to.”

“I almost never see a tenant who fights who doesn’t do better off by fighting. You get more money, more time – thats huge. And a good percentage of tenants get to stay,” she said.

Other advice given by the tenants rights specialists included insisting that landlords give a 24-hour notice before entering their units and that tenants should heed three-day, five day response notices.

“Those count even on the weekend,” said Varma.

Dairo Romero, community planning manager with the Mission Economic Development Agency, said that the nonprofit developer is spearheading a “small sites program” to use city money to acquire buildings and ensure that the tenants remain.

Still, the aggressive market presents some challenges in this process.

“Some problems we have with this program is the closing time is three months. The investor who has money to do it right away they can do it in a month,” he said, adding that with the help of tenants, a sale can often be facilitated much quicker.

“The way that we go around this problem is organizing the tenants ..they start talking with the owner,” said Romero, referencing such a situation when the organization acquired a building at 3800 Mission St.

“When the tenants have a good relation with the property owner..they have basically convinced the landlord to accept MEDA’s offer because that was their only guarantee that they can stay in the building.”

After listening to the advocate’s advice, one participant broke out in tears. “I don’t live in the Mission, I live in the Tenderloin, but we also have these issues there,” she said. “This is so important.”

The tenant convention was one of several held over the course of a month by the housing advocates in neighborhoods throughout the city, including the Castro, Excelsior, Western Addition and South of Market. The sponsors included the San Francisco Tenants Union, the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco, Causa Justa and various other Mission based community organizations.

Read more at: MissionLocal http://bit.ly/2pgo3iW

USF panel explores link between fascism and Trump

from May 19, 2017 at 05:41AM http://bit.ly/2rzVtY5

Reiko Redmonde speaks at a panel the “Is this Fascism?” discussion hosted by the Gray Panthers of San Francisco at USF on May 7. Photo: Esteban Pinilla

“This is a state of emergency,” Reiko Redmonde said during a panel discussion at the University of San Francisco (USF) on on May 7 called “Is This Fascism?”

The panel was hosted by the Gray Panthers of San Francisco, to analyze historical fascist regimes, discuss political uproar in the face of oppressive governments, and compare and contrast white supremacist dictators to the Trump administration.

“No one is too young, too busy, or too old to take responsibility to drive out the Trump/Pence regime,” Redmonde  said. “It is a fascist regime, and for the future of humanity and the planet, we the people must drive this regime out.”

One of five panelists, Redmonde is an activist with Refuse Fascism and manager of Revolution Books in Berkeley. According to her, the current administration is working to intensify the oppressive nature of American society, “with assaults on immigrants, Muslims, women, black people, Mexicans, LGBTQ people, science, and the environment.”

This Machine Kills Fascists. Graphic by Jonathan Byxbe

She explained the difference, in her understanding, between a “bourgeois democracy” where government has a constitution and a rule of law (even if it is not applied equally to everyone) and fascism, in which the government shoves aside constitutional norms and attacks the press, “clamping down on critical thinking and attacking the very concept of truth itself.”

Panelist James Dahlgren, a toxicologist and internist (physician in training) for the Unitarian-Universalist Church San Jose, said that one common way for a fascist government to establish a dominant population is to target members of the society and make them feel inferior.

Dahlgren brought up scapegoating, that it was how Hitler convinced Germans to blame Jews for their troubles, and that now President Trump is targeting Muslims, refugees and immigrants in a similar fashion.

Trump’s designs to “make America great again” are an effort to create a form of American exceptionalism and nationalistic rule, according to Dahlgren, who pointed out that Hitler’s totalitarian government—born after the Reichstag fire—was supported by the corporate state in Germany.

Similarly, Dahlgren notes, the Trump administration is doing what the corporate state would like to see them do. This includes increased funding for the military, and gutting regulations by defunding government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency.

Redmonde said that in a fascist government, “violence is whipped up and then unleashed against demonized groups” and the ability of people to resist is “obliterated with democratic rights essentially eliminated.”

Gerald Smith, a former Black Panther and organizer for the Oscar Grant Committee Against Police Brutality and the Labor Committee to Free Mumia, disagreed with other speakers in thinking that fascism has come to the United States.  

Smith discussed Benito Mussolini’s fascist rule over Italy from 1922 to 1943. He said right before Mussolini came to power, it became pretty clear that the bourgeoisie couldn’t control society and the mass uprisings of labor organizations had to be stopped. In contrast, “the working class [today] is not even in motion, let alone rebellion,” Smith said.

Steve Martinot, an author and human rights activist, argued that it’s possible to say the United States has always been fascist, according to his definition of fascism as, “a society with an organized mode of administrative violence that is designed to suppress pro-democracy, progressive movements, and socialist movements.”

Martinot discussed how white supremacy was born in the Virginia colony in the 17th Century. From the evolution of a structure of slavery, “there emerged a white racialized identity as a cultural identity.” Martinot argued that as this identity developed throughout history, white people demanded allegiance from each other in the same way the Nazis did in the 1930s.

He explained that today, we see this white racialized identity materialize in the form of “a police department that shoots people down in the street by the thousands.” Martinot said the police use racial profiling to direct their focus, which was legitimized by the Supreme Court in Terry v. Ohio, a 1968 decision that allows law enforcement to search anyone they deem to be suspicious.

“Seventy percent of all the people in prison are there for victimless crimes,” Martinot said. “They are not violent people. That prison system itself becomes the hard material fact of what fascism in the U.S. is all about.”

Despite these challenges, Stephen Zunes, a professor of politics and international studies and global peace and conflict studies at USF, remains hopeful, especially in light of the resistance that has already emerged since the election.

Zunes cited in particular the Women’s March earlier this year, which brought 3.1 million people together throughout the United States to protest Trump.

“This was the largest single mobilization in U.S. history—topping the height of May Day marches in the early ‘30s, Moratorium Day in 1969 against the Vietnam War, and the protests against the Iraq War in San Francisco in 2003,” said Zunes.

Zunes also drew comparison to a number of oppressive leaders including Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, Suharto in Indonesia, and Louis Weichardt in South Africa. He pointed out that these countries were far less developed than the United States, had regimes that were far more oppressive, and lacked an alternative media to report the atrocities.

“Many of these regimes had the backing of the United States and other foreign governments,” said Zunes. Yet these movements were still able to mobilize and bring these governments down.”  

Read more at: News – El Tecolote http://bit.ly/1ulrLOZ

Immigrants around the Mission close their businesses for day of protest

from May 1, 2017 at 06:18AM http://bit.ly/2qxgOjE

On a day workers around the world have traditionally marked as a day to protest for labor rights, immigrants have added their voices, or rather their absence, to make a point. On May 1, or May Day, many around the Bay Area and the Mission closed up shop for a day without immigrants.

“I want to support my community,” said Robert Sanchez, owner of El Taco Loco at 3274 24th St. Although Sanchez could be found inside of his business on Monday, his staff was absent, and a sign hung up in the storefront read in bold letters “Cerrado – Por Apoyar (closed – in support).”

Most of those employed with the 30-year-old business, said Sanchez, are immigrants.

The owner of El Taco Loco at 3274 24th St. said he shut down his business on May 1 to support the immigrant community. Photo by Laura Waxmann

“No hay pan, nada (There’s no bread, nothing),” said a woman walking past La Victoria Bakery at 2937 24th St.  The panaderia, nearly 70 years old, also closed its doors Monday in a show of support. Those who walked a few blocks up to try their luck at La Reyna Bakery, located at 3114 24th St., were met by locked doors and a storefront devoid of pastries.

Other neighborhood staples and legacy businesses along the 24th Street Corridor, a designated Latino Cultural District spanning roughly from Mission Street to Potrero Avenue along 24th Street, participated in the day-long action.

Signage on the entrance of Precita Eyes Muralists at 2981 24th St. stated that the local arts organization would be closed all day for “repairs and for Day with No Immigrants.” Outside of the shuttered storefront of Alley Cat Books at 3036 24th St., a poster board was decorated with the word “Resist.”

And a Coca Cola delivery truck driver who was en route to delivering inventory to Belmar La Gallinita Meat Market at the corner of 24th and Harrison streets, looked inside of the shut-down storefront, visibly puzzled.  The man snapped a photo of a poster announcing the action that was hung in the market’s storefront, before retreating to his truck.

“I didn’t realize they were closed today, but it makes sense,” he said, upon being informed about the ‘Day Without Immigrants” protest.

Taqueria Guadalajara at 3146 24th St. was closed on May 1 for “Day Without Immigrants.” Photo by Laura Waxmann

Staffed largely by immigrants, most corner stores along 24th Street also followed suit – George’s Market at the corner of Shotwell Street, Maurice’s Cornerstone at Treat and 24th Streets and Sammy’s Liquor and Groceries on Bryant Street were shut down for the day.

A sign in the window of Temo’s Cafe at the corner of 24th and Harrison streets offered would-be patrons an explanation for the business’ closure. “San Francisco and the Mission District, as well as other neighborhoods in the city, are characterized by their cultural diversity whose richness is due to their communities of immigrants who live and work there,” the sign read. “The Day Without Immigrants will be a way to express our support for these communities and to recognize them as an essential part of this city.”

Outside of Taqueria Vallarta, which was also closed for the day, a maintenance worker and a passerby could be overheard discussing the effectiveness of the protest.

I don’t think it will make a difference personally – these stores will be closed. But go up to Valencia Street and they will be open because its a more Anglo area,” said the woman, who gave her name as Carmen. “I think the Latinos [in the Mission] have to be more unified.”

At 38 percent, the Mission has the densest Latino population in San Francisco despite that proportion dropping from 50 percent since 2000. Overall, immigrants make up 35 percent of the city’s population. A more aggressive federal stance on immigration has prompted protests and marches citywide since the election, including one prior day without immigrants in February. On Monday, protesters took to the streets all over the city, including at Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters. That was followed by a march from Justin Hermann Plaza to Civic Center later in the day.

Freddy, who was overseeing repairs inside of the shuttered Taqueria Vallarta and is a friend of the owner, said he supports the business’ decision to close on the busy corridor, adding that he himself had called out of his other job as a plumber to participate in the action.

“I think its a good thing, I have friends and family who are all immigrants,” said Freddy, who is from Mexico. 

A few businesses along Valencia Street also closed their doors in protest, including Arizmendi Bakery, the Mexican goods store Casa Bonampak, and the nonprofit Dolores Street Community Services.

One woman read the notice on the door of the Mission Street felt goods store Peace Industry and remarked, “It’s good. Something’s got to change.”

“As a business founded by an immigrant, Peace Industry will be closed on Monday, May 1st to express our support for the immigrant community who is being targeted unjustly by laws that tear apart families. No business as usual,” wrote the owners of Peace Industry.

The popular Peruvian ceviche counter and restaurant Cholo Soy also remained closed Monday in support of the protest, as did bar and restaurant Cha Cha Cha.

Just a few doors away, Chely’s Beauty Salon was also shut, its windows sporting flyers encouraging immigrants to join the march.

“For the defense of immigrant rights! No to the wall, no to the anti-muslim ban!” the flyers read.

Read more at: MissionLocal http://bit.ly/2pgo3iW