On Tour With Propagandhi

18 06 2007

repost from my old blog, from June 1st, 2007.

we may face a scorched and lifeless earth.
but they’re accountable to their shareholders first.
thats how the world works.

– Propagandhi

I got to spend the last week touring with Propagandhi.

joshua kahn russell josh

read on for videos, pictures, and stories.

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Port of Oakland Shut Down! We won! Twice!

18 06 2007

Repost from my old blog, from May 20th, 2007. Click here to see old comments.

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This morning we shut down the port of Oakland. The ships that had supplies bound for Iraq sat idle.

At 6:30 am group of various antiwar activists, teachers, and union members went to the SSA Terminal at the port of Oakland. Lucky for me, it was only a 10 minute bike ride from my house. I was part of Bay Rising Affinity Group (BRAG!) – that’s us with the giant dove – and was rockin with UCLA and Bay SDSers. We set up a picket line, which the Longhshoremen Union (ILWU), had agreed not to cross.

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defend woodfin workers!

18 06 2007

Repost from my old blog, from May 20, 2007

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After feeling victorious from shutting down the port this morning, someone in our affinity group got a call that a group of racists were harassing the Woodfin Workers picket.

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Woodfin is a hotel in Emoryville, about 15 minutes from my house. Last Christmas, several immigrant workers were unjustly fired without notice in retaliation for organizing to obtain their rights under the local living wage and workload protection ordinance that EBASE passed last year. They have been tremendously courageous in organizing ever since.

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SDS in the media

18 06 2007

Repost from my old blog, from May 6th, 2007

We have been getting a slew of coverstories and feature articles in the media lately. Here are some recent ones.

Punk Planet
title or description

and The Nation
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and Left Turn
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May Day!

18 06 2007

Repost from my old blog, from May 2nd, 2007.

Happy May Day!

In case you are curious, here is the Incomplete, True, Authentic and Wonderful History of MAY DAY

Yesterday I found myself in San Francisco’s Dolores park, marching behind the “gringos para la justicia inmigratoria” banner. Thousands marched in the Bay – in SF, Oakland, and San Jose. For more info see: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/05/01/18408028.php

here are some photos

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Native Peoples protest Department of Justice

18 06 2007

Reposted from my old blog, from April 11th, 2007.

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The Department of Justice plans to build power plants on the sacred Natural Medicine Lake Highlands near Mt. Shasta. These are spiritual places for the Native peoples of California, and are just another instance of the colonialism and genocide that continues to this day against Indigenous people in the U.S. and beyond.

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Oakland Food Justice

18 06 2007

Reposted from my old blog on March 28th, 2007.

My neighborhood is struggling for something most folks take for granted: a place to buy food.

West Oakland has no grocery store. But not because grocery stores don’t want to be here.  Mandela Foods that wants to start an organic, affordable, community cooperative grocery store. But like most cities undergoing gentrification, the folks who hold the purse strings want to lease spaces to the junk stores and chains that will eventually give way to fancier establishments and lofts.

Currently a space is up for lease – it’s a space called the Mandela Gateway and is funded by our tax dollars. The Oakland Housing Authority, which ultimately says whether the landlord can lease or not, wants to allow a chain 99 Cent junk store in its place. All we have in West Oakland is Liquor Stores and 99 cent junk stores…we only need one: the one legitimate, community owned and controlled Marcus Garvey Dollar store, which everyone wants to support.

My neighbors and community organizers have been getting together to challenge and pressure the Oakland Housing Authority to say NO, and allow the community food cooperative a chance to let West Oakland develop in a way that is self sustaining and autonomous – one that will give our community good sustainable jobs, local pride, healthy food, and invest its money back in the community.

The above and below photos were from an Oakland Housing Authority meeting we went to about a month ago. We went to another one tonight. Aint no no power like the power of a community cuz the power of a community don’t stop….

Lockdown at Chevron’s World Headquarters

18 06 2007

This is reposted from my old blog, from March 21st, 2007. Click here to see original comments.
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The sun hadn’t risen yet. After circling once under the cover of darkness, our van and truck pulled up to Chevron’s world headquarters. Our affinity group (Bay Rising Affinity Group aka BRAG!), burst out of the van and deployed our barrels, lock boxes, and bodies. The cops were waiting for us, but for some reason when we hopped out of the van, they ran the opposite direction. We locked our arms into place.

Our barricade and occupation of Chevron’s entrance was in place in less than 60 seconds. We completely shut down the main entrance to Chevron’s International HQ. Initially we were worried that we wouldn’t have enough bodies to cross the whole 6 lanes of the entrance – but lucky for us, even though we didn’t reach the other side (at first!), the cops completely shut down the rest of it for us!

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the people versus merrill lynch

18 06 2007

Reposted from my old blog from February 25th, 2007. For original comments go here.


(Adi Nochur from SSC)

People hacked up black tar. They cried black tears. Paramedics in biohazard suits desperately tried to save their lives. It was a lively day for the financial district of Boston. We left major banks and financial institutions nervous, scared, and on their toes.

Here’s a video of the carnage:

Last Wednesday across the country in major cities from Dallas to New York, Rainforest Action Network activists stormed branches of Merrill Lynch to hold them accountable for funding TXU, a corporation trying to build 11 coal-fired power plants.
I had the privilege of coordinating the Boston action.

(Mike Da Cruz and Will Lambek of Brown SDS)

It’s hard to describe how big of an impact these coal plants would have. First of all they are planned to mostly be built in rural Texas communities, and I shouldn’t have to outline the class implications of building toxic dumps in low income communities and giving their children asthma. The local connections ran deep, as a similar company is trying to build a power plant in a low income community of color nearby in Chelsea. The power plant is being built right across from an elementary school.

The global impacts are staggering. These plants will release 78 million tons of greenhouse gases. That’s more than many countries. More than 21 combined U.S. states. More than 14 million new cars on the road. More than all of BP releases. More than Japan’s entire commitment to the Kyoto protocols – this one project would cancel out the Kyoto Protocols for the country of Japan. It’s one of the biggest steps backwards our country could take in the fight against climate chaos.

(Carly Huebner and Heidi Cooper)

We saw we had about a 3 month window to either stop or seriously scale back the project. So we went for it.

RAN’s strategy is to follow the money. Crazy how so often captialism’s at the root of things, isn’t it?. Some activists were challenging TXU on legal grounds, others through community pressure, others were trying to block their permits, other people were even activating the business community. But we know that even if TXU got it’s permits, they couldn’t function without financial backing. Three major banks were funding TXU: Morgan Stanley, Citibank, and Merrill Lynch. So far we have secured 20 banks who won’t mess with TXU. Merrill Lynch was the strategic target.

There were actions across the country, but no standing RAN chapters in Boston yet. Most of the folks who came out were various friends, allies, and SDSers (from chapters in Providence, Boston, and New York). SDSers in Portland Oregon had a demo in PDX, and SDSers were rocking in the big New York Action too (from chapters in NYC, and New Jersey), which had a “Billionaires for Coal” meme (an amazing action that got really major media. Look for accounts of it elsewhere!).

Pictures of that action here:

In ours, people violently died and hacked up pollution that was really hot fudge. We were going to originally splatter charcoal around and smear it all over ourselves, but we figured that with it being ash Wednesday and all, the messaging might be confusing. Then we were gonna sling brownie batter around, but didn’t want to waste brownies (or potential-brownies).

(Will Lambek and I)

After the climate change murders, we marched inside to deliver a letter from the RAN executive director to the CEO of Merrill Lynch. We were told that Merrill Lynch had briefed security that we’d be coming, and under no circumstances would they come down and chat with us.

(Will Chalmus and I)

Turns out they were feeling the heat though. Breaking news has it that TXU is crumbling, and the 11 power plants have now been scaled down to 3. Amazing. We’re still waiting for details and the dust to settle; and I imagine we cannot fairly take credit for this…but collectively in the last few months across the country activists took down 8 of these disgusting things. It gives me more inspiration to gear up for bigger fights.

We can’t stop here. No new coal. Period. Congress isn’t gonna regulate carbon. And as long as Wall Street continues to fund this stuff, we gotta fight.

Global warming is increasingly becoming THE issue of our generation. Everyone in our society is talking about it…except for most radical folks on the Left, for some reason. Al Gore is telling people that if they turn off their lights then they are doing their part. That’s not true. This is real, its looming and dramatic, and there are real power structures and people who are making it happen. It’s going to affect people in our generation the most; it is a youth issue. The people fucking the world are gonna be dead before they see the full effects of this….and then we will be dead, if we don’t do something. It disproportionately affects people who live in the Global South and folks of color in the US (Katrina, Stan, Tsunamis…).

We need to radicalize and polarize this issue. Its one of the most fertile vehicles to build a multi-issue mass movement in this country that can also confront the war, immigrant rights and other pressing issues. The emerging post-issue groups like SDS really need to take this seriously I think…

The action made the front cover of the Boston Metro, IndyMedia, was in the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Spare Change News, and some local TV and radio. Maybe Newsweek too, we’ll see.

The NYC and other actions made the New York Times, a million financial journals, and city papers across the country.

If you are hammering away at the brand of a company and need to increase the pressure and public visibility of your campaign, coordinated, publicized street theater works. plain and simple.


here is some of the Boston media:


Wall Street Journal:

PDF of the front cover of the Boston Metro:

Internet version of the Metro article:

the Herald:

more pictures here:

Dirty Power Kills

(Will Chalmus, Mandee Schwartz, Jenny Venezia, Carly Huebner, and Heidi Cooper)

(Neena Pathak and Will Lambek)

(Will Lambek and I)

(Grace Yasamura from Rainforest Action Network)

(Heidi Cooper)




*All photos by Jonathan McIntosh


18 06 2007

This is reposted from my old blog, from February 16th, 2007. Click here to see original comments.

On Thursday at noon Neena Pathak and I gave a workshop / presentation at Brandeis University in Waltham.

The title was “Zapatismo and the Anatomy of Solidarity”

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And the stated description was:
Ever wanted to do activism abroad? Fascinated by transnational social movements? Thought about power and privilege and how that plays into folks from the Global North doing work in the Global South? How do we navigate our privilege and travel in an ethical and reciprocal way? What is Zapatismo? Come join Neena Pathak ( ’08 ) and Josh Russell ( ’06 ) in a participatory workshop about the challenges and complications with doing “solidarity work” abroad, that draws on these two Jane’s and Karpf Grant awardees’ experiences with the Zapatistas and other indigenous rights groups in Chiapas, Mexico. We will use Theater of the Oppressed tools and other games, so come ready to move around!

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About 20 students showed up. The games and involvement were interesting and I was really impressed with the depth to which folks wanted to engage these issues. Given the way Zapatismo and that movement is romanticized and idealized by people up North, people had a really grounded and serious approach. The issue of folks who have the privilege to travel abroad often go with the pretense of activism and “helping,” cuts through so many lines and legacies of imperialism, colonialism, racism, etc etc. Its only going to increase as neoliberal globalization pushes forward; more universities are going to find ways to give students grants, stipends, and fellowships to go abroad in the Global South, and unless we develop models to make that process look a lot more like solidarity and a lot less like charity, students will probably keep perpetuating the process of unconsciously taking a lot more than they give.

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A lot of what we talked about were our own struggles in confronting these issues within ourselves; we certainly had our share of hypocrisy and embodying our own critique. A lot of these issues seem to be simply irreconcilable to some degree. We drafted a pseudo-coherent document of what we learned in our research called “The Anatomy of Solidarity” that shares some ideas, but not answers. I wish we were on top of our shit enough to have answers! (I don’t actually think there are hard and quick “answers” to these things). It may get published as a workshop manual later in the Summer.

For folks interested in this kinda stuff, my friend Bruin is putting together an anthology that deals with the contradictions and problems with being someone from the North going to the South. It’s called Less Than Settled, and feel free to email me if you’d like to contribute a chapter.

p.s. – a great scam: Dominoes Pizza has this giveaway where if you are a reporter they will deliver free pizzas. As long as the place you need them delivered is not a residence (i.e. an office or a school) you can just call up and say you are a reporter from anywhere and get free pizzas. We scored 4 free larges with toppings! Hott.

Friday Athens SDS scored a major victory marked by a pinkie swear.

18 06 2007

Reposted from my old blog (www.radicalblogs.org/joshrussell) – this was from February 9th, 2007. See here for old comments.

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The Ohio University campus has been rocked this year by a decidedly anti-democratic, unaccountable administration, pushing unpopular policies without any student input whatsoever. “Free Speech Zones” on campus attempt to shut out discourse and protest. Arbitrary fees around popular student parties and holidays, the sudden cuts of Athens Varsity Sports teams, and indulgent pay bonuses for Administrators have left students feeling alienated and without control of their college. Ohio University is being run like a corporation rather than an educational institution.

SDS has risen up to advocate for student syndicalism and a radical vision of a democratic university, and built an impressive coalition in the process. The SDS free speech demonstration on Friday, Feb 2nd, was attended not just by activists, but students most activists groups wouldn’t think to try to organize – including athletes and Frat boys.

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I was invited to come to OU in Athens by their SDS chapter and the umbrella activist group InterAct, to do workshops, trainings, and other action support, both as an SDSer and also as an organizer from Rainforest Action Network (RAN). Trainings with SDS ranged from sustainable organization building to campaign strategy, while I got to connect with InterAct about collaborating on a few RAN-related projects including shutting down a corporation called TXU building dirty coal fired power plants (but that is a separate entry entirely).

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