This past October we were lucky enough to be able to interview lauren Ornelas of Food Empowerment Project. During this interview lauren discusses environmental racism, the mistreatment of produce farmers, heart wrenching chocolate slavery in Africa and more! If you have the time, we would love for you to check it out. After watching, we hope you read up on these subjects and share with your friends and family. Food is power, knowledge is power.
I live on the west coast of British Columbia, in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I’ve spent mot of my life here, residing everywhere from the Island of Haida Gwaii to Gabriola, growing up in the port town of Nanaimo and now inhabiting East Van. I was raised surrounded by beauty, from the vast and omnipotent power of the Pacific Ocean to the epic strength of the old growth forest’s Redwood trees spanning as wide as the roads we travel and reaching to infinity. I’ve marveled at the awesomeness of the milky way while listening to the peaceful roar of the waves and stretching out on a piece of driftwood, slept on bed of soft green moss while watching the trees talk to each other, climbed the peaks of the mountains, our protectors, and swam free in the pristine waters of the Georgia Straight alongside my brothers and sisters of the ocean, dazzled by the glow of the phosphorescence under the starry night sky. Despite all the hardship, abuse and struggle I’ve encountered in my life, the one constant, the one thing I’ve always been able to come back to is the healing power of nature. I can always count on her to rejuvenate my spirit, on the Animal Nations to provide me with inspiration, and on the sheer wonder of it all to help me to never forget what it is I’m fighting for and why I will NEVER GIVE UP. Preserving the land that nourishes me, standing up for the animals I love…these are the most important things in my life and that is something that will never change. It is for these reasons why I cannot, will not and downright refuse to understand why there are those who set out to destroy it all for greed and monetary gain. These people, politicians and members of corporations, care nothing for the future or the people, and it breaks my heart to learn that yet again they are attempting to ruin everything we are fighting to protect.
There is a very destructive and sinister plan aimed at Cortes Island, which is of the archipelago known as the Discovery Islands located in BC’s Gulf of Georgia. The entire Island is part of the traditional territories of the Wei We Kai, Kwiakah, Homalco and Klahoose First Nations, with the southern tip a part of the traditional territory of the Sliammon People. As I write this, the pristine Old Growth forests of Cortes Island are under attack, and this time it’s Brookfield Asset Management at the helm. Many may recognize Brookfield as the US$40 billion conglomerate that owns Zucotti Park, a park where Occupy Wall Street protesters were evicted from and violently removed by police, and their recent plan to proceed with the logging of Cortes Island’s old growth forests, an area comprising much of the last remaining 1% of the original ancient Douglas Fir forest that once blanketed the coastal region, is yet another piece of evidence that Brookfield has no interest in adhering to the concerns of the people or protecting nature’s resources. They are simply out to make as much of a profit as they can, regardless of the irreparable damage caused. Read the rest of this entry »
(TW: Discussion of rape, confronting rapists, and law enforcement)
Deciding on how I was going to deal with my rapist has made me feel like an adult in a way nothing ever has.
It was a cold night when we walked to his house to a planned, sit-down monologue of sorts. I had my friends with me; he had his roommate standing off in the corner of the room with him. I told him, only occasionally meeting his eyes, of the absolute pain and destruction he caused when he violently took advantage of me. I told him I hated him. He agreed not to contact me or speak to me in public. I felt simultaneously shaken and firm, clear and disoriented, sitting mere feet away from the man who had become the abstract evil of the earth that ruined part of me forever.
I didn’t have a model guiding me or a book to read with instructions or anything else that would suggest this was a good idea (although now I know that I am not alone in accomplishing this feat). Some friends and my family shook their heads in worry, or suggested that what I was doing was really “nothing at all” and that if I cared about myself or others, I’d report to the police/bash his skull in/make a public mockery of him for as long as we lived in the same town. I had mulled over what would be effective and get me the closure I needed to move on. When I made my decision to confront him directly, and got the support to do so, I accomplished something more profound than I can grasp at this moment. I held him personally accountable.
While this worked for me in my situation and given my personality and history, I come to this knowing that respect for a diversity of tactics is vital when creating communities of support and justice for victims and survivors. These are hard lessons to learn. When I first started out as a rape crisis advocate I did not think there was any hope for justice beyond reporting to the police, and even though I could criticize them as an institution for evils like violence and corruption, I figured they would still help a victim in need. I was proven horribly wrong enough times that I had to change my position. My rage and disappointment and disgust required me to change my position.
The police, in general, fail victims and survivors who experience sexual violence. In my experience as an advocate, I have seen patrol officers and detectives harshly question and interrogate survivors, imply that they were at fault or are making it all up, not follow up on leads in the course of their investigation, dismiss or refuse to collect certain evidence, and say, “it was a he said/she said” more times than I can count. Some victims and survivors don’t “qualify” in the minds of patrol officers or detectives because they’re not white, or they were drunk, or they’re queer, or use drugs, or live in Section 8. District Attorney’s can also choose not to pursue certain (most) cases, and various bureaucratic and administrative red tape and loopholes along the way make it very hard for victims of violent sexual crimes to receive the justice they’ve been taught to pursue in the criminal justice system.
I hope this description does a few things: it can help explain why some survivors choose NOT to consent to evidence collection kits, or seek help from authorities, or “report his ass to the police”. When I made the choice to not report this crime to law enforcement, I did so knowing the system and its players inside and out. I made the best call for my situation according to my experience. There are many people seeking some kind of response to the awful violence they have endured who DO NOT know how the police work, or how Law and Order: SVU has sold them an impossible reality, and may be pressured by others around them to let “the authorities take care of it”. Some others still may KNOW the horrible failings and corruptions within the criminal justice system and still seek redress in those ways, because those choices make sense for them. It is never helpful to pressure victims out of seeking answers from law enforcement because of our political commitments in criticizing the police state. It is horrifying and insulting to call survivors “sellouts” or “sympathizers” because they might consider or cooperate with law enforcement after sexual assault. Remember that some do not even get the choice; this process is initiated for them and without their control.
Attempting to help people after this shift in how I viewed the police required me to learn yet another, harder lesson: that I should respect what others need in times of crisis and inform, but not attempt to persuade. It takes respect that accountability and revenge might be what some survivors need immediately or publicly, but that some go through these processes for different reasons. Some may feel comfortable or uncomfortable with violent solutions suggested by their peers and loved ones, and some pursue violent redress on their own. Some might begin the criminal justice process or some other arbitration process and decide to opt out, because god knows the stress and pressure from months of pursuing some unlikely goal of justice through these confusing and hostile systems is enough to make anyone reconsider. Some might pursue communal responses, or initiate a social ostracization process, or may continue on through life seeking no outward punishment or atonement from their attacker. These are each valid and difficult choices, and best left up to those making them.
As advocates we can educate others about the traps within the criminal justice process, help our communities build better and more responsible alternatives, but should ultimately respect that there are reasons people care for themselves in ways that might not make sense (and may never make sense) to you and me. As an advocate and survivor, making connections between what I know professionally and what I’ve experienced personally is surreal and insightful. I share this with you now in hopes that it helps survivors across communities, and especially those in radical ones, and those who support their efforts to seek justice and healing.
We are are excited to post our interview with our good friend Will Potter. Will runs the very informative blog Green is The New Red and is also the author of the recent book ‘Green Is the New Red: An Insiders Account Of A Social Movement Under Siege‘. Will focuses on how the animal rights, and earth liberation movements have been targeted by the Government and labeled as ‘eco-terrorists’ and how dangerous this is for all social justice movements, present and future. After watching the interview, we would love it if you shared it with comrades, friends and family!
Yes, I am writing this blog from a place of privilege. I am an able-bodied, male-identified creature, whose everyday life is not being put at risk by large corporations privatizing and restricting my use of water, destroying the land necessary for my survival, or otherwise intruding on my right to exist. I understand that not everyone can partake in all forms of resistance, however we all have the ability to show solidarity to those that do.
In the recent surge of political activism that came about with the occupy movement we have seen a lot of the same quarrels among activists that we have seen many times before during the WTO protests of ’99. Violence, property destruction, diversity of tactics, and infighting due to the use and disagreement over said concepts has been consistent in modern western radical movements and it is necessary to move forward from the dichotomy of violence vs. non-violence. Proponents of non-violence reinforce statist oppression and sanctity of corporate livelihood by limiting the means of protest and valuing the “lives” of windows, cop cars, ATMs, etc. over the lives of their fellow protesters and over the lives that might be destroyed by the consequences of inaction.
Corporate personhood, or equating the property of corporations to living beings, is counter-intuitive to the goals of political actions; we need to envision a world without these entities and stop mourning their loss. When we can not break our dependency to these things we can not move forward with our resistance movements. Our lives do have value, the “lives” of corporations can not compare to the animals and plants that inhabit the earth and rely on its resources. When we deconstruct some of our ideals behind corporate personhood, it is clear that violence in defense of the earth and the natural world is warranted and necessary. When comparing the violence on animals in vivisection labs to the violence of the property of vivisectors it is clear that property destruction can be morally justifiable. Even most proponents of non-violence can agree that murdering Hitler holds moral legitimacy because of the amount of unwarranted violence that you would prevent. To dismiss all acts of violence as unethical on the basis that “violence is violence” is to view the action without questioning its morality. Can we not say that the destruction of an experimental fur farm, or horse slaughtering plant is morally justifiable due to the amount of suffering that would be prevented through these actions? Are we only to consider acts of violence committed against entities higher in the power structure as violence while allowing them to further destroy the sanctity of humyn and non-humyn life?
Morality is on the side of the animals and other victims of oppressive, unjustifiable acts of violence. Legality is on the side of the corporations and perpetrators of environmental destruction, and historically an actions legality is without regard to its moral weight; simply put, legality is not morality. We can draw distinctions among acts of violence carried out for liberation and those carried out for the further oppression of other beings. Spousal abuse, sexual assault, and the war crimes carried out by the U.S. government are completely unjustifiable, and much different than the actions of the real freedom fighters, these acts are made for further enslavement and oppression of other beings whereas groups like the ELF and ALF seek the total liberation of all beings.
To echo some of Harsha Walia’s thoughts on the use of violence in regards to riots during the 2010 Winter Olympics in occupied Salish Territory, we need to support diversity of tactics within our radical movements; even if we choose not to partake in property destruction it is important that we allow others to do so. Having a strictly violent or a non-violent resistance movement is alienating and destructive to solidarity amongst radicals. The black bloc, the ELF, the ALF, etc. can be extremely powerful but they rely on the solidarity and support of others. So let us all remember Oscar Grant, Marcella Sali Grace, Matthew Shepard, Alexandros Grigoropoulos, Aaron Cambell, the mink and foxes on factory fur farms, the wild wolves of Eastern Oregon, the water basins that are too toxic to now drink from, the Taji dolphins, and all the ecosystems that that directly face the consequences of injustice. Let us now give all we have to give in order to stop the further interruption of freedom and strive towards total liberation!