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EXCLUSIVE: ‘I Spent a Weekend as a Participant in the Standing Rock Pipeline Protest’



OP-ED: “What we struggle against is a system that unrepentantly disenfranchises people of color, women, the queer community, religious minorities, and the poor. This is not a flaw in the system; it is the point of the system.”

One hundred flags lining either side of the road lead us into the Standing Rock, North Dakota, camp. Each flag represented a different tribe or an oppressed community—a United Nations united by occupation.

I spent a weekend as a participant in the Standing Rock pipeline protest after meeting up with members of the Native American Women’s Association at my school, Washington State University. What I witnessed there was a collection of human beings organized and prepared to make legitimate change. With minimal funds, the camp had set up a communal kitchen, a medical station, and was in the process of building a school during my time there.

I asked the guard when we entered the first camp how long he was planning on staying there. He replied, “this is my home now.”


On my second day I attended a community meeting in a long brown tent on top of the hill that overlooked the entire encampment. While I sat on the dirt floor, legs crossed and cramping, I experienced solidarity in spoken word. Even when disagreements were vocalized, every turn was ended with a plea. Every speaker asked their sisters and brothers to accept two things: first, that any disagreements we had with each other was minimal in the face of the giant we were fighting and second, that this was not about the pipeline. The struggle was beyond that.


What we struggle against is a system that unrepentantly disenfranchises people of color, women, the queer community, religious minorities, and the poor. This is not a flaw in the system; it is the point of the system. The system we live in now does not only thrive on exploitation, it survives because of it.

We left our encampment in the middle of the day to visit the nearest construction site. The dusty road led us for only a few minutes until a few large yellow machines caught our attention. On our left, barred behind a fence hanging with protestors’ signs, was the construction site. A wasteland of seemingly abandoned pipes, excavators, and other supplies discarded on a pocketed earth, like some young boys lost interest with their sandbox and toys. On our right was a small camp, occupied by no more than twenty people. The housing was made from what looked like discarded scraps of wood and metal.

“Behind us is a burial ground. Thousands of our ancestors rest here,” one of the residents, a young Native American, told me. I asked if they were really going to bulldoze the land and try to lay down the pipeline here.

“They already did a little. We were able to set up camp here, though, so now they’re working somewhere else,” he said.Â


The history of the American nation that we were taught about in school is not the reality of that which actually existed. America’s history, the one that is hidden from its people, is one in which dissenting voices are silenced. From groups such as the Black Panthers and the Chicano Movement in the mid-twentieth century to the Water Protectors and Black Lives Matter Activists of today, those who have made legitimate criticisms of the foundational structure of America have always been targeted; in many cases they’ve been met with acts of state-sponsored violence. Simply put, America has never been great.

While some American citizens reside in mansions and make more money in a week than some will make in a year, even more citizens are wondering if they will be able to simply drink clean water tomorrow. We watch our family members die from treatable diseases simply because we cannot afford the cure and then defend the system that says you must be rich to survive. The biggest flaw of every generation is the acceptance of the status quo, but the status quo is what brought us hear in the first place.Â

  • The status quo is oppression.
  • The status quo is the silencing of people who deserve to be heard.
  • The status quo is allowing our government to respond to indigenous people’s demand for clean water with rubber bullets and flash grenades.
  • The status quo would lead us to believe that if we simply vote the right way or buy the right things, all of our problems will be fixed.

We, especially those of us who hold privilege, must start paying attention. We are living our lives seemingly oblivious to that the system, “the status quo” we continue to uphold, is one that leads the majority of our population into destitution.


My generation has continually been seen as selfish and spoiled. Demanding access to clean water is not selfish. Demanding that cops stop killing unarmed people of color is not spoiled. We do not have to accept the world for what it is; we can create a new one. The Native Americans at Standing Rock have started that new world. Like so many before them, they are the harbingers of change.

My plea is that this generation, my generation, looks to the past and present and says, “we can do better, and we can do it differently.” We do not have to follow in the footsteps of the past. This is our world now and we get to decide how things are done. It’s time to start acting like it.

That’s exactly what the water protectors at Standing Rock have done. According to TIME, Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the pipeline, has been denied access to continue by the Army Corps of Engineers; they now must lay their pipeline through an alternative route.

It’s imperative that we do not forget the last five months. This victory came only after thousands of citizens rose to their feet and refused to sit back down. They were sprayed with water in sub-freezing temperatures, they were shot with rubber bullets, and they were caged in dog kennels. But they did not waver.


This is what true progress looks like. It has never come from the ballot box. At the very least, it never starts there. True progress always comes from a group of individuals so fed up they take their signs and they take their voices (and sometimes they even take their tent), and they use it all to heave a wrench right in the gears of society. The Native Americans leading this fight risked their bodies to show us a picture of what life is like under occupation.

The least we can do is open our eyes and look.


Guest author Jackson Ferderer is a political activist and student at Washington State University. He is currently the Editor in Chief of LandEscapes, WSU’s literary magazine, and Vice President of WSU’s Men for Social Change.

All images by Emma Hall, used with permission

The New Civil Rights Movement from time to time publishes personal stories, like this one, to share experiences from the diverse progressive community.

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Op-Ed: Think Twice Before Attacking Pelosi



The idea that President Trump should be impeached is appealing to many. After all, he is a scumbag with zero ethics who doesn’t know the meaning of the word integrity. He has lied to the American people and is hurting our country and making the world a more dangerous place. So, yes, let’s move to impeach seems to be a rational thing to say.

But impeachment is more than finding the votes in the House of Representatives to pass articles of impeachment. That has been done twice before in our history. The House has voted articles of impeachment for two previous presidents: Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. I believe the House could do it again for Trump. But let us not forget in those previous cases the Senate refused to convict and acquitted them both and they continued to serve as president.

In the wake of the House voting to approve two articles of impeachment for Clinton his approval rating in polls went up by 10 percent. So there is a political reason to consider if voting to impeach Trump would do the same for him. Would the public at large, not just Democrats, feel Trump’s crimes are much more serious or would impeachment generate feelings among a large bloc of voters that Congress is only acting for political reasons.

Continue reading the full op-ed at The Washington Blade.

Peter Rosenstein is a community and Democratic activist based in Washington, DC, where he appears in the media as a commentator on issues including LGBT rights, politics and education. His columns may be found here

NCRM from time to time publishes op-eds reflecting the wide diversity of our community’s views and beliefs. They do not necessarily reflect NCRM’s positions.

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Democrats, This Is Why We Need Nancy Pelosi



Democrats Continuing to Fight Pelosi Are Doing the Work of the Republican Party

To all those Democrats who are still opposing Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, it’s time to wake up. This is not the time to toss overboard the person who has the experience and skills to hold the new Democratic coalition together. 

Some newly elected progressive Democrats like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez originally suggested Nancy Pelosi isn’t progressive enough for them. She now has changed her position and endorsed her, obviously realizing Republicans have been attacking Leader Pelosi for years as a “San Francisco liberal,” too progressive for the country. 

Democrats like Rep. Seth Moulton, leading the charge to get rid of Pelosi, have a lot to learn. At a recent town hall the women of his district tried to educate him and pushed back.

A new class of Democrats got elected, and now they need to learn how to pass legislation. Pelosi, a recognized environmentalist, supporter of the rights of minorities, women and the LGBTQ+ community, can teach them how to do that. She understands the federal budget and the process needed to move legislation through the House even in tough times, and is rightfully credited with corralling the votes needed to pass the Affordable Care Act. She is a master strategist and fundraiser. Many of the candidates who now oppose her won their races with money she helped raise.

Recently Pelosi spoke at the Institute for Politics at the Kennedy School at Harvard. Those who oppose her should listen to what she said.

She “ticked off a legislative to-do list including lowering health care costs, spearheading a national infrastructure plan and pushing for changes to campaign finance laws,” and she talked about introducing gun control legislation.

“The California Democrat said she wasn’t worried about Democrats campaigning for the House in part by opposing her as speaker, telling candidates: ‘Do whatever you have to do, just win, baby.'”

Pelosi needs 218 votes in the House to be elected Speaker. There will be 234 or 235 Democrats in the House on January 3, 2019, so Pelosi can afford to lose the votes of a few. Sixteen Democrats recently signed a letter to oppose her and one, Brian Higgins (D-NY) has already changed his mind and endorsed her. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), who considered opposing her has now endorsed her.  

Pelosi is proving the master strategist and will secure the needed votes. She has been endorsed by most progressive groups and the most respected Democrat in the country, President Barack Obama. He said of her, “I think Nancy Pelosi, when the history is written, will go down as one of the most effective legislative leaders that this country’s ever seen.”

He added, “Nancy is not always the best on a cable show or with a quick soundbite or what have you, but her skill, tenacity, toughness, vision, is remarkable. Her stamina, her ability to see around corners, her ability to stand her ground and do hard things and to suffer unpopularity to get the right thing done, I think, stands up against any person that I’ve observed or worked directly with in Washington during my lifetime. What’s most important are the ‘nuts and bolts’ of governance; the blocking and tackling involved in actually getting things across the finish line and my experience has been that Nancy Pelosi knows how to do that, and she was an extraordinary partner for me throughout my presidency.” 

Democrats continuing to fight Pelosi are doing the work of the Republican Party.

The infighting will hurt the ability of Democrats to move forward a coordinated agenda. They might also keep in mind when Pelosi wins and she will, she appoints committee chairs, controls committee assignments, and decides what bills come to the floor. 

Democrats need to bring a new generation into leadership positions and Pelosi should have done that before. She can do it now by expanding the leadership. If Democrats take back the Senate and the White House in 2020 we can have this debate again. Now is not the time. 

Now Democrats must unite, not an easy task, as they have the most diverse caucus ever elected. Some districts elected progressives, others elected moderates. They will all need something to take back to their districts when they are up for reelection in 2020. The only person who can help them go home with what they need is Nancy Pelosi. She is a proven winner, a proven master of strategy. She knows how the House of Representatives works and is the master at bending it to her will – in this case to the will of Democrats across the nation.

Peter Rosenstein is a community and Democratic activist based in Washington, DC, where he appears in the media as a commentator on issues including LGBT rights, politics and education. His columns may be found here

Image via Wikimedia

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‘Rainbow Wave’ May Decide Florida Races



1.3 Million Florida Voters Saying Candidates’ Positions on LGBTQ Rights Are Important Are a Game-Changing Voting Bloc

At a time of renewed political attacks on LGBT Americans, the pro-equality vote — the ‘Rainbow Wave’ — may prove decisive in Florida’s midterm election.

Candidates ignore this growing voting bloc at their peril.

Equality Florida has invested deeply in connecting with voters for whom LGBT rights are the motivating issue.

We have identified 1.3 million voters in Florida for whom a candidate’s positions on marriage equality, gay and transgender workplace protections, and LGBT youth are definitive. We represent a game-changing voting bloc in a state where fewer than 65,000 votes decided the last two races for Governor.

This cycle, we’ve run our largest ever campaign to turn out pro-equality voters with mail and phone programs targeting hundreds of thousands of voters in support of more than 110 endorsed candidates, including Andrew Gillum.

There are so many reasons for LGBT people and our allies to vote: The Trump administration’s relentless attacks on the transgender community, businesses refusing to serve LGBT individuals, and Gov. Rick Scott’s broken promise to protect LGBT state workers after the massacre at Pulse Nightclub are all top of mind.

And in the race for Florida Governor, a longtime pro-LGBT champion, Mayor Gillum, faces Ron DeSantis a former congressman with one of the worst records on LGBT rights in the U.S. Congress.

For the past 12 months, Equality Florida Action PAC, the only statewide political committee working to elect pro-equality candidates at the state and local level, has been testing and fine-tuning our strategies. Through local and special elections, we’ve proven that pro-equality voters can shift the electoral landscape and provide the margin of difference.

No clearer example of this can be found than this year’s primary election in Florida Senate District 38.

Embattled anti-equality incumbent Sen. Daphne Campbell faced off against political newcomer Jason Pizzo. Equality Florida Action PAC committed $25,000 and the full force of our political apparatus to elect Pizzo. We turned out volunteers to knock on doors, funded mail pieces contrasting the candidates’ positions on LGBT issues, and ran digital ads supporting our endorsed champion.

Campbell’s anti-LGBT record became a defining, headline-grabbing issue in the lead up to primary Election Day, including a memorable moment during a televised debate where while clutching a copy of our mailer she said: “The gays have their rights and I have mine.”

Pizzo won by 9 points.

Whether it’s the Senate District 38 primary, the 2018 St. Petersburg Mayor’s race, or the race for Governor of Florida, the battle for LGBT rights puts defining markers on the playing field.

Will we build a Florida of inclusion and prosperity or a Florida mired in the Trump era politics of division and exclusion? For a growing and bipartisan coalition of voters, a candidate’s positions on LGBT rights tells them all they need to know about which side of this divide a candidate stands on.

The days of using LGBT issues as a wedge are waning.

Failure to support basic LGBT protections is a liability. Some candidates, including DeSantis, try to have it both ways. They mute their public attacks, while voting to please the dwindling but fervent extremist base.

But the candidates who fully embrace equality are the ones thriving in this emerging electorate.

Gillum, who has been an unflinching advocate of equality for decades leads, unites and speaks to the values of equality and fairness, while DeSantis has no platform beyond slavish devotion to Trump. Even Donald Trump waved the rainbow flag and claimed support on LGBT issues during the campaign. Of course, it was one of many lies, but the political calculus that led him to lie proves the current place of LGBT equality in the electorate.

The rainbow wave of 2018 has been decades in the making. In the remaining days, we’ll work to unleash the power of the LGBT and pro-equality allies’ vote, to hold accountable elected leaders like DeSantis who place a target on us and our families, and to elect champions like Gillum who represent the future of Florida and the South.

Guest Author Nadine Smith is the executive director of Equality Florida/Equality Florida Institute.

This article has been reprinted with the author’s permission.

Image by Ted Eytan via Flickr and a CC license

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