Let’s All Stand Up for Alexandrians

by the Grassroots Alexandria Steering Committee (Zeina, Opal, Lisa, Jonathan)

The joint Tenants and Workers United/Grassroots Alexandria effort to keep ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) out of the Alexandria jail continues. Our volunteers have reached out to our local sheriff, to city council, and to our leaders in Richmond. We have learned that both the Alexandria sheriff and city manager are signatories to the agreement that allows ICE to use our jail to detain undocumented Alexandrians. We have learned that ICE issues warrants without judicial oversight. The public debate has been heated. Some who oppose us have resorted to personal pressure tactics, making disparaging statements about individual Grassroots Alexandria volunteers. In the face of personal attacks, the appropriate course of action is to redouble our efforts, focusing on issues instead of on individuals. The Grassroots Alexandria mission is to teach and practice democracy in Alexandria for the benefit of all Alexandrians, especially the most vulnerable among us. We will not back down. Continue reading “Let’s All Stand Up for Alexandrians”

The Missing Political Center

by Jonathan Krall

A few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to speak with a member of Senator Mark Warner’s staff at a Grassroots Alexandria event. Because Senator Warner is famously centrist, I expressed my concern that the political center seems to have disappeared. The old definition of the center, policies supported by centrist Democrats and centrist Republicans, no longer applies to Congress. For reasons they are loathe to share with the public, centrist Republicans are no longer accepted by their party. As a result, the real-world center, the policies supported by a majority of US citizens, desperately needs the support of the only major party likely to support it, the Democrats.

As I see it, a “missing center” issue is not only clearly favored by a majority of US voters, it is also mysteriously considered a non-starter by the mainstream corporate media. Examples are loophole-free universal background checks prior to a gun purchase, an assault weapons ban, strengthening social security instead of continuing to chip away at it, universal healthcare without bankruptcy-inducing surprise billing, and transportation infrastructure for cities, such as subways and light rail. To the best of my knowledge, a majority of US voters favor all of these while the media ignores or pooh-poohs them. Continue reading “The Missing Political Center”

The Mainstream Media Needs to Call Out Ethnic Cleansing

by Jonathan Krall

The ethnic cleansing of Palestine receives too little attention from the mainstream media. At present, typical media reports make it seem as if a few Israeli settlements are encroaching on Palestinian territory. In fact, Israeli settlements blanket the West Bank like McDonald’s franchises. Because roads connecting settlements to each other are controlled by Israel’s military occupation forces, Palestinian communities are cut off from each other.  These roads, like the settlements, are built on expropriated Palestinian land. A separation barrier, also called the apartheid wall, curtails Palestinians’ freedom of movement and negatively affects their fundamental “rights to work, education, medical care, family life, earning a living and an adequate standard of living”. Israeli forces, aided by the USA, routinely bulldoze the homes of Palestinians who resist. Recently, Israel attempted to level an entire Palestinian village.

This alarms me because Israel is demonstrating that ethnic cleansing on a national scale is acceptable to the US mainstream political and social leadership. Because our mainstream media fails to call this out, white nationalists here in the USA, including Trump, are empowered to proceed with their own campaign of ethnic cleansing. Continue reading “The Mainstream Media Needs to Call Out Ethnic Cleansing”

Mayor and City Council Candidate Forum

by Jonathan Krall

On May 18, 2018, Grassroots Alexandria, along with Tenants and Workers United and NAACP Alexandria, hosted a city council and mayoral candidate forum at the Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology. Present were mayoral candidates Allison Silberberg and Justin Wilson, along with city council candidates Canek Aguirre, Willie Bailey, Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, John Chapman, Michael Clinkscale (Republican), Kevin Dunne (Republican), Matt Feely, Dak Hardwick, Amy Jackson, Del Pepper, Robert Ray, Mo Seifeldein, Mark Shiffer (Independent), and Paul Smedberg. J. Chris Hubbard was represented by his wife, who was allowed an opening statement only. Unless noted, all candidates are competing in the Democratic Party primary election on June 12. In person absentee voting has already begun.

In addition to opening and closing statements, candidates were given 30 seconds each to answer each of four questions. This was followed by a “lightning round” of seven yes/no questions. Topics included immigration, affordable housing, police reform, education, safer schools, and LGBTQ human rights. The complete set of questions, along with our brief notes on the answers can be found here.

Photo (L-R): Dak Hardwick, Matt Feely, Kevin Dunne, and Michael Clinkscale respond to the idea of introducing armed “resource officers” into elementary schools (photo by Barbara Hale).

A video recording of the forum can be found on the Tenants and Workers United Facebook page.

Fighting for the Public Good

by Jonathan Krall

I’ve been reading Democracy in Chains, by Nancy MacLean, where she reports that the very basis for civilization, the idea of “a public good,” is under attack. A public good is something, such as the subway or Social Security, that we all pay for. We do this to invest in our nation and as a duty to each other. Opponents of “public goods” have had some success, such as diverting taxpayer money from public to private schools. Because the public keeps fighting back in favor of public goods, opponents are attacking democracy itself.

Medicare is a popular program. Millions of seniors depend on Medicare daily. Yet Paul Ryan successfully pushed a bill through the House of Representatives to replace Medicare with a voucher system (it died in the Senate). Another example is transportation. Instead of investing in high-capacity subways, the current administration is encouraging cities to partner with private companies to build toll roads.

MacLean describes a school of thought, promoted by the late James Buchanan, that public schools, for example, come about because parents, and politicians, use emotional appeals to exploit the rest of us. That is, they are sneakily getting us to pay for the education of other people’s children. Buchanan and his allies wished to abolish public schools (and roads, parks, emergency rooms, etc.), so costs fall only on those who directly benefit. However, Buchanan’s disciples have found that, in a democracy, these draconian ideas fail. Rather than give up, MacLean reports, disciples of extreme privatization are attacking democracy itself.

Continue reading “Fighting for the Public Good”

ICE and Alexandria: What we’ve learned so far

by Jonathan Krall (Grassroots Alexandria) and Mia Taylor (Tenants and Workers United)

A small group of activists, representing Tenants and Workers United, the Advancement Project, and Grassroots Alexandria, met with representatives from the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office in November, 2017, to better understand the relationship between the Sheriff’s Office and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The bad news is that the Sheriff’s Office is voluntarily collaborating with ICE. The good news (or not-as-bad news) is that we can – and must – take straightforward steps to protect all Alexandrians and keep families together. Here is some of what we’ve learned so far and steps you can take to help. Continue reading “ICE and Alexandria: What we’ve learned so far”

Celebrating a Year of Grassroots Alexandria: Why Grassroots Activism Matters More Than Ever

by Kate Watters

Last week I attended an international conference for civil society organizations from countries that are members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). I was there representing my organization, Crude Accountability, which protects environmental and human rights in communities impacted by oil and gas development. Drawing in part on my experience in Grassroots Alexandria, I described the decaying human rights situation in the US, a description that stunned my colleagues from the other OSCE countries. But there is a silver lining. We in the US are witnessing the last gasp, a painfully prolonged gasp, of the old white patriarchy. By stepping up for equality, justice, and representation for all, we are expanding and strengthening the beautiful patchwork quilt that is our population and our future. Continue reading “Celebrating a Year of Grassroots Alexandria: Why Grassroots Activism Matters More Than Ever”

Trump Normalizing Hate and Islamophobia

by Zeina

Although Donald Trump’s latest anti-Muslim tweets elicited criticism from some sectors of American society, it is clear that people have come to expect this type of pejorative opinion from the president. Many seem to have decided, perhaps in a resigned fashion, to dismiss his disparaging tweets about African Americans, women, Native Americans, Muslims, Jews, LGBTQ folks, and more, with responses like “There he goes again,” or “He’s just not going to change”—and the conversation falters. But what is happening is that Trump is succeeding in normalizing hate speech about minorities. He has given license to racists, misogynists, and many who are prejudiced against religious, ethnic, LGBTQ, disabled, and other minorities to speak up and spew their hate in the media, at rallies, and in their local communities.

In his election victory speech in November 2016, Trump asserted, “I will be president for all Americans.” We now see that his words and his deeds are, too often, hypocritical and disingenuous.

The latest flap involves Trump retweeting anti-Muslim propaganda videos posted by Britain First, a British ultranationalist hate group. British Prime Minister Theresa May characterized this fringe group as seeking “to divide communities by their hateful narratives that peddle lies and stoke tensions.” Meanwhile, the former head of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, praised Trump’s actions.

Continue reading “Trump Normalizing Hate and Islamophobia”

Thankful for Democracy

by Jonathan Krall

In Grassroots Alexandria, we’ve spent nearly a year fighting for the idea that Democracy thrives when people participate, that there is more to Democracy than the partisans and the professionals, and that Democracy is rewarding. But mostly, it sometimes seems, we’ve been fighting Fascism. Personally, I’ve learned more about Fascism than I ever wanted to know, and I’m glad I have. The more I learn, the more I see how far we’ve gone in that direction. On Thanksgiving Day, 2017, I am thankful that we still live under Democracy.

Continue reading “Thankful for Democracy”

Why Restorative Justice Matters

by Sharon

The Vulnerable Communities team met this week to view and discuss the documentary “13th,” which researches the dramatic rise of prison populations since 1970. The film exposes the disturbing racism and profiteering behind imprisonment; in fact, according to the NAACP, “African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites.”

I expressed frustration that the film educated us, yet left us lacking in direction for what we could do. Jonathan Krall countered that  Grassroots Alexandria is doing something about it, by backing Restorative Justice and Data Transparency Initiatives in the City of Alexandria.

What is Restorative Justice, and why should we care in Grassroots Alexandria? Restorative Justice is an educational philosophy that:

“…empowers students to resolve conflicts on their own and in small groups, and it’s a growing practice at schools around the country. Essentially, the idea is to bring students together in peer-mediated small groups to talk, ask questions, and air their grievances. For the growing number of districts using restorative justice, the programs have helped strengthen campus communities, prevent bullying, and reduce student conflicts. And the benefits are clear: early-adopting districts have seen drastic reductions in suspension and expulsion rates, and students say they are happier and feel safer.” Continue reading “Why Restorative Justice Matters”