Tag Archives: activism

Finding Inspiration in Scars and Burnout

On the cusp of Occupy Wall Street’s one year anniversary, the media (both mainstream and professional leftist outlets) are asking the question: “Is the Occupy movement on the decline?” and deservedly so. The movement, while certainly not finished, has lost numbers and steam for the time being. Some journalists have even mentioned “activist burnout.”

What is missing from this coverage is a deeper portrait of just what burnout actually entails, and why it may play a role – though maybe not the defining role – in a political and social movement’s progress. People outside of activism read or watch reports of protests, but many don’t realize that there are complex people marching on those streets and organizing behind the scenes, that carry their own scars.

An Occupy Wall Street demonstrator arrested on March 17th, 2012. Photo by Dustin Slaughter

Activists are a rare breed of people. They spend countless hours in organizing meetings. They risk arrest during marches, are brutalized by police, and a number of first-time activists struggle with psychological trauma as a result. They take time off of work to volunteer. Many live with economic hardship. And just as importantly, a question lingers with many: Are the sacrifices I’m making in terms of friendships outside the activist community, as well as family relationships, worth the effort?

After the Occupy National Gathering – in which I acted as a media organizer in the interest of full disclosure – I was exhausted and had nearly depleted my savings account. Most of us had been going full steam since September 17th. I decided I had to stop. Others with whom I closely worked, and who put in far more energy than myself, were emotionally and physically depleted. Hours upon hours of meetings, often stressful, plus self-doubt and more than a touch of paranoia thanks to “pre-arrests” and police harassment of organizers well documented across the country, took their toll: Marriages were on the verge of disintegrating, movement friendships were greatly strained, and some were approaching nervous breakdowns.

I decided to reach out to other activists and listen to some of their experiences. Several spoke of the uncertainty they felt about carrying on the struggle.

I exchanged emails with a longtime activist who I’ll call “Sam.”  Sam is a military veteran and Occupy Boston participant. They relate their struggle being queer in a socially and religiously conservative family, and how their activism strained that relationship:

When I came out to my Mormon parents as bisexual, the results were disastrous. They could have lived with it, I think, had I not been an activist. But the fact that I lived to see equality drove them to disown me.

Sam continued their fight for equality, facing instances of harassment by Christian fanatics for working to get a civil unions bill passed in their former state’s legislature, and later by law enforcement while participating in Occupy Boston. To make matters worse, Sam was sexually assaulted multiple times while on active duty. Then came the last straw:

In January, I left OB altogether during the now infamous “sex offender” proposal. As a rape survivor, sitting through the discussions at GA and hearing every rape apology in the book trotted out pushed me over the edge. I was in a deep depression, and began hearing voices and hallucinating from the stress of reliving every sexual assault. I finally sought psychiatric help, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and started comprehensive treatment. I’m doing much better now. I’ve backed away from OB completely. My activism is now limited to the occasional research crawl when others of our friends need some extra eyes. I’m taking care of myself, and trying to put my world back together into some semblance of functionality.

Sam concluded with:

Activism is not a “safe space.” It’s a world that will eat you alive, particularly if you have suffered some kind of trauma. And let’s face it, most of us in the activist community have. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be activists. If we’re not being targeted by law enforcement, we’re being hurt by one another.

Social and political activism has destroyed my relationship with my family of origin (and good riddance, I say). It’s destroyed two intimate relationships. It’s also brought me a new family, and new relationships.  My life has been threatened. My career was destroyed by it. I nearly killed myself due to mental illness greatly exacerbated by it.

And I can’t give it up. It’s too important to keep raising my voice, building community, helping others. I’m taking a break from the hard core stuff in order to get better and put myself back together, but I’ll be back.

Canadian environmental activist Tooker Gomberg.

My exchange with Sam led me to find another remarkable soul, which came in the form of a letter lifelong environmental activist Tooker Gomberg wrote to his therapist on Earth Day in 2002. His career as an activist included multiple acts of civil disobedience, including breaking into a NATO airbase in the Netherlands to prove the existence of nuclear weapons in that country, a stint in Edmonton’s city council, and a failed 2000 mayoral run in Toronto, Ontario. In March of 2004, Gomberg took his own life by jumping off of the Angus L. MacDonald Bridge in Halifax, Nova Scotia. His widow discovered a suicide note. Authorities found his bike on the bridge, but his body was never recovered. His death was partially attributed to an adverse reaction to the anti-depressant Remerol. He was 49 years old.

Tooker’s 2002 letter is tragic yet remarkable. It provides a portrait of what committing one’s life to a cause can do absent any balance. The missive is also a potent warning to current and future activists. In full:

Dear Activist:

It’s another strange day for me. Things have been strange for 8 months or more. I used to be an activist. Now I don’t know what I am. Did you ever read the Kafka story about the guy who wakes up and he has turned into a cockroach?

My mind is in a fog – I can’t think very clearly. Making a sandwich takes a long time – I have to concentrate on every step along the way, and I am moving very slowly and deliberately. I feel like I am stunned, and spaced out most of the time. Today is Earth Day, but I feel I am on another planet.

I have been spending lots of time in bed, mostly sleeping, dozing, and dreaming.

It feels like my mind has melted down, though I am told that it comes back once the depression lifts. Whenever that is. For some people it seems to be months, for others years, and others never get out of it.

But I am writing to you about activism, not the frightening impacts of depression.

Amory Lovins, the great energy efficiency guru, once called me a Hyper-Activist. I guess that’s what I was. I lived, breathed, and focussed on activism. It kept me thinking, inspired, interested, and alive.

But it also allowed me to ignore other things in life that now, suddenly, I realize I never developed. This makes me sad and despondent.

I used to enjoy cooking, but stopped. I always liked kids, but never really thought about having kids of our own. Changing the world was more important, and having a kid would interfere with our life’s work of changing the world.

I didn’t develop my mind in a broad way, learning about music and art and theatre and poetry, for example. It was focussed on changing the world. I never really thought about a career – I was living my life, not worrying about the trappings and credentials of the boring, status quo world.

Maybe I was living in a bubble of naiveté, doing my own thing, unconcerned that my perspectives and actions were so different from “normal”. I never wanted to be normal, anyway. Normal got us into the mess we’re in.

So now I find myself, with my sliver of being smashed to smithereens after being assaulted by police in Quebec City, a security guard in City Hall, and various other security guards during the mayoralty race. And numerous arrests.

Or maybe it was the tear gas, and last summer’s smog. Maybe I pushed my brain too hard, and overstressed it with the run for Mayor of Toronto, or the passport burning, or 20 years of pushing against the juggernaut. And maybe Sept. 11 firmed up my worries into a real fear that working for change was really dangerous.

Or it could be a physiological response to too much coffee, stress, and smog. Maybe I’ve burned out my adrenal glands. Maybe my brain is poisoned from so much thinking about tragic ecological issues, pondering bad air, and getting frustrated at the slow rate of improvement and the rapid destruction of the living world. Could my brain have been damaged when I was close to dying with heat stroke in Vietnam in 1998?

I should have developed a deeper kinship with my family and with people. Don’t get me wrong – I had lots of friends and acquaintances in the activist world. But they were not deep friends of the heart. I neglected my heart, and how I was feeling about things, about people, about situations. Now that I’m in crisis, I don’t really have the language to connect with people. The silence is easier than trying to explain what I’m going through, or to relate to other people’s issues or problems.

So what advice can I offer? Stay rounded. Do the activism, but don’t overdo it. If you burn out, or tumble into depression, you’ll become no good to anyone, especially yourself. When you’re in this state, nothing seems worthwhile, and there’s nothing to look forward to.

It’s honourable to work to change the world, but do it in balance with other things. Explore and embrace the things you love to do, and you’ll be energetic and enthusiastic about the activism. Don’t drop hobbies or enjoyments. Be sure to hike and dance and sing. Keeping your spirit alive and healthy is fundamental if you are to keep going.

I never really understood what burnout was. I knew that it affected active people, but somehow I thought I was immune to it. After all, I took breaks every now and then and went travelling. And all my work was done in partnership with Ange, the great love of my life.

But in the end, when burnout finally caught up to me, it was mega, and must have been the accumulation of decades of stress and avoidance. And now I find myself in a dark and confusing labyrinth trying to feel my way back to sanity and calm.

So beware. Take this warning seriously. If you start slipping into the hole of depression and you notice yourself losing enthusiasm and becoming deeply disenchanted, take a break and talk with a friend about it. Don’t ignore it. The world needs all the concerned people it can get. If you can stay in the struggle for the long haul you can make a real positive contribution, and live to witness the next victory!


Occupy the Justice System: Jury Nullification

Woman pepper-sprayed. Photo from BagNewsNotes.com

“I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.”
Thomas Jefferson

The Occupy movement has been instrumental in not only changing our national conversation on issues such as poverty and massive income inequality, but on shedding an unwavering light on the corporate criminal class too. The movement has these moneyed thugs shaking, and one need look no further for evidence of this than in the violent, disproportionate use of force on occupations across America. Perhaps just as importantly, Occupy has inspired a new generation of activists, as well as formerly apathetic ones (mine included) to shake off despair and fear, and join the struggle.

These past few months have been a crash course in what an oligarchic police state looks like, as well as what it truly means to exercise peaceable assembly for a redress of political grievances. At its most fundamental level, the movement has been a wild civics lesson in what it truly means to be a citizen, and how to fight for a better country.

The next civics lesson? Teaching our fellow citizens about another subversive tool that, if Occupy can manage, will change the way Americans participate in our dysfunctional criminal justice system: jury nullification.

Consider the fact that the United States jails more people per capita than any other country in the world: 2.3 million Americans are currently behind bars, and a staggering 25% of those cases are for nonviolent drug offenses. Not only that, but the majority of those incarcerated for these offenses are predominantly African American. This is taking an unimaginable toll on their community. Empowering jurors with the knowledge of jury nullification might be a tremendous first step in correcting an out-of-control criminal “justice” system, and would have the added effect of boldly challenging a monstrous prison-industrial-complex.

Secondly, the power of jury nullification could have far-reaching effects for sustaining and even emboldening the Occupy movement. This is not hard to imagine. Consider this hypothetical:

A group of protesters are on trial for a peaceful sit-in at an empty school or financial institution, in which they were arrested for, say, defiant trespassing. The protesters make the case that they engaged in civil disobedience in order to shed light on an injustice done to the community, such as a school closure due to unfair austerity measures, or predatory lending practices which result in community members getting kicked out of their homes. Now imagine a jury informed of their right to base their verdict on conscience, instead of a modern legal system which is often incapable of flexibility when it comes to cases involving civil disobedience. The jury would not be bound to issue a verdict within the confines a judge (who would not inform them of the right to nullify) has set for them, but instead weigh the merits of a statute in which no one was physically harmed and the “crime” itself was done out of an educated, moral concern for society. They refuse to convict the defendants, despite the fact that the protesters clearly broke a trespassing law. They would have based their verdict on the belief that the law, as applied to this particular circumstance, is unjust – and not on reasonable doubt.

Now take this a step further and imagine if juries across the country began voting this way. It would have the effect of nullifying laws considered unjust. This has already happened in Montana:

In Montana last year, a group of five prospective-jurors said they had a problem with someone receiving a felony for a small amount of marijuana. The prosecutors were freaked out about the “Mutiny in Montana” and were afraid they were not going to be able convince12 jurors in Montana to convict. The judge said, in a major New York Times article, “I’ve never seen this large a number of people express this large a number of reservations” and “it does raise a question about the next case.”

It may have also played a significant role in ending alcohol prohibition and the criminalization of gay sex.

There is a storied precedent for this right of juries, dating back to the year 1215 with the inception of the Magna Carta. Another “high profile” example of this can be found in the story of Pennsylvania’s own William Penn. A more notable instance of the use of jury nullification can be found in the history of the Fugitive Slave Act during the 1850s.

Indeed, the right of juries to nullify is embedded in our very own Bill of Rights.

How exactly to go about informing juries can be dicey, as the example of a retired chemistry professor named Julian P. Heicklen shows:

Earlier this year, prosecutors charged Julian P. Heicklen, a retired chemistry professor, with jury tampering because he stood outside the federal courthouse in Manhattan providing information about jury nullification to passers-by.

Despite the obvious resistance from authorities this effort will create, it’s certainly a new front that the Occupy movement should – and must – open, as it already has with other facets of the American criminal justice system.

Editor’s note: The Project is heading to Washington, D.C. to cover the #J17 events this month. We cannot do it without your generosity, so if you enjoy the coverage and celebration of protest culture that we provide, please consider a small donation of just $10. Thanks so much for your continued support!


Is Occupy Philadelphia Facing a Crossroads?

Occupy Philadelphia Sit-in at police headquarters. October 23rd, 2011

The march starts off right on schedule. A group of 40 or so protesters stage under the imposing shadow of City Hall at Occupy Philadelphia on October 23rd, and then cross 15th Street, winding through Center City, repeatedly chanting: “It’s a reality! Stop police brutality!” They then take the street, careful of oncoming traffic as they lock arms and maintain their path within the oncoming lane. Philadelphia Police cars escort them through the streets. Onlookers pop out of store fronts and pedestrians stop mid-stroll to record the small, vocal group as they move up Market Street past the Convention Center through Chinatown.

An Occupy Philadelphia group marches through Chinatown. October 23rd, 2011

Their purpose, eventually released in a statement later that evening, is to highlight the issue of police brutality. Protesters tell personal stories of police malfeasance: one girl talks about how she was essentially ignored by officers after she went to a police station to report that she had been sexually assaulted. Another woman, who had watched a late night news report on the protest, stops by to share another heart-wrenching story about Philadelphia police officers beating up her grandmother and son, and after realizing that they had entered the wrong house, lied about the law enforcement agency with which they were affiliated.

The protesters also include in their statement the belief that police forces across the country are used to crush nonviolent occupations, and in so doing, protect the interests of the elite. 16 are later arrested the next morning after a night long sit-in on 8th Street in front of police headquarters. It marks the Philadelphia occupation’s first act of civil disobedience since it began in early October.

The march only garnered less than a quarter of the occupation’s population. This could be chalked up to the last-minute nature of the march, and that many on site were not aware that it was National Day of Action Against Police Brutality. A low turnout isn’t necessarily surprising when these factors are taken into consideration.

Yet the controversial action highlights something of a dilemma for the occupation here in the City of Brotherly Love, and this stems from the much-lauded relationship the administration has forged with the protesters. On its face, this appears to be a very good thing. No one has been injured or killed and the city has not been disrupted in any significant way. It’s a very positive anomaly in a sea of reports about police brutality against protesters. But it may pose a problem for the growth of this movement here, as the number of occupiers appears to have leveled off and a potentially difficult winter approaches. There are some characteristics about this very different occupation worth considering.

The prevailing wisdom at Occupy Philadelphia appears to be: Do not disrupt the relationship with the authorities to avoid a crackdown and public backlash.

Oakland riot cops raid Occupy Oakland. October 25th, 2011

The history of the Occupy movement has shown, from New York City to Boston and Oakland, that nonviolently challenging police, be it through trying to hold ground staked out for occupation or other bold acts (such as taking the Brooklyn Bridge) tends to balloon the number of supporters and participants. Does this “model” work for Philadelphia, however?

Occupy Wall Street protesters on the Brookyln Bridge. October 1st, 2011

It is important to note that in every case, what went hand-in-hand with this nonviolent militancy, be it New York City or Oakland, was the brutal, sometimes violent tactics the police employed against protesters. This without question horrified many Americans, which likely grew sympathy and support from the public.

I have also heard speculation from a number of protesters here at camp that the city’s largely hands-off approach to the occupation is a tactic born out of a need to influence public perception of the administration itself. This is certainly not a far-fetched theory. By not acting in a reactionary manner, it’s possible city officials have essentially contained the movement here, and left the occupation in a difficult position: Do we nonviolently escalate and risk losing public support, giving even more support to the police, or take the chance that bolder, nonviolent direct action (challenging the police in the process) might just grow the movement?

So if the Philadelphia occupation decides to become bolder–not just marching, but holding sit-ins at banks and the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, as hypothetical examples–what would the police response be to such actions? One obviously can only speculate, but judging by how the police department handled the sit-in at their headquarters–allowing the protesters to stay for an astounding 18 hours–they may not employ the violent responses we’ve seen in Oakland, New York City, Boston, and other cities. Mayor Nutter is facing re-election soon and may not want to risk upsetting union support. It’s possible the administration has also taken note of what happens when occupations are antagonized, and may be fearful of major public backlash, unlike Denver, who launched one of the most brutal crackdowns since the events in Oakland. The administration’s tone may also change after Nutter’s re-election too.

Only time will tell how both the occupation and police move ahead.

The Project will continue to bring you reports and editorials on the #Occupy movement, with emphasis on events from @OccupyPhilly. If you have photos, writing, artwork or music with a focus on the Occupy movement or with protest culture in general, don’t hesitate to send it to DGP. We’d love to share it with the world. Thanks so much for your continued support and and if you’re new to the Project, welcome!


No Time for Sound Bytes Now: #OccupyWallStreet is its Own Message

At Liberty Plaza, New York City (CC BY SA Carwil Bjork-James)

A formidable NYPD presence holds one side of the exit ramp while an equally-large throng of soaked, defiant youth face them on the other side. I’m heading back towards the ramp after witnessing a white-shirted police supervisor commandeer a public bus, ordering the passengers off and instructing the driver to turn around and head back to the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge has been shut down for over an hour now. When the bus arrives, hundreds upon hundreds will be arrested and boarded onto the bus, as well as police vans. Meanwhile, the protesters on the street begin chanting to the police: “We pay YOU! We pay YOU!” and “It’s OUR bridge. It’s OUR bridge!” as a cold, driving rain fails to dampen their spirits.

Police square off against protesters. Photograph: Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters

Arriving four days earlier, I had hoped for, and was greatly disappointed when, a short list of demands never materialized from the occupation’s General Assembly. Repeal corporate personhood. Remove special interest money from elections. Something. Yet by the fourth day, standing at the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge with this standoff, it was clear to me that the Occupy Wall Street movement had evolved.

The occupation at Liberty Plaza may outwardly appear to be just a large encampment of hundreds of tired, exuberant, unwashed people. But it’s an incredibly subversive idea. What the occupation has managed to do thus far is set up a center for agitation on Wall Street’s doorstep, while simultaneously stand up to the most militarized police force in America. In that brave act of defiance, they’ve begun the process of recapturing public space to assemble and foment resistance against a corrupt system, a public space lost to us after 9/11 (with the introduction of “free speech zones”) and just as importantly, begin to remedy the fear and cynicism so many Americans have been feeling for well over a decade now under the hand of a police state and a domestic intelligence apparatus unparalleled in American history. The Founders clearly understood that the right to assemble was of key importance to those who wanted to correct wrongs done by their government. If they could not assemble, they could not achieve their goals. Liberty Plaza is a long-overdue civics lesson.

The protesters have collectively said, simply by holding the plaza: This is OUR square, the PEOPLE’S square, and we have a right to assemble and organize a campaign against the economic and civil injustices perpetrated by the plutocrats and their tax payer-funded security service, the NYPD.

They’ve managed to pull back the curtain and expose the police state which works to protect the ruling elite’s interests at the expense of the citizens they originally took an oath to serve: CIA-trained NYPD counterintelligence squads; videotaping the faces of peaceful protesters to feed into a facial recognition database; commandeering public buses for mass arrests; entrapment; kettling and pepper spray. And perhaps the most audacious: A $4.6 million bribe, ostensibly for new laptops, given by JP Morgan to the NYPD. All of this against peaceful citizens who are the living embodiment of a wildly-popular sentiment in America since 2008: the rich and powerful in this country have gotten away with too much. When Americans demand fundamental change and refuse to rely on or even trust a thoroughly-corrupt system to achieve that change, they must begin at the root of their oppression, and it’s as simple an idea as occupying public space in the face of police intimidation.

This movement is only getting started, with many, many cities developing their own occupations. Maybe I’m wrong, but perhaps it’s time to just let this people-powered movement grow on its own, because you can’t package an idea whose time has come into one or two pithy sound bytes. As one protester told me: “It’s bigger than one or two issues because it’s not about reforming the hopelessly corrupt system we have. This is about creating a new system entirely.”

If you would like to donate to #OccupyWallStreet, visit the New York City General Assembly website.

The Project is leaving Wall Street to report on the Boston occupation, and then to Washington D.C. for the major October 6th occupation in our nation’s capital, but we can’t do it without your help. If you enjoy my work and would like to help me cover expenses such as travel, food and gear, please consider donating to the David and Goliath Project’s #Occupy Media Fund.


Declaration of the Occupation of New York City

Last night, the Occupy Wall Street movement released what is presumably their stated aim for a continuing occupation of Manhattan’s financial district. The action is now entering it’s 14th day, and is showing no signs of slowing.

The statement in full:

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments.

We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.

They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.

They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.

They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.

They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless nonhuman animals, and actively hide these practices.

They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.

They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.

They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.

They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.

They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.

They have sold our privacy as a commodity.

They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press. 

They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.

They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.

They have donated large sums of money to politicians supposed to be regulating them. They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.

They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantive profit.

They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.

They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.

They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.

They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad. They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.

They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts. *

To the people of the world,

We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

Join us and make your voices heard!

*These grievances are not all-inclusive.

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Faces of the Occupation: Nicki Angelo

Nicki Angelo is running the public outreach table at the Broadway Street entrance to Liberty Plaza on this overcast, humid day. Outreach is but one of 12 “working groups,” ranging from sanitation and media, to direct action and legal. She speaks with a quiet intensity when I ask her what brought her to the camp last week.

She is one of many other young people saddled with massive student loan debt–in her case, over $50,000. And like many other Americans lumped into the 9.1% unemployment rate, she hasn’t been able to find a job for two years.

I ask her what her experience has been like dealing with a public who has likely never seen anything quite like the encampment at Liberty Plaza.

“At first, we had some people walk by and say ‘Get a job, hippie.’ They called us communists.”

Yet as time went on, she tells me, and New Yorkers saw these young people’s commitment through bad weather and NYPD intimidation, remarks grew more and more encouraging. In front of her sits a sizable stack of signatures in support of the camp’s presence and of the protesters right to be there. As of last night, the camp won the neighborhood council’s endorsement also.

I ask her how long she intends to stay. She grins.

“As long as it takes.”

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Activist Spotlight: 9/11 Researcher Jon Gold

Jon Gold engaged in civil disobedience at the White House, January 31st 2011

I first began following Jon Gold’s (@911JusticeNow) work in late 2003. The attacks of September 11th, 2001 and the subsequent invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq galvanized me from apathy to a newfound political consciousness, and I soon discovered his work on one of the first websites questioning the official theory of 9/11. What impressed me about his research was that he was deeply committed to using verifiable facts found in mainstream news articles and reports. But perhaps what stands out most about his activism is his unwavering support for the first responders. He was made “Honorary Director” of the FealGood Foundation. He describes himself as “an American trying to make a difference.”

What was the first discrepancy, or discrepancies, that moved you to begin researching the hidden history of 9/11, and how long have you been involved with it ever since?

The first thing that caught my attention was the fact that Dick Cheney and George Bush went to Tom Daschle’s office, and asked him to “limit the scope” of the Congressional Inquiry into 9/11. At the time I thought, “why would the President and Vice President, of all people, not want to know exactly how and why this happened, so as to make sure it could never happen again?” After 9/11, we were told repeatedly that there were no warnings, that no one had any idea that anything like that could happen. Then in May 2002, news of the August 6th, 2001 PDB entitled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike In US” was reported on. That was a “warning.” Once I saw that we were being lied to, I was “off to the races.”

If there were just three facts that discredit the official theory that you feel people must know, what would be those facts?

There were a multitude of warnings, and a lot more known about the hijackers by our Government, prior to 9/11, than the public has been led to believe. The investigations we got into 9/11, in my view, were compromised and corrupt. Especially the 9/11 Commission, which was led by Philip Zelikow. We were told that the source of the funding was “ultimately of little practical significance.” There are indications that some of the money was connected to Prince Bandar’s [of Saudi Arabia] wife. That’s significant. There are indications that some of the money came from Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh at the behest of Lt. General Mahmood Ahmed of the Pakistani ISI. That is significant.

What have been some of the biggest or most intriguing revelations to surface within the past couple of years?

That the 9/11 Commission considered referring NORAD to the Department of Justice for a criminal investigation because of the lies they told to the 9/11 Commission. That 9/11 Whistleblower Sibel Edmonds said Osama Bin Laden had “intimate relations” with the U.S. up until 9/11. The multitude of whistleblowers that were ignored and censored by the 9/11 Commission. There were “Government Minders” that intimidated witnesses before the 9/11 Commission, and in some cases, answered questions for witnesses. That a complete outline of the final report of the 9/11 Commission was written by Ernest May and Philip Zelikow before the 9/11 Commission’s investigation even began. That Philip Zelikow may have been taking direction from Karl Rove. That’s really off the top of my head, but there is so much more.

We’ve both talked about our respect for the film 9/11: Press for Truth. Can you talk about why that film is such an important document about the hidden history of 9/11? Would you recommend it as an introduction to people just starting to question the official theory?

When Kyle Hence told me he was working on the film, I was extremely excited. It was going to tell the story of my heroes, the Jersey Girls, and it was going to be based on the work of someone that greatly influenced me, Paul Thompson. Nothing could be better in my opinion. When Kyle told me he needed money to finish the film, within a few minutes after he told me, I asked my father to loan me the money so they could finish the film. I didn’t hesitate for a second because I knew this was going to be an important documentary. The film is clearly one of the most important documentaries of our generation. It tells the story of the cover-up from the perspective of those who lost the most that day. It completely obliterates the legitimacy of the 9/11 Commission in the first 30 minutes. It shows the basic inconsistencies in the “official account.” I have always thought this documentary was the best tool for activists. In my opinion, 9/11 activists should show this film to people before anything else if they want to be taken seriously.

Will you talk about why (if you agree with this assertion, of course) the movement to question the official theory and uncover the truth hasn’t gained more traction in America, and why it seems to have made more headway in other parts of the world?

Well, the “9/11 Truth Movement” did gain some momentum in 2005-2006. But the “media” decided to focus on the fringiest of the fringe. As a result, we weren’t taken seriously. The “media” overall, has done its best over the years to paint us as conspiracy theorists, as crazy, as unpatriotic, as terrorist sympathizers, as terrorists, as holocaust denying murderers, etc… and so on. No one wants to associate with us. The media’s campaign to tarnish anyone that questions the official account of 9/11 has been extremely successful. People are dying in the Middle East, so it would make sense for people in the Middle East to question the official account of 9/11. As far as parts of the world outside the United States that question the official account, that aren’t directly affected by America’s occupations… they probably have better media than the U.S.

We now know from various news reports that the U.S. security state has turned its attention inward to spy on American activists as well as potential foreign enemies living in the country. Homeland Security was seen monitoring a peaceful BART protest in San Francisco the other night, and they’re also likely monitoring organizers and participants involved with US Day of Rage’s upcoming occupation of Wall Street, based on a bulletin released recently. Can you talk about how 9/11 has eroded the freedoms America used to cherish, and do you think we’ve allowed the 9/11 tragedy to get the best of us? Is there hope of beating the security state and regaining our civil liberties?

Expose the 9/11 Cover-Up, and I believe that everything that happened as a result of that day, will stop, or be reversed. The occupations will end, and the majority of legislation written that takes away our civil liberties will be reversed. Peace of the Action, the group Cindy Sheehan founded that I am apart of, was spied on by the Institute Of Terrorism Research And Response. I was spied on before I committed civil disobedience at the White House for 9/11 Justice. I assume I was spied on because when I got there, a cop asked me “are you Jon Gold? Are you still planning on chaining yourself to the White House fence?” There are many examples of liberties lost since 9/11. Look at the TSA, look at the wiretapping of phones, look at free speech zones, etc… Again, expose the damn 9/11 Cover-Up.

Would you care to offer any sort of narrative regarding what you think happened on 9/11, based on the extensive research you’ve conducted over all these years?

I don’t know what happened on 9/11, or who was ultimately responsible. That’s the problem. I have an idea, but I don’t know. Everyone has theories about what happened that day. Some are ridiculous and far-fetched, and others aren’t. However, without a real criminal investigation, we just don’t know. I believe 9/11 was a crime as opposed to an act of war, and as with every crime, there are suspects for that crime. In my opinion, elements within our Government and others have MORE THAN EARNED the title of suspect for the crime of 9/11.

How do you suggest people get involved in the struggle for 9/11 accountability?

By telling the next person until we have a majority of people. We can’t do shit with the system we have.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Since today is 9/11, I’d just like to say that I hope the families that lost someone that day have the easiest day possible. I hope the responders that were down there are honored, and that the James Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act is made to include cancer for the coverage it gives.

Jon Gold (@911JusticeNow) is a prolific contributor to sites such as 9/11 Truth News, History Commons, Peace of the Action, Secrecy Kills and helped fund the film 9/11: Press for Truth.

http://www.peaceoftheaction.net