Category Archives: Florida

Occupy Y’all Street

by KurtFF8

The Huffington Post has launched a series about Occupations that are “under-publicized” and has started with a video from Gainesville, Florida.  It demonstrates how the Occupy movement really resonates with “average folks” (whatever that means) and how it is really taking root in places like Gainesville.  The city does have a major university and a history of activism, so perhaps seeing an Occupy movement taking shape there shouldn’t be too surprising.  Hopefully the Huffington Post reporters visit Occupy sites like Roanoke, Virginia next.

The video can be see on the Huffington Post’s website here

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Filed under class struggle, Florida, Gainesville, Occupy Movement, Southern United States, Virginia

Stetson Kennedy dies at 94 in Fla.

From Forbes.com:

MIAMI — Author and folklorist Stetson Kennedy, who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan six decades ago and exposed its secrets to authorities and the public but was also criticized for possibly exaggerating his exploits, died Saturday. He was 94.

Kennedy died at Baptist Medical Center South near St. Augustine, where he had been receiving hospice care.

In the 1940s, Kennedy used the “Superman” radio show to expose and ridicule the Klan’s rituals. In the 1950s he wrote “I Rode with the Ku Klux Klan,” which was later renamed “The Klan Unmasked,” and “The Jim Crow Guide.”

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Filed under African Americans, Florida, Race, racism

Tampa, Orlando, and Feeding the Homeless

by KurtFF8

Tampa has recently joined with Orlando in cracking down on groups that feed the homeless on public property.  According to an article published today on tbo.com, Tampa police have shut down an operation of church group volunteers that have been feeding the homeless in downtown Tampa for 6 years.  This comes after Orlando police have been arresting activists with Food Not Bombs for feeding the homeless in Orlando.  Why is it that the “Sunshine State” has been cracking down on folks who are literally just trying to feed the homeless?  There has been some speculation that in the case of Tampa’s recent actives, it has to do with the upcoming Republican National Convention and an effort by the city to “clean up” before the convention is underway.  While the city denies it is related to the GOP convention, the effort to “clean up” the streets is certainly cited by officials.

There has been a recent upsurge in the population of those without homes, that has come at a time of continued economic crisis.  Florida is home to one of the hardest hit housing markets in the wake of the Great Recession.  It has also ceased to be one of the fastest growing states in the US, which has lead many in power facing an image problem (along with recent attacks on unions and immigrant workers by the state legislature).

There is certainly a problem with painting efforts to arrest and harass those feeding the homeless as “cleaning up” the streets of a given city.  It assumes that homeless populations are themselves a “problem” that need to be “taken care of,” and instead of addressing the real roots of that problem, they assault those who are the victims of economic circumstances.  Similar rhetoric has been used against the communities that recently were hit by major riots in the United Kingdom.

This crackdown on those feeding the homeless comes after years of non-enforcement of these ordinances that as the TBO.com article points out: are difficult to demonstrate laws were broken.  It really comes down to the class nature of law enforcement in places like Florida, where property is considered a “right” (see: the advice by the city to move the feedings to private property) and where human rights and dignity are pushed to the wayside.

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Filed under class struggle, Florida, housing, Southern Strategy, Southern United States

Alabama surpasses Arizona with racist anti-immigrant law

by KurtFF8

Alabama recently passed a new anti-immigrant law that many have described as “more harsh” than the controversial anti-immigrant law in Arizona that essentially promotes racial profiling (this argument is focused on the fact that folks can be questioned for being “suspected of” being an undocumented worker).  Georgia recently passed a similar law, making the South the center of the immigration debate.

As usual, both sides of the “mainstream” debate fall short of getting to the real issues at heart: the real manifestations of racism, and international labor relations (see NAFTA as an important variable to immigration itself).  Even the “liberal” arguments against these laws are full of sentiments like “well immigrants do the jobs no one else wants to do for that price.”  This line of logic is just as problematic as the more “overtly racist” arguments by the far-Right, in that the “servant class” role for undocumented workers is seen as justified or not problematic itself.

Florida also recently attempted to pass a similar law, but the state legislature as not unified and faced a strong activist response (with the Florida Capitol looking a lot like the halls of the Wisconsin Capitol for a few days).

These laws need to be fought with a mass movement based on solidarity and workers power.

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Filed under Alabama, class struggle, Florida, Georgia, Human Rights, immigration, Leftists in the U.S. South, racism, Southern United States, Tallahassee, workers

City unveils Foot Soldiers monument

This originally appeared on the St. Augustine Record’s site

Record Staff Writer

Freedom Rider Hank Thomas remembers thinking he was going to die on a bus that was fire bombed by a mob in Alabama 50 years ago.

Thomas, one of the original Freedom Riders and a St. Augustine native, recounted the details of his civil rights protesting days as a young adult in the 1960s at the unveiling of the St. Augustine Foot Soldiers monument in the Plaza de la Constitucion on Saturday evening.

“Today is the anniversary of that bus burning,” Thomas said to a group of hundreds that gathered under the Old Market pavilion in downtown St. Augustine. “I thought I was going to die at 19 years old.”

Freedom Riders traveled through Southern cities by bus to fight for the right of African-Americans to travel across state lines on trains and buses while using the same seats, bathrooms, water fountains and other facilities as whites.

Thomas and several others were trapped inside a bus while a mob fire bombed the bus and held the doors closed. That event in May 1961 is one of many violent acts Thomas saw or was apart of as a protester.

Civil rights protesters like Thomas and Dr. Robert Hayling, who alongside Martin Luther King Jr., played a major role in helping young African-Americans rally against segregation in St. Augustine, spoke at the unveiling ceremony.

Longtime Lincolnville resident, 88-year-old Barbara Vickers sparked an interest in 2004 of creating a memorial for civil rights activists in St. Augustine. A board of directors was formed, which included Cathy Brown, the executive director at the Council on Aging, and former city of St. Augustine mayor George Gardner. From that, the St. Augustine Foot Soldiers Remembrance Project was born.

City and county officials, among many others, watched as Vickers and others pulled down a black sheet the hung over the new bronze sculpture in the Plaza. Four head busts represent the many Foot Soldiers who were arrested, threatened and just fought for equal rights in St. Augustine.

Carolyn Fisher led the audience, packed tightly under the cover of the market to keep out of the rain, in song. Together they sang “the Freedom Song,” “This little light of Mine,” and many others.

Ms. Carrie Johnson, known as the “Voice of Lincolnville,” led the group in song as she rode up to the Plaza on her well-known purple tricycle, her straw hat with a purple sash tucked underneath a bright yellow raincoat.

“In the words of Errol Jones, ‘Let the healing continue,'” said St. Augustine Mayor Joe Boles.

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Filed under African Americans, class struggle, Florida

The Florida Legislative Session

by KurtFF8

The following video was produced by the Florida AFL-CIO about the actions that workers took to fight back against the reactionary legislature in Florida.

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Filed under class struggle, Corporations, Florida, Gulf States, labor movement, labor unions, Leftists in the U.S. South, Southern United States, Students, Tallahassee

Florida Tea Party member goes on racist rant

by KurtFF8

This individual likely does not quite “speak for the Tea Party” like he claims in the opening of this video.  Yet much of what he says in this rant is what the Left has been claiming is implicit in the rhetoric of the Tea Party.  This all in the name of demonstrating that the Tea Party is not racist.  This is an ultimate failure of what many conservatives try to do: turn the rhetoric around and act very defensive when accused of racism (“You’re the ones being racist by discussing race!”)  This tactic clearly didn’t work here.

Another interesting aspect of this video so far is what Althusser would call a “guilty silence.”  That guilty silence being the Tea Party’s lack of distancing itself from this individual (although if this video becomes a broader controversy, it’s certainly possible they will issue some sort of statement condemning it).  His rants against political correctness translate directly into racism and it should be quite clear without even having to watch the entire video.

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Filed under Florida, Race, racism, Tea Party

BP spill: One year since worst oil spill ever

[originally posted at PSLweb]

April 18, 2011

Deepwater Horizon explosion, April 20, 2010

The writer was part of a delegation that traveled to the Gulf at the onset of the crisis to meet with affected fishermen, workers and activists as part of the Seize BP campaign calling for the seizure of BP’s assets to pay for the cleanup and fully compensate economic losses of those in the region. Demonstrations were held in cities across the country at that time.

One year after causing the worst oil spill in history, BP has claimed 2010 as their “best year in safety performance” in their company’s history, even as workers in the Gulf region continue to suffer from the disaster.

Adding insult to injury, BP executives recently rewarded themselves with “safety bonuses.” BP’s CEO Steve Newman’s bonus last year was $374,062, which is really just a tip since Newman usually rakes in almost $6 million a year. Transocean managers—the owners of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig—received up to two-thirds of the total possible “safety” bonuses.

Role of capitalist state exposed

The explosion on the Deep Horizon off-shore rig 50 miles off the Louisiana coast left 11 workers dead, 17 injured and more than 200 million tons of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, wreaking untold damage on the environment and economies of the Gulf states. The aftermath of the profit-driven catastrophe showed the true power of big oil and exposed the government and state as managers of the interests of the capitalist class.

Millions of gallons of oil poured into the Gulf and hundreds of thousands of gallons of Corexit and other toxic dispersants—banned in 19 countries—were pumped in to conceal it. At the same time, the Obama administration approved dozens of off-shore drilling projects in the early days of the crisis, showing all the more in Obama’s own words that the federal government’s relationship to big oil is indeed “cozy.”

It took BP several attempts to cap the gusher, finally succeeding on July 15—nearly three months later.

CNN just received the “prestigious” Peabody Award for journalism for their comprehensive coverage of the disaster, acting as only one mouthpiece of the apparatus to echo BP’s efforts and the federal government’s endorsement.

BP headquarters in Houma, La., carefully released information on their efforts and promises to deal with the disaster—although the press or public could not walk into BP headquarters to verify that. Again, to show the relationship between big oil and the government, it was not BP’s private security at the gates of their operations headquaters in Louisiana. It was staffed by the Department of Homeland Security.

Michael Bromwich, head of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, is pressuring federal officials for $100 million, not to clean up the Gulf disaster or compensate workers and residents, but to speed up the infrastructure to approve more permits for drilling in the Gulf. Already in mid-March, Anglo-Suisse claimed responsibility for another oil spill, while yet more lip service was given to the need for “federal oversight.”

Workers, residents report chronic health effects

The working and oppressed people of Gulf have another story to tell. Exemplified in one man’s story who lives 100 miles from the coast, a recent report showed that he tested as having higher levels of chemicals from BP’s spill than actual clean-up workers.

Hundreds of thousands of gallons of toxic dispersants were pumped into the Gulf at the time.

The health problems resulting from the spill continue to become apparent while peoples’ pleas for medical care to address the toxic health affects of the spill continue to be ignored by BP and government authorities.

Many of the clean-up workers were fishermen and others who became unemployed during the disaster. These workers lived under appalling conditions and became exposed to toxic oil and chemicals.

“If I wanted to be in prison, I would break the law and go to jail,” explained one clean-up worker when asked to describe the living conditions of the “floating hotels” set-up by BP.

At one point, these workers carried out a strike to demand better housing. Most of them are still waiting for compensation for their claims from BP.

Major health problems are being seen among people exposed to both the oil and the dispersants used in the cleanup. According to Dr. Rodney Soto, a Florida physician, both the oil and the dispersants contain volatile organic compounds that cause an array of negative health problems. (Al-Jazeera)

According to Soto, between five and seven VOCs have been found in his patients who also report symptoms and illnesses including vomiting, kidney damage, lung damage, burning sensations in the nose and throat, skin irritation and liver damage.

Alabama resident Lloyd Pearcey worked on a BP clean-up team for four months. He has chemicals from oil and dispersants in his blood, according to tests conducted by Soto. Pearcey is now battling cancer.

Others who did not work in the cleanup currently have similar medical complications. Even more troubling, others with toxins present in their blood today may present symptoms or illnesses later as a result of the exposure.

As time goes on, there are potentially “tremendous implications in the human immune system, hormonal function, and brain function,” according to Soto.

Untold environmental damage

While BP reports that they have completed clean-up efforts in Mississippi, residents report a strange foamy substance washing up on shore that could very well be connected to dispersants used.

Yet the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, state health departments and President Obama have joined the chorus with BP that the beaches and seafood from the Gulf are safe.

“It’s criminal for the government to tell people to eat the contaminated seafood, and that it’s alright for people go to our toxic beaches and swim in the contaminated water,” Dr. Soto said.

The environmental impact continues to be assessed with alarming statistics. One report showed that 60 percent of Louisiana coastal land erosion resulted from the spill. In reality, the extent of the erosion has not been fully calculated, but could be as much as the size of the state of Delaware.

The Gulf Coast shoreline is a fragile and complex ecological system—a system that protects the interior against hurricanes as well as providing a cycle of food for many different species. Thus, oil contamination on the coast kills off microscopic algae, a base food, cutting off nutrients to fish, shrimp, oysters and then larger species, such as birds, land animals and humans.

Toxic dispersants remain in the Gulf of Mexico. It is clear that this was a strategy not to clean up the spill, but to conceal it deep in the sea, impacting deep-sea wildlife for generations to come.

Oil from the BP spill remains stuck on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, according to marine scientist Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia. She presents evidence that the oil is not degrading as expected and is killing life on the sea floor.

Her videos and photographs taken deep below the surface show dead crabs, pale starfish and suffocated tube worms, which are all sea life key to the larger ecological cycle.

The sea life not only suffered from the oil itself; the fire that lasted for days produced a tremendous amount of methane and soot that ultimately will reach the marshes, beaches and barrier islands where other wildlife nest and breed in the Gulf.

No real compensation for the people of the Gulf

BP has assets of $152 billion. If British Petroleum were a nation it would rank 35th richest in the world, if its assets were calculated as gross national product. The Seize BP Campaign demanded that the assets of British Petroleum be seized by the government—the only entity that could carry out such an action.

These demands did not place faith in a government at the service of big oil, but demanded that the funds be placed into a trust that could quickly and easily assist the people of the Gulf and the clean-up efforts and be made available as more damages became uncovered.

This trust would have been administered by the people from the harmed area. The trustees were to include representatives of the fishers, shrimpers, crabbers, unions, small business people and workers in the tourism and recreation industry, local elected officials, clergy, and independent scientists and environmentalists.

Instead of full compensation for the people of the Gulf or the people of the Gulf having a say in their futures, Obama made Kenneth Feinberg trustee for distributing what BP was willing to pay. Feinberg was previously appointed to hand out the billions of taxpayers’ money in the bailout for the banks, insurance companies and their criminal executives. Feinberg holds the purse strings to the escrow fund rather than the people who are most impacted.

BP has been promoting the idea that the tourist industry in the Gulf was not affected by the disaster. In fact, many hotels were booked with clean-up workers and others working on the spill. Yet hotel and tourist industry representatives report that these visitors did not come to the Gulf to enjoy the beaches, eat in the restaurants and participate in one of the largest industries—sport fishing.

Just a month ago, local workers who assisted in the clean-up efforts and are suffering from poor health and other damages to their boats filed suit in New Orleans, naming BP and the other co-owners of Deepwater Horizon as well as the manufacturer of the toxic dispersants. The suit is seeking compensation for bodily harm and unpaid wages.

The White House announced a criminal investigation into BP, Transocean, the well operator contractor, and Halliburton, the second largest company in the world in oil field services, which cemented the rig. We know all too well what the result of a White House-led investigation will be—a slap on the wrist at best.

The oil giants’ drive for profits has resulted in theft of land from indigenous peoples in Louisiana to peoples of the Middle East, untold environmental havoc and millions of deaths from wars and occupations. The BP oil disaster has made all the more clear the need to continue to build a movement to eradicate the private ownership of the earth’s resources, so that the people of the planet can plan and safely extract needed resources without jeopardizing the poorest now and generations to come.

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Filed under class struggle, Corporations, Environment, Environmental Justice, fishing, Florida, Gulf Oil Spill, Gulf States, Louisiana, Oil

Florida Workers and Students Fight Back!

by KurtFF8

All around Florida on Friday, students and workers help rallies and marches to voice their opposition to the anti-union attacks, attacks on women’s rights, students and education, and the environment.

Here is a list of videos and media coverage

News coverage:

Tallahassee Television coverage

Tallahassee FAMU newspaper coverage

Tallahassee FSU newspaper coverage

Pensacola coverage

Gainesville student paper coverage (also there is video coverage from the Alligator)

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Filed under austerity measures, budget cuts, class struggle, Environment, Florida, labor movement, labor unions, Leftists in the U.S. South, Southern United States, Students, Uncategorized

Fight Back Florida, March 25th

On March 25th, cities across Florida will be holding rallies and marches to demonstrate that Florida workers are going to fight back against the recent anti-worker measures introduced by the state legislature.

Rallies will be held in various cities around the state.  Check the website for more details http://www.fightbackflorida.com

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Filed under austerity measures, budget cuts, class struggle, Demonstration Announcements, Florida, labor movement, labor unions, Leftists in the U.S. South, Students, Upcoming Events