May 09 2012

The Activist Beat Roundup of Protests Nationwide

Activist BeatThe Activist Beat with Rose Aguilar, host of Your Call on KALW in San Francisco is a weekly roundup of progressive activism that the mainstream media ignores, undercovers, or misrepresents.

A few days ago, Uprising reported on the Palestinian prisoners who began their fourth week of hunger strikes to protest abusive and substandard conditions in Israeli jails.

Here in the United States, citizens are using the same method to get their messages across, and like the Palestinian prisoners, they’re not receiving the media coverage they deserve.

I don’t expect protests and rallies to get media attention, but hunger strikes in the United States?

At the Ohio State Penitentiary, at least 25 inmates who are locked in their cells for 23 hours a day began their second week of refusing to eat.

They want more recreation and out of cell time, programs to teach them trades and help them cope with sensory deprivation, and a transparent security level classification process.

According to the Vindicator newspaper, Donald Brown hasn’t eaten since April 30. He’s serving 30 years for a series of burglary, theft, and escape charges. And he spends 23 hours a day in a cell.

These inmates held a three-day hunger strike back in February in solidarity with the “Occupy for Prisoners” actions.

Here in California, 12 college students at six state campuses are on a juice fast to protest rising tuition, presidential pay raises, and next year’s possible enrollment freeze. If California voters don’t approve the tax measure on the November ballot, there’s a strong likelihood that state schools will not accept new students next year. What message does that send to the next generation?

The students have four demands: create a five-year freeze on tuition increases, eliminate all housing and car allowances for all 23 campus presidents, rollback executive salaries to 1999 levels, and free speech rights on all campuses.

Chancellor Charles Reed, who recently met with students, told them their demands are not possible. Instead of focusing on the executives, they should be focusing on the government.

In other words, this is out of my hands? Good luck.

Cal State Fullerton history graduate student David Inga told the Daily Titan that they plan to continue their hunger strike until their demands are met.

So far, the New York Times, the LA Times, and local papers have covered the strike.

And then there’s Donna Vieira. A 42-year-old mom, she started her second hunger strike outside the San Francisco offices of California Attorney General Kamala Harris on Monday. This is her second hunger strike. Last month, she didn’t eat for 16 days and yet she’s only been interviewed once. By a Spanish language television channel.

I spoke to her on Monday. She decided to start another hunger strike on Monday because we can’t wait for politicians to make more promises. We need real action.

She and her husband were foreclosed on by Wells Fargo. She says it’s been a six-year nightmare. Donna has spent four of those years in court demanding that Wells Fargo disclose the list of investors who own her mortgage loan, but the company has refused to comply.

I’ve become used to the media ignoring protests and sit-ins, but a hunger strike? How can reporters ignore a 42-year-old mom on hunger strike?

College students and Donna Vieira realize that holding signs and marching isn’t enough. Desperate times call for desperate measures. These citizens are refusing to eat because they want to be heard.

It’s easy to ignore protests and sit-ins. It’s not as easy to ignore people who refuse to eat, but based on the lack of media coverage thus far, it looks like these hunger strikes will have to get sick before they are taken seriously. This speaks volumes about the current state of affairs in this country.

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