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Days Without Immigrants, with German Sanchez, Christine Neumann-Ortiz, and Wilson Hernandez


Across the country last week, immigrants went on strike to demonstrate what the country would be like if Donald Trump actually followed through on his promised deportations. The “Day Without an Immigrant” actions kicked off in Wisconsin on Monday, February 13, where Voces De La Frontera and partner organizations held a Day Without Latinos, Immigrants, and Refugees to protest Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke’s plans to collaborate with the Trump administration to deport people. I spoke with German Sanchez, one of the workers who went on strike that day, Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces De La Frontera, and Wilson Hernandez, who days later, in Danbury, Connecticut, was part of another Day Without an Immigrant.

German Sanchez: Let’s say in my lunch break I make emails or text message, when I’m done my day I make a video. A lot of people don’t know how the capital in Madison works, a lot of people don’t know how the law works, even some American people don’t know. The point is I educate myself, I I talk to some lawyers, I talk to some person about Assembly Bill 450, what does it mean, SB533. All those things that I’m learning about it I send out, of course, in Spanish for my community, so they understand the levels a law moves on in the capital, what our options to do against those bills as immigrants are. This is the hard part, to educate people and understand those bills. I do videos maybe twice a day to talk about that and of course I text message back, I answer emails, a lot of questions, a lot of concerns. Of course a lot of people are concerned about the consequences if they don’t go to work.

But with those anti-immigrant bills moving, it’s easy. You can miss one day of work, but if those bills move you can lose everything.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. Previous interviews here.

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Beating the Muslim Ban, with Bhairavi Desai

On January 28, as protesters rushed to airports around the country seeking to defend refugees and migrants against Trump’s travel ban, taxi drivers with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance took the protest a step further and refused to pick up fares at JFK Airport. The taxi drivers’ strike caught the imagination of the public and even spurred a massive campaign to #DeleteUber after the ride-hailing app lowered its fares in an apparent attempt to break the strike. (Uber has since apologized, repeatedly.) But the taxi workers have more to teach us than just this one action.

It was amazing to see the outpouring of support. I think people were really touched that here was a workforce on the front lines of these hateful policies and also the economic margins of what we have seen is a growing sector of the economy which is piecemealing and turning a fulltime profession into part-time gigs. People out there know that taxi drivers are really hard working and that people really struggle day to day to make ends meet. The idea that they would put their incomes on the line and it would be a workforce that is so vulnerable, particularly in these times, to surveillance and deportations and further policing, that they would be the ones to stand up. It seemed to really touch people and we were so moved by their reaction. I think it was a beautiful start to solidarity with our movement.

Certainly, there are many reasons to be critical of Uber. Uber is a pretty horrible company. It is true we have been fighting for a long time to bring attention to Uber’s economic practices and the race to the bottom that it has created. But, however people were meant to come and take a closer look at us, we are ready to accept and, hopefully, from this point forward, folks continue with the struggle.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. Previous interviews here.

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Breaking the deportation machine, with Maria Castro

Last week, February 8, Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos went to her yearly check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Phoenix, Arizona, something she has done every year since 2008, when she was arrested in a raid by notorious Sheriff Joe Arpaio and convicted of using a fake Social Security number to work (and pay Social Security taxes that she would never be able to collect). This time, instead of being sent home to her family, she was loaded into a van and deported to Mexico, despite a group of her friends and family and supporters placing their bodies in the way of the van. Her 14-year-old daughter had to pack her things for her; she, along with her brother and father, would be staying behind. Maria Castro was one of the people putting her body on the line to try to prevent Garcia de Rayos’s deportation, and she talks here about what will be necessary to prevent more families like Garcia de Rayos’s from being split up.

It is important to be grounded in community first and foremost. I think it is very easy to identify an action. Like one we did a couple of years ago, we jumped in front of a bus and made national news, but what is important is identifying the needs of our community. In this moment, our communities are being kidnapped out of their homes, out of workplaces, off the street, and we need to do whatever is necessary to protect them and make sure that we are being safe and bold and brave and in some spaces, depending on the conditions, in some of the more liberal states, you may be able to do more and you should do more. That is what is required of us. In some places, it may look like sitting in front of a bus. In other places, it may look like locking down some facility. In other places, it might look like vigils and creating sanctuary spaces. It all depends on the setting, but what is vital and necessary is that you do something.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. Previous interviews here.

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Criminalizing dissent in “middle America,” with David Goodner


The news that several bills that would make certain protest tactics into felonies has sparked fears of a crackdown on dissent, but Iowa organizer David Goodner says it has also sparked organizing in response.

Stuff like what happened at Berkeley, that is going to be controversial. I think we also have to realize, at least in that sense, confrontation won. When we went to the airports all over the country and confronted and there was really the risk of shutting down these major airports, these major centers, again, of economic activity, we won major concessions from the Trump administration on his bad policy. The Women’s March, having millions of people in the streets, there may not have been a clear cut victory, but I think it did energize and mobilize people to realize that we can win when we stick together, when we develop a mass movement strategy, and when we fight like hell.

We need to take that just as seriously as we take the concerns about property destruction or about people with masks on and how that might look to Middle America, as well. I think people here in Iowa want to stand with somebody who they know is fighting for them. They are not going to care so much about ideology if they can see that there is a movement that has their back and is going to defend their interests. People are going to sign up and join it.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. Previous interviews here.

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Standing Rock is everywhere, with Judith LeBlanc


Judith LeBlanc of the Native Organizers Alliance spoke at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. and remains part of the movement taking the resistance at Standing Rock around the country, from divestment campaigns in Seattle to a Native-led March on Washington coming soon.

No matter how strong capitalism seems to be, it is inherently full of contradictions and therefore masses of people, when organized, even if not the majority, can have an impact. We have organized this alliance, joined a coalition that involved many, many groups – faith groups, as well as divestment groups and environmental groups like 350.org – in doing a serious of actions in the last few days to pressure the seventeen banks who are invested in Energy Transfer Partners to meet with the tribe. To divest, but to do so on the basis of meeting with the tribes and understanding what the issues are and the impact the pipeline can have. We have also had tremendous numbers of people, I can’t remember the figures of people who closed their personal accounts that were in some of the seventeen banks. It has given many people the ability to say, “Amen” in their personal lives, to live a life that is actually in sync with their beliefs that we all have a role to play in saving Mother Earth.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. Previous interviews here.

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Building the power to bargain, with Ben Speight

Donald Trump played a divide-and-conquer game on working people this election cycle, attacking immigrants on the one hand while promising jobs and an end to bad trade deals on the other. But many labor leaders and organizers didn’t fall for the con. Ben Speight is organizing director of Teamsters Local 728 in Georgia, and he joined me to talk about what real worker power looks like.

We have not mobilized a national movement of workers in recent memory. If we propose a National Worker’s March on Washington or a National Workers Day of Protest, that would create the circumstances for us to really have the power to demand a halt to reforms that strip us of our rights and to demand expansion of basic workers’ rights on the job. We have the capacity to call for such actions and sustain such actions, because of our resources, to hit the corporate regime where they are the most sensitive, which is in the workplace. Overall we have to shift, both inside the labor movement and outside of it, and see the workplace as a vital political battlefield. Not just a place to post anti-Trump stickers or flyers in the break room, but to actually see it as a place that we are challenging the prerogatives of those who set Trump up.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. Previous interviews here.

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Teaching to resist, with Jesse Hagopian

Public schools have been a bipartisan battleground for years now, with teachers’ unions taking attacks from elected officials at all levels as part of a broader movement to “improve” education by handing control over it to private companies. Donald Trump’s nominee to run the education department, Betsy DeVos, is a stalwart of this privatization drive, never having met a public school she liked (and barely, as many have pointed out, having met a public school at all, since she neither taught in any nor attended them nor sent her own children to them). But teachers around the country are organizing against privatization, and gaining support from parents and students. Jesse Hagopian is one of those teachers.

I try…to have my classroom be a place that facilitates dialogue, that allows the kids to discuss the fears and anxieties that they have when they hear Trump’s plans for banning Muslims, for deporting immigrants, all of his atrocious sexual assault exploits, his fear-mongering and hatred and bigotry of all kinds. The students need a place to talk about it. I try to facilitate that, as well as letting them know my classroom is a safe place. On the door, all the teachers on my hallway have put up signs that say, “This is a safe place for our students and a place where we will oppose homophobia and sexism and racism and xenophobia and Islamophobia.” We want to communicate that message clearly with our students. Then, we also have to do it in the curriculum. It is so critical that our curriculum is talking back to the textbooks, which too often just glorify American history without engaging kids in critical thinking about the real challenges and forms of structural oppression that have been perpetuated throughout US history. We have to allow them to dig into the curriculum and into the history to figure out how we arrived at a moment like this. It’s really crucial to helping support them right now.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. Previous interviews here.

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Refugees are welcome here, with Daniel Altschuler of Make the Road NY


Daniel Altschuler of Make The Road New York checks in from the rally outside of Terminal 4 at New York’s JFK Airport, where refugees whose legal status abruptly changed after Trump’s latest executive order are being held in limbo.

This crowd is going to be here for many hours, there’s tremendous enthusiasm here, there’s a vigil that’s called for 6pm, there’s been constant chanting, amazing people showing up and just making their signs on the spot to say that they’re going to resist, to say no Muslim ban, to say they stand with refugees. This is not one of those times where there’s a designated beginning point and endpoint, this is a moment where people are here to fight for what they know that this country can be, which is a place that welcomes refugees, that welcomes Muslims, that does not impose religious discrimination, so folks are excited to be here.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. Previous interviews here.

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Nothing to lose but our chains, with Biola Jeje

Donald Trump’s inauguration was attended by low crowds; they got some help from protesters, who, as we discussed with Legba Carrefour, used direct action techniques to successfully blockade several entrances to the event. Biola Jeje of BYP 100 was one of them, and she discusses what it takes for people to get over their fears and take the risk of direct action.

I think the fear is that you are going to put yourself out there and then whatever happens you are then on your own. The state is a very isolating place. We need to figure out how to more broadly move past that, to really create the sense of ‘We are actually the majority here and we are in solidarity with each other and we will be there to support each other as we take these braver steps to create a society where our values are reflected.’ I think especially with the mainstream media which still benefits from the system and really isn’t, for the most part, there to reflect the facts that more people than not agree with us. Building that culture and community and helping it to proliferate is going to super important.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. Previous interviews here.

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Striking against Trump, with Luciano Balbuena and Veronica Mendez Moore

As Donald Trump was preparing to take over as President of the United States, Luciano Balbuena was preparing for something else: a strike, along with his coworkers who clean Home Depot stores in the Minneapolis area. A member of Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL), Luciano talks about why strike against Trumpism.

We are trying to put a stop to the poverty wages. Donald Trump, he supports these low wages and he has said that he doesn’t think workers deserve better wages. He is a person that is very racist against Latino workers. So, for all of these reasons, that is why we are coming together tomorrow.

Veronica Mendez Moore, executive director of CTUL, also joins us to talk about CTUL’s ongoing organizing, targeting the biggest of the big corporations, and workers’ role in challenging Trump’s labor department nominee, Andy Puzder.

That is the engine of our economy. If workers don’t work, our economy doesn’t work, their communities don’t work, and it begins to break down for the corporations. I think the strike is such a critical tool because it really is a tremendous amount of power that workers have. The bosses spend hours and hours coming up with strategies to teach workers that their voice doesn’t matter and that they have no power and that they just need to follow the rules and listen to the boss. Our job is critical to help people understand how much power they actually have and that the strike is the most powerful tool they have to be able to use their voice and their power.

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Interviews for Resistance is a syndicated series of interviews with organizers, agitators and troublemakers, available twice weekly as text and podcast. Previous interviews here.