Online Hate: Legal Action in the Digital Age

By Deanna Mudry

“Just make your opinions known. Tell them you are sickened by their Jew agenda . . .This is very important,” Andrew Anglin posted to the neo-nazi white supremacist Daily Stormer site that he’s editor of in December. “Calling these people up and/or sending them a quick message is very easy. It is very important that we make them feel the kind of pressure they are making us feel.”

What followed were over 700 harassing messages sent to Tanya Garsh, a real estate agent in Whitefish, Mo., as well as her husband and 12 year-old son. Anglin claimed that she was extorting fellow white supremacist Richard Spencer, Southern Poverty Law Center said.

The nonprofit has opened an unprecedented lawsuit against Anglin in response.

“The lawsuit in Whitefish, Montana is really the first lawsuit for trolling online,” Lecia Brooks, outreach director for Southern Poverty Law Center, said.

However, this is far from the first case of  a “troll army” being called to arms to attack someone online. In 2014 there was “Gamergate,” during which female game developers were sent insults and death and rape threats, and in 2016 actress Leslie Jones was the target of racist and sexist harassment and a leak of her private photos.

Though stories of similar, targeted online harassment such as this have gotten media attention and been the subject of discussion on forums in recent years, there is no “good data” about what is really going on, Brooks said. Advocacy groups like Southern Poverty Law Center tend to only monitor hate and harassment once it has made it into the real world, and many trolls work anonymously.

“Now we have seen an increase in the activity, chatter on these sites like the Daily Storm or the Storm Watch, but I can’t say that there is a trend in online harassment,” she said. “What we track are the actual activities of people.”

One entity that has the tools to track and regulate these trolls are the social media platforms to which they post. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have come under fire for not doing enough to curb hate speech, but some argue they’re just meant to facilitate free speech.

In her book “Hate Crimes in Cyberspace,” law professor Danielle Citron said that the law should come down harder on internet trolls, but that any regulation must align with First Amendment doctrine. However, she said she doubts trolls are adding to the discourse for which the amendment was intended.

“Some may argue that a legal agenda will undermine the ability to discuss truths in our networked age,” she said in the book. “After all, if cyber harassers cannot speak their minds, certain ‘truths’ about victims will not come to light. The public may be unable to learn that people so dislike a blogger that they are inspired to threaten to rape and beat her.”

Ultimately though, these social media sites are private companies that can allow whatever they do, and do not, want on their platforms.

“They’re a private entity that said that these are the rules for accessing our platform that you can’t engage in hate speech, we’re just asking them to kind of hold themselves to their own rules,” Brooks said.

Legal Action

When hate speech does happen, there are several options for the victim.

“Talking to the media, blogging about victims’ struggles and fighting back online has taken us only so far,” Citron said.

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Therefore, she said victims’ best bet in a court of law is suing their abuser(s) under tort or copyright law. Tort is a body of law that requires defendants to compensate plaintiffs whose injuries they have wrongly caused. It includes libel and intentionally or recklessly causing emotional distress.

If there is a clear bias in the harassment, additional charges may be pursued.

“In the case of the Whitefish, that was clearly anti-Semitic, law enforcement adds the hate crime enhancement on the crime of harassment, so hate crimes would just be added to it if they believe the primary motivation for the harassment is based on the recipient’s identity,” Brooks said.

Brooks said that the chances an online hate or harassment charge will end with a ruling favorable to the victim are good as long as there is proof the hate was continuous and sent directly to them.
The the Southern Poverty Law Center has handled countless hate crime cases in the past, it said in a press release on the case, but “the legal strategy, however, has been adapted for the digital age.”

Students Mobilize after the Election with AU Resist (Revised)

By Deanna Mudry

After the election of Donald Trump this past November, many people took to social media to vent their frustrations about the new president. Most of these posts haven’t developed into activist coalitions, but that’s exactly what AU Resist has done.

AU student Quinn Dunlea created a Facebook group called “F*ck Trump,” as a response to the election results. It was a group of about 60 people to which she’d post information on anti-Trump protests and articles she found interesting. Dunlea had campaigned for Hillary Clinton and “was really fired up” after what had happened, Alana Kessler, cofounder of AU Resist, said.

“The election was something that she put a lot of heart into,” she said.

Kessler and Dunlea kept running into each other as they went to more protests after Trump’s inauguration. After the executive travel ban was released, they both went to the airport to protest. That’s when they decided to create a space for AU students to get involved with protesting the administration.

“After that night I was like ‘we need to connect with more AU students and let them know that people are going to things,’” Kessler said. “‘How can we create a source to collectively, and as a community, be part of this resistance movement?’”

Kessler and Dunlea re-started the “F*ck Trump” page by changing its name to AU Resist and adding more members. Today, it has 331 of them. The page says it’s a “cohesive resistance community/coalition in opposition to the new administration” that aims to create safe spaces for getting involved in anti-administration activism.

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Sophomore Alana Kessler, founding member of AU Resist

“It’s just very collaborative, inclusive and accepting of all peoples’ views and causes, and other things they’re involved in that they want people to know about,” Kessler said.

AU Resist is trying to get involved in almost all of AU’s student organizations, mainly by aggregating posts about different organizations’ events on the page. Kessler said that this is the best way to get a wide range of students to engage in activism, because it introduces it to them through a cause that they’re already interested in.

“We know and understand that everyone at AU has their own unique passion and interest and place where they want to be an activist,” she said. “We don’t expect every student to go to every protest downtown for Planned Parenthood.”

Kessler is a sophomore from Long Island, New York, majoring in religious studies. She used AU Resist to inform others about Interfaith Week events so that students interested in religious inclusion on campus could find more ways to participate.

“I went to Shabbat because I’m really involved with the Jewish community on campus and a girl was there and she said ‘Thank you so much for organizing this. Today I went to jummah [the Muslim Friday] prayer and it was such an incredible, inclusive experience and I’m so grateful that I found out about it through AU Resist,’” Kessler said.

Kessler said she hopes more students are empowered to get involved with activism, on and off campus, because of AU Resist.

“Having this space where people can hopefully get out of their comfort zone a little bit and comment on a post or show up to an event [hopefully] they’ll meet more people and feel more comfortable being an activist,” she said.

Since the election there have been un-official resist movements around the globe. Some just share information using the hashtag #resist, and others, like Greenpeace, who hung a banner that said ‘Resist’ on a crane behind the White House, have taken it to a different level.

No matter how AU students choose to express their resistance, AU Resist will be behind them. Kessler said that she’s seen a difference in the campus climate since it was created. More students are acting out against the election and its frightening aftermath and are equipped with the information to do so because of the page.

“I don’t want  to say that people are becoming more positive, but the people that are upset are going to be a little more louder,” Kessler said. “Right after the election I think that people needed time to mourn and take a step back and be sad. What happened was sad and now what’s going on is scary, but rather than being scared and staying home and staying quiet we need to be loud, and I think the way we’re being loud is by showing our presence on campus and showing our presence as an AU community at different protests.”

U.S. Action on Venezuela is Essential, but almost Impossible if Latin America doesn’t back it, Experts say. (Revised)

senatephoto

The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing on U.S.- Venezuelan policy comes to a close.

By Deanna Mudry

The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has decided that the best way to help end corruption, poverty and violence in Venezuela, in the short-term, is to revoke its democratic charter under the Organization of American States (OAS), as people said direct action from the U.S. alone would likely face opposition. 

Although nothing specific was voted upon, the senators and witnesses came to the consensus that this should be their main priority in U.S.-Venezuela relations going forward.

“Is that not the single most concrete thing that we can do in the short-term to provide the pressure necessary so that elections are allowed and the Venezuelan people can decide what government they want?” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fl., said. “I think we’re gonna get one thing, and I hope that’s what we can focus everybody on. I would love it to be a bipartisan committee consensus.”

All three witnesses at Thursday’s hearing agreed. The OAS is a regional organization made up of 35 states in North and South America, including the United States and Venezuela. It aims to promote peace and democracy among member states that have ratified its charter. However, Venezuela has been less than democratic in recent years.

Drug traffickers have been appointed to high government offices in Venezuela, and the country failed to hold regional elections in December 2016, according to Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tn. A recall referendum against sitting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was also recently denied, despite the majority opposition party gaining ten times more signatures than is required by the Venezuelan constitution to hold one. In addition, there are currently 117 Venezuelan people in jail for political dissent.

“Our government has no doubt about corruption and criminal activity in the Venezuelan government,” Corker said.

In 2015, President Obama declared Venezuela a threat to U.S. national security. He made sanctions against seven Venezuelan officials because of corruption and human rights violations and was met with criticism from many other OAS members. Today, there are over 140 Venezuelan officials barred from the U.S. because of visa sanctions.

The U.S.’s anti-Medura stance was further solidified this month when Lilian Tintori, a Venezuelan activist whose husband Leopoldo Lopez is a political prisoner in Venezuela, met with Rubio and President Trump at the White House.

“The president received her at the Oval Office and took a picture with her and put it up on Twitter which, for this president, it’s a pretty powerful thing,” Rubio said.

However, some committee members said they fear this stance is seen by Venezuelans as more pro-imperialist than pro-democratic. Sen. Tom Udall, D-Nm., didn’t vote in favor of past sanctions against Venezuela and said it’s more than likely they’ll be used as a scapegoat for dictators to further their reign.

“I thought then, and I believe now that they’re counterproductive and lead to the further entrenchment of the current Venezuelan regime, and that’s exactly what happened,” Udall said. “The Venezuelan people who oppose the government are suffering.

Dr. David Smilde, a professor of social relations at Tulane University and senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America, said that whether the U.S. acts or not, the Venezuelan government will create its own fodder against the U.S.

“They’re going to invent things,” he said. “They’re very good with fake news, they’re good with alternative facts, and the fact is it doesn’t work for them. 89 percent of the people in Venezuela reject the government.”

In addition to political corruption, Venezuela has the highest inflation and murder rates in the world, according to Dr. Shannon O’Neil, a Nelson and David Rockefeller senior fellow for Latin America and the director of the Civil Society, Markets and Democracy Program. Many people are currently unable to access food and medicine, and if there’s further economic deterioration and increased violence in the country, O’Neil said she sees hundreds of thousands of refugees potentially fleeing to their Latin American neighbors as well as the U.S.

“The humanitarian situation is dire,” Sen. Bob Menendez, D-Nj., said. “Children are dying of completely preventable diseases. Shelves are empty of basic food and medicine. It’s past time for not only the democratic charter to have been called into play, but to actually put into action.”

A Fragile Solution

Although invoking Venezuela’s violation of OAS charter provisions was deemed by witnesses and senators as the best short-term solution for the country’s problems, doubt remains as to whether or not it would be realistic.

Rubio questioned how the OAS could even enter the country, as humanitarian groups like USAID have been stopped from entering Venezuela under the pretense that there’s no emergency there. Ranking Member Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., added that many organizations will be hesitant to reform Venezuela unless change happens at the top.

“With a corrupt government it is going to be very difficult to see international organizations willing to come in and help finance their economy even though they have wealth,” Cardin said. “It can be difficult to figure out how that takes place unless they have basic changes in the way that they’re government’s doing business and we don’t have any indication that that’s taking place.”

Despite this, O’Neil said she believes there’s a good chance that Latin American countries will join in the U.S. in sanctions, citing newly elected leaders in Peru and Argentina, as well as a memorandum condemning the limited political freedom in Venezuela signed by Mexico and Columbia. But this will only happen if the U.S. takes time to build a democratic coalition with them. Many countries view the U.S. as unreliable partner after it has turned its back on Mexico, one of its closest allies, within the past few months.

“There’s the challenge there,” O’Neil said. “Do you step up and introduce sanctions or agree to sanctions when you’re worried about whether the United States might turn the next day?”

In addition, Mexico’s leftist party, which supports the Medura regime, has gained popularity recently because of the United States’ negative rhetoric toward the country, O’Neil said. If they come to power in the 2018 elections, it will only become more difficult for the U.S. to cooperate with the U.S. on sanctions against Venezuela.

Ultimately, the committee decided that they will look into sanctions and the freezing of assets as ways to fight against Venezuela’s problems in the future, while concentrating on the OAS charter as their most immediate and viable means for change right now.

However, Mark Feierstein of the Center for Strategic and International Studies warned that unless the U.S. changes its foreign policy south of the border, diplomatic decisions made in the region will be out of its control.
“The administration’s alienation of some of our closest allies, including Mexico, has undermined our ability to organize international efforts on Venezuela,” Feierstein said. “There are steps that the Trump administration should take to have a positive impact in Venezuela, but unless the president alters his posture both domestically and internationally, the United States will sideline itself diplomatically.”

Source: Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing “Venezuela: Options for U.S. Policy,” SD-419, 2/2/2017, Senator Corker presiding.

Episcopal Diocese of Washington uses Social Justice to Fight Hate, Deportation

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Inside the Episcopal Church of Our Saviour in Silver Spring, Md. Photo credit: Cindy Puesan.

 

By Deanna Mudry

On the morning of Nov. 13, the rector of the Church of Our Saviour in Silver Spring, Md, woke up to find the words “Trump nation whites only” written on a sign outside of advertising its Spanish service. The same message was also written on the wall of the church’s memorial garden.

“That was horrible,” the Rev. Paula Clark, canon of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington’s Race, Culture and Justice Ministry said. “We as a diocese were there on the premises that day and asked everyone in the diocese to come to the Latino service that afternoon to be present with them.”

This was just one of the 700 hate crimes that the Southern Poverty Law Center estimate took place in the week following the election.

For Christian groups, hate crimes are nothing new. Churches were at the center of the Civil Rights Movements in the 1960s, with church leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at its forefront. However, these churches were also victim to many hate crimes, notably the Birmingham church bombing in 1963. But as long as churches have faced hate, they’ve fought back.

This is in part because they play a particular and critical role in social justice movements, Clark said, as they’re called by God to spread love and unfettered by government or business interests.

“The church is in a unique position and quite frankly required position to do this work,” she said. “Its part of who we are and who Jesus calls us to be. The church does not have a path on that. It’s our mandate. That was the imperative during the Civil Rights Movement and it is today.”

As soon as the vandalism at the Church of Our Saviour was reported, everyone in church leadership received an email from the Bishop asking that they do everything in their power to be present at the Spanish service that afternoon, the Rev. Sarabeth Goodwin, the Latino minister for the Episcopal Diocese, said.

Those who showed up were given sidewalk chalk to write messages of love in the church’s driveway, and someone even put up a new sign that said “We love immigrants.”

“I was astounded at how many people showed up,” Goodwin said. “It was such support to the community. I mean, their hearts were broken.”

Since then, members of the Church of Our Saviour have connected with the Muslim and Jewish communities in Silver Spring, as well as other Christian denominations, who showed solidarity with them after the hate crime, Goodwin said. As a result, they’ve been collaborating regularly to support their shared community.

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A man writes in sidewalk chalk after the church’s Spanish mass Nov. 13. Photo Credit: Montgomery County Faith Community Advisory Council.

The Diocese has always been concerned with social justice, but saw a big resurgence in activism a few years ago with the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, after which they re-started anti-racism workshops. At this time they were primarily concerned with policing and gun violence, Clark said, but since the election, the breadth of their social justice work has has expanded, especially to immigration issues.

“Our immigrant communities in parishes are feeling very concerned about their welfare,” Clark said. “Documentation is sending anxiety through our parishes.”

There are 66 different nationalities represented in the diocese and one third of the parishioners are either non-white, not born in the U.S. or both, Clark said.

Over the past two years, the diocese has been working on the sanctuary movement in particular, Goodwin said, in order to help these communities, many of whom are now vulnerable because of changing immigration laws and national rhetoric.

Sanctuary is an ancient law founded in the Bible, she said. Under sanctuary, places of worship could serve as a safe haven for wrongly convicted criminals. The law is still customary today. In the 1980s many refugees fleeing war-torn Central America came to the U.S. and were welcomed by churches in the first iteration of the modern sanctuary movement. In 2011, President Obama designated places such as schools and churches as “sensitive locations” where U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can’t enforce law.

In the past, there was a feeling that families were safe, Goodwin said, but that has changed now. The number of deportations has begun to rise and ICE have been conducting raids in which they just stop people and make them show their documents. Some have even taken place outside of churches.

“This is really very disturbing to families,” Goodwin said. “Families are being broken up and it has just caused a lot of chaos in the immigrant communities.”

That’s why some parishes in the diocese are deciding to either open their doors to host people in imminent danger of being deported — which they havn’t had to do yet — or to host educational events or do advocacy work.

“It’s an unjust action against contributing members of our society,” she said. “Yes, they may have crossed the border illegally, but we feel it’s a moral obligation because we are called to defend the dignity of everybody.”

Goodwin said she believes hate crimes in the diocese have stopped because of all the people who have rallied to oppose hate and fight for related causes like immigration reform.

As the times continue to change, Clark said the church will continue to stay current and malleable in order to address “that which is pressing in God’s world,” not only in its multicultural parishes who experience these issues firsthand, but in the white and more affluent parishes who feel the call to Jesus just as strongly.

“I would hope that people would understand that when people are talking about issues of racism and racial discrimination, they’re talking about the person next to them who they count on,” she said.

 

U.S. Action on Venezuela is Essential, but almost Impossible if Latin America doesn’t back it.

senatephoto

The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing on U.S.- Venezuelan policy comes to a close.

By Deanna Mudry

The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations decided that the best way to help end corruption, poverty and violence in Venezuela, in the short-term, is to revoke its democratic charter under the Organization of American States (OAS), as direct action from the U.S. alone would likely face opposition.

“Is that not the single most concrete thing that we can do in the short-term to provide the pressure necessary so that elections are allowed and the Venezuelan people can decide what government they want?” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fl., said. “I think we’re gonna get one thing, and I hope that’s what we can focus everybody on. I would love it to be a bipartisan committee consensus.”

All three witnesses at Thursday’s hearing agreed.

The OAS is a regional organization made up of 35 states in North and South America, including the United States and Venezuela. It aims to promote peace and democracy among member states that have ratified its charter. However, Venezuela has been less than democratic in recent years.

Drug traffickers have been appointed to high government offices in Venezuela, and the country failed to hold regional elections in December 2016, according to Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tn. A recall referendum against sitting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was also recently denied, despite the majority opposition party gaining ten times more signatures than is required by the Venezuelan constitution to hold one. In addition, there are currently 117 Venezuelan people in jail for political dissent.

“Our government has no doubt about corruption and criminal activity in the Venezuelan government,” Corker said.

In 2015, President Obama declared Venezuela a threat to U.S. national security. He made sanctions against seven Venezuelan officials because of corruption and human rights violations and was met with criticism from many other OAS members. Today, there are over 140 Venezuelan officials barred from the U.S. because of visa sanctions.

The U.S.’s anti-Medura stance was further solidified this month when Lilian Tintori, a Venezuelan activist whose husband Leopoldo Lopez is a political prisoner in Venezuela, met with Rubio and President Trump at the White House.

“The president received her at the Oval Office and took a picture with her and put it up on Twitter which, for this president, it’s a pretty powerful thing,” Rubio said.

However, some committee members said they fear this stance is seen by Venezuelans as more pro-imperialist than pro-democratic. Sen. Tom Udall, D-Nm., didn’t vote in favor of past sanctions against Venezuela and said it’s more than likely they’ll be used as a scapegoat for dictators to further their reign.

“I thought then, and I believe now that they’re counterproductive and lead to the further entrenchment of the current Venezuelan regime, and that’s exactly what happened,” Udall said. “The Venezuelan people who oppose the government are suffering.

Dr. David Smilde, a professor of social relations at Tulane University and senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America, said that whether the U.S. acts or not, the Venezuelan government will create its own fodder against the U.S.

“They’re going to invent things,” he said. “They’re very good with fake news, they’re good with alternative facts, and the fact is it doesn’t work for them. 89 percent of the people in Venezuela reject the government.”

In addition to political corruption, Venezuela has the highest inflation and murder rates in the world, according to Dr. Shannon O’Neil, a Nelson and David Rockefeller senior fellow for Latin America and the director of the Civil Society, Markets and Democracy Program. Many people are currently unable to access food and medicine, and if there’s further economic deterioration and increased violence in the country, O’Neil said she sees hundreds of thousands of refugees potentially fleeing to their Latin American neighbors as well as the U.S.

“The humanitarian situation is dire,” Sen. Bob Menendez, D-Nj., said. “Children are dying of completely preventable diseases. Shelves are empty of basic food and medicine. It’s past time for not only the democratic charter to have been called into play, but to actually put into action.”

 

A Fragile Solution

Although invoking Venezuela’s violation of OAS charter provisions was deemed as the best short-term solution for the country’s problems, doubt remains as to whether or not it would be realistic.

Rubio questioned how the OAS could even enter the country, as humanitarian groups like USAID have been stopped from entering Venezuela under the pretense that there’s no emergency there. Ranking Member Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., added that many organizations will be hesitant to reform Venezuela unless change happens at the top.

“With a corrupt government it is going to be very difficult to see international organizations willing to come in and help finance their economy even though they have wealth,” Cardin said. “It can be difficult to figure out how that takes place unless they have basic changes in the way that they’re government’s doing business and we don’t have any indication that that’s taking place.”

Despite this, O’Neil said she believes there’s a good chance that Latin American countries will join in the U.S. in sanctions, citing newly elected leaders in Peru and Argentina, as well as a memorandum condemning the limited political freedom in Venezuela signed by Mexico and Columbia. But this will only happen if the U.S. takes time to build a democratic coalition with them. Many countries view the U.S. as unreliable partner after it has turned its back on Mexico, one of its closest allies, within the past few months.

“There’s the challenge there,” O’Neil said. “Do you step up and introduce sanctions or agree to sanctions when you’re worried about whether the United States might turn the next day?”

In addition, Mexico’s leftist party, which supports the Medura regime, has gained popularity recently because of the United States’ negative rhetoric toward the country, O’Neil said. If they come to power in the 2018 elections, it will only become more difficult for the U.S. to cooperate with the U.S. on sanctions against Venezuela.

Ultimately, the committee decided that they will look into sanctions and the freezing of assets as ways to fight against Venezuela’s problems in the future, while concentrating on the OAS charter as their most immediate and viable means for change right now.

However, Mark Feierstein of the Center for Strategic and International Studies warned that unless the U.S. changes its foreign policy south of the border, diplomatic decisions made in the region will be out of its control.
“The administration’s alienation of some of our closest allies, including Mexico, has undermined our ability to organize international efforts on Venezuela,” Feierstein said. “There are steps that the Trump administration should take to have a positive impact in Venezuela, but unless the president alters his posture both domestically and internationally, the United States will sideline itself diplomatically.”

 

Source: Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing “Venezuela: Options for U.S. Policy,” SD-419, 2/2/2017, Senator Corker presiding.

Students Mobilize after the Election with AU Resist

By Deanna Mudry

 

After the election of Donald Trump this past November, many people took to social media to vent their frustrations about the new president. However, most of these posts haven’t developed into activist coalitions.

But that’s exactly what AU Resist has done.

AU student Quinn Dunlea created a Facebook group called “F*ck Trump,” as a response to the election results. It was a group of about 60 people to which she’d post information on anti-Trump protests and articles she found interesting. Dunlea had campaigned for Hillary Clinton and “was really fired up” after what had happened, Alana Kessler, cofounder of AU Resist, said.

“The election was something that she put a lot of heart into,” she said.

Kessler and Dunlea kept running into each other as they went to more and more protests after Trump’s inauguration. After the executive travel ban was released, they both went to the airport to protest. That’s when they decided to create a space for AU students to get involved with protesting the administration.

“After that night I was like ‘we need to connect with more AU students and let them know that people are going to things,’” Kessler said. “‘How can we create a source to collectively, and as a community, be part of this resistance movement?’”

Kessler and Dunlea re-started the “F*ck Trump” page by changing its name to AU Resist and adding more members. Today, it has 331 of them. The page says it’s a “cohesive resistance community/coalition in opposition to the new administration” that aims to create safe spaces for getting involved in anti-administration activism.

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Sophomore Alana Kessler, founding member of AU Resist

“It’s just very collaborative, inclusive and accepting of all peoples’ views and causes, and other things they’re involved in that they want people to know about,” Kessler said.

AU Resist is trying to get involved in almost all of AU’s student organizations, mainly by aggregating posts about their events on the page. Kessler said that this is the best way to get a wide range of students to engage in activism, because it introduces it to them through a cause that they’re already interested in.

“We know and understand that everyone at AU has their own unique passion and interest and place where they want to be an activist,” she said. “We don’t expect every student to go to every protest downtown for Planned Parenthood.”

Kessler is a sophomore from Long Island, New York, majoring in religious studies. She used AU Resist to inform others about Interfaith Week events so that students interested in religious inclusion on campus could find more ways to participate.

“I went to Shabbat because I’m really involved with the Jewish community on campus and a girl was there and she said ‘Thank you so much for organizing this. Today I went to jummah prayer and it was such an incredible, inclusive experience and I’m so grateful that I found out about it through AU Resist,’” Kessler said.

Kessler said she hopes more students are empowered to get involved with activism, on and off campus, because of AU Resist.

“Having this space where people can hopefully get out of their comfort zone a little bit and comment on a post or show up to an event [hopefully] they’ll meet more people and feel more comfortable being an activist,” she said.

Since the election there have been un-official resist movements around the globe. Some just share information using the hashtag #resist, and others, like Greenpeace, who hung a banner that said ‘Resist’ on a crane behind the White House, have taken it to a different level.

No matter how AU students choose to express their resistance, AU Resist will be behind them. Kessler said that she’s seen a difference in the campus climate since it was created. More students are acting out against the election and its frightening aftermath and are equipped with the information to do so because of the page.

“I don’t want  to say that people are becoming more positive, but the people that are upset are going to be a little more louder,” Kessler said. “Right after the election I think that people needed time to mourn and take a step back and be sad. What happened was sad and now what’s going on is scary, but rather than being scared and staying home and staying quiet we need to be loud, and I think the way we’re being loud is by showing our presence on campus and showing our presence as an AU community at different protests.”

 

Chef Alice Waters wants to “Edibly Educate” the World (Revised)

alicewatersAuthor and chef Alice Waters signing books for young fans at Politics and Prose, Washington, D.C.

By Deanna Mudry

Alice Waters was 19 when she had her first oyster.

This first taste marked the beginning of an ongoing love affair between her and France. As a student there in the 1960s, the joy she found in eating local food from neighborhood markets lead her to become a chef and one of the first public champions for buying local, organic produce.

“I never went to class, but I absolutely digested French cultural history through food,” Waters said at a Politics and Prose event Saturday. “I had an awakening. I’d never eaten a baguette like that, I’d never sat at a table that was set in such a beautiful way. There are so many things that I learned from the French.”

Waters said she wrote her latest book “Fanny in France: Travel Adventures of a Chef’s Daughter, with Recipes” as a love letter to the country. The book tells “mostly-true” tales of her daughter Fanny’s childhood in France as a chef’s daughter in the 1980s and 90s. It also includes 40 simple French recipes.

Waters said she likes writing for children because the kids can enjoy the stories while parents become what she calls “edibly educated.”

“My ulterior motive was to get to the parents through the kids, or that the kids fall so much in love with the stories that they would remember them for their whole lives,” Waters said.

During her many return trips to France after that first bite, Waters not only learned authentic French cooking, but the art of bringing children and parents together through food. She said she wants to pass it on through her book.

“The most important thing that I really learned from France was eating together,” Waters said. “They ate together all of the time. Every single night they either ate with their friends in little restaurants, they ate with their families, they ate with their kids and we in this country have lost that.”

Waters used the small French restaurants she had enjoyed as a model for her famed Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California that launched her career as a chef and author of over a dozen cookbooks, including “Fanny in France” and its predecessor “Fanny at Chez Panisse: A Child’s Restaurant Adventures with 46 Recipes.”

Writing children’s books isn’t the only way Waters has brought her food philosophy to younger generations.

She founded the Edible Schoolyard Project in 1996 which teaches students how food is grown, cooked and consumed in their own school. The project gives schools curricula based in other subjects, such as history, and connects them back to the foods students harvest in the school garden and serve to each other in the cafeteria. 5,500 schools worldwide currently participate.

“If we don’t take food out of the fast-food cafeteria and give it time and attention and focus on the cultural, nutritious foods of the world, I think we will never truly be edibly educated,” Waters said. “We have so much to learn.”

Waters said that all schools should provide free lunches, as long as they’re all-organic. She also said that lunchtime should be treated as any other school subject.

“We should take that lunch hour — which is only twenty minutes right now — but apply academic minutes to it,” Waters said. “When you do that you could make it a class. Maybe [there’s] a placemat about the civilizations of the Americas, it might be a language class, and you have all the foods listed there. You’re eating a tortilla soup and a jicama salad while you’re digesting the lesson and maybe even speaking in Spanish.”

The project began at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Waters’ hometown of Berkeley, where there are 1,100 students, among whom 22 languages are spoken at home, according to Waters.

Waters said that it’s great to work with diverse children from so many different backgrounds through the Edible Schoolyard Project. She said she’s optimistic about what the students will do with what they’ve learned.

“All the kids who do the Edible Schoolyard when they graduate in eighth grade, I feel like they could give a TED Talk,” Waters said. “I don’t know what they will do, but they are very aware, they know what sustainability is, they know how they want to live their lives and [are], I would like to say, deeply political. I’m hopeful in that.”

Waters said she never set out campaign for organic, local eating after her French awakening. But it was her promotion of all-natural produce in the 1990s that helped the organic food movement gain the traction it has today.

One man at the Washington “Fanny In France” signing stood up to thank Waters for her early campaigning for good, organic produce. He told the crowd that in the early 1990s, the Glover Park Whole Foods hosted a tour of their produce section led by Waters and he was the only one who had showed up. Waters said she remembered their tour and thanked him for coming. Today, the organic grocery chain has expanded across the United States and Waters’ book talk Saturday was standing-room only.

Waters said she originally got interested in organic, local produce because she was looking for taste.

“I had lived in Paris for a year and was a gastronome. I was thinking of things entirely differently, so I was looking for taste all the time that I couldn’t find until I found the organic farmers,” she said.

Now, Waters said the most pressing issue is bringing families back to the dining room. 85 percent of the children in the United States don’t have one meal a day with their families, according to Waters, and she hopes her book and the Edible Schoolyard Project can change that.

“We have to bring people back to the table and back to their senses,” she said.

 

Source list:

Alice Waters, Jan. 28, 2017, Politics and Prose,  5015 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC.