Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Honor the work & legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King, Jr. – Then and Now -

If Martin Luther King, Jr. was alive today, he would be speaking truth to power on the same issues he spoke about at the time of his death – social and economic justice at home and ending US wars abroad – and he would likely be appalled that after 50 years, these issues have not been resolved, and in many cases, conditions are worse.  And if King was alive today, he would likely be the target of a campaign to discredit him and disrupt his efforts to win peace and justice for all.  How do we know?  Because this was what King was doing before he was assassinated -- and the US government, rather than honoring him, was doing everything in its power to stifle and destroy him.  King was considered a danger to national security because he called for radical changes in the structure of society to redistribute wealth and power and he criticized the militaristic US foreign policy. He denounced the “giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism”.

King gave his life challenging Jim Crow segregation, America’s apartheid – the laws, the racist culture, the lynchings.  He was a leader in the mass struggle of Black people and their allies to overturn these injustices and to improve conditions for future generations. Major victories were won in gaining the right to vote, integrated education, fair housing, and integrated public facilities.  Although racism was never eradicated, the legal basis of the racist system was overturned.
Under the guise of a war on drugs, we see the mass incarceration of black and brown youth. The sentences are harsh and the conditions are deplorable. America has both a greater percentage of its population and the largest number of incarcerated persons than any other nation.  Many inmates endure years of solitary confinement, which has been designated as torture.  Prisoners are fighting back by engaging in hunger strikes. After leaving prison, many are yoked by felony convictions to a life of poverty and restricted rights.
The Voting Rights Act has been gutted and efforts to restrict voting are expanding.
Since 9/11, Muslims and immigrants have been particular targets of the U.S. government.  They have been scapegoated to justify the “war on terror”.  Hundreds of Muslims have been the victims of pre-emptive prosecution, simply for their beliefs, speech, and guilt by association, and the FBI has actively worked to entrap others in set-up “terrorist plots”.  Immigrants, especially at the Mexican border, are persecuted, imprisoned, and deported for wanting a better life for their families.

Before King’s death, he was organizing the Poor People's Campaign to assemble "a multiracial army of the poor" that would descend on Washington to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience until Congress enacted a "Poor People's Bill of Rights".  He called for money going to jobs programs to rebuild American cities, rather than spending billions on the military.  At the time of his assassination, he was mobilizing support for striking sanitation workers.
Rather than helping the poor and working people, we are seeing drastic cuts to education, health care and other social services, high unemployment, and depressed wages.  The growing discrepancies in wealth between the rich and poor have not been as great since before the Great Depression, and African-Americans and Latinos have suffered the greatest loss of wealth.  The bailouts (and the profits) have gone to Wall Street and the corporations.  While the auto companies got the cash, predominantly black Detroit gets the shaft.  Ten million people have been displaced because of bank foreclosures. Real wages were higher 50 years ago and the minimum wage today is well below the poverty line. Unions that offered workers a decent standard of living and protection from arbitrary firing have been decimated as industries have been destroyed by finance capital and globalization. Social security and pensions that the elderly worked for and earned are threatened. A college degree then was a sure path to success; now jobs are scarce and students incur major debts.

Fifty years ago, the US was engaged in one major war in Vietnam, although in reality, the US has almost always been involved in wars around the globe.
The US government has used the terrible tragedy of 9/11 to declare a never-ending "war on terror" directed at countries and individuals who resist American hegemony. The U.S. invaded and occupied Iraq based on lies to gain control over its oil wealth and to expand its imperial power.   Since 2003, estimates of between 300,000 and 1,000,000 people have been killed and millions displaced in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.  Over 6,600 American soldiers have been killed and hundreds of thousands returned injured and disabled.  It is projected that the cost of the current wars will top $4 trillion, when long-term costs such as health care for thousands of wounded U.S. soldiers are included.  Billions are spent on the military and security and to make private US contractors rich.
The Obama administration continues these Bush era practices in a new way. In collusion with other NATO nations the U.S. overthrew the government of the sovereign nation of Libya and attempted to do the same in Syria. 
Operating out of over 800 bases, the U.S. has a military presence on all continents and in almost all countries.  The U.S. has the majority of nuclear weapons and the U.S. defense budget is larger than all other defense budgets combined.  – nearly half of global military spending, which has doubled in the past 10 years. Military operations and wars for control of energy resources are major contributors to global warming.
The public are unaware that the U.S. is at war in many countries.  Today’s wars rely on drones, secret special operations forces, crippling sanctions, and training and arming of opposition militaries.  Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia are major targets of U.S. drones that kill people only “suspected” of being ”terrorists”.  In reality, many of the victims are unknown civilians, including many children.  These extrajudicial killings include American citizens and are classified by international law as war crimes.
Our government is not doing this to make us more secure or to bring democracy to other parts of the world; repression and war only leads to more violence.  The issues are US economic and military control of important regions of the world, like the huge oil fields in Iraq, not a more peaceful and cooperative world.

The FBI’s COINTELPRO program spied on dissenters and activists during the 1950’s through the 1970’s. COINTELPRO raided and infiltrated organizations, carried out assassinations and dirty tricks, spread misinformation, and created chaos at rallies.  Martin Luther King, Jr. was a major target.  Following exposes of government wrongdoing, laws were passed to monitor and limit surveillance actions by government agencies and police departments.
Those restrictions were undone by the Patriot Act passed hastily after 9/11.  In order to carry out wars abroad, the administration needs to go to war on dissent here at home.  The threat of terrorism is used to justify secret and unconstitutional actions, including surveillance and data gathering on millions of Americans and indefinite detention without charge.  Prisoners at Guantanamo languish with no charges and no dates for release.  Torture and rendition are sanctioned and the rule of law is ignored.
Legislation passed since September 11 gave the Justice Department and local law enforcement sweeping new powers of surveillance of all electronic communication without having any evidence of wrongdoing.  Secret courts allow the administration to act without restraints or oversight.  Even alerting the public about these programs is treated as a federal crime.  Whistleblowers like Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning, who exposed US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the journalists that published their revelations, can be charged with espionage.
Privacy, freedom of speech, and due process are rights extended to all persons, citizens and non-citizens, by the Bill of Rights.  These rights and freedoms are the very basis of our democracy.  Loss of our rights to dissent under protection of the law is a far greater threat to our way of life than terrorist bombs and does nothing to increase security.

We can honor the memory of Martin Luther King best by following in his footsteps to defend our rights and liberties, oppose violence and war, and affirm the humanity and worth of all people.  The significant victories of the civil rights movement were won when people in great numbers demonstrated in the streets for justice.  They kept coming out in spite of jailing, physical violence, economic hardship, and even killings because they could not and would not settle for less than full freedom in every sphere.  We must do the same.

All Out on August 28!
The actual anniversary of the historic march is Wednesday, August 28.  On that day rallies will be organized around the country.  UNAC has endorsed these actions.  Please plan to join one of the rallies being planned or plan one in your area.  These actions are being called around the demands of :
For more information: []

All Out for August 24 and 28 -
Join UNAC at the march.  As we give our support and honor the historic 1963 march, we will pass out the UNAC statement below and help get emails for our email list.  We will also help bring the message of peace as Martin Luther King did with his historic speech at the Riverside Church in New York City where he strongly came out against the war in Vietnam.
UNAC will have a table at the corner of 17th St NW and Constitution Ave.  Here we will have copies of the UNAC statement and some clip boards so people can get on our list.  Please join us at the table.  Also, email UNAC at to let us know you will be there and can help.

Other Important events in DC -
* Peace Vigil on Friday night: On Friday, August 23, join peace activists in DC at 8 PM at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial for a wreath laying, followed by the "Light Brigade" visuals at the Reflecting Pool and a candle light procession to the MLK memorial.   
* Demand Compassionate Release for Lynne Stewart at the White House: All Day on Friday, August 23, Lynne Stewart Husband and supporters will be in front of the White House to demand compassionate release for Lynne Stewart.  Lynne is in a Texas prison with stage 4 cancer and only months to live.  Her doctors and the warden support compassionate release but the Bureau of Prisons has denied release.  Lynne Stewart, the people’s lawyer, is in prison for not representing her client, the Blink Sheik, in the way that the government demanded.  She sent out a press release and the government sentenced her to 10 years in prison.  Please join us at the White House on Friday.

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