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November 9, 2011

Occupy the Banks: Oakland’s General Strike

Filed under: Activism & Media,Direct Action Community,Movement Building,What's Hot — Megan Swoboda @ 10:44 am

The #Occupy movement has gained major momentum, and Ruckus is doing our part to help it grow – stronger, smarter, tougher.  Our folks have been on the ground since Day 1 in New York and other cities across the country, helping provide training and strategic and technical support, and we’re participating in a national process with allies to coordinate support efforts for Occupations across the country. (Read more about Ruckus’s support for Occupy here:

And of course, we have been doing our part here in our hometown, Oakland, which has captured the world’s attention after the excessive police crackdown and subsequent mass resistance and resilience, including the the first General Strike since 1946!

The General Strike was a huge victory and proved once again how powerful the 99% is when we turn out in full force!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011, was a historic day in Oakland, CA.  After Occupy Oakland’s encampment was shut down by police using excessive force early on the morning of October 25th, the camp was reclaimed on Wednesday, October 26th, and over 3,000 people attended the General Assembly that night, approving a proposal for a city-wide General Strike Nov. 2!

Ruckus was happy to join forces with LeftBay99 – a loose group of local Bay Area community-based groups coming together to support Occupy Oakland and engage their community members in the movement – to pull off a series of actions throughout the day November 2nd, in honor of the General Strike, to “Occupy the Banks and Foreclose on the 1%!

After the first convening at Grant-Ogawa Plaza at 9am, the “I Will Survive…Capitalism” flashmob kicked off the morning march around 10am, marching to the State Building with a youth delegation to protest cuts to education, and then off to Wells Fargo, one of the leaders in home foreclosures, funding for private prisons and immigrant detention centers.

Photo by Anita Sarkeesian

At noon, folks reconvened at the camp, and started the afternoon march to Occupy another set of Banks – Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America.  Ruckus climbers scaled street lamps to hang a banner saying, “Occupy the Banks” across the intersection of 20th & Webster streets in front of Chase, while a team of community members whose homes are being foreclosed on by Chase staged a ‘move-in’ action on the bank – setting up a couch, coffee table and other living room furniture in the middle of the street in front of Chase (‘you’re kicking us out of our homes, so we’re moving in on you!’).

After awhile, the Brass Liberation Orchestra accompanied a second round of the “I Will Survive…Capitalism” flashmob before leading the crowd of over 1,000 people onto the Bank of America, and deployed a giant balloon banner with our friends at RAN reading “Defend Human Dignity: Challenge Corporate Power” that led the march the rest of the way back to the Camp later that afternoon.

The day of course culminated in the truly mass marches to the Port of Oakland to shut down all operations at the Ports for the night.  Some reports say 50,000 people marched and danced the three miles to the ports from Camp, and it was truly an unforgettable experience, marching in a sea of thousands at sunset.

November 2nd proved our power in numbers.  Check out this great video about the day overall!

September 7, 2011

Nonviolent Direct Action to Defuse the Carbon Bomb

Joshua Kahn Russell

Tar Sands Action

This weekend marked the end of the Tar Sands Action in Washington DC, and the beginning of a renewed surge of civil disobedience and action against fossil fuel extraction in the United States. A coalition from across the continent came together to sustain 14 days of sit-ins in front of the White House to pressure President Obama to veto a proposal for the Keystone XL pipeline. The Keystone XL threatens to split the U.S. from Canada down to Texas, all to ship the dirtiest crude oil from the Alberta Tar Sands down to the Gulf Coast for export to international markets. It spells trillions of dollars for big oil, death for Indigenous communities in Canada, displacement and poisoned air, land, and water for those living along the pipeline route, and disaster for the climate. In fact, Dr. James Hansen said if the pipeline goes through, it is essentially “game over” for the planet.


In the last two weeks 1,252 people were arrested sitting-in at the White House, and thousands more came out to support, rally, and build connections across movements. The vast majority of participants had never taken action before. Delegations of frontline communities came on different days to speak their truth directly to the White House, including a large delegation of Native American and Canadian leaders with Indigenous Environmental Network & Indigenous Peoples Power Project (IP3), communities from Appalachia, the Gulf Coast, and along the proposed pipeline route from Idaho, Nebraska, Montana, and Texas. Climate scientists, teachers, mothers, farmers, senators, and celebrities participated. The action persisted through both an earthquake and a hurricane, highlighting the message that the earth is in crisis and extreme weather patterns will only increase if this goes through. There were over 4,500 media hits, including every major media outlet in the United States and Canada (Wall Street Journal, AP, Reuters, CNN, NBC, Fox, CBC, NPR, Huffington Post, etc) and on the day of Hurricane Irene, we made the front page of the New York Times.

Through the process, nightly action briefings/trainings introduced thousands to Nonviolent Direct Action as a tool for change and as an orientation to movement strategy. The experience of these participants is one of the ways we measure success in the action.

The Tar Sands Action was thoroughly an intergenerational effort – on the first day the youngest person to be arrested was 17 and the oldest was 82. On the third day, an 84 year old woman greeted me as she was getting out of jail and said:

“When I saw all you young people leading trainings, I thought ‘yes! The youth will save us.’ But as I sat in with so many people in their 70s and beyond, I thought ‘no, we all have to do it together!”

Other participants shared insights like “It seems like this action was the training wheels I needed – and now I’m ready to ride the bike!”

The action was not just designed to pressure Obama and make a strong stand against the pipeline, but to offer a pathway into sustained organizing and action for people across the country.

Ruckus’ Involvement

The Ruckus Society’s network offered much of the training, facilitation, action coordination, and jail support. Our teams included Ruckus and Indigenous Peoples Power Project members: Rob C, Madeline G, Heather ML, Joshua KR, Hannah S, Jack D, Omi H, Gitz C, Adam T, Levana S; the art was coordinated by Cesàr M; and one of the action’s core coordinators was Matt L.

Mohawk activist and Ruckus member Ben P, took a photo of NASA’s Dr. James Hansen getting arrested, which Rolling Stone magazine called “Iconic” and the most important photo since the 1970’s “Blue Marble” photo, depicting Earth as a lonely sphere adrift in space.

Check out a video of Hansen’s statement at the White House.

It was an honor for Ruckus to support so many different groups and people from across the country, helping offer a pathway into movements for change.

Supporting Indigenous Leadership

One of the most powerful aspects of the action for a lot of the trainers was including testimonials and presentations from impacted peoples in each training. In addition to training, our organizational role was to help support Indigenous People’s Power Project (IP3) and Indigenous Environmental Network’s delegation to have a series of actions, including a statement at the Canadian Embassy, meetings with officials, public presentations, and of course, participating in the civil disobedience.

Strategic Questions

The scale and scope of this action raises many movement strategy questions for us that we’re excited to explore. While the “arrest count” was highly visible, we do not measure success in arrests, but in more qualitative measures such as:

1) Of the thousands who participated in this action, did we prepare them enough and offer them clear next steps to take their organizing and action to the next level beyond this action? Was it truly a doorway into sustained action, or just a flash-in-the-pan?

2) How much did the attention that this action gave to frontline voices create capacity for their ongoing work?

3) What new alliances were born out of this work between the environmental and other movement sectors? For example, Ben Jealous, the head of the NAACP came and spoke at one of the trainings – what are the next steps for us to build deeper relationships?

4) How does the media success of this action open up space to popularize Nonviolent Direct Action not just as a pressure-tactic, but as a strategic approach to campaigning?

5) How do we measure political success when the final week of the action saw a number of disappointing moves by the Obama administration, including his caving-in on Ozone standards? How do we understand this pipeline, whether its approved or not, as a piece of a larger puzzle of shifting the balance of forces in our society?

What’s next

In the wake of the action, communities around the country have a renewed sense of energy for their own local fights, and Ruckus is excited to support them though that. In Montana, a group of grandmothers, including Margot Kidder (who played Lois Lane in the Superman films), and Tantoo Cardinal (a Cree actress who grew up in Alberta and starred in Dances With Wolves, and many other Hollywood films) will be working with Ruckus trainers to engage in direct action to stop the pipeline from coming through their homes. This action has made a national issue of the Tar Sands, which previously few people in the United States knew much about. It has offered an opportunity for continued pressure on Obama around pipeline approval, which Ruckus will stay involved with. It is also an injection of new support for the longstanding and ongoing Tar Sands fights, including the Heavy Haul, which Rising Tide activists in the US have recently been laying their bodies in front of trucks to stop, Indigenous Tar Sands campaigning in Canada, and finance campaigns in Europe.

February 14, 2011

Thank you for being our Valentine!

Filed under: Direct Action Community,Movement Building — Tags: , , — Megan Swoboda @ 11:58 am

Thank you to everyone who donated in our end-of-year fundraising drive to help us gear up for 2011!  We are grateful for your support, and we can’t do our work without you.

Thank you for showing us your love for Ruckus, for action, and for justice.  Now we’d like to show you a little love this Valentine’s Day:

We Love Ruckus Supporters!

With your support, 2011 is going to be a great year!

This year kicked off with a big action January 30th where we Quarantined the Kochs for their role in buying out our democracy and bankrolling the hate-fueled anti-migrant movement and the climate denial machine.  25 activists were arrested for nonviolent direct action, while nearly 2,000 other protesters rallied in support. (Click here for more on the Koch action).

Now all of us at Ruckus (through our amazing volunteer Network) are hard at work getting ready for the rest of the year, including:

  • An exciting launch of new Direct Action Resources (check out what’s currently available here, and we’ll post the new resources later this Spring!)
  • National Action Camp for Migrant Rights & Ecological Justice
  • Community Dialogue: ‘Direct Action Today & Tomorrow
  • and of course, plenty of Trainings and ACTIONS!

Be sure to sign up for our email updates to keep in the loop about action alerts, training opportunities, and direct action news, and check our Upcoming Events on our website.

And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

Thank you for being our Valentine!

With love,

Megan and Sharon

February 10, 2011

COP 16 Community Report Back

I recently participated in a community report back in Oakland on the recent United Nations COP16. We represented various sectors of the work at the COP including media, youth, international, action and local grassroots. Our collective conclusion? We’ve got to keep going! Focusing on grassroots community visioned solutions while holding governments and corporations accountable for a healthy Mother Earth.

Onward for Climate Justice!

Cancun Climate Justice Report Back in Oakland from Melia's Papa on Vimeo.

February 8, 2011

Egypt’s Lessons on Action

Filed under: Activism & Media,Direct Action Community,Movement Building,What's Hot — Tags: , — Adrienne Maree Brown @ 10:31 pm

What calls us to action?

I have been watching, crying, writing and talking of Egypt – and Tunisia, Jordan, Syria, the entire region – non-stop. I am most familiar at this point with Egypt, because of the news coverage and because of who happens to be in my immediate community.

While I wouldn’t write this just anywhere (I am not impressed by groups using other people’s revolutions to promote their work), amongst the network I can’t shake the feeling that we’re watching Ruckus’s vision come to life in a way we must all learn from.

Ruckus has had several visioning sessions over the years, imagining the long-term impact and presence of the network. One core piece of the shared vision we developed was of a future where Ruckus didn’t need to exist, because the spirit and practice of nonviolent direct action was normalized amongst the people.

The response to injustice, in our envisioned future, would be creative, nonviolent actions that resulted in tangible changes in people’s lives in real time. If something happened that disrespected democracy, like a stolen election, we would stop the society from functioning until justice came to pass.

We see this vision as being out somewhere beyond our lifetimes.

The current series of uprisings throughout the Middle East, particularly the current moment in Egypt, feels like that vision come to pass. It induces such hope in me to know it can happen, it is possible, and it is beautiful. It’s not something that happened overnight, and its not some thing easy or romantic – it started with small protests in Tunisia, singular facebook videos and solidarity pages, with fatal action as people self-immolated in protest of repressive regimes. It grew because the actions connected to a shared experience of suffering and faith, of people knowing they deserved, and were, better.

To me this is the civil rights struggle of the modern era, the uprisings people will refer to in the same breath as they mention the lunch-counter-sit-ins. Then: waterhosing blacks. Now: waterhosing men in prayer. Then: inviting people into a shared non-violent vision. Now: same, nationwide.

We must recognize the parallels, especially in terms of the roles that non-Egyptians can play to take action in solidarity, and to take leadership from, the people of Egypt, and of the region as other regimes shake at their foundations.

Revolution is different there than it will be here in the US – in Egypt 90% of the population is living in poverty and there’s been one president for 30 years, so people have a heightened sense of injustice. In the US, people accrue debt instead of facing their poverty, or internalize the poverty as if they did something wrong instead of seeing it as a failure of the government to develop a sustainable people-oriented society. Stolen, or even poorly attended, elections – these are like a skeleton we put quickly into our dark family closet – how would it look for us to violently promote something abroad that we hardly practice at home?

I hope every country is having moments of self-awareness, collective awareness, inspired by Egypt.

We can learn so much from what is undeniably a mass, strategic, nonviolent expression of people’s power. Each day I learn so much, and am politicized by what I see happening half a world away. I am humbled and thrilled by what we are learning in this moment.

The lessons will keep coming. Here are some lessons that stand out to me:

- Every protestor I’ve seen interviewed on Tahrir Square – regardless of gender or age – is on message speaking about their nonviolent action and their demands. Everyone realizes that their actions, their bodies on the square, their self-generated media, their demands (dropped by banner), these all have political weight. And that when years of voting have not yielded results, these actions will.

- It is a practice of patriotism, for the Egyptians on Tahrir Square. This reminds me of how Jimmy Boggs says of the US – “can’t nobody run this country better than me.” Egyptians in the street know they can do better than Hosni Mubarak, and with that rooted confidence they appeal to the army, to the police, to their neighbors, to the international community. They don’t say, ‘we have a perfect solution.’ They say, we have to stand up together and push off the weight of tyranny so we can see the people we are, the possibilities for this country.

- Good actions can win over the whole world. For they are winning the cultural campaign soundly – not just with the strength of facts (the horrors of Mubarak have been exposed before, just as the horrors of US domestic and foreign policy are fairly well known), but with the emotional, spiritual commitment of the action.

- If the timing is right, then the real demands can emerge instead of gutted compromises.

- A mass distributed How-To manual can work wonders (evidenced by the peaceful protests, the flowers for the Army, the cleaning up of litter).

- How illogical a corrupt government can be, to try and keep a tyrant in power (or any of his appointees) during a transition phase.

- There is joy in the shared experience of holding a liberated zone, no matter how far away you are holding it – all of us watching and listening and sending our support and resources to those front lines in Tahrir.

- One of the main challenges of modern revolution is getting folks to believe that decentralized, leaderless, horizontal movement is not only possible, it already exists.

- Even if oppression has been normalized, there is a way to appeal to the part of people who want justice. That way, in this case, was the challenge of Assmah, the persistence of the protestors of Tahrir, and the vulnerability of Wael Ghonim.

I learn more each day that Ruckus is on the right path, with a long way to go, and many teachers.

January 30, 2011

Quarantine the Kochs! 25 arrested – thousands rally!

Filed under: Direct Action Community,Movement Building — mattleonard @ 8:27 pm

Donate to the Quarantine Action Legal Defense Fund to support the 25 activists who were arrested on Sunday! Click here to contribute:

For weeks now, incredible buzz has been building across the country surrounding the secret meeting hosted by the oil billionaires Charles and David Koch for their right-wing, billionaire allies in Rancho Mirage, CA. From health care to the environment to corporate responsibility, the Kochs are becoming increasingly notorious around the world for pouring their billions of polluting profits into undermining the most basic well being of people worldwide.

The Kochs’ semi-annual secret conclave is widely regarded as corporate America’s national political strategy meeting, with past participants including Supreme Court Justices Thomas and Scalia, media personalities like Glenn Beck, and right-wing members of Congress. The event has taken on even greater importance in light of the Supreme Court’s 2010 “Citizens United” decision, which enabled the Kochs and their allies to inject unlimited corporate cash into the 2010 elections. New York Magazine recently referred to David Koch as the “Tea Party’s wallet.”

People Power confronts the Koch Brothers dirty money!

People Power confronts the Koch Brothers dirty money!

The afternoon kicked off with a rally hosting close to 2,000 people who came from across California and the US to hear speakers representing all walks of life who have fallen victim to the Koch’s poisonous influence over their lives.  The crowd was addressed by a cancer survivor describing her trials with the complexities of the American healthcare system, a student challenging the Kochs to an open debate, and an investigative journalist who’s been uncovering the depths of the Koch’s corruption.

At the rally’s close, activist Jim Hightower deputized the entire crowd as members of the People’s Center for Disease Control, and attendees moved down the street towards the Rancho Las Palmas Resort to quarantine the area to prevent the spread of the Kochs’s dirty money and influence.  The sight of a thousand people marching straight across Bob Hope Drive and boldly up to the front entrance of the resort was an incredible display of solidarity amongst the diverse crowd.  Agents of the People’s Center for Disease Control cheered on several dozen activists in hazmat suits that crossed into the resort’s driveway and across police lines to send their message directly to the Kochs (we hear the brothers were on the roof watching the whole thing!). They were peacefully detained while the crowd blocked the intersection and chanted “arrest the Kochs, not the people!”.Thousands protest Koch Brothers secret meeting.

Americans have an incredible fight ahead of us to protect the future of our country from wealthy elites like the Kochs and their allies who wish to diminish the very democratic values on which our country was founded.  While the access enjoyed by these powerful forces will continue to push back on the fundamental rights of everyday citizens, actions like ours today send a powerful message: people are more powerful than dirty money, and when we come together as a movement, we build something far stronger than the Kochs’s empire.  If we are vigilant and determined, we will continue to seek the truth and break through the lies and corruption orchestrated by the Kochs.

December 15, 2010

COP-16 is over, but our work is not

COP-16 may have ended in Cancun last week, but our work is far from over.  We will continue to take actions in the U.S. and everywhere to fight for an end to destructive practices, and build up local community solutions.

Plug in now to the Day of Action to End Extraction April 20, 2011, and in the mean time, check out this last set of videos and posts from our action teams in Cancun:

Tom Goldtooth from Indigenous Environmental Network breaks down his analysis of what got accomplished (or NOT) at the COP-16 talks:

Video of Action inside the U.N.:

Links from our friend Stormy from

COP16: The End of Negotiations – Youth Delegations Ejected from COP16

Soham Baba, Lessons in Manipulating the Indigenous – COP16

World Bank President @ COP16

COP16: Perspective from The Streets

December 8, 2010

COP-16 Week 2 Action Round-up

Hey y’all!

It’s been a while since I have been able to write and A LOT has happened! It’s been hard to blog while things are moving and changing so quickly around the negotiations. Frankly there have been alot of late nights and early mornings and just not enough coffee to go around! So I’m going to do my best to give a short recap of what has been going on here in Cancun while folks are rocking things back home.

Thursday December 2- SHUT DOWN THE TAR SANDS

An action was staged outside of the main building in the Moon Palace where official UN Negotiations are taking place. A human banner was deployed and Indigenous People from TarSands impacted communities from the United States and Canada highlighted the impacts of TarSands extraction and processing on communities.


That’s right- we rocked two actions in one day. We must just be cool like that. This was an action from the Indigenous Peoples Caucus (Indigenous Peoples are recognized stakeholders in the UN process) to remind the UN to Respect Indigenous Peoples Rights. Indigenous Peoples from around the world came together under the same message, shared culture, songs, and their perspectives on the solutions that are being brought here to the UN by their peoples.

In general UN Security is paranoid about disruptions or protests in the UN space. It is clear that they are poised and instructed to minimize voices of dissent. This action pushed the paranoia button a bit when we closed the action with a friendship dance! As a result of this action the UN changed the rules around the permitting of actions!! Didn’t know realize that friendship dances were acts of resistance, but in the UN you never know!

Sunday December 5th: Marching with La Via Campesina. Welcome to Cancun

We marched with our comrades of La Via Campesina and Grassroots Global Justice in a “NO REDD’S” block. One strategy here in Cancun is to combat the pro-REDD agenda that is being pushed here as a solution to climate change by governments like the United States and Mexico, but also by some environmental NGO’s. So at every turn and opportunity we are talking about why REDD’s is a false solution.


We had the honor of being invited to participate with La Via Campesina in creating thousands of Cancuns right here in Cancun!! Thousands marched together on the streets of Cancun from all over the world. On the inside of UN negotiations a press conference, followed by a walk out was staged. It got a bit hairy! Check out the reports from Democracy Now! But, you can’t stop people power, and ultimately those who were ejected joined their friends in the streets for a peoples assembly, highlighting community solutions to climate change as we see them.

Wednesday December 8th

Today I feel like I have a bit of a hangover, maybe it is from inhaling paint fumes from the visuals we have been working on! Today, the United States held a side event at the UN on its strategy for the REDD’s program. We saturated the audience with climate justice activists from communities throughout the United States who at every opportunity raised questions about financing for such programs (which gets funneled to organizations and most communities never see a dime), Free Prior and Informed Consent from Indigenous communities, and transparency of US engagement in other countries and at home. This made the US representatives very nervous! As expected, they dodged all of our questions, but we aren’t going anywhere so, see you next time!!

I encourage you, if you haven’t already to visit The IEN media team is doing daily live shows, posting videos and photos from actions and workshops happening and sharing the perspectives from our brothers and sisters in the South.

It’s not over yet!!! Talk soon!

December 7, 2010

SF to Cancun: Social Movements Bring Hope as COP16 Falters

Filed under: Climate Justice,Movement Building — Tags: , , , — joshkahnrussell @ 6:43 pm

Thousands of community activists around the world take action to promote Local Solutions to the Climate Crisis

The tone inside the conference center at the U.N. Climate Negotiations in Cancun has been a bit dismal this past week. Yet despite the reduced expectations inside, this morning the international peasant movement La Via Campesina gave us a new injection of hope and vision with a vibrant march of thousands of small farmers, Indigenous peoples and community activists through the streets in Mexico. It kicked off today’s international day of action – “1,000 Cancuns” – where grassroots organizations across the world demonstrated local resiliency and real solutions to the climate crisis. 30 coordinated events took place in the U.S. and Canada today, anchored by the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance.

Here in San Francisco, more than a dozen local community organizations joined forces to help convert a Mission District parking lot into a community garden and park with affordable housing units. Click here for photos.

“This action demonstrates a tangible solution to the climate crisis by promoting local food production, challenging our dependence on automobiles and strengthening bonds within the community,” explained Teresa Almaguer of People Organizing to Demand Environmental & Economic Rights (PODER) “The climate crisis requires community-based solutions and an end to corporate influence within the UN climate negotiations.” In addition to planting vegetables, participants enjoyed live music, theatrical performances and speakers all focusing on solutions to the climate crisis. A common theme at the event was increasing local food production in the fight against climate change, in contrast to the corporate-driven false solutions being put forth inside the U.N. negotiations.

“Industrial agriculture is one of the top three sources of greenhouse gas emissions,” said Michelle Mascarenhas-Swan of Movement Generation. “Agribusiness corporations profit from everything from fertilizer and pesticide sales to control of what goes onto supermarket shelves. The people are left paying the true costs in polluted water, depleted soil, diet-related diseases, and climate disruption. Meanwhile, U.S. agribusiness harms small farmers, farm workers and consumers – in the U.S. and around the world.” (more…)

December 2, 2010

Indigenous Peoples Actions launch at the UN

Filed under: Direct Action Community — Sharon Lungo @ 8:03 am

Hey y’all, its Day 4 now of COP 16. I spent a greater part of last night working on banners and visuals for two actions happening inside the UN today. In fact, while I am sitting here writing this, there is an action by youth and Indigenous Peoples against the Canadian TarSands and its network of pipelines that threaten us all in North America. I am a little sad to be missing it, but I am sitting in the Indigenous Peoples Caucus preparing for an action we will take as Indigenous Peoples this afternoon at the moon palace. We are asserting our rights and raising our voices here in the UN and coming out in a strong way for the rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Rights of Mother Earth. Pictures to come!

By the way, are you watching our daily broadcasts??? You should be- you’ll get all the juice on what we are up to!

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