Activist leaders in Missouri hoping to sign up 250 people for week of ‘community service and civic engagement’ as movement moves beyond protests and ‘die-ins’
College students are being urged to scrap plans for beer bongs on sunny beaches, in favour of a serious-minded spring break in Ferguson, the Missouri town that was roiled by protests and unrest following the fatal police shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old.
Six months after the death of Michael Brown, activist leaders in the St Louis suburb are looking to sign up 250 young people for a grittier week of “community service and civic engagement” including registering new voters, running food banks and cleaning up streets.
“Maybe there were some people who had planned to go down to Miami or Acapulco, and now see that there is something bigger,” said Patricia Bynes, a Democratic committeewoman for the town and a co-founder of the Ferguson alternative spring break programme.
Bynes said the week would not simply be a continuation of the protests that spread from the region in August to New York, California and elsewhere around the US. “The movement needs to be more than die-ins, more than ‘shutting it down’,” Bynes said.
Nor will it be a chance for inexpensive frat-style festivities, however. “This is not ‘come party in St Louis and take a selfie at the Mike Brown memorial’,” said Bynes. “This about giving back to the community. Should people decide not to engage, they’ll forfeit the benefits”.
Organisers said students would also help plant gardens and beautify blighted spots. “We are talking to business owners about what kind of help they need,” said Charles Wade, Bynes’s co-founder and one of the leaders of Operation Help or Hush, an activist group. “There are those that need repairs, and we want to make that happen.”
If the group can gain access, they plan to help clear the wreckage of burned-out businesses on West Florissant Avenue, the retail corridor that became the centre of August’s protests. Several were torched during an intense night of rioting last November that followed a state grand jury deciding not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Brown.
The Missouri History Museum recently sent staff to comb through the rubble for artifacts that could go into a permanent research collection on the dramatic events in the town of about 22,000 people, which is roughly 12 miles north-west of St Louis.
Officials from the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation have been investigating the possibility of bringing a federal civil rights prosecution against Wilson. It is widely expected that no charges will be brought. Wilson quit the Ferguson police department in November.
The Ferguson alternative spring break is scheduled to run for five week-long sessions in March and April. After funding their own travel to Ferguson, students would be provided with accommodation, food and transportation during the program in return for a $100 charge.
The organisers are braced for resistance from some quarters and anticipate their students being labelled “outside agitators” by opponents of the protest movement.
“There will always be criticism and flat-out hate,” Wade said.
Security staff are to be stationed with students and the locations of their rooms are to be kept secret. “Participants’ safety is our foremost concern and will not be compromised at any time,” the organisers say on their registration system.
They said that as well as hearing from activist leaders on community organising and the threat of racial profiling, students would also join talks about concepts such as privilege. In an effort to be as inclusive as possible, the application form for the program offers eight different “preferred gender pronouns” by which participants may choose to be addressed.
While the protests driven by the events in Ferguson have focused primarily on issues facing African Americans, organisers said they hoped students of all races would attend.“When we talk about black issues, they are really issues of equality,” Bynes said.
“The protests have got us here,” she said. “The next step is to target the ballot box, to get people elected, and to change policy. Students should take that back to their college campuses and build an infrastructure.” She added: “There is plenty to do.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2015
‘I don’t care’: Watch Kamala Harris shut down Chris Hayes for asking a dumb question about Trump
Sen. Kamala Harris shut down MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes during a post-debate interview on Tuesday evening.
Hayes questioned Harris about her call for Twitter to follow their terms of service and kick President Donald Trump off of the platform.
"Do you think he puts people’s lives in danger when he targets them in tweets?" Hayes asked.
"Absolutely," Harris replied.
"Do you think he knows that?" Hayes asked.
"Does it matter?" Harris replied.
"The fact is he did it. The fact is that he is irresponsible, he is erratic," she explained. "He is like a 2-year-old with a machine gun."
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Democratic White House hopefuls united in searing condemnation of Donald Trump during their fourth debate Tuesday, saying the president has broken the law, abused his power, and deserves to be impeached.
From the opening moments, most of the dozen candidates on stage launched fierce broadsides against Trump over the Ukrainian scandal at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.
"The impeachment must go forward," said Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is neck and neck with former vice president Joe Biden at the head of the 2020 nominations race.
"Impeachment is the way that we establish that this man will not be permitted to break the law over and over without consequences," she thundered.
Here are 3 winners and 4 losers from the CNN/NYT Democratic presidential primary debate
Twelve Democrats took to the stage Tuesday night for yet another debate in the party's 2020 president primary hosted by CNN and the New York Times.
After only ten candidates qualified for the previous debate, an additional two — Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and wealthy donor and former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer — made it to the stage this round for an even more crowded event.
The candidates discussed a range of important policy issues, but since the format was a debate, and they're all competing for the same nomination, it is ultimately most critical who won and who lost the night. Here are three winners and four losers — necessarily a subjective assessment, of course — from the debate: