And action is essential if we’re going to make that happen
On March 27, while much of the country was just starting to shelter in place and millions of workers were getting layoff notices, Donald Trump signed a massive $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act law. The massive bailout package included $1,200 checks for many people, extended unemployment benefits for laid off workers and aid for state and local governments, but the big winners were the large corporations who would receive $500 billion in loans and subsidies.
Two weeks later, while the ink was barely dry on the bill and the death toll from the pandemic was rapidly rising, Trump removed the inspector general who was going to oversee the spending of the $2 trillion stimulus spending effectively eliminating congressional oversight over the program.
We’ve seen this all before. During the 2008 financial crisis the government bailed out the banks that created the crisis while millions of families lost their homes. But now is not the time for more business as usual. So far, more than 14,000 people in the United States have died from the COVID-19 virus and that number is expected to grow by tens of thousands in the coming months.
This virus is impacting everyone, but it is not impacting all of our communities in the same ways. Early data shows that Black and Brown communities are getting sick and dying at much higher rates than white communities. The federal bailout package excludes immigrant workers from cash assistance and here in Washington, DC Mayor Bowser and DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson stripped away $5 million that had been earmarked in a local ordinance for excluded workers. Thousands of people are sitting in jails, prisons and ICE detention centers around the region and across the country, facing a potential death sentence as COVID-19 spreads in the tight quarters of their institutions unless they are released soon.
The COVID-19 pandemic has cracked open the veneer of our economic and social system. It’s putting the inequities in health care, wealth, housing, education, and much more on full display, and exacerbating existing crises. And unless we stop them, the politicians and lobbyists will continue to take advantage of this pandemic to suppress the vote, funnel hundreds of billions of dollars to their corporate cronies, and loosen already minimal environmental rules.
We need a people’s bailout and direct action will be essential to making that happen. Because of the public health crisis, we can’t safely use a lot of the tactics like mass marches, blockades and sit-ins that we have in the past. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take action. For the time being, a big piece of that work will be online. We’re taking to the internet to demand:
Congress: Pass a People’s Bailout NOW
Health is the top priority, for all people, with no exceptions
Provide economic relief directly to the people
Rescue workers and communities, not corporate executives
Make a down payment on a regenerative economy while preventing future crises
Protect our democratic process while protecting each other
DC Attorney General Karl Racine and other officials: Decarcerate the DC Jail IMMEDIATELY
ICE: Free all migrants from jails and detention centers
Mayor Bowser and DC Council: Support excluded workers and provide cash assistance!
Organizing online is important, but we’re also finding creative ways to safely take action to disrupt business as usual in person. Yesterday, we joined our friends and neighbors in a car caravan circling Hope Village and Fairview Halfway Houses, DC Jail and Mayor Bowser’s press conference to demand that they immediately decarcerate Washington, DC.
And today we took our message to Capitol Hill, wearing masks and gloves to prevent the spread, holding banners with safe 6-foot distancing clearly marked on them to demand a people’s bailout now.
Over the next several months, physical distancing and wearing face covering is going to be essential to slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep our communities safe. We all have a responsibility to act responsibly. But we also can’t afford to sit on the sidelines while people die, the corporations line up to fill their pockets and the government quietly rolls back protections.
We are already seeing the people in power using social distancing protocols to suppress dissent when it’s convenient for them. When Amazon, a company owned by the richest man in the world, learned that workers were organizing a strike at one of its warehouses in Staten Island, management placed a strike leader on a medically unnecessary quarantine to try to shut him up and then fired him for continuing to organize the strike. In the coming weeks and months we can expect officials to continue to use distancing guidelines as a blunt tool to clamp down on dissent when it’s politically expedient.
We need to be responsible and keep each other safe and healthy, but we also need to continue to fight a just and sustainable future. At the end of this month, between Earth Day and May Day, we’re going to take bold action (more than holding a banner at the capitol!) to take aim at the interlocking systems that are creating the crises our communities are suffering from and build a collaborative framework for a healthier, more just and more sustainable world.
We’re working on some exciting action plans for those 10 days--imagine using lots of eco-friendly paint to paint a mutual on a side street in front of an evil billionaire’s home, or hanging massive banners in iconic locations around the district, or using bicycles to haul solar powered PA system around town bring the voices front line communities to the institutions that are facilitating the destruction of their communities. And there are lots more opportunities and ideas for creative disruption.
You in?! Sign up to get involved!