Protesters in California, US stand against white supremacy

PASADENA, Calif. (Public News Service) — Thousands of Californians joined protests across the state to take a stand against white supremacy after the mass shooting in El Paso.

Last weekend, a gunman killed 22 people at a Walmart store in that border city, shortly after posting a racist, anti-Latino essay online.

More than 50 communities nationwide held vigils Wednesday night, including eight in the Golden State – in Claremont, Oakland, Pasadena, Pomona, Riverside, San Francisco, Santa Barbara and Sierra Madre.

Salvador Sarmiento, campaign director for the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, says the massacre won’t keep the immigrant community quiet.

“It’s really a first step in a call to action to really expose that hateful world view,” he states. “Part of the challenge is not letting that hateful worldview create the fear that it wants to create in our hearts.”

The day of action was dubbed El Paso Firme, meaning El Paso Strong.

In his online posting, the gunman in that incident referenced a white nationalist theory known as “the great replacement.” It bemoans the changing demographics that will end the white majority in the U.S. in the coming decades.

President Donald Trump spoke of unity on Wednesday as he visited El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, the site of a second mass killing.

The demonstrators want to see gun control measures, including universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons, coupled with a commitment by political leaders to fight domestic terrorism. They also criticized Trump for referring to asylum seekers as an invasion.

“It was foreseeable that the hate-filled speeches, the hate-filled rallies, you know – mixed with uncontrolled access to weapons of war – this kind of violence, sadly, is predictable,” Sarmiento says.

The events were organized by a coalition that includes the Border Network for Human Rights, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the Reform Immigration for Texas AllianceRepairers of the Breach, and the Poor People’s Campaign.

Reporting by Suzanne Potter, California Bureau


Initiative put on ballot for Tucson ‘sanctuary city’ vote

TUCSON, Ariz. — Groups pushing to make Tucson a sanctuary city say they are redoubling their efforts after the mass shooting in El Paso that they maintain was aimed at Hispanics.

Following a petition drive by immigration advocates, the Tucson Families Free and Together initiative has been placed on the November ballot by the Pima County Recorder’s Office.

If the initiative is approved, it would make Tucson the first sanctuary city in Arizona.

Zaira Livier, director of the People’s Defense Initiative, says her group is confident the measure will pass in November.

“Times are changing, and any migrants, any person of color can tell you that the last three years have been specifically challenging with such xenophobic rhetoric and violent rhetoric,” Livier states.

The Pima County Republican Party has mounted a legal challenge to the signatures gathered to put the measure on the ballot.

Backers of the measure turned in about 18,000 signatures to the Pima County Recorder.

County election officials say a spot check of the signatures submitted verified about 72% of them, more than enough to qualify the initiative for the ballot.

A hearing has been scheduled next week on the suit filed by Pima County Republicans.

If the initiative is approved, Tucson, which already has designated itself an Immigrant Welcoming City, would adopt laws that limit local officials’ ability to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

Livier says the vote has taken on even more importance after the El Paso shootings.

“Violent rhetoric always leads to violence,” she stresses. “Violent policy always leads to violence. We’re seeing the federal administration threaten our community for political expediency, threaten millions with deportations. What happened in El Paso was the manifestation of all of that.”

Livier says one of the main targets of the initiative is to wipe out the last remnants of SB 1070, a broad anti-immigrant law passed by the Arizona State Legislature in 2010.

Although much of the law has been tossed out by the courts, it still has a “show me your papers” clause allowing police to ask anyone in custody to provide evidence of citizenship.

Livier says her group plans to take the momentum of winning in Tucson to other cities and counties across Arizona to change local laws in those locations.

Reporting by Mark Richardson, Arizona Bureau


Iowans find common ground on climate change

DES MOINES, Iowa – 2019 is on track to be the second or third warmest year on record at a time when some Iowa farmers still are dealing with extreme spring flooding and five years of falling income.

A changing climate also fuels the pressure, but preventive measures are an option for many.

Kayla Bergman, a policy associate at the Center for Rural Affairs, says climate change is affecting Iowa’s natural resources, which has consequences for population centers throughout the state and U.S. because rural areas grow the majority of our food. She recommends tools to build resiliency.

“What I mean by resiliency is building up their farm and their soils and their operation so that, when those extreme weather events happen, they are prepared for it and they can still produce some crop, or a variety of crops,” she explains.

Bergman also encourages farmers and landowners to implement no-till to increase the carbon sequestration in the soil and plant cover crops.

More rural communities now are focused on renewable energy, including wind and solar, as a responsible source of energy and revenue stream.

As 2020 Democratic Party presidential candidates campaign across Iowa, state Sen. Rob Hogg has been hosting forums to hear what those running for the White House will propose to combat climate change.

“It’s an opportunity for Iowans to talk directly to the candidates about climate change, and it allows us to get past some of the ideology on the issue, talking about what people are actually experiencing here in Iowa and the solutions that work in Iowa,” Bergman states.

Bergman says some Iowa farmers are skeptical about climate change, but the record flooding and other extreme weather events now have them focused on solutions.

She notes that the Center for Rural Affairs can help with that when Iowans share their stories about how climate change is affecting them.

“We have numerous staff that are highly educated on the programs available for, like, financial assistance, and how to install such a thing or even where to start, so we have a lot of resources like that,” she stresses.

Bergman adds that rural communities need to overcome geographic and demographic obstacles in responding to and preparing for climate change risks including physical isolation, limited economic diversity and higher poverty rates, combined with an aging population.

Reporting by Roz Brown, Iowa Bureau


Montana Clean Energy Fair This Weekend as Climate Fears Heat Up

BOZEMAN, Mont. – The 9th annual Montana Clean Energy Fair takes place in Bozeman this Saturday.

The event features workshops on topics such as smart solar shopping, energy efficiency in the home and an electric vehicle show-and-tell.

It also includes panels on renewable energy policies and large-scale wind and solar development for utilities.

David Merrill, senior organizing representative at the Missoula field office of the Sierra Club, says the fair comes at the right time because climate change is on people’s minds. He says interest is the highest he’s seen in his two decades of work on the climate issue.

“The last year has been just remarkable in terms of people’s engagement with the issue, their willingness to get involved with our work and also, frankly, their extreme anxiety and even dread of the rapidly growing threat of climate change,” he points out.

The Sierra Club will have a booth at the fair, alongside clean energy businesses. There also are activities for children, including a solar cooking class and model solar car racing.

The fair starts at 9 a.m. at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds. It’s organized by the Montana Renewable Energy Association.

Merrill says the technological advancements on display at the clean energy fair are a sign the country is moving in the right direction.

“As a longtime climate activist myself, that’s one of the chief ways that I maintain my own morale facing this grave climate threat is by looking at the tremendous progress we’ve made with renewable energy and energy efficiency,” he states.

Merrill says the utility company NorthWestern Energy has stood in the way of the fight against climate change. But he sees progress, such as in June when the mayor of Helena delivered a letter to NorthWestern calling on the company to move away from coal and other fossil fuels.

Merrill also notes the city of Missoula’s decision in April to rely 100% on clean electricity by 2030 – the first city in Montana to make this commitment.

Reporting by Eric Tegethoff, Montana Bureau

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