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Jill Stein At Chicago Rally: The Real Criminals Are Those Behind Dakota Access Pipeline

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein wrapped up a day of campaigning in Chicago on September 8 with a rally that brought several hundred supporters to their feet multiple times. Earlier in the day, she was in the South Austin neighborhood to talk to residents.

The audience at the People’s Church of Chicago in the Uptown neighborhood was composed of enthusiastic supporters, many who will most likely volunteer and help her campaign get out the vote in northern Illinois. Also, quite a few individuals wore gear indicating they supported Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders during the primary.

Stein’s campaign stops in Chicago coincided with news that a warrant was issued in North Dakota for her arrest after she spray painted, “I approve this message,” on a bulldozer involved in construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on indigenous land. Her running mate, Ajamu Baraka, spray painted “decolonization” and faces a warrant as well.

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Jill Stein speaks at a Chicago rally at the People’s Church of Chicago

“There is a warrant out for the arrest of Ajamu Baraka and myself, but the ones who should be arrested are the company [executives] of the Dakota Access Pipeline,” Stein declared. “They are the ones who are breaking the moral law of humanity by violating the human rights of the indigenous people, by desecrating their grave sites, and by destroying the water supply not only for the Standing Rock Sioux Nation but for 17 million, who live downstream and rely on the Missouri River.”

Obliquely referring to media coverage, Baraka said, “Some people ask why were we in North Dakota and why did we end up in the situation that we ended up in, and we have to explain to them very simply that this campaign is not just a campaign. This campaign is about building popular power.”

“This campaign is about linking arms, standing shoulder to shoulder with all those who are struggling with oppression. We couldn’t be any other place but in North Dakota,” Baraka added.

The rally also came a day after a “commander-in-chief” forum hosted by NBC News with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump but without Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson or Stein. So, several of Stein’s remarks appeared to be in response to what Clinton and Trump said during the forum.

“Are we going to put an end to these ever-expanding wars for oil that are bouncing back on us now with a vengeance?” Stein continued, “We have 2,000 nuclear weapons on hair trigger alert now, and Hillary Clinton wants to start an air war with another nuclear power, Russia, over Syria. We don’t need another war. What we need actually is a peace offensive in the Middle East.”

She criticized financial support for Saudi Arabia and maintained the more America wages war, the more the country sows the “seeds for the next crisis and terrorist movement.” The audience responded with chants of “No More War,” as Stein said, “It’s time to shut it down.”

Wounded veterans need health care, housing, jobs, mental health services, drug rehabilitation, etc, but as important, she said, is the fact that veterans and future veterans should not be put in “harm’s way in the first place.”

Six trillion dollars have been spent on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it has produced “failed states, mass refugee migrations, and worse terrorist threats. So we say it’s time to start over. We need a whole new foreign policy.” Stein called for a policy based on international law, human rights, and diplomacy and 50% reduction of the military budget.

Earlier in the day, community activists and a few residents joined Stein for a “reality walk” through the neighborhood of South Austin. The community has one of the highest rates of violent crime in the city, but it also suffers from residential segregation, loss of industrial jobs, disinvestment, and exceptionally high unemployment.

Stein shared after her walk that South Austin residents had told her “they need jobs. They need an answer to the violence and the guns that they believe are being supplied to the community, that these guns are being made available through illegal means and that should be a highest priority for investigating.”

Residents in communities like South Austin also “need good schools. They need after school programs. They need youth programs. They need job training. They need housing and an end to the foreclosures. They need to reuse the housing that is just lying waste, empty now, to rehab that housing and create jobs.”

Elijah Sims, a young black teen who was about a day away from his 17th birthday, was shot and killed in South Austin on August 29. Stein was asked about the shooting and what she would recommend to white residents, who may be afraid to organize in the west side because they fear violence in the community.

“We are a divided nation,” Stein answered. “We are a nation that’s locked into fear, and we’re an armed nation because we’re afraid of each other.”

“There is a living legacy of the institution of slavery because it kind of went from slavery to lynchings to Jim Crow to the red lining of communities to mass incarceration to the war on drugs, which is a war on black and brown communities, and then to police violence. We have this history of really entrenched racism and the flip side of that being white privilege and white supremacy.”

Stein said she believes people need to sit down in communities with each other and build trust and confidence and recognize, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Her campaign favors the formation of a truth and reconciliation commission to address the legacy of slavery and its role in fueling structural racism in present-day America.

“If communities are struggling with poverty and closed schools and boarded up housing and violence in the streets, that injustice spills over into our economy, into our society, into our future, [and] into the violence that afflicts us all.”

Green VP nominee Ajamu Baraka speaks at the Chicago rally

Green VP nominee Ajamu Baraka speaks at the Chicago rally

During the rally, Baraka had assertive words for those who ignore the poverty and only rail against the violence in communities, like west and south neighborhoods of Chicago.

“People talk about [how] we need to deal with the issue of violence in the city. We understand that. But I say if you’re not talking about how we deal with these social and economic grinding conditions, I don’t want to talk about the violence,” Baraka said.

The campaign has a plan focused on providing dignity, health care, a clean environment, and respect for human rights to poor and working class Americans, who desperately need it. It has developed what they call a Green New Deal, which links the climate crisis and the economic crisis together to simultaneously save families and the planet.

However, media organizations like The Washington Post, as Stein said, have struggled with the concept of helping struggling Americans by putting them to work doing jobs necessary to stem the tide of climate change. They called Stein a “fairy tale” candidate for putting forward bold proposals.

“This is not rocket science,” Stein insisted during the rally. “This is something we’ve already done when we created a New Deal to get out of the Great Depression. We have an economic emergency, and we have a climate emergency. They must be solved together. We call for an emergency jobs program to create 20 million good wage jobs for everyone, who wants and needs a full-time good wage job.”

In South Austin, Stein said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel should resign because he has failed to address key injustices in the city and even perpetuated them, like when he participated in the coverup of the police shooting that killed Laquan McDonald.

Her campaign’s support for a civilian-controlled police accountability board led to cheers during the rally, especially since many are fed up with impunity for rampant police misconduct and violence.

Photo by Kevin Gosztola

Photo by Kevin Gosztola

Rally organizers gave time to local activists to speak in support of Stein. A teacher who serves on the Chicago Teachers Union’s executive board, Sarah Chambers, celebrated Stein for supporting public schools and the teachers union in Chicago.

Chambers contended students deserve “fully-funded schools,” nurses, who are there more than one day a week, class sizes of 20 students instead of 50 students, and safe environments, where the walls do not crumble around them and the water may be poisonous.

Immigrant, teacher, and community activist Byron Sigcho Lopez of Pilsen spoke about the closure of 50 schools in many of Chicago’s most impoverished communities. He is part of the 25th Ward Independent Political Organization, which organized an event for the launch of Sanders’ Our Revolution organization.

Lopez pointed out just months ago members of his community had talked about Clinton and Trump being “bad candidates” for the community. That has changed as more and more people now tweet messages tagged #ImWithHer. He questioned this development. “How can we not support a platform that represents 99 percent of what Bernie Sanders was standing for?”

He added Democrats may say they are afraid or do not like Trump but deep down they have to love him. “They love him because next to Trump they look like heroes, but next to us, they look like the cowards they are.”

A student from DePaul University and organizer with the International Socialist Organization, Sam Piper, addressed the crisis facing students saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of debt from student loans. “Jill Stein is the only candidate in this election, who is willing to abolish student debt and make universities tuition-free.”

Stein’s campaign maintains there are 43 million young and “not-so-young people” out there “locked into predatory student loans.” They believe they should be bailed out like Wall Street was bailed out.

“Forty-three million people, if they hear they actually have the power to vote Green and cancel their debt, 43 million people just might come out and vote Green to cancel their debt, and that is a winning number in the presidential race,” Stein suggested.

The campaign expects to be on the ballot in 45 states, yet the Commission on Presidential Debates, an organization composed of individuals with ties to the Democratic and Republican Parties, will not allow Stein to participate in the debates. Polls consistently show Americans want her to be included (along with Johnson).

Stein contended her campaign has the numbers to open up the debates, especially since Sanders has come out and said “it’s time to open up the debates.” She thanked Sanders for speaking up for open debates.

In an interview for NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Sanders said the 15 percent threshold, which third-party candidates are required to attain in polls, is “probably too high.”

Stein was born in Chicago. She called it a “very beautiful city” and said being in the city was a “trip back on memory lane.” She cheered the public spaces in the city while at the same time acknowledging the very real problems facing Chicagoans, which are not unique but exist throughout the United States.

She continued her campaign in Chicago on September 10, with a press conference in the morning and a downtown rally in the afternoon against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Here is video of Jill Stein answering questions in South Austin:

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."