“It is our Duty to take to the Streets & Go Beyond the Ballot Box”
By Leticia Arce
My name is Leticia and I am on the caravan as a delegate from Causa Justa :: Just Cause, a housing and immigrant rights organization that organizes Black & Brown working class communities in San Francisco and Oakland. I am on the It Takes Roots to Change the System People’s Caravan from the RNC to the DNC because it is very clear to me that regardless of whatever party wins the election this fall, our communities will continue to live in crisis as our interests are not being represented by either political party; whether it is at the national level or the local level.
I protest the Republican Party and Trump-style politics because they are dangerous and deadly. We have seen a rise in white rage and blatant white supremacy with the increased attacks on immigrants, Muslims, and the movement for black lives; these attacks can be seen on an individual level and also by the state. During Donald Trump’s acceptance speech for the presidential nomination, he directly attacked Sanctuary City policies and the BLM movement stating that when he was elected president, he would ensure “law and order” in this country. It is unclear what impact a Republican Presidency would have on the local organizing conditions, in particular for immigrant rights and the movement for black lives, but we can expect backlash and attacks from individuals due to the increase in white rage that is being fueled by the Republican rhetoric.
I protest the so-called “People’s Party” otherwise known as the Democratic Party and the Hillary-style policies that have been instituted abroad and at home because they are also deadly; from the attack of the welfare state to the support of coup d’états abroad. Although the Democratic Party is not as openly racist as the Republican Party, they have instituted policies that disproportionately impact working class, communities of color. Neoliberal policies instituted at home, such as the privatization of education, the bail out of the banks, and the continued militarization of our communities, are not meant to support our communities nor keep us safe. If anything, neoliberal economic policies instituted by the Democratic Party during the presidencies of Clinton and Obama have been detrimental to our communities.
In San Francisco, where we are being violently displaced due to waves of gentrification, we have seen the Democratic Central Coordinating Committee (DCCC) moving more to the right and failing to endorse ballot propositions that have come out from the communities directly impacted and organizing around displacement. We have seen the DCCC more aligned with tech and big developers that benefit from gentrification; it is very clear that the Democratic Party does not have our communities needs in mind at the local level nor the national level, they work for Wall Street, tech, and developers—they are not the people’s party. This can be seen with the DCCC’s failure to endorse several propositions brought forward by various community groups which include, but are not limited to, Prop F (AirBnB tax), Prop I (moratorium on luxury development in the Mission District), and Prop G (tax on profits made from speculators). These propositions were brought forward in an attempt to address the eviction crisis and they failed to pass at the ballot due to big money interests and the DCCC alignment with tech and big developers.
It is clear that the ballot box is failing our communities; not only for the failure of the Democratic Party to support policies that support working class communities, but also due to the fact that the right to vote has been attacked across the country leaving the most disenfranchised communities without a voice at the polls. Not to mention that millions are not allowed to vote due to their migration status or for their residence in colonial territories (Puerto Rico and Guam). We must go beyond the ballot box to create the systemic change that our communities desperately need; the electoral platform is only one strategy to create the reform we need. When politicians and the political machines are not willing to listen and continuously ignore the will of the people; we must do all we can to make our voices heard. Enough with respectability politics—blocking intersections and freeways, protesting through the streets, and occupations are legitimate tactics to making our demands a reality when our elected officials fail to do their job. In San Francisco, we have marched and occupied the City Hall to protest Mayor Ed Lee’s failure to address the housing crisis, actions in the offices of AirBnB and Twitter, and direct action in the streets to protest big developers and real estate speculators.
To bring it back to the caravan, I say that it is our duty to take to the streets and go beyond the ballot box when politicians are not being accountable to the people they allegedly represent. If Hillary Clinton is going to be elected president, she must be held accountable for her role in neoliberal policies instituted abroad and at home. The same policies that have led to endless war, displacement of peoples, and the pillaging of countries’ resources which also cause mass poverty, displacement, and murder as we have seen in the case in Honduras with our comrades in COPINH and Berta Cáceres. The impact of the national election results on local organizing conditions is unknown; but what I do know with great certainty is that now is the time to begin to connect our struggles from across the country in order to build a united front in order to concretely change the political system in this country. What an alternative system can look like and how we can build an alternative is yet be determined but now is the time to start having those conversations—we cannot wait any longer. There is a lot of work to be done; I go home with many lessons and questions about how we move the work forward and build power at a larger scale to be able to combat the forces that be. Until then, I hope that more spaces and opportunities will be created to have the important conversations and connections that were being made on the It Takes Roots to Change the System People’s Caravan.
Leticia Arce, Causa Justa::Just Cause, Oakland, CA
My name is Leticia Arce and I’ve been a tenant rights counselor & organizer with Causa Justa :: Just Cause since April 2013. I work specifically in our tenant rights clinic supporting folks in defending their right to a safe and habitable housing. Many folks come in our tenant rights clinic in moments of crisis and, through our Serve the People Model, we not only support them in defending their housing but also support folks in connecting their individual issue to the larger systemic problems of displacement and recruit folks into our organization to continue to build people power and a stronger movement.