In these opening days of Donald Trump’s presidency, days in which he has begun to disassemble the Affordable Health Care Act, to defund Planned Parenthood, to re-open possibilities for construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access oil pipelines through our land, to appropriate U.S. funds to build a wall between our country and Mexico and, finally, to severely restrict immigration from some parts of the world, I joined several hundred Iowans at our State Capitol in Des Moines to resist any and all of this.
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement is a 40 year old, grassroots organization dedicated to community organizing in the state of Iowa. Our mission statement is “to empower and unite grassroots people of all ethnic backgrounds to take control of their communities, involve them in identifying problems and needs and in taking action to address them; and be a vehicle for social, economic, and environmental justice.”
Yesterday began with a “political theater” event in the rotunda of the state capitol where mock ‘awards’ were given to legislators who were seen to be the worst offenders in taking corporate hand-outs in order to pass legislation favorable to big business and big agriculture in order to protect their interests against those of their workers and the environment (especially our water supply). This lampoon was followed by brief addresses from sister groups joining ICCI on this day, particularly college student organizers from Drake University, Grinnell College and elsewhere across the state who were engaged in similar resistance and action.
We also heard from a family farmer who represented a dying breed of smaller, sustainable farms across Iowa being driven out of business by the huge Factory Farms gobbling up most of the land and resources of our beautiful state and destroying the small towns which used to exist to support scores of family farms surrounding them, but now face dwindling populations because larger farms employ fewer people due to massive automation of farm equipment and disastrous heavy use of chemical fertilizer in order to manage their vast acreage “efficiently.”
Over the lunch hour, we jammed the halls of a hearing room debating defunding Planned Parenthood in the state of Iowa. This is an effort led by legislator Steven King, a Trump-like clone who has been embarrassing Iowans of good will for a decade or more by his ignorant and racist statements about women, immigrants, and anyone else he considers unworthy of his consideration. After lunch, I attended a smaller gathering with one of the bright lights of our state, Senate Minority Leader Rob Hogg (Dem. Cedar Rapids) who asked for our help in defeating impending legislation to cut funding for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
In the afternoon, some of us boarded three buses for a quick trip downtown to “occupy” the main Wells Fargo Bank building in order to protest their corporate support of the Dakota Access Pipe Line which will cut a diagonal swath across our state, delivering some of the dirtiest oil in the world from the Bakken shale oil fields of North Dakota to an oil tank farm in Illinois. This pipeline endangers our water supply here in Iowa as well as that of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation prompting protests by Lakota and Dakota Sioux and scores of other tribes in recent months.
We took over the lobby for about a half an hour, delivering a letter of protest to the new CEO of Wells Fargo (who has just replaced the one resigning in the midst of scandal by employees of this huge bank). The reading of the letter was interspersed by our chants like “Finance the Future; Not Fossil Fuels” and “No oil in our soil!”Also by individual testimonies from persons affected by the potential building of this pipeline. The bank manager refused to come out of his office and the security guards eventually called the police who, having been assured by our organizers that this was an entirely peaceful protest, watched benevolently over our action until we marched and chanted our way back to the buses.
Like my wife Susanne who participated in the Women’s March on Saturday, it felt good to be among people who shared my horror and frustration at the election of Donald Trump and the forces of evil (yes, evil) it has released across our land. Our worst impulses seem to have been tapped by the racist and unqualified bully we have elected to the highest office in our land. The only thing we can do now is peacefully resist this Administration and its local expressions as best we can while we await with hope for it to collapse under its own incompetence and the nation come to its senses before it is really too late.
It’s the only thing I know to do now. As we used to say in the 70s, “Think Globally; Act Locally.”