To the Editor: Defending Our Freedoms and Working for Peace with Brave and Free Santa Cruz
Joy Schendledecker may have jumped to some conclusions in her posts on BrattonOnline about the local community group Brave and Free Santa Cruz. I am pleased that she has given me the opportunity to introduce more people to our efforts to protect our health, defend our civil liberties and work for peace.
With economic conditions growing more difficult, attacks on our privacy with the implementation of biometric ID connected to programmable Central Banks Digital Currency, and threats of a global war, we need more groups like Brave and Free Santa Cruz that are bringing people together from diverse political, racial and cultural backgrounds.
I have found that people share much more in common with one another than what the media says divides us. We all want to enjoy time with our families and friends. We want to have a safe place to sleep and tasty food to eat, to live a life of meaning with dignity.
But those in power want us to fight and have intentionally magnified our differences fostering a red-blue tribalism.
One of the most terrifying features cultivated by those in power is how close-minded people who support their agenda have become. Anyone who isn’t on board is considered a dumb hick Trump Putin puppet. We are considered that “basket of deplorables”. Yet we are that working class that Joy for Mayor’s campaign literature claimed to be supporting. We are the people who repair your cars, prepare your food, and wire your homes. We are people who are capable of thinking for ourselves.
I never locked down. I was lucky if I could return home by nine at night during those first months of what would turn out to become three years of Food Not Bombs sharing hot meals, water, and survival gear every day when the other meal programs were locked down.
I saw a notice in Serf City Times announcing the Joy for Mayor launch party. So, on the day Biden announced the end of the pandemic, I went to support Ms. Schendledecker ’s campaign at the London Nelson Community Center. Soon after I arrived, when I failed to show my vaccination papers, three of her supporters started physically assaulting me in this public facility. That “show your papers” demand recalled the dark days of Apartheid South Africa, the East German secret police Stasi or my days with working with Palestinian farmers and merchants on the West Bank. Another local peace activist in her 70’s was also the victim of assault and battery at the same event when she failed to show her papers. Violently brutalizing your supporters might not be the best way to win an election.
Two local women, Diane D. Jones and Kathleen Lynch, started the organization “Brave and Free Santa Cruz” to defend the freedoms that are under attack. Ms. Lynch expressed that you must be brave in these Draconian times if you wish to stay free.
So, after being attacked at Ms. Schendledecker’s event, and being banned for not having proof of vaccination from seeing the film that I was in “Foodie for the People”, banned from a new progressives’ organizing meeting and from the Tabby Cafe, I was eager to join Ms. Lynch and Ms. Jones. The authoritarian clampdown was frightening.
One of the people Ms. Schendledecker doesn’t “know particularly well” is Ms. Lynch so I will share a bit about her and you can see if you think she is politically naive and would, as Ms. Schendledecker said, “employ dangerous tropes and misinformation, while partnering with people and organizations that are funded by the far-right”.
Ms. Lynch has been a peace and social justice activist for over 40 years. Ms. Lynch joined Peace Brigades International and moved to El Salvador, spending six years of the war in the zones of combat. She stood between a death squad and striking workers barricaded inside their factory in San Salvador, helping win their demands. She survived aerial bombing raids and armed assaults, secreted people out of the country to freedom and organized women’s groups across the rebel held territories of Morazán. I share much more about her work in the left in my longer essay.
Ms. Schendledecker starts her essay talking about the August 9, 2023 rally for peace at the Town Clock. “Generally speaking, this is my crowd, and the kind of event that I love: grassroots organized, small, peace-loving, intersectionalist, sometimes a little cheesy. But this year I had some qualms about attending at all, because of the involvement of one group: Brave and Free Santa Cruz”. She adds, “I suspect that a few people that I like very much may be increasingly drawn to them as they are drawn to support RFK Jr’s seriously effed-up presidential bid or Ukraine anti-war positions that may lean towards Putin-apologists.”
I have followed events in Ukraine since Food Not Bombs had a kitchen in Maidan Square in Kiev for the 100 days of the Orange Revolution, and continued to correspond with them after the second US coup in 2014. They shared with me the brutality of the Azov Nazis and their role in the burning of the Trade Union Hall in Odessa which started the 9-year war. It has been clear for years that NATO expansion could lead to a war with Russia. Food Not Bombs organized a Food Not NATO meal in Istanbul before that NATO meeting and marched against NATO in Chicago at that summit.
When Russia’s Special Military Operation started, our Moscow Food Not Bombs volunteers were arrested for marching for peace. A Putin-linked white supremacist group murdered several of our volunteers, including Timur Kacharava in St. Petersburg as he was leaving the Food Not Bombs meal in November 2005. So, I am not really a big fan of Putin.
While I am not a “Putin-apologist” I am very concerned that the escalation in the war could lead to a nuclear conflict. Just imagine if Russia was bombing Washington D.C. from Mexico! I am now also getting dozens of calls a day from seniors seeking food. Many are angry that we can send billions of dollars to Ukraine while we are facing hunger and homelessness here in America.
In Ms. Schendledecker’s second posting she says, “So, I invite Brave and Free Santa Cruz once again to look closely at its own questionable connections. Put some thoughtful statements about the need to counter discrimination on your website; get rid of links to hate and hate-adjacent content; and show up for minoritized groups in Santa Cruz, with a commitment to listening, learning, and supporting.”
Currently I can’t access the braveandfreesantacruz.org website since our “webmaster” Commander X has disappeared with the details, and I have more important things to do. But if I could, I would add more links and sure would not remove the great links we already have. The arrogance of Ms. Schendledecker telling working people how to organize says a lot.
Before 2020, those of us on the far left lived by a slogan “Question Authority.” We stood against censorship, militarism, big Pharma, mass surveillance and CIA coups. We supported bodily autonomy, privacy, labor rights, the protection of the environment and defended our civil liberties. That seems to no longer be the case for many of our colleagues, who see themselves as commentator David Brooks puts it, the “educated class”, and believe that the working class are ignorant, anti-semitic, homophobic, racist rednecks.
“Obey Authority” has become the slogan of the lockdown liberals.
The black, gay, lesbian, trans and Jewish members of Brave and Free might not agree with Joy Schendledecker and her depiction of our organization.
Thankfully our movement is growing in response to the increasing threats to our freedom and the very real danger of a global war between nuclear armed nations.
I encourage you to join us in what has become one of the most important times in our half-century of resistance to the totalitarian policies of these global institutions. I encourage Ms. Schendledecker and her supporters to attend one of our meetings to verify their claims.
BRAVE AND FREE SANTA CRUZ
Keith McHenry – Co-Founder of the global movement Food Not Bombs
One of our country’s most important freedoms is that of free speech.
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