#Facebook We Need To Talk
Demonstrations, my favorite form of activism, can be annoyingly difficult to navigate during COVID, what with avoiding the bug, long slow car caravans, and looking for bathrooms now all indefinitely closed. So I was especially pleased to participate in a #Facebook We Need to Talk About Palestine demonstration on February 24th. This action was part of an International day to call out facebook’s proposed revision of their hate speech policy to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism which conflates the opposition to zionism with antisemitism, creating a narrative which says that any criticism of the occupation of Palestine and support for the Boycott Sanction and Divestment (BDS) movement would be considered antisemitic and would fall under facebook’s hate speech policy. Petitions were delivered to facebook in fifty-five cities around the world!
Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism! (QUIT!) joined Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) Arab Resource Organizing Center (AROC), Palestine Youth movement (PYM), American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), ANSWER, and Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA) and others in co-sponsoring the delivery of a petition signed by 53,000 people to the facebook campus in Menlo Park. Deni and Tinku from QUIT! had been part of the planning meetings for the action.
The petition began with:
Facebook we need to talk— and you’re not letting us
The Israeli government and some of its supporters are asking Facebook to add “Zionist” as a protected category in its hate speech policy—that is to treat ”Zionist” as a proxy for”Jew” or Jewish”
And ended with:
Do Not add “Zionist” to your hate speech policies.
Thirty people or so from the co-sponsoring groups assembled at a starbucks in Menlo Park and marched a few blocks to a deserted facebook campus with its giant emblematic thumb at its entrance. A videographer chronicled the action, so it could be added to the international social media presence. In spite of covid there was a gaggle of laughing tourists taking photo ops in front of the thumb. We walked up the driveway and were met by security who predictably wouldn’t take the petition and declared that nobody was in the administrative building and said “Come back after covid.” Finding no joy in this exchange we moved back to the aforementioned thumb and heard short speeches from each organization. Tinku representing QUIT! gave an excellent speech highlighting that meaningful Queer Liberation requires a Free Palestine. Tinku said:
Tinku representing QUIT! said:
For the last 20 years, we’ve been working to support Palestinian liberation as part of the queer community and the Palestine solidarity movement. People who are against Palestine constantly try to silence the voices that demand justice for Palestinians. As queer people, our experience of facing persecution throughout history allow us to easily recognize these pretexts and we strongly denounce these attempts by Facebook and others to silence criticism of Israel or Zionism.
Not five minutes into the speechmaking, the Menlo Park police arrived, the facebook security having wasted no time. They began demanding a leader, and muttering ominously about trespassing on private property, tourist picture taking notwithstanding. As is demonstration pro forma we dilly dallied around, made a few more speeches and walked very slowly towards the property line. The police left.
It was then decided to have another go at petition delivery and three designated people walked back on to the facebook property and tried to convince the security people to take the book of petitions. The box was opened and the paper petitions made clearly visible. The security people demurred. The box of petitions was then left on the facebook hallowed ground, and we all returned to the starbucks. Shortly thereafter the police arrived again, this time threatening mass arrest for littering (really). The police seemed to be oddly anxious about the whole thing and it quickly came out that facebook was demanding the bomb squad for the unattended cardboard box. Then a strange negotiation ensued with the police all but begging us to retrieve the offending box of paper petitions so that their day wouldn’t be inconvenienced with bomb squad activities, and at least one activist being prepared to get arrested rather than do this. After much discussion the activists decided it wasn’t worth it to make this point, that the message of the international demonstration against facebook had already been made. So with agreement that the police would not arrest anyone we walked back to the edge of the facebook property and two people walked onto the property and retrieved the box.
There was a worldwide social media presence and Deni was able to get the QUIT! logo included for queer representation. This set of actions was particularly important in resisting the spurious and pervasive idea that to condemn the racist policies of zionism and the state of israel is to be antisemitic. The alliance between zionism and christian right wing white supremacy completely detracts and obscures the venal threat of rising antisemitism and white nationalism.
MPower has set up an easy “email action” interface to send to your email lists and group of participants!
4DalyCity Educate to Liberate!
On February 27th Deeg and I agreed to be National Lawyers Guild legal observers for a demonstration in Daly City called by the grassroots community group 4DalyCity and held outside the Daly City Hall. The demonstration was a call to end racism and police violence. The organizers wrote in their leaflet:
How can residents of Daly City support the call to action to end racial violence and racial police responses? Along with other Black, Brown, and Asians grassroots coalitions, we are organizing and developing community-based resources and responses to police brutality, racial violence, mental health crises, and support for the houseless. We believe in community care, safety, and accountability rather than depending on the systems of oppression that uphold white supremacy and anti-blackness. Though it may not be talked or heard about, there is violence against BIPOC communities in Daly City, perpetuated by the police and ICE. This year there were ICE raids here and all over SMC [San Mateo County]. We demand that the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and Sheriff end cooperation with ICE and stop transfers. ICE must be abolished and all children freed and reunited with their families. There is no end to racial violence without abolition and there is no liberation without Black liberation and indigenous sovereignty.
The demonstration was about seventy people strong, almost entirely young people of color and was impeccably organized, complete with security with yellow vests and walkie talkies, police liaisons legal observers and the Queer medic van. The speeches given by high school students called for an end to criminalizing youth and an end to police in the schools, but rather increased school resources for mental health services. They also demanded real liberation ethnic studies. They called for an end to capitalism.
The demonstration took to the streets and marched through the nearby community of large rental apartment buildings. They chanted “Give me B, I got a B, Give me an L, I got an L, Give me an M I got an M , Black Lives Matter” and “This is what community looks like” and “Our best defense is us”. The carried a beautiful rainbow banner that said “ALL BLACK LIVES MATTER”. People in the surrounding apartments came out to two watch and cheer. It was militant and defiant and the community loved it. We the legal observers kept an eye on the police who did obnoxious wheelies on motorcycles to remind us of their aggression, but otherwise kept back. The march returned to the Daly City city hall and more people spoke, including some young people new to activism, and the action finished with a birthday cake for a high school activist. This action was community based, radical, abolitionist and unpretentious and specifically called out all the most excruciating issues of our time. There was a glimmer of hope.
PEOPLE OF THE WORLD UNITE. WE HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE BUT OUR CHAINS