Native Americans host ‘National Day of Mourning’ on Thanksgiving

United American Indians of New England has held the solemn remembrance on every Thanksgiving Day since 1970.

A solemn remembrance has been held every Thanksgiving Day since 1970 in Plymouth where the Pilgrims landed [Lisa Poole/AP]
A solemn remembrance has been held every Thanksgiving Day since 1970 in Plymouth where the Pilgrims landed [Lisa Poole/AP]

“Happy Thanksgiving to you in the land your forefathers stole.”

That’s the in-your-feast message Native Americans are preparing to send as they convene their 50th annual National Day of Mourning in the seaside town where the Pilgrims settled.

United American Indians of New England has held the solemn remembrance on every Thanksgiving Day since 1970 to recall what organisers describe as “the genocide of millions of native people, the theft of native lands, and the relentless assault on native culture”.

But Thursday’s gathering will have particular resonance – and, indigenous people say, a fresh sense of urgency.

Plymouth is putting the final touches on next year’s 400th-anniversary commemorations of the Pilgrims’ landing in 1620.

And as the 2020 events approach, descendants of the Wampanoag tribe that helped the newcomers survive are determined to ensure the world doesn’t forget the disease, racism and oppression the European settlers brought.

“We talk about the history because we must,” said Mahtowin Munro, a co-leader of the group.

“The focus is always on the Pilgrims. We’re just going to keep telling the truth,” she said. “More and more non-native people have been listening to us. They’re trying to adjust their prism.”

‘The border crossed us’

As they have on every Thanksgiving for the past half-century, participants will assemble at noon on Cole’s Hill, a windswept mound overlooking Plymouth Rock, a memorial to the colonists’ arrival.

Beneath a giant bronze statue of Massasoit, the Wampanoag leader in 1620, Native Americans from tribes around New England will beat drums, offer prayers, and read speeches before marching through Plymouth’s historic district, joined by dozens of sympathetic supporters.

Organisers say they’ll also call attention to the plight of missing and murdered indigenous women, as well as government crackdowns on migrants from Latin America, and the detentions of children. Promotional posters proclaim: “We didn’t cross the border – the border crossed us!”

Past gatherings have mourned lives lost to the nationwide opioid addiction crisis, shown solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, and condemned environmental degradation.

The tradition was born of Plymouth’s last big birthday bash in 1970 – a 350th-anniversary commemoration that triggered angry demonstrations by native people excluded from a decidedly Pilgrim-focused observance.

Since then, the National Day of Mourning has become a louder, prouder and increasingly multi-ethnic affair in the community nicknamed “America’s Hometown”.

‘Come a long way’

Although mostly peaceful, there has been tension. In 1997, 25 protesters were arrested after their march through town erupted into a melee with police.

There have also been colourful moments. Over the decades, activists have ceremonially buried Plymouth Rock in sand, boarded the Mayflower II – a replica of the ship that carried the English settlers to the New World – and draped Ku Klux Klan garb on a statue of William Bradford, a Pilgrim father who eventually became governor of the Plymouth Bay Colony.

In a like-minded tradition dating to 1975, tribes in the San Francisco area hold a similar ceremony called “Unthanksgiving Day”, gathering at sunrise on Alcatraz Island to recall how Native Americans occupied the island in protest for 19 months starting in November 1969.

Francis Bremer, a Pilgrim scholar and professor emeritus of history at Pennsylvania’s Millersville University, said the nation is becoming more receptive “to a side of the story that’s too often been ignored”.

“Fifty years ago, for non-native people, these were uncomfortable truths they didn’t want to hear. Now, they’re necessary truths,” he said.

To help right old wrongs, Munro’s coalition is pushing what it calls the Massachusetts Indigenous Legislative Agenda. Among other things, the campaign includes a proposal to redesign the state flag, which critics say is repressive. It depicts a muscular arm wielding a sword over a Native American holding a bow.

Paula Peters, a Wampanoag writer and activist who is not a member of the group that organises the public mourning, sees progress in getting Americans to look past the Thanksgiving myth of Pilgrims and natives co-existing peacefully.

“We have come a long way,” she said. “We continue to honour our ancestors by taking our history out of the margins and into the forefront.”

Ex-Border Patrol Agent Matthew Bowen Sentenced to Probation for Running Over Migrant

H5 ex border patrol agent sentenced probation running over migrant tucson matthew bowen guatemalan antolin rolando lopez aguilar

Meanwhile, a federal judge in Tucson sentenced former Arizona Border Patrol agent Matthew Bowen Wednesday to three years of supervised release and an $8,000 fine for intentionally running over a Guatemalan migrant with a pickup truck in 2017 — and then falsifying records about the assault. The man he struck, Antolin Rolando López-Aguilar, survived. Court filings show Bowen had sent a slew of racist text messages on his phone, referring to immigrants as “mindless murdering savages” and “beaners,” among other insults.

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Remembering the Greensboro Massacre of 1979, When KKK & Nazis Killed 5 People in Broad Daylight

NOVEMBER 04, 2019

Hundreds gathered this weekend to mark the 40th anniversary of the Greensboro massacre, when 40 Ku Klux Klansmen and American Nazis opened fire on an anti-Klan demonstration in Greensboro, North Carolina, killing five anti-racist activists in a span of 88 seconds. Those killed were members of the Communist Workers’ Party. Ten other activists were injured. No one was convicted in the massacre, but a jury did find the Greensboro police liable for cooperating with the Ku Klux Klan in a wrongful death. Local pastors in Greensboro are now calling on the City Council to issue an apology for the events that led to the 1979 killing. W

Number of hate groups in US reached record high in 2018: SPLC

Watchdog finds number of hate groups increased by seven percent last year, as groups used internet to grow and recruit.

People protesting against US President Donald Trump wait near the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. [Brendan Smialowski/AFP]
People protesting against US President Donald Trump wait near the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. [Brendan Smialowski/AFP]

Washington, DC – Hate crimes in the United States reached a record high last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) said on Wednesday, adding that much of the rise was due to the rhetoric of US President Donald Trump.

Driven by Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric and policy, the number of hate groups active in the US peaked at 1,020 in 2018, a seven-percent increase from 954 recorded in 2017, according to the SPLC, which began tracking hate groups in 1971.

Trump’s statements echoed by hate groups included describing immigrants as “invaders”, calling for a Muslim ban, attacking African nations and speaking against the country’s alleged demographic changes.

In 2018, at least 40 people were killed by those motivated by or attracted to far-right ideologies, the watchdog group wrote in its annual report, released on Wednesday.

The last peak in the number of hate groups in the country was recorded in 2011 during the height of a backlash against President Barack Obama, the first black president, the SPLC said. According to the watchdog, there were 1,018 documented hate groups then.

Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, said she first heard of building a wall to separate the US from Mexico on a white supremacist site.

The same demand became one of Trump’s most famous campaign promises in 2016.

Since then, the SPLC recorded an increase in the number of groups active, which followed three years of decline in groups during the Obama administration.

Federal figures were consistent. Latest statistics from the FBI show that hate crimes increased by 30 percent in the three-year period ending in 2017.

The increase followed three years in which hate crime incidents fell by about 12 percent.

“President Trump has opened the White House doors to extremism,” the SPLC report states. “Not only consulting with hate groups on policies that erode our country’s civil rights protections, but also enabling the infiltration of extremist ideas into the administration’s rhetoric and agenda.”

A handful of Trump appointees include officials with ties to groups hostile towards Muslims, immigrants, refugees, and the LGBT community, the report said.

The majority of hate groups – including neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan (KKK), racist skinheads, neo-Confederates and white nationalists – adhere to some form of white supremacist ideology.

The number of white nationalist groups, those particularly electrified by Trump’s presidency, surged by almost 50 percent from 100 groups to 148 in 2018.

The SPLC said black nationalist groups also rose 13 percent last year to 264.

The number of anti-Muslim hate chapters, however, dropped from 114 in 2017 to 100 in 2018, according to the SPLC, but rights group have said hate crimes against Muslims were up last year.

‘ISIS tactics’

Beirich said US hate groups were using the internet to spread their messages and propaganda in the absence of strong online regulations.

Charlottesville: Life sentence recommended for James Alex Fields

She said the web was now the main recruitment tool for hate groups and “absolutely” key for white supremacists.

The SPLC has long called on tech companies to take action against the hate on their platforms.

“Similar to ISIS using this to push propaganda and ideas, it has now become the main place for recruiting to happen,” Beirich said, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).

The 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the largest demonstration of white supremacists in recent years, was first organised on Facebook.

“There is no question that technology has helped this movement,” she said. “Up until 2017 there was so much hate online.” Following Charlottesville, Facebook began cracking doing on hate content.

Anti-Muslim campaigning in the US is a ‘losing strategy’: report

“There is a lot of mainstreaming of hate rhetoric,” she added. “The idea of building a wall came from the council of conservatives in [1989]. These ideas are leaping from the extremes to the mainstream. It would be nice to put them back where they came from.”

‘Terrible shaming of women’

In 2018, the SPLC added a new category to their hate groups to document a growing online movement that targeted women.


Hate before the vote: Pipe bombs, shootings, incitement

In contrast to a time when neo-Nazis placed women on a “pedestal”, Beirich said now the internet was loaded with “terrible women shaming” and rape.

Although the anti-women movement bred and existed online, she said it has been connected to violence over the past year.

Violence and “domestic terrorism” surged around the 2018 midterm election when Democrats won the majority in the House of Representatives, the SPLC said.

Before the election, a slew of pipe bomb packages was sent to prominent Democrats before the election. And in late October, a gunman entered the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and killed 11 people, shouting “all Jews must die”. The alleged attacker frequently posted anti-Semitic slurs and conspiracy theories online prior to the attack.

A memorial outside the Tree of Life Synagogue [Gene J Puskar/Reuters]

Pittsburgh shooting suspect Robert Bowers pleads not guilty

Even more angering to hate groups, the SPLC report found, was the number of women elected to the US Congress, including two Muslims, and the election of an openly bisexual senator in Arizona.

“For white supremacists, these newly elected officials symbolise the country’s changing demographics – the future that white supremacists loathe and fear,” the report said.

Now fuelled and legitimised by the sitting president, SPLC has noticed a new trend of hate groups looking beyond Trump as they grow politically frustrated as their demands are not being met.

In the past, this has led to acts of violence and will be a worry leading up to the 2020 election, the SPLC said.




New American Nazis: Inside the White Supremacist Movement That Fueled Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting

NOVEMBER 20, 2018

Neo-Nazis are on the rise in America. Nearly a month after a gunman killed eleven Jewish worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, we look at the violent hate groups that helped fuel the massacre. On the same day that shooter Robert Bowers opened fire in the synagogue, a neo-Nazi named Edward Clark that Bowers had been communicating with online took his own life in Washington, D.C. The man’s brother, Jeffrey Clark, has since been arrested on weapons charges. The brothers were both linked to the violent white supremacist group Atomwaffen. We speak with A.C. Thompson, correspondent for FRONTLINE PBS and reporter for ProPublica. His investigation “Documenting Hate: New American Nazis” premieres tonight on PBSstations and online.

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