Spring Flood

Monday marked our Spring 2011 application deadline. Since we have limited resources and do our best to be a dependable source of multi-year support for the children we aid, it is not unusual for more than 90% of our beneficiaries in any cycle to be those who are already receiving ongoing help. For instance, last fall we welcomed four new families while renewing aid to 65 more.

That is not the case this time around. We’ve received over a dozen new requests. A number of these applications come from student organizers of the massive strike and protests at the University of Puerto Rico. As I wrote in a previous blog: “Since December hundreds of UPR students have been peacefully occupying their campus to protest massive tuition increases that have made it impossible for almost one-third of the undergraduates (5000 out of 16,000) to re-enroll in classes this semester. The students have not been destructive, even organizing brigades to keep the campus clean. But the government decided to attack them.” The repression has been particularly brutal, and leaders have often been singled out for the harshest treatment.

We’ve also received requests to help the children of peace and justice activists in the Midwest who have been subpoenaed to testify before Grand Juries that are investigating whether these activists should be charged with providing material support for terrorism. Perhaps worse than that, the FBI has raided some of their homes traumatizing the young children whose rooms they’ve searched. In the guise of protecting us, the FBI is terrorizing those who are working for peace.

Perhaps our most surprising new request comes from a remarkably courageous young student. We’ve been frustrated at the RFC with our inability to help activists struggling for immigrants’ human rights. We recognize that many organizers are undocumented and face detention and deportation if they publicize their status. We understand why they might be extremely reluctant to apply to a public foundation for help. At the same time, we can’t make a grant without receiving an application. As a result we’ve not been able to make a single award in this area. However, we’ve just received an application from a young woman who as a teenager began defying the government, and endured a torrent of threats and hate mail for publicly asserting her rights while proclaiming her undocumented status. She has continued to effectively champion this cause, despite devastating attacks upon her and her family.

As you can see, this spike in claims reflects burgeoning activism and growing repression. As the recent eruption in Madison demonstrated, more people are becoming sick of being stomped upon. An upsurge of resistance is upon us. At the same time, the government is aware that economic hard times and ultra-rich inspired class warfare is a volatile mixture. Post-9/11 laws and a pumped-up national security apparatus are complemented by courts stacked with authoritarian judges. The dramatic increase in new requests for our grants reflects the collision of these forces. It is hard to predict the next flashpoint, but it is certain that more upheavals are on the horizon.

P.S.  I must take a moment to note the passing yesterday evening of my friend, comrade and courageous legal warrior, Len Weinglass. He will be sorely missed.
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