Northampton Rally is Dec. 3

In Northampton on December 3, there will be a rally to call for an immediate, permanent ceasefire in Gaza. The rally will start at 12:30 p.m. outside city hall. It's being organized by the the Western Mass Coalition for Palestine. The coalition's members include the groups Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), Code Pink, and the Western Mass Area Labor Federation. On November 24 in Hadley, Massachusetts about 100 people attended a rally for the same cause. Hadley borders Northampton.

Batya Sobel was at the Hadley rally. On November 30, Sobel emailed the Valley Post a statement from Molly Aronson of the local JVP chapter: "It has been nearly eight weeks of constant, catastrophic bombardment from the Israel Defense Forces. More than 14,000 Palestinians -- 6,000 of them children -- have died. A pause in fighting is simply not enough -- we are calling for a full, immediate, permanent ceasefire now. Humanitarian groups and the U.N. are repeatedly telling the international community that resuming fighting in Gaza would lead to absolute disaster. It is almost impossible to fathom how the conditions in Gaza could become even worse; we do not have the right words to describe the level of suffering inflicted by the Israeli government on innocent Palestinians.”

Aronson went on, “We are well aware that the scope of Israel's violence is only possible with the funding and backing of the U.S. government. We are imploring senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey to do everything in their power to speak out to end this war – to end the genocide of Palestinian people and to stop voting for military funding to Israel. It is time for Senator Warren to be a leader on this progressive issue and introduce a companion resolution in the senate. Without that action, her words are empty.”

Aronson concluded, “There is no military solution to this violence. Israeli occupation and apartheid makes Israelis and Palestinians unsafe and fuels the rise of anti-Jewish and Islamophobic violence around the world. As a Jewish person, my safety in the diasporic world depends on the Israeli government ending its genocidal violence against Palestinians – not inflicting collective punishment on a group of people already living under Israeli military occupation. This is a time for diplomacy and peace talks; for a permanent ceasefire."

Hannah Moushabeck is a Palestinian-American who was at the Hadley rally. Moushabeck told the Valley Post, “The quote-unquote pause is not a pause for my friends in Gaza who are injured and who still don’t have access to medical supplies. The aid that is getting in is far less than it ever was prior to October 7.”

Mare Berger was at the rally and told the Valley Post, “Every day that passes and there isn’t a permanent cease-fire, more and more Palestinian children and families are killed. This needs to stop now. Without a ceasefire, a child in Gaza was being killed every 10 minutes. Over 6,000 Palestinian children have been killed so far."

Nicole Blum was at the rally and told the Valley Post, "As an American Jew, and member of Jewish Voice for Peace, I am deeply motivated by my grief and outrage at the genocide of Gaza to demand that our government use its tremendous power to broker a permanent ceasefire immediately. The U.S. government gives $3.8 billion a year to Israel, which has been brutally and illegally oppressing Palestinian people for 75 years. Our tax dollars are funding the weapons being sent to enable the atrocities we are bearing witness to. I cannot be a bystander. I stand alongside many Jewish brothers and sisters who refuse to let the murders of Palestinians be carried out in our name -- ostensibly for our collective safety. I believe the safety of Israelis is inextricably linked with Palestinian freedom."

Blum said, "Every week we organize three standouts so people have a place to protest, connect with others who share their grief and frustration, learn about upcoming actions/ways to join in organizing, sing, and chant. We get a lot of honking cars! These draw anywhere from 75 to 200 people each day. Tuesdays we will have a new location in the center of Amherst from 12:30-1:30. Fridays are at the roundabout on the Northampton side of the Coolidge Bridge, 12:30-1:30. Sundays are at the roundabout on the Northampton side of the Coolidge Bridge, 10-11 a.m."

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On November 27, Ed Gibson told the Valley Post that construction of a rail trail in Southampton, Massachusetts will soon start. He works for the town. “We are now into the design and engineering phase of this project, and are looking to have it placed on the Transportation Improvement Project list for funding of the actual construction,” Gibson said. “The town has looked at this for over a decade and it is wonderful that it is getting to be closer to reality.”

The 3.5 mile rail trail will connect to other existing rail trails. Southampton borders Holyoke. “It will run to Route 10 (aka College Highway) by Sheldon’s Ice Cream,” Gibson told the Valley Post in January. “Our best estimates would be that it will take four to five years from now to be open.”

Gibson went on, “Our next steps on the total project after this will be to work with Westfield and the state to find the best route possible to connect with the city of Westfield’s rail trail.”

The group Walk Massachusetts works on this issue, and the group works with bicycle advocacy groups. Some Brattleboro bike-ped activists are members of a Vermont group with a web site at www.LocalMotion.org.

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On December 1, Haley Sommers of the Vermont Department of Corrections told the Valley Post in a voice phone interview that a possible cause of the deaths of 11 people in Vermont prisons so far this year – including one on November 5 near Brattleboro in Springfield, Vermont – could be that “the prison population nationally is aging. Eleven in one year is above average,” she said.

In June, Vermont's Republican governor signed a bill that will spend about $15 million toward the cost of a new prison.

No nation keeps such a high percentage of its people in prison as the USA. Europe's rate is a third of ours. The USA's prison system is racist. That's according to the book “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander.

Vermont's prison system is one of the most racist among the 50 states. Just 1 percent of Vermonters are black but 9 percent of its prisoners are black. Vermont sends prisoners to a private prison in Mississippi.

Vermont uses a private prison – Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Canada do not.

Groups that are working to end mass incarceration have web sites at www.aclu.org and https://ellabakercenter.org

In December 2014, in Oakland, California, anti-prison activists held a rally outside a meeting of the county legislature. They were asking the Alameda county board of supervisors to invest $17 million a year in programs to keep people out of prison by creating jobs for people just getting out of prison. The board rejected the activists’ request. The activists kept returning to the board’s meetings and speaking out during the public comment period. But the board kept rejecting their request. On March 4, 2015, the activists returned to a county board meeting. This time they were ready to get arrested for non-violent civil disobedience. They interrupted the meeting by singing songs from the civil rights movement. The board quickly ended the meeting. Soon, the activists won. They got the $17 million.

There are two main newspapers in Oakland, the Oakland Tribune and the East Bay Express. The Tribune is owned by a corporation in Colorado that owns dozens of other newspapers around the nation. The East Bay Express is owned by a group of local people in Oakland.

There are several radio and TV stations that cover Oakland news. One of them is KPFA, a non-profit radio station whose board of directors is elected by anyone who donates $35 a year or volunteers four hours a year. KPFA rejects the corporate money that NPR stations rely on.

Darris Young was the main organizer of the protests at the Alameda county board of supervisors meeting. He was a prisoner in California in 2008. While he was in prison, he organized a strike by the prisoners. They refused to do their jobs until they got more recreation time. They won. Now he is out of prison. He works for the Ella Baker Center in Oakland as a community organizer. The Valley Post spoke with him in September 2015.

Young told the Valley Post the East Bay Express provided coverage that helped turn out people for the protest in March. He said the Tribune did not. KPFA has covered his group’s work better than the commercial radio and TV stations.

Vermont's incarceration rate is double Europe's rate. In Brattleboro in 2017 there was a freedom march to call on Vermont politicians to reduce the number of people the state keeps in prison.

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