Comm 179 Global Media and Resistance

Comm 179 Global Media and Resistance
Prof. Carol-Lynn Perez, M.A.
Prepared by Dr. Ted M. Coopman
used with full permission
I have put together several case studies of what can be considered
major historical social movements. These are not comprehensive
overviews but should provide a basic framework to understand
where movements have been, what they were about, and where they
are going as all of these continue on in some form even though we
may think of them as in the past. For example, there are clear
connections between the Civil Rights Movement and Black Lives
Matter even though many consider the Civil Rights Movement as
having ended in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Most movement
battles are never completely won or end.
You can’t understand resistance until you have some context and
that is the goal of these readings. Do not forget to look at the
associated multimedia on the Canvas site.
The general mobilization of labor as the
industrial revolution developed was a wide
spread political process or meta-movement,
but also a series of specific sites of struggle.
Labor unions were declared legal organizations
in 1842.
The movement arose out of a response to
horrific works conditions such as 12 hour/ 7
days a week work schedules. For example, in
1835 children employed in the silk mills in
Paterson, NJ went on strike to demand a
reduction to a 11 hour day/6 day week. It was
not unusual for workers to be killed and
maimed due to dangerous work conditions.
The Triangle Shirtwaist Company Fire in 1911
NYC killed one hundred and forty-seven
people, mostly women and young girls
working in sweatshop conditions. Stairway
exits were locked as a precaution against “the
interruption of work.”
Most labor action was instrumental, that is about particular workrelated issues such as hours of work per day, days per week, use of
child labor, work safety, women’s work rights, as well as more general
issues as the basic right to organize, collectively bargain, and strike.
The labor movement has been successful in may ways and its work has
brought us the 8 hours work day and 5 day work week as well as work
safety rules and an end to child labor.
Labor was viciously repressed by both the government and
capitalist employers. It was not unusual in the 19th century
for strikers and protestors to be beaten, shot, killed or
executed for defying their employers. Many employers had
their own militia or private police such as the infamous
Pinkertons. For example, in the 1892 Homestead Strike.
Pinkerton Guards, trying to pave the way for the introduction
of scabs, opened fire on striking Carnegie mill steel- workers.
In the ensuing battle, three Pinkertons surrendered; then,
unarmed, they were set upon and beaten by a mob of
townspeople, most of them women. Seven guards and eleven
strikers and spectators were shot to death.
A general strike in 1877 halted the movement of U.S.
railroads. In the following days, strike riots spread across the
United States. The next week, federal troops were called out
to force an end to the nationwide strike. At the “Battle of the
Viaduct” in Chicago, federal troops killed 30 workers and
wounded over 100. The Thibodaux Massacre (1887). The
Louisiana Militia, aided by bands of “prominent citizens,”
shot at least 35 unarmed black sugar workers striking to gain
a dollar-per-day wage, and lynched two strike leaders. In
1894 Federal troops killed 34 American Railway Union
members in the Chicago area attempting to break a strike,
led by Eugene Debs, against the Pullman Company.
The “Ludlow Massacre” (1914) In an attempt to persuade
strikers at Colorado’s Ludlow Mine Field to return to work,
company “guards,” engaged by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and
other mine operators and sworn into the State Militia just for
the occasion, attacked a union tent camp with machine guns,
then set it afire. Five men, two women and 12 children died
as a result.
The Battle of Matewan (1920). Despite efforts by police chief
(and former miner) Sid Hatfield and Mayor C. Testerman to
protect miners from interference in their union drive in
Matewan, West Virginia, Baldwin-Felts detectives hired by
the local mining company and thirteen of the company’s
managers arrived to evict miners and their families from the
Stone Mountain Mine camp. A gun battle ensued, resulting
in the deaths of 7 detectives, Mayor Testerman, and 2 miners.
Baldwin-Felts detectives assasinated Sid Hatfield 15 months
later, sparking off an armed rebellion of 10,000 West Virginia
coal miners at “The Battle of Blair Mountain,”
In 1920 the U.S. Bureau of Investigation began
carrying out the nationwide Palmer Raids. Federal
agents seized labor leaders and literature in the
hopes of discouraging labor activity. A number of
citizens were turned over to state officials for
prosecution under various anti-anarchy statutes.
The Electric Auto-Lite Strike (1934). In Toledo,
OH, two strikers were killed and over two
hundred wounded by National Guardsmen. Some
1300 National Guard troops, including included
eight rifle companies and three machine gun
companies, were called in to disperse the
In 1937 Police killed 10 and wounded 30 during
the “Memorial Day Massacre” at the Republic
Steel plant in Chicago.
Violence against labor unions and activists greatly
decreased after the Second World War as the large
scale organized labor unions became part of the
establishment in a compact between labor, capital,
and government.
It is worth noting that the labor movement has at
time revolutionary elements and was not above
using violence against capitalists and their agents
as well as strike-breakers and non-union workers.
For example, in1899 When their demand that
only union men be employed was refused,
members of the Western Federation of Miners
dynamited the $250,000 mill of the Bunker Hill
Company at Wardner, Idaho, destroying it
completely. In 1910 a dynamite bomb destroyed a
portion of the Llewellyn Ironworks in Los
Angeles, where a bitter strike was in progress.
Although workers were much more likely to be
the victims than the perpetrators of violence.
Great Railroad Strike, 1877: Poor economic conditions
caused northern railroad companies to cut salaries and
wages, angering workers. A walkout by the employees of
the Baltimore & Ohio line was followed by violent strikes
in major cities such as Chicago, Kansas City and San
Francisco — 10 were killed, for example, in a militia melee
in Baltimore. After 45 days of chaos and many more
deaths, the strike ended after President Rutherford Hayes
used the force of federal troops.
Haymarket Riot, 1886: Tensions mounted as little headway
was made in the eight-hour movement and overall quest to
improve labor conditions. On May 4, 1886, labor leaders
and anarchists spoke to hoards of workers near Haymarket
in Chicago. As the crowd became agitated, 170 armed
police attempted to break it up, prompting an unidentified
person to hurl a bomb at them. A flurry of gunfire ensued,
and by the end of the fiasco, eight officers and numerous
civilians were dead. As a result, four men were executed
and anti-union sentiment swept across the country.
Homestead Strike, 1892: With Andrew Carnegie out of the
country and the vigorously anti-union Henry Clay Frick in
charge, contentious negotiations led to a lockout of the
workforce, who in turn guarded the premises from the
possible use of scabs. When an army of 300 strikebreaking
detectives employed by Frick, also known as the
Pinkertons, arrived on July 6, workers charged them,
provoking gunfire. The 13-hour battle resulted in the
deaths of seven workers and three Pinkertons. In the
following weeks, the company used a variety of tactics to
weaken the union, eventually winning the dispute on
November 17 when the AAISW voted to lift the
Pullman Strike, 1894: A reduction of wages and long,
arduous hours at the Pullman Palace Car Company
prompted 3,000 of its employees to initiate a strike, leading
to a shutdown of the factory. Assistance was provided by
the American Railway Union and its leader Eugene Debs,
whose union members refused to run trains using Pullman
cars. Railroad service in and around Chicago was disrupted,
but Attorney General Richard Olney used claims of
violence (13 strikers were killed) to obtain federal troops
to quell the strike. President Grover Cleveland justified the
action by asserting it interfered with delivery of U.S. mail.
Great Anthracite Coal Strike 1902: The United Mine
Workers of America began a strike which threatened to
create an energy crisis. Seeking better wages and
conditions, The UMWA struck in eastern Pennsylvania, an
area that contained the majority of the nation’s supply of
Anthracite coal. As the winter of 1903 approached
President Theodore Roosevelt became concerned that a
heating crisis could develop and attempted to intervene –
unsuccessfully. Industrialist and financier J.P. Morgan
believed the strike could threaten his businesses and made
a deal with the union. The UMWA’s initial demands were
for a 20% wage increase. They wound up with a 10%
Steel Strike of 1919: Following World War I, workers
represented by the American Federation of Labor (AFL)
organized a strike against the United States Steel
Corporation as a result of poor working conditions, long
hours, low wages, and corporate harassment regarding
union involvement. The number of strikers quickly grew
to 350,000, shutting down nearly half of the steel
industry. Company owners, however, invoked public
concerns over Communism and immigration as a way of
turning public sentiment against the unions, resulting in
the strike’s failure and ensuring an absence of union
organization in the steel industry for the next fifteen
Textile Workers Strike of 1934: On Labor Day, after years
of long hours and low wages, American textile workers set
out on strike, in response to the negligent representation
of textile labor in FDR’s National Recovery
Administration. The United Textile Workers (UTW)
organized 400,000 to walk out for just over twenty days,
but a lack of outside support and an excess of textile
materials, especially in the Southern states, forced the
strike to end without any of the original demands being
met. Many workers were blacklisted as a result.
1946 Bituminous Coal Strike: On April Fools day,
the United Mine Workers of America called on
400,000 bituminous coal miners to strike for safer
conditions, health benefits, and pay. The strike
came at a time when the national economy was
recovering from the second World War, and
president Truman saw the UMWA’s actions as
counterproductive to national industrial recovery.
Truman approached the union with a settlement.
When the workers refused the proposal, they
were fined $3.5 million, forcing their agreement
and the end of the strike. Although forced, most
of the UMWA’s demands were met in Truman’s
Steel Strike of 1959: Steel industry profits were
skyrocketing and the United Steelworkers of
America demanded higher wages. At the same
time, management was working against the
union to lose a contract clause which protected
worker jobs and hours. This conflict resulted in a
500,000 worker strike the effects of which were
felt throughout the industry. In the end, the union
received wage increases and preserved their
contract clause.
UPS workers strike (1997): The largest strike of
the 1990’s was lead by 185,000 UPS Teamsters.
They were looking for the creation of full-time
jobs rather than part-time, increased wages, and
the retention of their multi-employer pension
plan. These workers gained major support from
the public and eventually had all of their demands
met. UPS, however, lost more than $600 million
in business as a result of the ordeal.
The labor movement achieved many large victories that
improved the lives of working people.
Ended child labor
Establish the legal right of workers to form unions and
collectively bargain for wages, benefits and working conditions
Establish the 8 hour work day and paid overtime
Win workers’ comp benefits for workers injured on the job
Secure unemployment insurance for workers who lose their
Secure a guaranteed minimum wage
Improve workplace safety and reduce on the job fatalities
Win pensions for workers
Win health care insurance for workers
Win paid sick leave, vacations, and holidays as standard benefits
for most workers
Win the right for public sector workers to collectively bargain
Win passage of the Civil Right Acts and Title VII which outlaws
job discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national
Win passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act
Win passage of the Family Medical Leave Act
The Civil Rights Movement – the
campaign to provide full rights to
African Americans – in the US is
largely seen as a phenomenon that
unfolded during the the 1950s and
1960s. However, this was part of a
broader movement that began
before the the Civil War with the
abolitionist movement.
Despite the abolition of slavery,
African Americans were denied
basic rights, especially in the
south, where the infamous Jim
Crow Laws relegated them second
class citizens.
CIVIL RIGHTS 1863-1952
1863 — President Lincoln issues Emancipation Proclamation freeing “all slaves in areas still in rebellion.”
1865 — Civil War ends. 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery, added to the Constitution.
1867 — Series of measures aimed at suffrage, other redresses for former slaves passed over President Andrew Johnson’s vetoes.
1868 — 14th Amendment conferring citizenship added to Constitution.
1870 — 15th Amendment barring racial discrimination in voting added to Constitution.
1875 — Congress passes civil rights act granted equal rights in public accommodations and jury duty.
1877 — Henry O. Flipper becomes first black graduate of U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
1883 — Supreme Court invalidates 1875 Civil Rights Act, saying that the federal government cannot bar discrimination by corporations or
1896 — Supreme Court approves “separate but equal” segregation doctrine.
1906 — Race riots in Atlanta; 21 dead, city under martial law.
1909 — National Congress on the Negro convenes, leading to founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
1923 — Oklahoma placed under martial law because of Ku Klux Klan activities.
1925 — Ku Klux Klan marches on Washington.
1943 — War contractors barred from racial discrimination.
Riots in Harlem, Detroit.
1948 — President Truman issues executive order outlawing segregation in U.S. military.
1952 — Racial, ethnic barriers to naturalization removed by Immigration and Naturalization Act.
The Jim Crow laws were state and local laws enacted between 1876 and 1965. They legally
mandated racial segregation in all public facilities in Southern states of the former
Confederacy, with a supposedly “separate but equal” status for black Americans. In reality,
the treatment and facilities such as schools and housing were inferior. Northern
segregation was generally a matter of practice, with patterns of segregation in housing
enforced by covenants, bank lending practices, and job discrimination.
Stepping out of line beyond the bounds of “your place” as an African American could have
deadly consequences.
Segregation was the norm until after World War II when some barriers began to fall. Major
League Baseball brought in its first African American player in 1947 and President Harry
Truman desegregated the Military in1948.
CIVIL RIGHTS 1955-1968
The Civil Rights Movement was characterized by major campaigns of civil
resistance. Often acts of nonviolent protest and civil disobedience produced
conflicts between activists and government authorities. These highlighted the
inequities faced by African Americans in both the north and the south.
It is not an exaggeration to say the social upheavals of the 1960s and the rise of
post WWII social movement activities began with the Civil Rights Movement.
1954 U.S. Supreme Court declares school segregation unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education of
Topeka ruling.
1955 Rosa Parks refuses to move to the back of a Montgomery, Alabama, bus as required by city ordinance;
boycott follows and bus segregation ordinance is declared unconstitutional.
Federal Interstate Commerce Commission bans segregation on interstate trains and buses.
1956 Coalition of Southern congressmen calls for massive resistance to Supreme Court desegregation rulings.
1957 Arkansas Gov. Orval Rubus uses National Guard to block nine black students from attending a Little
Rock High School; following a court order, President Eisenhower sends in federal troops to ensure compliance.
1960 Four black college students begin sit-ins at lunch counter of a Greensboro, North Carolina, restaurant
where black patrons are not served.
1961 Freedom Rides begin from Washington, D.C., into Southern states.
President Kennedy sends federal troops to the University of Mississippi to quell riots so that James Meredith,
the school’s first black student, can attend.
The Supreme Court rules that segregation is unconstitutional in all transportation facilities.
The Department of Defense orders full integration of military reserve units, the National Guard excluded.
Civil rights leader Medgar Evers is killed by a sniper.
Race riots prompt modified martial law in Cambridge, Maryland.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivers “I Have a Dream” speech to hundreds of thousands at the March on Washington.
Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, leaves four young black girls dead.
Congress passes Civil Rights Act declaring discrimination based on race illegal after 75-day long filibuster.
Three civil rights workers disappear in Mississippi; found buried six weeks later.
Riots in Harlem, Philadelphia.
March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to demand protection for voting rights.
Two civil rights workers slain earlier in the year in Selma.
Malcolm X assassinated.
Riot in Watts, Los Angeles.
New voting rights act signed.
1966 Edward Brooke, R-Massachusetts, elected first black U.S. senator in 85 years.
1967 Riots in Detroit, Newark, New Jersey.
Thurgood Marshall first black to be named to the Supreme Court.
Carl Stokes (Cleveland) and Richard G. Hatcher (Gary, Indiana) elected first black mayors of major U.S. cities.
1968 Martin Luther King Jr. assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee
Poor People’s March on Washington — planned by King before his death — goes on.
CIVIL RIGHTS 1955-1968
After the Brown decision in 1954, the movement took
on direct action as a tactic. This included sit-ins,
marches, and boycotts, with a focus on non-violent
civil disobedience, many of the tactics that we
associate with social movements. Dr. King was
influenced by the non-violent tactics of Gandhi in
African Americans and their allies
faced brutal and violent
repression at the hands of local
authorities and countermovement thugs. African
Americans in the South were all
to familiar with violence where
violence, torture, and extrajudicial killings had been all to
Many people were killed and
thousands injured. The difference
now was that through the new
medium of television, the dark
secret of oppression was now on
display to the world.
Most social movements have the ultimate goal of influencing law and policy. The major
accomplishment of the Civil Rights Movement was the Civil Rights Act which set
overriding federal law to ensure equal protection for people of color and women (more
on this in a later workshop). Here are some major elements of this act.
Outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin in hotels, motels,
restaurants, theaters, and all other public accommodations engaged in interstate commerce.
Prohibited state and municipal governments from denying access to public facilities on
grounds of race, color, religion or national origin.
Encouraged the desegregation of public schools and authorized the U.S. Attorney General to
file suits to enforce said act.
Prevents discrimination by government agencies that receive federal funds. If an agency is
found in violation of Title VI, that agency may lose its federal funding.
Title IX made it easier to move civil rights cases from state courts with segregationist judges
and all-white juries to federal court. This was of crucial importance to civil rights activists
who could not get a fair trial in state courts.
While the Civil Rights Act was signed
in 1964, the struggle and violence
continued until the Civil Rights
Movement (historically) ended in 1968.
Law is one thing, but culture and
practice is something else. While the
plight of people of color has improved,
the struggle for equality continues.
Current issues such as racial profiling
and unfair comparative sentencing
continue to confront African Americans.
The legacy of racism is not overcome by
time alone, but through constant
vigilance and an unwillingness to settle
for the way things are and a desire to
build a more equal world.
While the modern Women’s Liberation Movement began
in the 1960s, the cause of equal right for women goes back
to the dawn of old social movements in the 19th century
with the struggle for women’s suffrage. The first nation to
grant women the right to vote on a national level was New
Zealand in 1893.
The Suffrage Movement emerged in the US in 1848 at a
women’s rights convention is held in Seneca Falls, NY.
The first major event in the the struggle for suffrage was
the debate on trying include women’s voting rights along
side those of African American males in the 15th
Amendment. It was decided that securing the rights of
African American males would lead to women’s suffrage.
Out of this debate the two primary women’s organizations
merged – Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony
formed the National Woman Suffrage Association to work
for suffrage on the federal level as well as to press for
institutional changes, such as the granting of property
rights to married women. Lucy Stone and Julia Ward Howe
created the American Woman Suffrage Association, which
worked to secure the ballot through state legislation. In
1890 the two groups united to form the National
American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). The
first state to grant women’s suffrage was Wyoming in
The next generation to take on the struggle introduced social movement tactics such as protests.
Alice Paul was forced to resign from NAWSA because of her insistence on using militant directaction tactics such as mass marches and hunger strikes. She later organized the National Woman’s
One of the largest protests was the day before Woodrow Wilson was to be inaugurated as
President in 1913. Between 5,000 to 8,000 suffragists marched down Pennsylvania Avenue. Many
protesters were assaulted onlookers who opposed the women’s right-to-vote. Many women were
injured. The public outrage at the violence translated to wider support for the suffrage movement.
It is interesting to note the concurrent campaign for prohibition – while this outside the scope of
this case study – I recommend the Ken Burns PBS documentary for an in-depth analysis on the
suffrage movement role.
The combined efforts of women and their allies led to the ratification of the 19th Amendment on
August 26, 1920.
1906: Finland
1913: Norway
1915: Denmark and Iceland
1917: The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; the Netherlands
1918: Great Britain: Women (women over 30/all women 1940); Canada (Quebec in 1940); Austria; Czechoslovakia; Poland, and Sweden
1919: Germany and Luxembourg
1929: Ecuador
1931: Spain
1932: Brazil
1937: Philippines
1939: El Salvador
1942: the Dominican Republic
1944: France
1945: Japan; Guatemala,
1946: Argentina; Belgium; Italy; Romania, and Yugoslavia
1947: China and Liberia
1955: Indonesia
1958: Uganda
1960: Nigeria
1971: Switzerland
1984: Liechtenstein
As America entered World War II there was a huge labor shortage as
men were inducted into the military and the US ramped up the
production of war materials. Six million women entered the
workforce, many into positions that had been previously the purview
of men. Another 200, 000 served in the military or Red Cross.
However, after the war, the men returned and women were expected
to go back to their roles as housewives and mothers. Still, this
experience of independence helped set the stage for the women’s
A major milestone in the liberation movement was the introduction of oral
birth control in 1960 – for the first time women could take control of their
reproduction. This coincided with more and more women entering the
The movement emerged with the publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine
Mystique in 1963. Friedan chronicled a wide-spread dissatisfaction of women
(mainly educated) in the US.
Comparative low pay the concurrent rise of the Civil Rights Movement brought
about legal and legislative reforms. Women were included in the Civil Rights
Act of 1964, but it provisions for women were largely ignored. The resulted in
the formation of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966.
The National Organization for Women (NOW) pledged “to take action to
bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society now,
exercising all the privileges and responsibilities thereof in truly equal partnership
with men.”
NOW filed numerous lawsuits against the government and major
corporations over equal treatment and won many victories.
At their 1967 convention NOWS platform called for an Equal Rights
Amendment (ERA) to the Constitution, prohibiting sex discrimination;
equal educational, job training, and housing opportunities for women;
and repeal of laws limiting access to contraceptive devices and abortion.
While the ERA failed to win ratification by required number of states,
the movement has been widely successful.
In the late 1960s women’s liberation groups multiplied, bearing such names as the Redstockings, WITCH
(the Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell), and the Feminists. By 1970, there were at
least 500 women’s liberation groups, including 50 in New York, 25 in Boston, 30 in Chicago, and 35 in
San Francisco. Women’s liberation groups established the first feminist bookstores, battered women’s
shelters, rape crisis centers, and abortion counseling centers. In 1971, Gloria Steinem and others
published Ms., the first national feminist magazine. The first 300,000 copies were sold out in eight days.
Radical new ideas began to fill the air. One women’s liberation leader, Ti-Grace Atkinson, denounced
marriage as “slavery,” “legalized rape,” and “unpaid labor.” Meanwhile, a host of new words and phrases
entered the language, such as “consciousness raising,” “Ms.,” “bra burning,” “sexism,” “male chauvinist
On August 26, 1970, the 50th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, the women’s
liberation movement demonstrated its growing strength by mounting a march called Strike for Equality.
In New York City, 50,000 women marched down Fifth Avenue; in Boston, 2,000 marched; in Chicago,
3,000. Members of virtually all feminist groups joined together in a display of unity and strength.
In 1960 only 3.5 percent of the nation’s lawyers were women, 10 percent of the nation’s
scientists, and less than 2 percent of the nation’s leading business executives. In the 1970s the
percentage of female lawyers increased by 9 percent, professors by 6 percent, and doctors by
3.6 percent. By 1986, women comprised 15 percent of the nation’s lawyers, 40 percent of all
computer programmers, and 29 percent of the country’s managers and administrators.
Women now comprise a majority of college students, have surpassed men in earning M.A.s
Ph.D.s, and are approaching equity in medical degrees. Overall, women out-perform men in
Still, women are highly under-represented in leadership position in both the public and private
sectors. Less than 14% of executive officers and less than 20% of seats in Congress are held by
A full-time female worker earns only 68 cents for every $1 paid to men. The “feminization of
poverty” was one of the growing trends of the 1970s onward. Families headed by women are
four and a half times as likely to be poor as families headed by males. Although female-headed
families constitute only 15 percent of the U.S. population, they account for over 50 percent of
the poor population.
1949– Simone de Beauvoir’s book, The Second Sex, was published in the United States. The term “women’s liberation” was first used in the book.
1960 – The Federal Food and Drug Administration approved birth control pills. They were available on the market the following year.
1961 – President Kennedy created the President’s Commission on the Status of Women chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt.
1963 – The Equal Pay Act of 1963 was amended. This prohibited sex-based wage discrimination between men and women in the same establishment doing similar work.
1963 – Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique. The book questioned the belief that woman were happy with their marriages and with motherhood.
1964 – The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed by Congress and signed by President Johnson. This prohibited discrimination in the work environment based on gender.
1965 – The Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioners (EEOC) were appointed to oversee the enforcement of the Civil Rights Act; President Johnson’s Executive
Order 11246 ordered “federal agencies and federal contractor’s to take ‘affirmative action ‘ in overcoming employment discrimination”.
1966 – Because the EEOC was unable to enforce the Civil Rights Act, 28 women formed the National Organization for Women (NOW). Betty Friedan was elected the
first national president of the Organization at the founding conference held in Washington D.C.
1967 – The National Organization for Women was formally incorporated. Membership was up to 1035.
1968 – One hundred women protested the Miss America Beauty Pageant because it promoted “physical attractiveness and charm as the primary measure of a woman’s
1971 – The initial Equal Rights Amendment (in its original form) passed the House of Representatives.
1972 – The Equal Rights Amendment passed the Senate and was sent to be ratified by the states. This was a major victory for women’s rights movements.
1973 – Judge Harry A. Blackmun wrote the decision for Rowe vs. Wade which legalized first trimester abortions; NOW’s Task Force on Rape was formed to redefine rape
as a crime of violence against women and to laws dealing with rape and how it was handled at trial.
1974 – The first “March for Life” pro-life rally against abortion took place in Washington D.C. The march was organized by Nellie Gray.
1975 – Joanne Little was acquitted on the murder Clarence Alligood. This set a precedent for the rape victim’s right of self-defense in sexual assault cases.
1978 – In August, over 100,000 people marched in Washington D.C. to extend the time limit to ratify the ERA.
1979 – The National Organization for Women membership was 100,000 members strong.
2008 – NOW has 500,000 members and 550 chapters in all 50 states and the District of Columbia
Women in the west are still highly
under-represented in leadership,
while 50%+ of the population they
hold only 14% of top executive
positions, 19% of Congressional
seats, and 20% of Senate seats.
However, in many cultures women
are still treated as the property of
their families and spouses. The
education of women is seen as the
biggest opportunity to economic
development. Gender equality
benefits entire societies including
reducing divorce, depression, and
The GLBT Movement (also known as the Gay
Rights or Gay and Lesbian Rights Movement)
is a great example of a meta-movement – a
movement of movements – what most large
scale social movements could be more
accurately called.
Participants interrelated goals involved equity
for sexual and gender minorities and
liberation for society from sexual oppression.
Broadly, this follows the larger trend begun
by labor, civil rights, and women’s rights
movements as the demand for
enfranchisement and equity expanded from
the wealthy few. Moreover, they collectively
rebels against concepts of normality based on
(in the west) a default of white, male,
heterosexual, and protestant that served as
the basis for most science, law, policy, and
The concept of normality, and the pressure to conform, is a powerful
cultural force especially if it precepts are inscribed in law and policy.
This really illustrates how new social movements “identity” politics
intersects with more traditional resource driven social movements.
That is, it can be hard to separate the two as culture and practice is the
only place law and policy can emerge. Moreover, that cultural processes
can be almost invisible to those immersed in it. This is particularly
true if you comprise part of the majority. However, If you are a
minority group, the world looks quite different.
This is one reason why it can be hard for the minority to get the
attention and interest of the majority. Thus, setting the irony of
needing the majority to validate your existence and rights that you feel
exist outside of their validation.
The battle for recognition and decriminalization of GLBT
activity tracked the rise of other enfranchisement movements.
The broader critique of Victorian sexual morality and
enslavement of women was extended by some to include gays
and lesbians. Some advocates of free love in the early 20th
century, such as feminist Emma Goldman, also spoke in
defense of same-sex love and against repressive legislation.
The GLBT movement began to take shape within the rise of
social movement activities in the 1960s. The Stonewall Riots
in Greenwich Village in New York City in June of 1969. While
police raids and harassment were common at establishments
that catered to a gay clientele, especially those that served the
transgender community, a series of small events led to a
confrontation between patrons, locals, and police. Riots
continued for several days as decades of rage boiled over into
the street of New York.
This set-off a broader movement for equal treatment and the
end of harassment, such as the Gay Liberation Front
(1969-1972). A year after the Stonewall Riots New Yorkers
organized the first pride march in US history – it covered 15
city blocks. Marches quickly spread to other major American
cities. These activities resulted in a high profile for the GBLT
community and set off efforts not just for equal rights and the
end of repressive laws and police harassment, but for
acceptance by the larger society. The right to be openly GLBT
and participate in civic life.
On June 26, 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that bans on same sex marriage (as recognized by the state) violate equal protection under
the14th Amendment. The Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment states in part “No State shall make or enforce any law…deny to
any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
State and Federal governments have structurally created numerous material and legal benefits and protections for those who enter into legal
marriage. To exclude any class of people from such benefits and protections requires a narrow and compelling governmental interest. No
federal court has identified any valid interests in denying marriage equity. Instead, one court and the dissenters on the Supreme Court
argued on the technicality of the scope of authority of the Federal government. However, the 9th Amendment states, “The enumeration in
the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” That is, not explicitly outlined
in the Constitution or by Congress. The framers wisely designed the Constitution to protect both the people from the excesses of the state
and groups from the tyranny of their peers.
Pubic opinion of marriage equity has changed rapidly and radically in a very short period of time. In 1996, only 27% of Americans supported
same sex marriage. In 2004 Massachusetts became the first state to recognize same sex marriage, 42% approved. By 2015 it was 60%.
The central conflict is between a cultural/religious practice that was codified over time into law then becoming a legal/contractual
agreement managed by the state while still retaining religious connotations. While religions are largely protected from government
interference, laws must meet standards of equity.
Marriage equity as one aspect of the GLBT movement took a largely legislative and legal course toward resolution. It
all began with an activist finding a couple in a state (Hawaii) with strong strong privacy and non-discrimination
clauses in its Constitution.
This was complicated by the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which limits federal recognition of marriage to
one man and one woman. Normally, contracts (including marriage) in one state must be recognized by all other
states. This specifically allows states not to recognize same sex unions from other states.
States attempt work-arounds, such as Vermont creating civil unions, to try and afford rights and protections with
angering those with religious views of marriage. However, this creates a classic separate-but-equal conundrum,
which is usually unconstitutional.
Gavin Newsome, then mayor of San Francisco, violates state law by issuing marriage certificates to gay couples.
This created a situation where there were two defined classes of married people. Instead of having to argue that
same sex couples should have the right to marry, now the courts have to justify denying those rights, and taking
away those certificates.
A counter movement developed (Prop 8 in CA). A majority of states hold referendums that limit marriage to one
man and one woman. However, citizens cannot violate basic Constitutional rights via the ballot box as these right
are “unalienable.”
Lower Federal courts then take cases and make decisions that effect their jurisdictions. Every Federal court found
that denying marriage equity was unconstitutional except one. This set up the conflict that forced the Supreme
Court to take the case.
1924: The Society for Human Rights in Chicago becomes the country’s earliest known gay rights organization.
1948: Alfred Kinsey publishes Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, which revealed that homosexuality was more widespread than was
commonly believed.
1951: The Mattachine Society, the first national gay rights organization, is formed by Harry Hay, considered by many to be the founder of the
gay rights movement.
1956: The Daughters of Bilitis, a pioneering national lesbian organization, is founded.
1962: Illinois becomes the first state in the U.S. to decriminalize homosexual acts between consenting adults in private.
1969; The Stonewall riots transform the gay rights movement from a small movement of activists into a broader protest for equal rights and
acceptance. On June 27, patrons of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York’s Greenwich, fought back during a police raid, sparking three days
of riots.
The American Psychiatric Association removes homosexuality from its official list of mental disorders.
Harvey Milk runs for city supervisor in San Francisco on a socially liberal platform that opposes government involvement in personal sexual
matters. Milk comes in 10th out of 32 candidates winning in the Castro District and other liberal neighborhoods. He receives a lot of media
attention for his passionate speeches, brave political stance, and media skills.
1976: San Francisco Mayor George Moscone appoints Harvey Milk to the Board of Permit Appeals, making Milk the first openly gay city
commissioner in the United States. Milk decides to run for the California State Assembly and Moscone is forced to fire him from the Board of
Permit Appeals after just five weeks. Milk loses the State Assembly race by fewer than 4,000 votes. Believing the Alice B. Toklas LGBT
Democratic Club will never support him politically, Milk co-founds the San Francisco Gay Democratic Club after his election loss.
1977: Activists in Miami, Florida pass a civil rights ordinance making sexual orientation discrimination illegal in Dade County. Save Our
Children, a campaign by a Christian fundamentalist group and headed by singer Anita Bryant, is launched in response to the ordinance. In the
largest special election of any in Dade County history, 70% vote to overturn the ordinance – a crushing defeat for gay activists.
On January 8, Harvey Milk makes national news when he is sworn in as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
Running against 16 other candidates, he wins the election by 30 percent. Milk begins his term by sponsoring a civil rights bill
that outlaws sexual orientation discrimination. Only one supervisor votes against it and Mayor Moscone signs it into law.
John Briggs drops out of the California governor’s race, but receives support for Proposition 6, also known as the Briggs
Initiative, a proposal to fire any teacher or school employee who publicly supports gay rights. Harvey Milk campaigns against the
bill and attends every event hosted by Briggs. In the summer, attendance greatly increases at Gay Pride marches in San Francisco
and Los Angeles, partly in response to Briggs. President Jimmy Carter, former Governor Ronald Reagan, and Governor Jerry
Brown speak out against the proposition. On November 7, voters reject the proposition by more than a million votes.
On November 27, Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone are assassinated by former Francisco city supervisor Dan White. He
had recently resigned and wanted his job back, but was being passed over because he wasn’t the best fit for the liberal leaning
Board of Supervisors and the ethnic diversity in White’s district. San Francisco pays tribute to Harvey Milk by naming several
locations after him, included Harvey Milk Plaza at the intersection of Market and Castro streets. The San Francisco Gay
Democratic Club changes its name to the Harvey Milk Memorial Gay Democratic Club.
1982: Wisconsin becomes the first state to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
1993: The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy is instituted for the U.S. military, permitting gays to serve in the military but banning
homosexual activity. President Clinton’s original intention to revoke the prohibition against gays in the military was met with
stiff opposition. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was resulting compromise.
1996: In Romer v. Evans, the Supreme Court strikes down Colorado’s Amendment 2, which denied gays and lesbians protections
against discrimination, calling them “special rights.”
2000: Vermont becomes the first state in the country to legally recognize civil unions between gay or
lesbian couples. It stops short of referring to same-sex unions as marriage, which the state defines as
The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Lawrence v. Texas that sodomy laws in the U.S. are unconstitutional.
In November, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that barring gays and lesbians from
marrying violates the state constitution. Strong opposition followed the ruling.
2004: On May 17, same-sex marriages become legal in Massachusetts.
2005: Civil unions become legal in Connecticut.
2006: Civil unions become legal in New Jersey.
2007: The House of Representatives approves a bill ensuring equal rights in the workplace for gay
men, lesbians, and bisexuals.
2008: A New York State appeals court unanimously votes that valid same-sex marriages performed in other states must be recognized by employers in New York, granting
same-sex couples the same rights as other couples.
In February, the state of Oregon passes a law that allows same-sex couples to register as domestic partners allowing them some spousal rights of married couples.
On May 15, the California Supreme Court rules that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. By November 3rd, more than 18,000 same-sex couples have
On November 4, California voters approve a ban on same-sex marriage called Proposition 8. The attorney general of California, Jerry Brown, asked the state’s Supreme
Court to review the constitutionality of Proposition 8. The ban throws into question the validity of the more than 18,000 marriages already performed, but Attorney
General Brown reiterated in a news release that he believed the same-sex marriages performed in California before November 4 should remain valid, and the California
Supreme Court, which upheld the ban in May 2009, agreed, allowing those couples married under the old law to remain that way.
November 4, voters in California, Arizona, and Florida approved the passage of measures that ban same-sex marriage. Arkansas passed a measure intended to bar gay men
and lesbians from adopting children.
On October 10, the Supreme Court of Connecticut rules that same-sex couples have the right to marry. This makes Connecticut the second state to legalize civil marriage
for same-sex couples. The court rules that the state cannot deny gay and lesbian couples the freedom to marry under Connecticut’s constitution, and that the state’s civil
union law does not provide same-sex couples with the same rights as heterosexual couples.
2009: The Iowa Supreme Court unanimously rejects the state law banning same-sex marriage. Twenty-one days later, county recorders are required to issue marriage
licenses to same-sex couples.
On April 7, the Vermont Legislature votes to override Gov. Jim Douglas’s veto of a bill allowing gays and lesbians to marry, legalizing same-sex marriage. It is the first state
to legalize gay marriage through the legislature; the courts of the other states in which the marriage is legal—Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa—gave approval.
On May 6, the governor of Maine legalized same-sex marriage. However, citizens voted to overturn that law when they went to the polls in November, and Maine became
the 31st state to ban the practice.
On June 3, New Hampshire governor John Lynch signs legislation allowing same-sex marriage (the sixth state to allow same-sex marriage). The law stipulates that
religious organizations and their employees will not be required to participate in the ceremonies.
On June 17, President Obama signs a referendum allowing the same-sex partners of federal employees to receive benefits. However, they will not be allowed full health
coverage. T
On August 12, President Obama posthumously awards Harvey Milk the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Congress approves a law signed in December 2009 that legalizes same-sex
marriage in the District of Columbia.
August 4, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that Proposition 8,
the 2008 referendum that banned same-sex marriage in California, violates
the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.
December 18, the U.S. Senate repeals Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The ban will not
be lifted officially until President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates,
and Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, agree
that the military is ready to enact the change and that it won’t affect military
2011: New York passes a law to allow same-sex marriage. New York is now
the largest state that allows gay and lesbian couples to marry.
February 7, The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California ruled 2–1 that
Proposition 8 is unconstitutional because it violates the Equal Protection
Clause of the 14th Amendment.
February 13, Washington becomes the seventh state to legalize gay
March 1, Maryland passes legislation to legalize gay marriage, becoming
the eighth state to do so.
May 9, President Barack Obama endorses same-sex marriage.
Nov. 6, Gay marriage is approved in a popular vote for the first time.
Maine and Maryland vote in favor of allowing same-sex marriage. In
addition, voters in Minnesota reject a measure to ban same-sex marriage.
Feb. 27, in a policy shift for party members, several Republicans back a legal brief asking the Supreme Court to rule that same-sex
marriage is a constitutional right. The brief is filed as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to consider overturning Proposition 8, the
California initiative banning same-sex marriage, as well as overturning the Defense of Marriage Act.
March 26, the Supreme Court begins two days of historical debate over gay marriage. During the debate, the Supreme Court consider
overturning Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. The Supreme Court’s decision will be announced in June 2013.
April 29, Jason Collins of the NBA’s Washington Wizards announces in an essay in Sports Illustrated that he is gay. Collins is the first
active athlete in the NBA, NFL, NHL, or MLB to make the announcement.
May 2, after same-sex marriage legislation passes in both houses of Rhode Island’s legislature, Governor Lincoln Chafee signs it into law.
May 7, Governor Jack Markell signs the Civil Marriage Equality and Religious Freedom act, legalizing same-sex marriage for the state of
May 13, in Minnesota, the State Senate votes in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. The vote comes a week after it passes in the
House. Gay couples will be able to marry in Minnesota in August 2013.
June 26, the Supreme Court rules that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional.
July 17, Queen Elizabeth II approves a same-sex marriage bill for England and Wales. Her approval comes a day after it passes in
Parliament. While the queen’s approval is simply a formality, her quick response clears the way for the first gay marriages to happen as
soon as 2014 in England and Wales.
Aug. 1, Minnesota and Rhode Island begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples this month.
Oct. 21, In an unanimous vote, the New Jersey Supreme Court rejects Gov. Chris Christie’s request to
delay the implementation date of same-sex weddings. Same-sex couples in New Jersey begin to marry.
New Jersey becomes the 14th state to recognize same-sex marriages.
May 20, A judge strikes down the same-sex marriage ban in Pennsylvania, making the state the 18th to
legalize gay marriage. The judge rules that Pennsylvania’s 1996 ban on same-sex marriage is
Oct. 6, The U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear appeals of rulings in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia,
and Wisconsin that allowed same-sex marriage. The move paves the way for same-sex marriages in the
five states. In fact, Virginia announced that unions would begin that day.
Nov. 12, The U.S. Supreme Court denies a request to block same-sex marriage in Kansas.
Nov. 19, A federal judge strikes down Montana’s ban that same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
Nov. 20, The U.S. Supreme Court denies a request to block same-sex marriage in South Carolina. The
ruling means South Carolina becomes the 35th U.S. state where same-sex marriage is legal.
June 26, The U.S. Supreme Court ruled, 5–4, in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex couples have the
fundamental right to marry and that states cannot say that marriage is reserved for heterosexual couples.
The fight for
GLBT recognition
is not some
abstract desire for
Historically, gays,
people have been
the victims of
vicious repression.
GLBT people were
sent along with
Jews by Nazis to
In many places
penalties include
jail time or death.
This graphic
details the state of
GLBT rights in
Islamic cultures.
(Islam and homosexuality: Straight
but narrow | The Economist http://
The Environmental Movement is
the ultimate meta-movement. It
ranges from preserving open space
to militant actions against
organizations who are seen as
destroying the environment.
Aspects of it address everything
from environmental racism (eg.
putting dirty industries in low
income neighborhoods), to saving
whales from hunters, to clean air
and water and beyond.
Often issues that may seem more at
home in other movements overlap
with environmental concerns.
Broadly, the movement falls in several categories or focal points.
Conservation: sustainable use of natural resources.
Environmental Conservation: protect and preserve nature and natural resources.
Environmental Health: taking care of the environment because of its impacts on
human life and health.
Environmental Justice: making sure all people share equally in the burdens of
benefits of polluting industries and activities, so not just the poor and minorities
who bare the costs.
Ecology: placing the earth and natural systems on par with human centric concerns.
Green Technology: the development of eco-friendly technologies to meet human
needs and replace older dirty technologies like fossil fuels.
Anti-nuclear: Agitation against nuclear power and nuclear weapons.
Opposition to nuclear power grew out of campaigns to end the testing of nuclear
weapons and for nuclear disarmament. During the Cold War, the planet was 20
minutes away from nuclear annihilation at any moment.
The issues of nuclear power illustrates the complex nature of environmentalism.
Traditionally, people opposed nuclear power because of the highly toxic waste it
produces as well as the danger of accidents as we recently saw after the 2011
earthquake and tsunami in Japan or the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. The
contamination after such events can functionally linger forever.
Many leading environmentalists, including the former director of Greenpeace
International, view global climate change as such an overwhelming threat that
reducing carbon emission immediately is worth the risk. Nuclear power is the
only “industrial scale” non-carbon” producing power source currently available.
Moreover, that new technology greatly reduces waste and the chances of
accidents. So which is worse?
The Environmental Movement also illustrates how one movement
can encompass many forms of protest and action as well as diverse
participants. As you can see in the timeline, President Nixon
supported several landmark environmental laws.
Violence has been a tool for both protesters and governments in
the battle over the environment. The French government was
blamed for sinking a the Rainbow Warrior, a Greenpeace vessel
protesting nuclear testing in the pacific, killing two crew members.
So called “eco-terror” groups such as the Earth Liberation Front
burn buildings and destroy equipment. Such groups are almost
always ideologically opposed to violence against people.
Redwood Summer is an example of a direct
action environmental campaign. Organized in
1990, it was an effort to stop clear cutting of
ancient redwood forests in Northern
California. Cutting had intensified after the
leveraged buy-outs of several major logging
companies. The campaign was organized by
the radical EARTHFIRST! environmental
Activists used tactics such as tree spiking
(literally putting metal spike into trees to
make then hard t cut down, sabotaging
logging equipment, erecting roadblocks of
logging roads, chaining them selves to
roadblocks and trees, and building tree
houses in trees slated for cutting (See Julia
Hill in the timeline).
Judi Bari and Daryle Cherney EARTHFIRST!
organizers were seriously injured when a
pipe bomb exploded in their car in Oakland,
CA. Initially the FBI accused the pair of
carrying the bomb. However, no proof was
found. The FBI and Oakland Police were later
found guilty of violating both activist civil
rights during the investigation. The bombers
were never found.
The level of tension and violence in Northern
California was extreme during this campaign.
While some groves or trees were saved, it
largely failed to curtail logging. Eventually,
more trees were saved though conservation
and regulatory efforts as well as the poor
practices and faulty economic underpinnings
of logging companies.
1864: Posthumous publication of Henry David Thoreau’s The Maine Woods, in
which Thoreau called for the establishment of “national preserves” of virgin forest.
Congress passed legislation giving Yosemite Valley to the state of California as a
1866: The word “ecology” was coined by the German biologist Ernst Haeckel.
1872: Congress passed legislation making Yellowstone the world’s first official
National Park.
Congress passed the now-infamous Mining Law under which companies and
individuals may buy the mining rights for public land thought to contain minerals
for $5 per acre or less.
1886: Audubon Society founded
1890: Congress passed legislation establishing Sequoia National Park, California
Congress passed legislation establishing Yosemite and General Grant National
Parks, California.
1891: Congress passed the Forest Reserve Act, empowering the President to
create “forest reserves.” This created the legislative foundation for what became
the National Forest system.
June 4, 1892: Sierra Club incorporated with John Muir as President
1893: President Benjamin Harrison created the 13 million acres of forest reserves
including four million acres covering much of the High Sierra.
1913: Congress authorized the dam at Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National
1915: California legislature authorized $10,000 to start planning and construction
of the John Muir Trail
1916: National Park Service founded with Stephen Mather as President
January, 1935: The Wilderness Society founded
1948: The first piece of legislation to lay down federal regulation of water quality,
the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, is passed by Congress.
October 30-31: In Donora, PA, 20 people die and over 600 go to the hospital after
sulfur dioxide emissions from a nearby steel and wire plant descend in the form of
smog, made worse by a temperature inversion that trapped the sulfuric poison in
the valley of the town. The incident will lead to the first U.S. conference on air
pollution in 1950, sponsored by the Public Health Service.
September 1949: Paul Ehrlich (future author of The Population Bomb) enters the
University of Pennsylvania and studies zoology. He notes the disappearance of
butterflies in New Jersey, which he attributes to the spraying of
dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) during the building of subdivisions. The
shrinking population of butterflies leads Ehrlich to think about potential similar
repercussions in the human population.
October 22, 1951: The Nature Conservancy is established in Washington, D.C. as a
nonprofit organization with the mission to protect ecologically important lands and
waters around the world. Over the next several decades, the Nature Conservancy
will protect more than 119 million acres of land and 5,000 miles of rivers
worldwide. It will grow to more than 1 million members, and operate more than
100 marine conservation projects.
November 20, 1952: The Paley Commission releases Resources for Freedom which
details the United States’ increasing dependence on foreign sources of natural
resources and argues for the necessity to transition to renewable energy. This
document was one of the first to argue both for the dire need for Americans to stop
their reliance on oil and for the potential of solar energy to fulfill that chasm.
1953: Heavy smog in New York City exacerbates asthma and other lung conditions,
killing 170-260 people. More New Yorkers will die again in 1962 and 1966 with
more “smog episodes.”
February: The Silent World by Jacques Cousteau introduces the world to
underwater adventure, and ushers in a new global interest in oceanic life. In 1956,
Cousteau’s documentary film of the same title will win the Academy Award for Best
Documentary Feature.
1955: President Eisenhower speaks on the problem of air pollution in his State of the Union address, and in a Special Message to Congress he calls on
the Public Health Service to study “effective methods of control.”
July 14: The Air Pollution Control Act passes Congress, becoming the first piece of legislation to address air pollution. Despite its declaration to
combat air contamination, the act puts regulation largely in the hands of individual states and gives no means of enforcement to the federal
1956: The Sierra Club gains national recognition for protesting construction of the Echo Park Dam in Dinosaur National Monument in Utah. After
effective lobbying, Congress removed the Echo Park Dam from the Colorado River project.Sierra Club membership reaches 10,000.
July 9, 1956: An amendment to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 strengthens the government’s ability to enforce regulations and gives
the Federal government control over individual states’ consent where health is endangered.
1960: Worldwide levels of carbon dioxide will climb above 300 parts per million.
1962: Congress amends the Air Pollution Control Act of 1955 to fund a study conducted by the U.S. Surgeon General to investigate the health effects
caused by automobile exhaust.
Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring is published. Acclaimed as the catalyst of the modern environmental movement, Silent Spring condemns the overuse of
pesticides. Between 1950-1962 the amount of DDT found in human tissue had tripled. After the chemical industry denounces Carson’s book as a
“gross distortion of actual facts,” President John F. Kennedy charges his Science Advisory Committee to review the book’s claims. The Committee
reports that the conclusions in Silent Spring are generally correct, and by 1972 DDT will be banned in the U.S.
1963: 83 million Americans own personal automobiles. In response to increased evidence of a link between smog and car emissions, California
mandated crankcase blowby devices that return unburned gases to the combustion chambers in all cars in 1961.
November: Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall publishes The Quiet Crisis, an early call to arms on environmental pollution with an introduction
by President Kennedy. Udall will go on to become a pioneer for environmental legislation.
December: The Clear Air Act passes, allocating $95 million for the study and cleanup of air and water pollution. The act gives the federal government
authority to reduce interstate air pollution, regulate emission standards for stationary pollution sources, and invest in technologies that will remove
sulfur from coal and oil.
1965: The Water Quality Act passes, enhancing Federal control over water quality
initially set by the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948. These federal
standards will become the baseline for statewide water quality levels.
October 20: The Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act sets the first federal
automobile emission standards.
October 15 1966: The first legislation regarding Endangered Species passes,
authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to list endangered domestic fish and
wildlife. The first list of Endangered Species – released in 1967- will include the
United States’ national symbol, the American Bald Eagle.
1968: In The Population Bomb, Ehrlich argues that the world’s environmental
problems are caused by overpopulation. At 3.5 billion people, the population of
the world had more than doubled in the past half century. Despite the fact that his
dire predictions of catastrophe will never come to pass, Ehrlich’s apocalyptic
warnings play a pivotal role in bringing the issues of family planning,
contraception and legalized abortion to the forefront of domestic and international
Stewart Brand publishes The Whole Earth Catalog , which lists a variety of
products helpful for self-sustainable living.
Stewart Brand will help lead a “back-to-the-land” movement that encourages
people to return to organic living. “Rural communes” spring up, consisting largely
of liberal, educated college students who try to live independently off the land.
While the communes ultimately will not last, the experiment reflects an emerging
recognition of environmental issues in the popular culture.
The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act provides a system that identifies and adds rivers
across the United States to a protected list. By 1989, over 1,385 miles of rivers
will be protected in Alaska alone. On this same day, Congress passes the National
Trails System Act, authorizing a similar set of proceedings to protect U.S. trails.
The crew of Apollo 8 takes the first photograph of the Earth from space. The
photograph, named “Earthrise,” will become the iconic image of the
environmental movement.
1969: January 28, the Santa Barbara oil well blowout spills over 200,000 gallons of oil into the ocean for 11 days straight. Due to the destruction and
extreme pollution of the California coastline, the spill leads directly to reforms in the energy industry.
June 22: Ohio’s Cuyahoga River appears to burst into flames when oil and chemicals floating on the surface alight and cause flames over five stories high.
1969: Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, hires 25-year-old Denis Hayes to direct a national “teach-in” about environmental issues. Hayes
recruits a handful of young college graduates to come to Washington, D.C. and begins planning what will become the first Earth Day.
1970: Congress passes the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), requiring every federal agency to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement
(EIS) for any legislation. The Act’s passage is due in large part to the public outcry that resulted from the Santa Barbara oil spill the year before.
January 14: General Motors’ president Edward Cole promises “pollution free” cars by 1980, citing the removal of lead from gasoline and the addition of
catalytic converters as means to stop deadly emissions.
January 22: In recognition of the growing media attention given to the approaching Earth Day, President Richard Nixon stresses the importance of
environmental issues in his State of the Union Address.
April 22, 1970: Earth Day: The first national Earth Day. Co-chaired by Congressman Pete McCloskey and coordinated by Denis Hayes, the first Earth Day
takes the form of a nationwide protest against environmental ignorance. An estimated 20 million people participate across the country, in what will
ultimately be the largest demonstration ever in American history.
1970: The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is established to provide citizens with the tools to draft environmental laws and lobby for their
July 9: President Nixon works with Congress to establish the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a new Federal agency primarily responsible for
United States environmental policy. The EPA will be responsible for the passage of environmental legislation, ecological programs, and research.
1970 con.: The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is created to monitor and improve the conditions of the
oceans. NOAA enforces the sustainable use of resources of coastal and marine ecosystems and supplies environmental information to the public.
November: During the election cycle after Earth Day, Denis Hayes organizes a movement to unseat “The Dirty Dozen” – a list of 12 members of
Congress with infamous records on environmental policy. The movement will successfully remove seven of the incumbents, and earn the
environmental movement significant political clout in the legislature.
1972: The Clean Water Act (CWA) becomes the primary legislation governing water pollution in the country. The goal of the CWA is to eliminate
toxic substances in water and to uphold surface water to a national standard of cleanliness. The act, an amendment to the Federal Water Pollution
Control Act of 1948, bestows enforcement authority on the EPA and restructures previous water quality regulations.
October 21: The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) protects all marine mammals from importation, exportation, hunting, capture, or any
form of harassment, thus encouraging natural resource management in the United States.
October 27: The Coastal Zone Management Act mandates coastal states to develop management plans to offset the negative impact of humans on
coastal areas.
October 31: Dennis Meadows co-authors The Limits to Growth, a study of the interaction between population, industrial growth, food
production and ecosystem limits. In the book, Meadows demonstrates with clear diagrams and linear models that Earth’s resources are being
steadily used up, and as these resources drop, human population is expanding exponentially. The Limits to Growth predicts that by the middle of
the 21st century, Earth’s population will no longer be sustainable and the ecosystem will completely collapse.
December 3: DDT is banned in the United States, the result of nearly 10 years of legislative battles.
October 1973 – March 1974: During the Arab Oil Embargo, energy demands exceed supplies in the United States for first time. The fuel shortage
results from the suspension of oil shipments to the U.S., with gas prices skyrocketing and the price of a barrel increasing 400% from $3 to $12 a
barrel. The energy crisis fuels immediate research into alternative energy and creates a new dialogue about energy security for the United States.
December 28, 1973: Congress passes the Endangered Species Act in
order to prevent the extinction of animals in the United States. This act
restructured the 1966 legislation regarding endangered species and
directed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the NOAA to carry out its
1974: President Nixon signs the Energy Supply and Environmental
Coordination Act, the first attempt to balance the nation’s energy
demands with appropriate environmental regulations.
June 28: Chemists Frank Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina claim
that Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) can destroy ozone molecules and may
erode the Earth’s protective ozone layer. A report released two years later
by the U.S. Academy of Sciences will provide further scientific evidence
to support the hypothesis of ozone depletion. In 1978 the United States
will ban the use of CFCs in aerosol cans, but is not until the early 1990s
that CFCs will begin to be phased out of product production.
August 17: The Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act
of 1974 (RPA) is enacted in an effort to monitor forest resources in the
United States. The RPA mandates comprehensive assessments in order
to supervise forest supply.
December 12: The EPA is charged with settling and monitoring water
quality standards with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), covering
every public water system across the country.
1975: The Eastern Wilderness Areas Act protects over 200,000 acres of
National Forests. This legislation is the first to protect lands that were
once logged or previously inhabited.
October 11: The Toxic Substances Control Act mandates the EPA to
control all new and existing chemical substances being used in the
United States. The act controls polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) and
other toxic products, although the management of existing chemicals are
grandfathered and untouched by the act.
October 21, 1976: The EPA is given complete control over hazardous waste in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which mandates the
agency manage all aspects of toxic waste management. The following day, National Forest Management Act requires the Secretary of Agriculture to
monitor forestlands and to develop a standard to manage each unit of the National Forest System.
1977: Architects of Governor Jerry Brown’s Office of Appropriate Technology design the first energy-conserving, self-ventilating building in
Sacramento, the Bateson Building.
April 18: In a televised speech, President Jimmy Carter announces his energy plan, including goals to lower U.S. energy demand, reduce gasoline
consumption, cut the portion of oil imported into the U.S., increase domestic coal production, and increase the use of solar energy. Carter also
proclaims his goal of getting 20% of the nation’s energy from renewable energy resources by the year 2000 during his 1979 Solar Message to
August 4: Carter’s Ambitions: President Carter establishes the Department of Energy (DOE), charged with carrying out a comprehensive national
energy plan that reflects the federal legislation. The DOE takes accountability for long-term research and technological development, energy
regulation, nuclear weapons, and energy data collection and analysis.
June 15, 1978: The Supreme Court uses the 1973 Endangered Species Act as reason to stop the construction of the Tellico Dam in the Tennessee
Valley Authority vs. Hill case. The decision upholds the rights of an endangered species over unrestricted expansion, and reflects growing American
opposition to dam construction.
July: Reporter Michael H. Brown raises questions that lead to the discovery of long-term dioxin contamination at Love Canal, a neighborhood in
Niagara Falls, NY. Up to 21,000 tons of toxic waste had been dumped in the canal by the Hooker Chemical Company from 1942-1952 and caused
significant numbers of birth defects, abnormalities in children, and miscarriages. The national media fallout from the Love Canal disaster leads to the
Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act, more commonly known as the “Superfund” legislation, which mandates
clean up of abandoned hazardous waste sites by the parties responsible. Superfund will be signed into law on December 11, 1980.
November 9: The Energy Tax Act creates an incentive for ethanol use. This is the first instance of using tax credits to encourage fuel efficiency and
renewable energy.
1979: President Carter appoints Earth Days organizer Denis Hayes as head of the Federal Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI) and allocates
billions for solar technology research. The SERI is one of the only federal programs dedicated to rethinking our current energy system, but its
budget will be cut dramatically in 1981 under the Ronald Reagan administration.
March 28: The meltdown of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Middletown, PA, causes the evacuation of 140,000 people. It will take
more than ten years to clean up fully.
June 20: Solar heaters are installed on the White House roof in support of Carter’s Federal Solar Research Institute. President Carter heralded the
solar panels, arguing that “we must balance our demand for energy with our rapidly shrinking resources.” In 1980, the price of oil will jump to $30
a barrel.
September 25: In order for the Tellico Dam to be built, the U.S. Congress exempts the Tellico Dam from the Endangered Species Act, the
precedence of which the Supreme Court had argued the year before. The species at risk, a small fish called the snail darter, is relocated to the
Hiwassee River. This exception sets a precedent that will allow specific projects to be excluded from the Endangered Species Act.
Early 1980s: The world population hits 4.5 billion, the total economic loss caused by great weather and flood catastrophes increases nearly 55% in
the 1980s compared to the previous decade, and the arctic ice cap continues to melt. CO2 concentration hits 335ppm, up from 315ppm in 1960.
July 24, 1980: Commissioned by President Carter in 1977, The Global 2000 Report to the President is released by the Council on Environmental
Quality and the U.S. Department of State. This study echoes statistics first seen in Limits to Growth that pointed to current trends in the
environment and what that will mean in the coming decades.
February 17, 1981: Reagan’s initiatives: New President Ronald Reagan issues an Executive Order that gives the Office of Management and Budget
(OMB ) the power to regulate environmental proposals before they become public. Reagan also cuts the budget of the Environmental Protection
Agency by 12% and staff by 11%. The solar water heating system on the White House roof, installed by President Carter, will be dismantled in
Reagan’s second term in August 1986.
September 1981: President Reagan cuts the EPA’s budget to 44% of its 1978 level, and the number of enforcement cases submitted to the EPA
during the fiscal year will decline by 56%.
September 1981: President Reagan cuts the EPA’s budget to 44% of its 1978 level,
and the number of enforcement cases submitted to the EPA during the fiscal year will
decline by 56%.
May 1985: Nature magazine publishes an article providing evidence that confirms the
ozone hole over the Antarctic. This article creates a new wave of media attention on
the now-stalled environmental movement. The ozone is estimated to have been
declining at about 4% of the total volume per decade since the 1970s. This study and
confirmation by the Nimbus-7 satellite catalyzes a torrent of studies investigating the
consequences of ozone depletion.
October 17, 1986: Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act
(EPCRA), a subset of the Superfund Amendments and Reorganization Act (SARA),
requires industries to report toxic releases to the general public. The federal law
creates the new State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) to enforce these
new requirements.
September 16, 1987: The Montreal Protocol is signed by the U.S., Japan, Canada, and
21 other countries, agreeing to phase out ozone-depleting CFCs by the year 2000.
June 23, 1988: NASA scientist James Hansen warns Congress about the
consequences of global warming, and argues that the ozone layer is eroding much
faster than was predicted.
November 18: President Reagan signs the Ocean Dumping Ban Act of 1988, a law
that prohibits all waste dumping in the ocean starting in 1992.
December 6: The World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations
Environmental Program establish the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(IPCC). The IPCC provides balanced scientific information regarding climate change
and will release Assessment Reports in 1990, 1995, 2001, and 2007. The panel will
be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its last Assessment Report in 2007.
March 24, 1989: The Exxon Valdez tanker spills 11 million gallons of oil, killing more
than 250,000 birds and covering over 1,300 square miles of ocean with oil. The
accident is the largest oil spill in the history of the U.S.
April 22, 1990: The Anniversary: More than 140 countries celebrate the 20th anniversary of Earth Day, calling attention to environmental
issues for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Clean Air Act is amended for tighter restrictions on air
pollution emissions, and the Pollution Prevention Act provides incentives to corporations to reduce pollutants. In a 1989 Gallup poll, 76% of
Americans call themselves “environmentalists.”
September 28, 1994: Mono Lake — court decided minimum stream flows must be maintained.
Dec. 10, 1997: A 23-year-old woman named Julia Butterfly Hill climbed into a 55-meter (180 foot) tall California Coast Redwood tree. Her aim
was to prevent the destruction of the tree and of the forest where it had lived for a millennium.
September 17, 1998: David “Gypsy” Chain was killed by a tree felled by employees of Pacific Lumber/Maxxam Corporation. Chain was in the
forest protesting the destruction of some of the last remaining old-growth redwood trees in the world.
December 18, 1999: Julia Butterfly Hill came down from “Luna” after concluding a deal with Pacific Lumber/Maxxam Corporation to save the
tree and a three-acre buffer zone.
February 16, 2005: The Kyoto Protocol comes into effect. Almost all countries in the world are now pledged to reduce the emission of gasses
that contribute to global warming.
April 20 – July 15 2010: The Deep Water Horizon oil platform explodes and sinks in the Gulf of Mexico spilling 4.9 million barrels of oil. The
biggest oil spill in history. Because of the depth of the well, it takes several months to cap. Aside from the immediate economic impact on
fisheries and surrounding states, the long term environmental effects are as yet unknown.
A sad feature of human history is conquest – the taking of
others land and their subjugation and extermination.
This process reached an apex during the expansion of European
empires beginning around the 15 century. Indigenous
(aboriginal) people around the globe were unable stop forced
colonization supported by soldiers with superior weaponry.
In some cases elites were co-oped and indigenous people were
absorbed into the empire. In other cases indigenous population
were enslaved or exterminated to expedite the exploitation of
natural resources.
From the colonial period onward, tens, if not hundreds of
millions of people perished in war, through disease, starvation,
and just killed outright. Indigenous cultures and societies were
disrupted or destroyed, often making it difficult or impossible
for indigenous populations to survive on their own.
Perhaps the darkest aspect of American history is the
subjugation of the natives who occupied North America prior
to colonization. Their land were taken by force, those who
resisted were killed, those who survived were herded into
reservations where they often we again evicted once valuable
resources were discovered. Native Americans still face
disproportionately high rates of alcohol and drug addiction and
poverty. Life expectancy is tragically short. The people of the
Pine Ridge Reservation have the same life expectancy of
someone living in Somalia.
1896: The Supreme Court decision of Plessy v. Ferguson began its long “Jim Crow” career of “separate-but-equal” in South Carolina which
perpetuated segregation even for Native American Indian communities and the notion that Native American Indians were second class
1924: The federal government officially classified American Indians as “citizens” and were given the right to vote in National elections. This
was done after Native American Indian had already fought in three wars for the United States of America.
1928: The Meriam Report “The Problem of Indian Administration,” commissioned by the Department of Interior in 1926, focused on the
poverty, ill health, and despair that characterized many Indian communities. It recommended reforms that would increase the BIA’s
efficiency, and promote the social and economic advancement of Indians: the termination of allotment and the phasing out of Indian
boarding schools.
1934: US Congress passed the Indian Reorganization Act. This new policy sought to protect American Indians from loss of their lands and
provided funds for economic development. It also helped reestablish tribal governments.
1944: About 100 Indian people met to create the nation’s first large-scale national organization, the National Congress of American
Indians (NCAI) . This organization was designed to monitor federal policies. Today, over 250 member tribes work to secure the rights and
benefits to which they are entitled; to enlighten the public toward the better understanding of Indian people; to preserve rights under
Indian treaties or agreements with the United States; and to promote the common welfare of the American Indians and Alaska Natives.
1946: Indian Claims Commission Act – The Commission was created to do away with tribal grievances over treaty enforcement, resource
management, and disputes between tribes and the US government. Tribes were given five years to file a claim, during which them they had
to prove aboriginal title to the lands in question and then bring suit for settlement. The Commission would then review the case and
assess the amount, if any, that was to be paid in compensation. Until the Commission ended operations in 1978, it settled 285 cases and
paid more than $800 million in settlements.
1948: Trujillo v. Garley Supreme Court decision – In response to the allegation that many states had successfully prohibited Indians from
voting, the Court ruled that states were required to grant Native Americans the right to vote.
1953: Under House Concurrent Resolution 108, the trust relationship with many Indian tribes was terminated.
Terminated tribes were then subject to state laws and their lands were sold to non-Indians. Eventually, Congress
terminated over 100 tribes, most of which were small and consisted of a few hundred members. The Menominee of
Wisconsin and the Klamath of Oregon were exceptions with 3,270 and 2,133 members respectively. Thousands of Indians
were relocated by the Federal programs to urban slums and tribal governments were generally weakened.
1953: Public Law 280 – This Congressional law transferred jurisdiction over most tribal lands to state governments in
California, Oregon , Nebraska, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Alaska was added in 1958. Additionally, it provided that any
other state could assume such jurisdiction by passing a law or amending the state’s constitution.
In order to deal with increasing unemployment among American Indians, the BIA enacted a new policy to persuade large
numbers of Indians to relocate into urban areas. Using the lure of job training and housing, brochures depicting Indian
families leading a middle-class life were distributed by the BIA. While the initial response was enthusiastic, within five
years the relocation program was counted a failure, with 50 percent of the participants returning to their reservations. This
was the first of many late 20th Century failures to “mainstream” the Indian population.
1961: National Indian Youth Council (NIYC). Youth activism continued to rise around the country. The NIYC organization
was formed to resurrect a sense of national pride among young Native Americans and to instill an activist message.
1968: Indian Civil Rights Act (ICRA) – This Congressional Act revised Public Law 280 by requiring states to obtain tribal
consent prior to extend any legal jurisdiction over an Indian reservation. It also gave most protections of the Bill of Rights
and the Fourteenth Amendment to tribal members in dealings with their tribal governments. ICRA also amended the
Major Crimes Act to include assault resulting in serious bodily harm.
1968: American Indian Movement (AIM) – Shortly after the Minneapolis Anishinaabeg formed an “Indian Patrol” to monitor police
activities in Indian neighborhoods, AIM was co-founded by Dennis Banks. The new organization was comprised primarily of young
urban Indians who believed that direct and militant confrontation with the US government was the only way to redress historical
grievances and to gain contemporary civil rights; and that the tribal governments organized under the IRA (1934) were not truly
legitimate or grounded in traditional Indian ways. By the 1990s, AIM was still active in Indian affairs, but was less involved in
militant confrontation
1969: “Indians of All Tribes” occupation of Alcatraz – A group of young Indians seized the abandoned Alcatraz Island in the San
Francisco Bay. They issued a “Proclamation to the Great White Father” in which they stated their claim that Alcatraz was suitable
as an Indian Reservation and thus, should be converted into an Indian educational and cultural center. The Indians of All Tribes
continued to occupy Alcatraz until June, 1971.
1970: President Nixon’s “Special Message on Indian Affairs” – President Nixon delivered a speech to Congress which denounced
past federal policies, formally ended the termination policy, and called for a new era of self-determination for Indian peoples.
1972: Trail of Broken Treaties – Over 500 Indian activists traveled across the United States to Washington, DC where they planned
to meet with BIA officials and to deliver a 20-point proposal for revamping the BIA and establishing a government commission to
review treaty violations. When guards at the BIA informed the tribal members that Bureau officials would not meet with them and
threatened forcible removal from the premises, the activists began a week-long siege of the BIA building. The BIA finally agreed to
review the 20 demands and to provide funds to transport the activists back to their home. Shortly thereafter, the FBI classified AIM
as “an extremist organization” and added the names of its leaders to the list of “key extremists” in the US.
Indian Education Act – This Congressional Act established funding for special bilingual and bicultural programs, culturally relevant
teaching materials, and appropriate training and hiring of counselors. It also created an Office of Indian Education in the US
Department of Education.
1972: The Indian Education Act authorized funding for special bilingual and
bicultural programs, culturally relevant teaching materials, and appropriate
training and hiring of counselors. It also created an Office of Indian
Education in the US Department of Education. Today the mission of the
Office of Indian Education is to support the efforts of local educational
agencies, Indian tribes and organizations, postsecondary institutions, and
other entities to meet the unique educational and culturally related
academic needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives.
1973: Wounded Knee Occupation – At the Pine Ridge Reservation of the
Oglala Sioux in South Dakota , trouble had been brewing between the
Indian activists that supported AIM, and tribal leaders who had the support
of the BIA. After a violent confrontation in 1972, tribal chair Richard Wilson
condemned AIM and banned it from the reservation.
In February 1973, AIM leaders led by Russell Means and about 200 activists
who were supported by some Oglala traditional leaders took over the village
of Wounded Knee, announced the creation of the Oglala Sioux Nation,
declared themselves independent from the United States, and defined their
national boundaries as those determined by the 1868 Treaty of Fort
Laramie. The siege lasted 71 days, during which time federal marshals, FBI
agents, and armored vehicles surrounded the village. AIM members finally
agreed to end their occupation under one condition – that the government
convene a full investigation into their demands and grievances.
1975: Pine Ridge Reservation Shootout – In June, two FBI agents entered
the Pine Ridge Reservation ostensibly looking for a tribal member on theft
and assault charges. Shots were fired under confusing circumstances,
resulting in the death of the two agents and one AIM member. AIM activist
Leonard Peltier was arrested, tried, and convicted for the deaths. Sentenced
to double life imprisonment, Peltier’s arrest and conviction are still the
subject of heated controversy among many American political activists. The
violence was coupled with the criminalization of the AIM movement, which
undermining the Indian movement for self-determination.
1975: Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act – This
Congressional Act recognized the obligation of the US to provide for
maximum participation by American Indians in Federal services to and
programs in Indian communities. It also established a goal to provide
education and services to permit Indian children to achieve, and declared a
commitment to maintain the Federal government’s continuing trust
relationship, and responsibility to, individual Indians and tribes.
Council of Energy Resource Tribes (CERT) – Leaders from over 20 tribes
created CERT to help Indians secure better terms from corporations that
sought to exploit valuable mineral resources on reservations.
1977: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA) – This Senate resolution
re-established the SCIA. The Committee was originally created in the early
nineteenth century, but disbanded in 1946 when Indian affairs legislative
and oversight jurisdiction was vested in subcommittees of the Interior and
Insular Affairs Commission of the House and Senate. The Committee
became permanent in 1984. Its jurisdiction includes studying the unique
issues related to Indian and Hawaiian peoples and proposing legislation to
deal with such issues – issues which include but are not limited to Indian
education, economic development, trust responsibilities, land
management, health care, and claims against the US. government.
Report of the American Indian Policy Review Commission – The
Commission, established in 1975, issued its report in which it called for a
firm rejection of assimilationist policies, increased financial assistance to
the tribes, and a reaffirmation of the tribes’ status as permanent, selfgoverning institutions.
1978: The Longest Walk was major national protest event that began in
San Francisco where a group of American Indians set out for Washington,
DC, to symbolize the forced removal of Indians from their ancestral homes.
They also wanted draw attention to the growing governmental and public
backlash against efforts to protect Indian treaty rights and Native Peoples.
1978: Indian Child Welfare Act – This Congressional Act addressed the widespread practice of transferring the care and custody of
Indian children to non-Indians. It recognized the authority of tribal courts to hear the adoption and guardianship cases of Indian
children and established a strict set of statutory guidelines for those cases heard in state court.
American Indian Religious Freedom Act – This Congressional Act promised to “protect and preserve for American Indians their
inherent right of freedom to believe, express, and exercise” traditional religions, “including but not limited to access to sites, use
and possession of sacred objects, and the freedom to worship through ceremonial and traditional rites.” Although the enactment
seemed to recognize the importance of traditional Indian religious practices, it contained no enforcement provisions.
Federal Acknowledgment Project – This Congressional Act established the Branch of Acknowledgment and Research within the
BIA to evaluate the claims of non-recognized Indian tribes for Federal acknowledgement. The project created a uniform process
for reviewing acknowledgement claimants with widely varying backgrounds and histories. In 1994, the Project regulations were
Santa Clara v. Martinez Supreme Court Decision – When a Santa Clara woman married a Navajo, the tribal council denied her
children membership in the Santa Clara Pueblo based upon a 1939 tribal ordinance that denied membership to children of
women who married outside the tribe. The woman sued to grant membership to her children. The Court held that Indian tribes
are “distinct, independent political communities retaining their original natural rights in matters of self-government.” In short,
the Court held that the Court itself did not have the right to interfere in tribal self-government issues such as tribal membership.
US v. Wheeler Supreme Court Decision – The Court considered the question of whether the power to punish tribal offenders is
“part of inherent tribal sovereignty, or an aspect of the sovereignty of the Federal Government which has been delegated to the
tribes by Congress.” He concluded: “The sovereignty that the Indian tribes retain is of a unique and limited character. It exists
only at the sufferance of Congress and is subject to complete defeasance. But until Congress acts, the tribes retain their existing
sovereign powers. In sum, Indian tribes still possess those aspects of sovereignty not withdrawn by treaty or statute, or by
implication as a necessary result of their dependent status.” In short, Indian nations were sovereign, but such sovereignty was
limited and subject to Congressional whim.
1980: United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians – U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Sioux Indians were entitled to an award of $17.5
million, plus 5% interest per year since 1877, totaling about $106 million in compensation for the unjust taking of the Black Hills and in
direct contravention of the Treaty of Fort Laramie. The Sioux have refused to take the money and sits in a trust fund in Washington,
collecting interest.
1982: Indian Mineral Development Act. This Congressional Act encouraged Indian tribes to mine their lands in a manner that would help
them become economically self-sufficient.
Seminole Tribe v. Butterworth Supreme Court Decision – The Court ruled that tribes have the right to create gambling enterprises on their
land, even if such facilities are prohibited by the civil statutes of the state. The ruling enabled reservations to establish casinos, as well as
gave reservations greater authority for tribal governments to levy taxes, own assets, and create judiciaries.
1988:In Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protection Association, the Supreme Court allowed the construction of a Forest Service road
through an ancient site held sacred by several tribes. In a setback for Native Americans’ religious freedoms, the Court ruled that such
intrusion did not violate the Indians’ First Amendment rights.
Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) – This Congressional Act affirmed the right of tribes to conduct gaming on Indian lands, but made it
subject to tribal/state compact negotiations for certain types of gaming.
1990: Native American Languages Act – This Congressional Act made it US policy to “preserve, protect, and promote the rights and
freedom of Native Americans to use, practice, and develop Native American languages.” Consequently, the federal government encourages
and supports of the use of native languages as a medium of instruction in schools; recognizes the right of Indian tribes to give official
status to their languages for conducting their own business; supports proficiency in native languages by granting the same academic credit
as for comparable proficiency in a foreign language; and encourages schools to include native languages in the curriculum in the same way
as foreign languages. Today, many American Indian languages have been lost; less than 100 languages currently are spoken by Indians.
1990: Indian Arts and Crafts Act (IACA) – The Congressional Act is intended to
promote Indian artwork and handicraft businesses, reduce foreign an counterfeit
product competition, and stop deceptive marketing practices.
Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act – This Congressional Act
required all institutions that receive federal funds to inventory their collections of
Indian human remains and artifacts, make their lists available to Indian tribes, and
return any items requested by the tribes.
Indian Law Enforcement Act – This Congressional Act created a unified approach to the
BIA’s provision of law enforcement service on reservations.
1992: In Employment Division of Oregon v. Smith, the Supreme Court ruled that states
and localities no longer had to show a “compelling governmental interest” to justify
generally applicable laws that applied to limit or infringe upon religious exercise. The
ruling in this case, which involved two Oregon men who were denied unemployment
benefits after taking peyote as part of a worship ceremony of the Native American
Church, was widely attacked by representatives of virtually all religious bodies in the
United States as a major blow to religious freedom.
1993: Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, the Religious Freedom
Restoration Act, which would have overturned Smith and restore the “compelling
interest” standards that limited government’s ability to enforce legislation that infringes
upon religious freedom. However, the Supreme Court soon struck down RFRA as an
unconstitutional exercise of Congressional powers in City of Boerne v. Flores.
1994: A law signed by President Clinton exempted the religious use of peyote from
federal and state controlled substance laws and prohibited discrimination against those
who engage in the use of peyote for religious purposes. Although this protected Native
Americans’ use of peyote, the fight to protect other areas of religious freedom
1996: National American Indian Heritage Month – President Clinton declared
November of each year to be National American Indian Heritage Month.
Executive Order, October 21 on Tribal Colleges and Universities – President Clinton
authorized a White House Initiative on Tribal Colleges and Universities within the US
Department of Education to continue the support and development of tribal colleges
into the 21st Century.
1999: Shannon County, South Dakota, home of the Oglala Lakota on Pine Ridge
Reservation is identified as the poorest place in the country.
The issues around indigenous rights and movements are more
extensive than we can really cover here. This workshop and
associated videos mostly deal with the experience of
indigenous people in the US.
The experience of the aboriginal people in Australia provides a
good foil to compare to the experiences of Native Americans.
Australia’s aboriginal people unfortunately had a similar
experience to their US counterparts.
By the 1950s, having lost land and livelihood, many were
paupers, living in ‘humpies’ on the edge of town rubbish
dumps and earning occasional money as fruit pickers. They
were not eligible for the dole or other state benefits which
whites received. State laws told Indigenous people where they
were allowed to live, where they could and couldn’t move and
who they could marry. They were often not the legal guardians
of their own children. Local policemen controlled their
earnings, doling out small amounts in pocket money according
to their individual judgement or whim.
In Queensland the law even allowed mission managers to
open and censor mission-dwellers’ letters.
In the controversial 1971 Gove land rights case, Justice
Blackburn ruled that Australia had been terra nullius (no
man’s land) before British settlement, and that no concept of
native title existed in Australian law. This basically denied the
existence of aboriginal society. This was invalidated in 1992.
In1999 the Parliament passed a Motion of Reconciliation that
recognized the poor treatment of the aboriginal people.
1901: Federation – The Commonwealth Constitution states “in reckoning the numbers of people… Aboriginal natives shall not be counted”. It
also states that the Commonwealth would legislate for any race except Aboriginal people. This leaves the power over Aboriginal Affairs with the
states. Aboriginal people are excluded from the vote, pensions, employment in post offices, enlistment in armed forces and maternity allowance.
1905: The Western Australia Aborigines Act is passed, making the Chief Protector the legal guardian of every Aboriginal and ‘half-caste’ child
under 16 years old.
1911: The South Australian Aborigines Act makes the Chief Protector the legal guardian of every Aboriginal and ‘half-caste’ child under 21 years
old. The Chief Protector also has control of where the child lives.
1914: Beginning of WWI. Approximately 400 to 500 Aboriginal children continue to be removed from their families during the period 1914 to
1918, including children whose fathers are overseas at war.
1920: Aboriginal population is estimated to be at its lowest at 60,000 – 70,000. It is widely believed to be a ‘dying race’. Most Australians have
no contact with Aboriginal people due to segregation and social conventions.
1928: Conniston Massacre in the Northern Territory. Europeans shoot 32 Aboriginal people after a European dingo trapper and a station owner
are attacked by them. A court of inquiry rules the Europeans’ action ‘justified’. Aboriginal people are refused legal aid by the federal government.
1934: Under the Aborigines Act, Aboriginal people can apply to ‘cease being Aboriginal’ and have access to the same rights as ‘whites’.
1936: Western Australia Aborigines Act is amended to permit Aboriginal people to be taken into custody without trial or appeal and to prevent
them from entering prescribed towns without a permit.
1938: 150 years after European occupation the Aboriginal Progressive Association declares a Day of Mourning. An Aboriginal conference is held
in Sydney. These are the first of many Aboriginal protests against inequality, injustice, dispossession of land and protectionist policies.
1939: The first-ever mass strike of Aboriginal people in Australia occurred – the Cummeragunja Walk-off. Over 150 Aboriginal people pack-up and
leave Cummeragunja Aboriginal Station in protest at the cruel treatment and exploitation of residents by the management. They cross the border
from New South Wales into Victoria in contravention of the rules of the New South Wales Protection Board.
1940: In the 1940s most federal social security benefits are extended to Aboriginal people. White Australia policy succeeds: 99% of Australia’s 7
million people are white.
1943: An Exemption Certificate is introduced, exempting certain Aboriginal people from restrictive legislation and entitling them to vote, drink
alcohol and move freely but prohibiting them from consorting with others who are not exempt.
1945: Aboriginal cattle station workers in the Port Hedland district of Western Australia strike for a pay increase.
1948: The Commonwealth Citizenship and Nationality Act for the first time makes all Australians, including all Aboriginal people, Australian
citizens. But at state level they still suffer legal discrimination.
1949: Aboriginal people are given the right to enroll and vote at federal elections provided they are entitled to enroll for state elections or have served
in the armed forces.
1951: The federal government convenes the Australian Conference for Native Welfare, with all states and territories represented except Victoria and
Tasmania, which claim to have no Aboriginal ‘problem’. The conference officially adopts a policy of ‘assimilation’ for Aboriginal people. ‘Assimilation
means, in practical terms, that it is expected that all persons of Aboriginal birth or mixed blood in Australia will live like white Australians do.’
1953: The Northern Territory Welfare Ordinance makes Aboriginal people wards of the government, basically making Aboriginal adults and children,
minors. Atomic tests are conducted on Maralinga lands at Emu Field, South Australia. They are code named Operation Totem. A black cloud passes
and hundreds of families are forced to leave their homelands because of severe contamination. Further atom tests followed in 1956 at Maralinga,
South Australia – Operation Buffalo.
1957: Atomic testing (Operation Antler) at Maralinga, South Australia. The presence of Aboriginal people on the test site is documented.
1960: The Western Australian Department of Native Affairs ceases forcefully taking Aboriginal children from their parents and sending them to
1961: At the Native Welfare Conference ministers agree to strategies
to assist assimilation of Aboriginal people. These include the removal
of discriminatory legislation and restrictive practices, the incorporation
of Aboriginal people into the economy through welfare measures and
education and training and the education of non-Aboriginal
Australians about Aboriginal culture and history. After the conference,
all states and territories amend their legislation. The conference marks
the beginning of a modern land rights movement and widespread
awakening by non-Aboriginal Australians to claims for justice by
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The South Australian
Premier Sir Thomas Playford argues for integration rather than
assimilation of Aboriginal people.
1963: November: Police evict residents at Mapoon, an Aboriginal
community in far north Queensland. The people are forcibly taken to
other reserves and their settlement is burned down, to allow Comalco
mine the biggest bauxite deposit in the world.
1965: Integration policy is introduced, supposedly to give Aboriginal
people more control over their lives and society. Northern Territory
patrol officers ‘bring in’ the last group of Aboriginal people – the
Pintubi people – living independently in the desert. They are relocated.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’ Affairs Act, passed in
Queensland, gives the Director of Aboriginal Affairs considerable
power over ‘assisted Aborigines’. For example, an assisted Aboriginal
person could be detained for up to a year for behaving in an ‘offensive,
threatening, insolent, insulting, disorderly, obscene or indecent
manner’ or ‘leaving, escaping or attempting to leave or escape from the
1966: The South Australian Prohibition of Discrimination Act is the
first of its kind in Australia and bans all types of race and colour
discrimination in employment, accommodation, legal contracts and
public facilities.
The Global Justice Movement
(also known as the antiglobalization movement) is
perhaps the largest metamovement in history. At its
core, the Global Justice
Movement is focused on the
negative impacts of corporate
globalization. It is comprised of
a wide variety of social
movements addressing issues
from the environment to
developing world debt
The process of globalization has been around as long as people have existed (global
movements of people, colonization, etc.). Broadly, it can refer to the transnational circulation of
ideas, languages, and popular culture. However, globalization contemporarily usually refers to
the increasingly interdependent and global relationships of culture, people, and economic
activity. The Global Justice Movement is primarily concerned with economic globalization and
its impacts on people and culture. Economic globalization is the global distribution of the
production of goods and services.
Globalization, as negotiated between nations and large transnational corporations though such
organizations as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and treaties like the General Agreement
on Trade and Tariffs (GATT), is generally executed through reduction of barriers to international
trade such as tariffs, export fees, and import quotas. Ideally, globalization contributes to
economic growth in developed and developing countries through increased specialization.
The problem is that these treaties are negotiated outside the frameworks of national democratic
process and tend to favor capital over labor. That is, capital can move freely (think moving
manufacturing to China) while labor cannot (think Latin Americans trying to get to the US to
work). Moreover, that globalization tends to favor core nations (eg. US, Europe) over peripheral
nations with less developed economies.
While not all participants in the
Global Justice Movement share
the same ideology, broadly it is
based on a largely anti-capitalist
and universalist perspective that
puts people before profits and
believes that the worlds resources
should be fairly distributed to
bring all people out of poverty.
The movement emerged after the
end of the Cold War (1989) as
the old east/west divides broke
down and “New World Order”
was shaking itself out.
The beginning of the global justice movement is often traced to the
emergence of the Zapatistas (Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion
Nacional) in January 1994. The Zapatistas are an indigenous rights
group in Mexico. They are largely credited with the first global scale
use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for
social movement activities. The Zapatistas held two large global
encounters, one of which gave rise to the People’s Global Action
Against Free Trade (PGA) network, which called for worldwide days
of action (
Global justice movement organized protests generally follow
meetings of large international bodies such as the WTO, World
Bank, the G8/G20, as well as the Democratic and Republican
national conventions in the US.
The first global justice protest to gain widespread publicity in the
United States was against the WTO in Seattle in November 1999.
Some of the major actions include:
April(A16): demonstrations against the IMF and World Bank in
Washington, DC.
Summer: protests coinciding with the Republican and Democratic
conventions in Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
September (S11): demonstrations against the World Economic
Forum (WEF) in Melbourne, Australia.
December (S26): protests against the IMF in Prague;
demonstrations against a new EU treaty in Nice, France
April: actions protesting the FTAA in Quebec City.
June: a series of protests in Europe that included demonstrations coinciding with an EU meeting in Gothenburg, Sweden, in June;
protests against a World Bank meeting (which was cancelled) in Barcelona; actions against the WEF in Salzburg, Austria.
July: massive protests against the G8 in Genoa, Italy
The September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon dealt a major blow to the burgeoning movement. The IMF cancelled its
meeting scheduled for Washington, DC, in late September, and many activists in turn called off their planned protests.
February: a protest against the WEF in New York City.
March: a large demonstration against the EU in Barcelona.
June: actions against the G8 in Canada.
September: another round of IMF/World Bank demonstrations in Washington, DC.
February: massive global protests against the impending Iraq War.
May: protests at the G8 summit in Switzerland
2005: protests at the G8 summit in Scotland.
2006: protests at the G8 summit in St.Petersburg Russia,
2008: protests at the G8 summit in Rostock Germany
A hall mark of the movement is it innovative use of technology,
particularly the then emerging internet. The use of a combination of
ICTs and traditional media such as newspapers and small radio stations
gave the movement a tactical infrastructure that rivaled that of most
law enforcement.
This comparative (if temporary) advantage became evident in the
protests against the November1999 meeting of the WTO in Seattle,
Planning for the demonstrations began months in advance and included
local, national, and international organizations including labor unions,
religious groups, NGOs, environmental and indigenous rights
organizations, and political radicals.
Many permitted marches and rallies were planned. However, several
groups, loosely organized together under the Direct Action Network
(DAN), planned to disrupt the WTO meetings by blocking streets and
intersections downtown to prevent delegates from reaching meeting
sites at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center.
The combination of sanctioned and unsanctioned protests by tens of
thousands quickly overwhelmed local police. Intersections across
downtown were locked by protesters. Black Block anarchists
vandalized symbols of corporate power smashing windows and setting
dumpsters on fire. Police overreacted and attacked all demonstrators
with tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and stun grenades. The
Mayor declared 50 blocks downtown a “No protest zone” and banned
the sale or use of gas masks downtown.
Police battled demonstrators over several days, indiscriminately
attacking protesters and bystanders alike it what has been widely
referred to as a “police riot.” Over 600 people were arrested. Seattle
eventually paid $250, 000 to settle false arrest claims.
In the wake of Seattle, governments and international law enforcement rushed to counter the Global
Justice movement protests by increased enforcement, restricting travel for known organizers, attacking
and shutting down “convergence centers” and other staging areas, and trying to disrupt the
communications networks activists were building.
The resulting clashes, especially in Europe, were exceedingly violent with radical groups, usually
anarchists, matching the states escalating attempts to contain the protests. In July of 2001 a protester
was killed by Italian police in Genoa.
One result of this movement has been that obscure financial institutions have become a focus of media
attention and public debate. Large protests have alerted the developed world to widespread economic
inequity and the detrimental effects of so-called “free trade.”
Financial and government institutions have been forced to acknowledge the protesters’ grievances. Many
peripheral nations were emboldened and banded together to advocate for better terms in international
Another result of these series of protests was creation of worldwide networks of like-minded activists
who continued to organize and mobilize on a wide variety of issues. One example is the creation the
Independent Media Center Network.

The Independent Media Center (IMC) or Indymedia was a multimedia website created using open source
software for the 1999 WTO protests. Developed for protests in Australia, it addressed the problems of less
than fair or sympathetic coverage by mainstream and government controlled media. It was one of the first fully
interactive websites that allowed anyone to upload audio, video, photos, and text from anywhere. At the peak
of the protest was getting 3 million hits and far outstripped the traffic at mainstream news sites.
Its utility quickly became evident as protesters unloaded pictures and video contradicted statements by the
police and Mayors office, forcing them to recant. Journalists form all over world turned to Indymedia for news.
This was a preview of the impact of increasingly cheap digital video recorders on the media.
By November 2001, just two years after the first Indymedia opened, there were 60 IMC sites on 4 continents
and 10 countries. By 2002, the IMCN had grown to 83 sites. In April 2005, Indymedia comprised a network of
150 sites, and in early summer of 2006 it had expanded to 159 sites spanning over 50 countries across 6
continents. Currently, the IMCN has over 175 collectives worldwide.
We will take a closer look at the unique distributed structure of autonomous IMCs with the broader Indymedia
network in the Media Democracy case study.
The Global Justice Movement is
a largely leftist popular
movement that was surging at
the time of the 9/11 terror
attacks. Consistent with past
movements, state security
forces used the pretext of the
terrorist threat to crackdown on
Global Justice Movement
affiliated groups and
individuals. In many ways the
“Occupy” movement is
evidence of a remerging Global
Justice Movement network.
The Media Democracy Movement is
not quite as significant as other
movements we have examined, but it
is important because it has grown
along side and as a part of movements.
Movements always create or try to
influence or utilize the media. Media
Democracy recognizes the pivotal role
of media in the political process and
recognizes that a commercial or state
run media system will always side
with incumbent power. Media
democracy has two broad areas of
focus (1) to reform and regulate
existing media and (2) create viable
alternative media.
An central tenant of Media Democracy is corporate ownership and commercial demands influence media
content, limiting the range of news, opinions, and entertainment.
The media is comprised of individuals and organizations that are self-interested – the primary goal is most
often profit – not fostering democracy. It is also notorious blind to this self-interest.
For example, it tends to ignore legislation that would favor it – such as the Telecommunications Act on
1996. This was the most significant revision of media law since the 1930s. There was almost no mention
of it in the electronic press.
American mainstream media has an investment in the status quo and tends to vilify, mock, or ignore
people and organizations that fall outside its definitions of what is legitimate. Jim Kuyper’s argues that
most media operates with a narrow “liberal” comfort zone that cuts out discourse on the left and right.
Advocates agitate for a more equal distribution of economic, social, cultural, and information capital. The
goal is foster an informed citizenry and hopefully a more enlightened and representative political
Another concern of media democracy is the concentration of media ownership. In recent decades, a few corporations and
conglomerates have lobbied to eliminate limits the number and types of media outlets one entity can own resulting in a
media systems that is concentrated into a handful of corporations.
Since 1995, the number of companies owning commercial TV stations declined by more than 40 percent.
Three media giants own all of the cable news networks. Comcast and Time Warner serve about 35 percent of cable
households. Cable TV rates have jumped by more than 90 percent since the Telecom Act of 1996.
The entertainment industry – television, motion picture companies, music – has put hundreds of millions into federal
elections since 1990/ A presidential election will generate over 1 billion dollars in direct ad revenue for US TV stations and
The increase in the commercialization of news and information has led to a hollowing out of the news media’s ability to
conduct investigative reporting and act as the public watchdog.
Prior to the 1980s, TV news divisions were considered “prestige” projects that while not making money, conveyed status on
the parent network via awards and quality coverage. Once new became an opportunity to make money with the advent of
CNN its focus narrowed to one which prioritizes infotainment and celebrity news over informative discourse.
A diverse range of information providers is necessary so that viewers, readers and listeners receive a broad spectrum of
information from varying sources that is not tightly controlled, biased and filtered. This is critical as individuals must be in a
position to decide and act autonomously for there to be a functioning democracy.
The media democracy movement has been able to do little to stop media
consolidation. However, in 2003 the FCC was preparing to loosen rules on
how many and what type of media outlets could be owned in specific
markets. There are limits on cross-media ownership. For example, one
company owning TV, radio, and newspapers in one market.
Two liberal members of the FCC held public hearings around the country. In
a massive and unexpected public backlash, 3 million people contacted the
FCC to protest. The new ownership rules were scrapped. Free Press, a
media advocacy organization, used the incident helped to spearhead a a
media reform movement including several national conferences to bring
different groups together to work for media reform.
Another aspect of media democracy, as exemplified by the micro radio
movement we read about this week and last, is the drive to build alternative
media systems.
The free radio movement (1987-2000) was a 13+ year battle
to make space for small neighborhood radio stations. These
stations were not allowed because they were considered an
inefficient use of spectrum and large stations costs hundreds
of thousands of dollars or more. Instigated by anarchists who
operated pirate radio stations, the effort was soon joined by
libertarians, churches, and community groups.
The issue was less about content and more about the ability to
reach many people cheaply and organize communities. Recall,
the web was a brand new idea, it was slow, hard to navigate
(no Google), and few people, especially poor people, had
As some people began getting access to the internet (1995)
and take advantage of “cutting edge” services like email,
listservs, and websites the movement went national. A
coalition was created to push to for legalization.
Meanwhile, the FCC and Federal Marshals worked shutting
down stations and seizing equipment only to have them raise
funds and get back on the air. With a little technical savvy a
station could be put in the air for a few hundred dollars.
Challenges to the regulations in federal court and increased
public pressure to allow small stations on-the-air. In 2000 free
radio was legitimized by Congress and has been expanded
since. Still, many activists reject government oversight and
still broadcast “extra-legally.
The first IMC was created in 1999 in Seattle to cover the
World Trade Organization (WTO) protests. Indymedia
arose in response to the shortcomings of mainstream
media sources, and more specifically, how social
movements and the left were portrayed in the press.
Initially a side project, the web strategy paid off as IMC
audio and video made its way onto CNN, Reuters,
America Online, Yahoo!, and BBC Online and hits to the
site topped one million.The Internet’s role in planning
and executing the WTO protests also provided a proof
of concept for the increased use of digital networks for
Consistent with social movement formation
characteristics on organizational and interpersonal
levels, the first IMC was a collaborative effort of preexisting alternative media organizations and
The emerging model for Independent Media Centers
was predicated on specific mass mobilizations. Battle of
Seattle media veterans traveled to other locales to help
set up IMCs.
In February 2000, a media center was established in
Boston to cover the Biodevastation Conference. In
April another IMC was formed in Washington D.C.
to report on a series of protests against meetings of
the World Bank and the International Monetary
Fund. The open source code for the original IMC
site allowed for relatively easy replication. In one
year, over 24 new IMCs emerged around the world
often in conjunction with large global justice
protests against neoliberal institutions including
the IMF, World Bank, or the G8.
Demand soon exceeded any need for mobilization
protest support. By November 2001, just two years
after the first Indymedia opened, there were 60
IMC sites on 4 continents and 10 countries. By
2002, the IMCN had grown to 83 sites. In April
2005, Indymedia comprised a network of 150 sites,
and in early summer of 2006 it had expanded to
159 sites spanning over 50 countries across 6
continents. Currently, there are over 175 sites
across the globe.
Aside from creating an alternative media outlet, Indymedia was grounded in a new form of
journalism based on open publishing – a process of creating news transparent to readers and
blurring the lines between consumers and producers. Anyone can upload text, audio, video, or
photography from any networked computer. This exemplifies the IMCN’s openness where access
and participation is key to the process of news making.
The IMCN’s novel organizational structure, autonomy of local collectives, and lack of
standardization is the antithesis of most commercial mainstream media. This also reflects the
participants’ anti-hierarchical ideology. The IMCN and its forbearer the Micro Radio Movement are
products of a process with roots in the mid-20th century protest movements.
Hard lessons learned by dissidents at the hands of state security and the mainstream media led to
more loosely connected and networked based social movement organizations, thus resisting
leadership or resource decapitation through cooptation, disruption, or discredit. While relational
networks have always been at the core of social movements and are key to the social reinforcement
required for sustained participation, such networks are limited by time and space constraints.
The birth of Indymedia in 1999 arose from the confluence of social movement networks and digital
networks, the latter allowing for a degree of scalability and reach previously not possible.

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