Net Neutrality and Activism

by Brittany Wortham

Lately there’s been a lot of discussion regarding net neutrality and the effect that its absence could have on internet use. The focus of the debate seems to be on social networking and streaming services, but the consequences of repealing net neutrality rules could be much heavier for grassroots activism.

On December 14th, the Federal Communications Committee (FCC) gathered to discuss the topic. Despite the massive public outcry in favor of the network neutrality rules instated in 2015, the FCC voted 3-2 to repeal them. Constituents have continued debating over what this means, as many people are still not sure how to define the term.

In short, the principles of network neutrality require that all content on the internet has an equal chance of being seen. Internet service providers can’t charge content creators extra for their data to load faster or be available to a wider audience. This encourages a free-flowing exchange of ideas, which is crucial for a healthy democracy.

The implications this would have for activists are as far reaching as they are apparent. In a system where large corporations and wealthy individuals control the flow of information, there would be little room for dissenting perspectives and more obstacles for organizing. The internet is the final frontier and the rich and powerful are hell bent on conquering it.

The entertainment industry also owes a lot of its growth to net neutrality. In recent years, the internet has provided a platform for artists and performers to share their own forms of dissent, which has led to better coverage of social issues, as well as more diverse representation in entertainment. Without net neutrality, independent artists would be at a disadvantage.

Many activists are already preparing for a world without net neutrality by studying the logistics of local mesh networks and experimenting with alternative forms of communication. In light of the gains made by the rich and powerful to control the political landscape (and therefore legislation concerning communication methods), it seems prudent to stay ahead of the game.

Although the FCC has already made its decision, the Congressional Review Act (CRA) allows Congress 60 days to overrule it, provided it can gain either presidential approval or support from two-thirds of the House and Senate. Unsurprisingly, Senators John Isakson and David Perdue are currently in support of repealing net neutrality, so Georgia activists are uniting to sway them on the issue.

There are two ways to get involved before the final decision is made regarding net neutrality. The first is to contact Georgia’s Senators. Their contact information is listed below.

Senator John Isakson: (770) 661-0999 (or email him here)

Senator David Perdue: (404) 865-0087 (or email him here)

The second way to make your voice heard on this issue is the join the protest in Atlanta this week. It will take place on December 30th at 1:00pm, at the CNN center. Check out the Facebook event page for more information.

Fighting to Feed the Homeless in Atlanta

by Brittany Wortham

On a cold, hazy morning, a handful of activists convened in front of the Municipal Court in Atlanta. Equal parts earnest and defiant, this group was about as diverse as the city itself. Ranging from teenaged to middle-aged, polished to punky, representing a variety of backgrounds, they were all there for the same reason; to defend their right to feed the hungry.

In January of 2017, the Georgia Department of Community affairs reported that there are approximately 3,716 homeless people in the state. Since Atlanta’s largest shelter was shut down in August, the situation in the city is expected to grow more dire, leaving many homeless Atlantans with no place to go.

Volunteers for Food Not Bombs Atlanta handed out free food and coffee in front of the Atlanta Municipal Courthouse.
Volunteers for Food Not Bombs Atlanta handed out free food and coffee in front of the Atlanta Municipal Court.

On top of that, Atlanta has also seen a rise in gentrification in recent years, which many believe is leading to a full on affordable housing crisis. In addition to making housing less affordable, the gentrification process has led to a crackdown by the police to keep homeless citizens out of sight-and out of mind.

All of this came to a head recently when a volunteer for the group Food Not Bombs Atlanta was cited by Georgia State University Police for handing out free food in Hurt Park. According to the officer who issued the citation, a permit is required to distribute food in a public space. The group has denied the allegation, citing a case that was won by the ACLU in 2000.

After local law enforcement started distributing flyers ordering citizens to stop giving food to the homeless, Food Not Bombs released a flyer of its own:

ATLFNB

Food Not Bombs says it’s been feeding hungry people in Atlanta for more than ten years and has no plans to stop. The recent crackdown has only encouraged the group to double down on its efforts by hosting giveaway events throughout the city, including one in front of the courthouse where their comrade attended her hearing.

Adele MacLean, affectionately known as “Earthworm” by her colleagues, was cited for giving out food at Hurt Park, which she says she’s been doing for eight years. Her charges were dropped on Thursday, but it’s unlikely that the battle is over for those who plan to continue handing out free food in Atlanta.

Activists gave away free food and clothing at Hurt Park to protest the police crackdown on food sharing.
Activists gave away free food and clothing at Hurt Park to protest the police crackdown on food sharing.

MacLean spoke to several media outlets outside the courthouse after her scheduled hearing, saying:

“I’m still outraged that this is happening. I’m concerned that the city, whenever they want to crack down on the homeless, they’re going to go after anyone that tries to help them. The city is trying to make the place as inhospitable to the homeless as possible in order to drive them away and sweep the problem under the rug.”

Needless to say, feeding the hungry should not be considered a crime, and if authorities insist that acts of love and acceptance are against the law, then those laws must be broken. No one deserves to be discarded and forgotten because they’ve fallen on some rough circumstances. Now more than ever, it’s important that we be there for each other.

A volunteer helps hand out food in front of the Municipal Courthouse.
A volunteer helps hand out food in front of the Municipal Court.

If you’re interested in helping Food Not Bombs feed the hungry, you can keep up with its events and donation requests via its Facebook page. It’s a small, dedicated collective that’s always in need of volunteers and support.

All photos taken by Brittany Wortham, 2017

 

#HandsOffMyBC

by Brittany Wortham

What do doctors, handmaids, and social justice warriors all have in common? They’re all fighting for women’s reproductive rights. I caught up with a few of Georgia’s most vocal pro-choice advocates last week at the Hands Off My Birth Control Rally in Atlanta.

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The rally, which was held in front of the Health and Human Services Building, was a response to President Donald Trump’s recent executive order allowing employers to leave birth control out of company insurance plans based on religious grounds. It was coordinated with protests in Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, and Washington, D.C.

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The night before, I spoke to Laura Simmons, State Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Georgia. When asked about how to best combat policies that restrict access to birth control, she stressed the importance of electing pro-choice candidates, saying:

“In Georgia in particular, where we have a legislature comprised primarily of people who are anti-choice, the first and foremost thing that you can do is to support candidates who are pro-choice and who are going to stand up for women’s rights.”

The rally drew a surprising number of supporters for a Wednesday afternoon and featured several speakers, including Alaina Reaves, Organizing & Engagement Coordinator for a group called #VOTEPROCHOICE. She touched on the importance of birth control and its many uses, saying:

“Birth control is not just about family planning. It’s used to treat endometriosis, heavy bleeding, menstrual cramps…It’s used to treat other medical conditions, and no woman should have to explain her use of birth control or be denied coverage based on her job or her company’s beliefs.”

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When it comes to providing family-planning options, Georgia legislation is a mixed bag. While birth control is readily obtainable, coverage for it is limited and there are some restrictions for minors. Abortions are legal, but also come with some restrictions, including a mandatory 24-hour wait period and parental notifications for minors.

Access to birth control is important not just for women, but for society in general. As long as any woman is restricted in her right to control her reproductive future, none of us are truly free. Men in power will try to convince us that it’s an abstract moral concept or a niche women’s issue, but we can’t accept that. This is a struggle worth fighting for.

If you’re interested fighting for women’s reproductive rights, start by following these groups on Facebook: NARAL Pro-choice Georgia, Georgia Alliance for Social Justice, Feminist Women’s Health Center-Atlanta, and Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates

If you have a story to share or an event you’d like me cover, email me at bwortham@atlampd.com.

All photos taken by Brittany Wortham, 2017

A Little Bit Louder, Atlanta

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Hey there, Atlanta activists!

If you’re reading this, you’re probably interested in making the world a better place. Maybe you’re a seasoned activist looking to further your efforts, or maybe you want to make a difference, but aren’t sure where to start. Either way, I’m glad you’re here.

The purpose of this blog is to connect activists in the Atlanta area and amplify the voices of those who are fighting for change. Each week, I’ll be sharing and covering relevant local events and talking to the amazing activists who dedicate their time to making Atlanta better.

In addition to spreading the word, I want to explore what makes activism work – and what makes it fail. I’ve learned so much in my experience so far, and I want to build on that by exchanging ideas and trying new things. There’s so much we can accomplish when we join together against the forces of fascism and inequality, and it all starts with getting on the same page.

Whether you’re passionate about race and gender equality, environmental protection, or animal rights, the Atlanta area has many opportunities for you to get involved. My hope is to get to know all of you so that we can inspire each other and continue to build this diverse community of activists.

Thanks for joining me on this journey. I’m excited to see where it goes.

-Brittany