Tag Archives: Jess Spear

Jess Spear: 2,000 Come Out for Seattle’s People’s Climate March


(The following was originally posted on Jess Spear’s campaign website.)

The march ended with hundreds successfully blocking train tracks where Jess Spear, Socialist Alternative candidate for the 43rd district of the Washington State House of Representatives afterwards declared: “People power forced this BNSF train to retreat – we will stop these oil and coal trains putting downtown Seattle in danger and contributing to the global climate disaster.”

By Patrick Ayers, originally posted at SocialistAlternative.org

“Two crises – one solution.” This was the slogan of the People’s Climate March in Seattle on September 21. Organized in solidarity with the historic march in New York City, the event in Seattle highlighted how the the environmental crisis and the economic crisis could be addressed together with bold policies like a green jobs program.

“The false dichotomy between jobs and the environment must be rejected,” declared the event announcement on Facebook. “Let’s stand together – environmentalists, native tribes, and labor to demand investment in renewable energy not fossil fuels.”

The event gave a glimpse of the potential to build a powerful movement against the corporations and politicians that stand in the way of tackling climate change. More than 2,000 people packed Westlake Park, a traditional location for protest in Seattle. Nearly every environmental and social justice group in Seattle participated, including Idle No More, 350.org, Divest University of Washington and Seattle University, the Sierra Club, Rising Tide, and more. Even NGOs that don’t normally mobilize for such events did so.

Importantly, there was unprecedented support from the labor movement, including IBEW Local 46 and the Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action (PSARA). Jeff Johnston, the president of the Washington State Labor Council spoke at the event giving life to the real possibility of a powerful alliance between labor and the environmental movement in Washington. Importantly, Shelly Secrest of the NAACP also spoke and endorsed the event.

Jess Spear, Socialist Alternative’s candidate for the Washington State Legislature in the 43rd district was one of the central organizers of the event and chaired the coalition meetings that brought together nearly every environmental group in Seattle. She spoke at the beginning of the rally, calling for a united movement of labor and environmental groups.

“Let’s rebuild the economy around green technology,” Spear said in her speech. “This could not only start addressing the damage of global warming, but would create millions of jobs expanding public transit, retrofitting our homes, installing millions of solar panels, and building a new electric grid.”

Many people in the crowd cheered when Spear called for reigning in the power of the fossil fuel industry and building a society where resources are used democratically. “Fossil fuel corporations that stand in the way of taking action on climate change – EXXON, Mobile, BP, Shell – these corporations threaten our future. They should be taken out of the hands of the billionaire CEOs and into public ownership. And we should be able to decide democratically whether our society spends billions on coal export terminals or clean energy jobs.”

Direct Action

Mike Lapointe, a former union leader and an environmental activists who recently ran an independent electoral challenge against the corporate Democratic Party congressman Rick Larson, gave voice to the urgency many felt in his speech. “I’m excited and proud to to be here!” began the speech by Mike Lapointe, “But that doesn’t explain why I’m here. I am here – just like you – because I have to be here!”

Lapointe and other speakers called for direct action to stop dirty fossil fuel projects, like the proposal to build North America’s largest coal export terminal in Bellingham, Washington. Just last week, Lapointe and several other protesters were arrested for blocking oil and coal train tracks, in a protest against the dangerous movement of mile-long oil trains through highly populated areas.

In fact, just two months ago an oil train derailed in Seattle. Nobody died in that derailment, but it highlighted the immediate danger posed by these trains that have exploded in other derailments, and in one case killed more than 40 people. Since then, there have been at least three separate attempts to block the train tracks between Seattle and Bellingham to protest oil trains.

It was out of one of these blockades that the whole idea for a march in Seattle in solidarity with the NYC People’s Climate March originated. Jess Spear was arrested along with two other activists from Socialist Alternative at the end of July for blocking oil train tracks. This was just one week after the derailment in Seattle. Spear’s protest forced the city to admit there was no emergency plan for oil train derailments. Meanwhile, Spear and Socialist alternative used the moment to put out the call for the September 21 action.

In the end, Jess Spear and Socialist Alternative brought together nearly every environmental group in Seattle. This was not just due to the energy we put into the mobilization. But, more importantly, the new period we are in. There is a growing recognition that the political establishment has completely failed to address the challenge of climate change. Millions had hopes that President Obama would boldly take it on, but instead we have seen the expansion of fracking, coastal oil exploration, and mountaintop removal removal mining.

Blockade victory

This mood found a powerful expression at the end of the People’s Climate march in Seattle. After marching from Westlake Park to Seattle’s waterfront, chanting the entire way for green jobs and stopping oil trains, hundreds of activists stopped on the train tracks and blockaded a them for almost three hours. The protests around Keystone XL have helped foster a growing mood that it’s time to take matters into our own hands, to build a mass movement, and to take direct action.

This mass direct action, lead by Spear, appealed to a far more youthful and combative layer of the protest. The action had all the elements of an Occupy Wall Street event. There was a people’s mic, a people’s assembly, and non-stop chanting with chants like:“It you build it, we will stop it! If you ship it, we will block it!” and “Oil, coal, gas! none shall pass!”

For most of the blockade, there was a tense standoff between the protest and a BNSF oil train engine that we refused to let pass. Meanwhile, 60,000 people were about to leave a downtown stadium following the NFL football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos. Thousands would take a commuter rail home and need to pass through our blockade.

Socialist Alternative member Ramy Khalil lead protesters in a discussion about what to do. In the end, we gave BNSF two options: they could back the train up and move it off the tracks allowing the commuter rail train to pass, or they could allow the commuter rail train to pass on the opposite tracks. But, we made it clear that we would hold our ground against the oil train engine.

Clearly, BNSF was trying to avoid arresting hundreds of people. In the end, they were forced to back down and they moved the train off the tracks to allow the commuter rails through. It was a powerful victory for our protest, and showed the potential for even larger mass direct actions to win real victories for working people and the environment.

The rally and march of 2,000 people along with the blockade by hundreds represent a huge step forward for the environmental movement in Seattle. Over the next weeks and months we have the potential to build on this success with more mass oil train blockades and direct actions. But also we have the opportunity to put a climate scientist and working class activist in the Washington State house with the election of Socialist

Alternative candidate Jess Spear.Clearly, BNSF was trying to avoid arresting hundreds of people. In the end, they were forced to back down and they moved the train off the tracks to allow the commuter rails through. It was a powerful victory for our protest, and showed the potential for even larger mass direct actions to win real victories for working people and the environment.

After yesterday’s actions, it’s clear to many environmental activists in Seattle: Jess Spear is no ordinary candidate. When was the last time there was a candidate in Washington that was willing to risk arrest twice in two months to help a movement stop dangerous oil trains from coming through our communities? In reality, we need more candidates like Kshama Sawant and Jess Spear – candidates from our movements who fight uncompromisingly for what working people need, not what is acceptable to the corporate bosses. Everyone inspired by the march and blockade in Seattle should get involved in the Vote Spear campaign, volunteer, and donate today.

NWCN: Oil Train Protesters Arrested on Seattle Tracks

(The following was originally published in NWCN.)

SEATTLE — Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant and Jess Spear, a candidate for the state legislature, were among the activists who blocked railroad tracks to protest oil trains in Seattle. Spear was arrested.

Sawant said it was sheer luck that the oil train that derailed in Seattle last week didn’t spill or explode. She said she supports protesting by using human shields to block oil shipments in Seattle and along the West Coast. Sawant wasn’t arrested.

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Jess Spear: The Final Primary Push

Jess Spear

(The following was originally published on Jess Spear’s campaign website.)

We’ve got just one week to reach supporters before the primary elections on August 5.

We’re campaigning for rent control – to stop runaway rent costs; a fossil fuel free Washington state – a few days after a potentially deadly oil train derailment; and a tax on the rich to fund education, transit, and clean energy.

To do this, we need YOU. This weekend we’ll be campaigning in Capitol HillFremont, and the U-district, as well as standing in solidarity with the people of Gaza on Saturday. Come join us in the final push to get the word out!

Every day our volunteers are out campaigning. If you can’t make the above events, email our volunteer coordinator and we can get you together with other supporters in your area.

Then join us at the election night party to celebrate! It’s only through your support that we can win a voice for working people in Olympia!

Jess Spear,

Candidate, WA state House, 43rd LD, Position 2

The Stranger: Guest Editorial: The Rent is Too Damn High, Let’s Get it Under Control


(The following was originally published as a Guest Editorial by Socialist Alternative Washington State House candidate Jess Spear in The Stranger.)


Rents are skyrocketing across the city. It’s not just the perception of frustrated Capitol Hill renters—Seattle ranked number one in the country in rising rentslast year. In spite of a construction boom in high-end apartments, this past quarter saw a continuation of the trend. We’re told it’s because there still aren’t enough units. The demand is high, the supply is low, ergo the price will rise—just simple economics.

Yet the biggest increase in rents was seen in Ballard, where the supply doubled over the last six years and the vacancy rate is highest in the city. The “if you build it, they will come (and rent will fall)” ethic is lining the pockets of wealthy developers, but hasn’t helped the priced-out majority of Seattle area renters.

Affordability is not just a function of supply. It’s a function of the kind of supply that’s available. Market forces will tend to invest in high-end housing first, as this type of housing is the most profitable for developers. Research shows that new construction of expensive apartments doesn’t generate affordable housing, and some experts think it may even be pushing rents higher. That’s because developers are replacing and renovating affordable units, with the new units renting for $2,200/month.

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Jess Spear and Kshama Sawant Stand With Gaza

(The following was originally posted on Jess Spear’s campaign website.)

We stand in solidarity with the people of Gaza and Palestine at this time of vicious repression. This onslaught will achieve nothing but a mounting death toll. We call for an immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Gaza strip.

This carnage we are witnessing would not have been possible without US taxpayers’ dollars, and Obama and Kerry’s support. They are attempting to defend the indefensible. We call for an end to all US funding for the Israeli war machine.

Protests are taking place around the world, including the mass protests in the West Bank and in Israel. These protests within Israel/Palestine especially offer huge hope of ending the destruction. We will work to build an international mass movement against war and terror, and an end to this system of exploitation and oppression.

Join the protest in Seattle on Saturday July 26 – facebook event here

Full Socialist Alternative Statement

Stop Israeli State Terror

Mass Action Shows the way Forward!

Over 800 Palestinians have been killed in the current war – the overwhelming majority civilians. 38 Israelis have also lost their lives. The destruction raining down on the Gaza strip, carried out by the huge US-backed military machine of the Israeli government, is completely disproportionate to the threat faced by homemade rockets fired from Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu claims that the war is necessary to guarantee Israelis safety. In reality, this ground invasion will do nothing to make Israelis safer. It is at the expense of many lives, such as the vicious attack on people sheltering in a UN school. Homes of those accused of killing Israelis have been targeted and destroyed, leaving survivors to search for the dead amongst the rubble. Meanwhile, no such action has been taken against the families of far-right Israeli activists charged with killing Mohammad Abu-Khdeir.
This conflict, and the ongoing vicious oppression of Palestinians, is rooted in the western quest for domination throughout the Middle East. It is intractable under the present capitalist system, which places profit over people.
The spark that ignited this present conflict is the collapse of US-backed peace talks in April, and the formation of a new Palestinian government supported by both main political parties, Hamas and Fatah. Israel had attempted to hold back demands for Palestinian statehood by playing off one party against another; the threat of a united government is the main threat the Israeli government is fighting.
Netanyahu’s government has a policy of expanding into Palestinian areas by supporting new settlements and driving Palestinians off their land. It has no interest in working for a real peace, and for a genuinely independent Palestine. The US, led by Obama, fully backs the right-wing Israeli government as a steady partner in an oil-rich region wracked with war and instability.
Unfortunately, the rockets fired into Israel have threatened lives and given Israel the excuse it needed to justify a ground invasion of the Gaza strip. These tactics are counter-productive, and will not further the cause of an independent Palestinian state.
We cannot rely on corporate politicians to solve this situation; it is only through mass action of workers and others in the area that a lasting solution can be won. The protests throughout the West Bank, and of Arabs within Israel, including widespread closures of businesses, are a tremendous example of what is needed.
This movement shows the anger that exists, and the potential for a Palestinian “Arab Spring.” It is fear of this kind of mass action further developing that has helped force the US to step up efforts for a ceasefire. Growing joint protests of Jews and Arabs within Israel have also shown the potential for working-class people uniting for an end to the conflict.
In 2011, Israel saw a mass movement for public investment in housing, and other social services, which showed the potential for class divisions to open up in Israeli society. The struggle for peace, work and housing for Israelis and Palestinians can only be won by mass struggle; kicking out the vested interests of the western governments, of big business, and of the right wing parties in Israel and Palestine.

• Stop the slaughter! End the missile strikes and other attacks on Gaza!
• End the blockade of Gaza. For the immediate withdrawal of the Israeli army from the Palestinian territories. The conflict will not be solved by military means.
• For a mass struggle of the Palestinians, under their own democratic control, to fight for genuine national liberation.
• For independent workers’ organizations in Palestine and Israel.
• For an independent, democratic socialist Palestinian state, alongside a democratic socialist Israel, with two capitals in Jerusalem and guaranteed democratic rights for all minorities, as part of the struggle for a socialist Middle East and regional peace.

Capitol Hill: Challenger Spear Brings Socialist Alternative (and Ground Game) Fight to 43rd District Establishment

Jess Spear


(The following was originally published in Capitol Hill.)

Jess Spear readily admits her bid to unseat a powerful, 10-term Olympia politician with strong name recognition will not be a day at the beach. House Speaker Frank Chopp is about as entrenched as you can get in his Capitol Hill-centered 43rd District. But Spear, a 32-year-old climate scientist andSocialist Alternative candidate, says the political landscape is shifting in her favor. After taking leading roles in the successful $15 Now and Kshama Sawant campaigns, Spear is hoping to ride the momentum into Olympia.

“The political situation has changed,” she told CHS. “When we organize, we win, and we’re carrying that lesson forward.”

As ballots dropped last week for the August 5th primary, Spear will be staking out Capitol Hill street corners to get out her message of a statewide $15 an hour minimum wage and repealing the nearly $9 billion Boeing tax break state lawmakers approved last year. To those that say it can’t be done, Spear is quick to point out that many leveled the same charge against Sawant and $15 Now.

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