It’s a beau­ti­ful day in the North­west, but we’re tak­ing you to Atlanta, Geor­gia for our live cov­er­age of Net­roots Nation 2017. For the clos­ing ple­nary this evening, atten­dees are hear­ing from for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Al Gore, labor leader Dolores Huer­ta, civ­il rights leader Rev. Dr. Ger­ald Dur­ley, NextGen Amer­i­ca founder Tom Stey­er and DACA recip­i­ent Pamela Chomba.

Start­ing the evening, Angel Kyo­do Williams brought the audi­ence togeth­er, urg­ing for healthy dis­agree­ment, an empha­sis on love and the voic­es of the peo­ple, and clear minds. By stat­ing, “We move togeth­er with love and with jus­tice.”, she beau­ti­ful­ly called for uni­ty and pre­pared the audi­ence to not only lis­ten to the clos­ing speak­ers, but to move for­ward as a movement.

Net­roots announced a vig­il after the ple­nary in hon­or of a counter-pro­test­er who died fol­low­ing the “Unite the Right” white suprema­cist march in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia this afternoon.

Rev. Dr. Ger­ald Dur­ley came out, fol­low­ing the announce­ment, and led the crowd in a moment of silence to reflect on those killed or injured in Vir­ginia this after­noon. Dur­ley reflect­ed on his work with MLK, not­ing that 57 years lat­er, we are still in the same strug­gle so many years ago.

Quot­ing the pre­am­ble, Dur­ley called out the Pres­i­dent and his admin­is­tra­tion by stat­ing that “we the peo­ple” have been put on the back burn­er, even stat­ing that the coun­try is run by men “who know the cost of every­thing and the val­ue of noth­ing”. Dur­ley went on to empow­er the room by ask­ing, “Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired?” If so, he said, it is time to stand against, resist the oppo­si­tion, and sacrifice.

In his clos­ing, Dur­ley deliv­ered a riv­et­ing expla­na­tion of his phrase, “Our resis­tance must be per­sis­tence”, and shared that the envi­ron­ment is his new bat­tle to wage as a fight­er of justice.

Next up, the room wel­comed Tom Stey­er, founder of NextGen Amer­i­ca. Stey­er also called out the admin­is­tra­tion for fram­ing the dis­cus­sion around, “Who is Amer­i­can? Who is wor­thy of dig­in­i­ty? Who is human?” while refo­cus­ing on the his­to­ry of how these ques­tions were answered in Amer­i­can his­to­ry and acknowl­edg­ing the sig­nif­i­cant names that rede­fined the answers to those ques­tions in this nation.

Stey­er not­ed that our democ­ra­cy has been cor­rupt­ed by cor­po­rate inter­ests, men­tion­ing issues from the Dako­ta Access Pipeline to the preda­to­ry prac­tices of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal companies.

He moved on to sug­gest­ing a game plan, start­ing with invest­ing in the Amer­i­can peo­ple through uni­ver­sal health­care and education.

Sec­ond­ly, he stat­ed we need to pro­tect cit­i­zen’s rights by ensur­ing the pro­tec­tion of voter’s rights, labor unions, peo­ple of col­or, immi­grants, and LGBTQIA+.

Third­ly, Stey­er urged the audi­ence to reclaim a clean Amer­i­ca, while not­ing that fail­ure to act on cli­mate change will not only make us health­i­er, but will get peo­ple high­er wages and bet­ter jobs.

Fol­low­ing Stey­er, Pamela Chom­ba took the stage, start­ing with her per­son­al account of ICE com­ing to her door, with guns and SWAT agents. “I’m mus­lim, undoc­u­ment­ed, Lat­inx, and I am unsafe”, Chom­ba stat­ed, “I’m unsafe.”

She said that as a DACA recip­i­ent, she felt safe, but under the new admin­is­tra­tion, DACA recip­i­ents are now being detained. “As activists we shout, ‘undoc­u­ment­ed and unafraid’, but I am so afraid.”, she stat­ed in tears.

She not­ed that killing the DACA, as many Repub­li­cans have sug­gest­ed, would take 8,000 work­ers and thou­sands of home­own­ers out of the Amer­i­can econ­o­my. Chom­ba went on to say that immi­grants from Haiti, South Amer­i­ca, and Mex­i­co are in dan­ger, and that our lead­ers want to recre­ate the coun­try in their image.

She then intro­duced Dolores Huer­ta to the stage. Huer­ta stat­ed that, “Racism comes from the stain of slav­ery on our his­to­ry.” But that all humans are from Africa, and that the KKK could do be remind­ed of that.

She went on to state that immi­gra­tion is not a crime, but that immi­gra­tion as a crime is impor­tant to those in pow­er because it fills pris­ons and the his­to­ry of racism in this coun­try. Edu­ca­tion, she not­ed, needs to be our focus. Know­ing that African Amer­i­cans built the schools, Asian Amer­i­cans built the roads, and Mex­i­can Amer­i­cans built the infra­struc­ture of this coun­try changes how one sees the nation. Quot­ing a philoso­pher, Huer­ta stat­ed, “If you do not have an edu­cat­ed cit­i­zen­ry, the cor­rupt and the crim­i­nal will govern”.

Huer­ta pushed the audi­ence to start orga­niz­ing at the local lev­el, in school boards and recre­ation boards and water boards. She also urged them, say­ing, “if we do not do it, no one will.”

Next, Huer­ta pushed to end the school to prison pipeline, to offer free edu­ca­tion and free health care. But she men­tioned that the peo­ple do not own their nat­ur­al resources, cor­po­ra­tions own them, mak­ing it hard to pay for what the nation needs.

Huer­ta also men­tioned that all groups must march togeth­er, essen­tial­ly urg­ing every­one to show up for all caus­es. Using the poor­est peo­ple, Mex­i­can farm labor­ers, com­ing togeth­er against pow­er and win­ning. But they won because they worked together.

She closed by quot­ing a Cuban poet who wrote, “They can cut all the flow­ers, but they can­not stop the spring.” She then led the audi­ence in a chant, “Who’s got the pow­er?” to which the audi­ence respond­ed, “We’ve got the power!”

Head­ing towards the end of the Ple­nary, Huer­ta intro­duced Al Gore and Mustafa Ali to the stage. The dis­cus­sion start­ed with look­ing at the sequel to “An Incon­ve­nient Truth, Gore’s famous movie about the bat­tle for envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions, “An Incon­ve­nient Sequel”.

Mustafa asked Gore, “Why is this movie so impor­tant right now?” Gore respond­ed by not­ing that peo­ple are see­ing the same prob­lems today, but in glob­al pro­por­tions. While dis­cussing some sta­tis­tics regard­ing the pro­por­tions of atmos­pher­ic pol­lu­tion, Gore also men­tioned the major envi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ters that the world is fac­ing right now.

Yet, the major prob­lem is, accord­ing to Gore, that those most affect­ed by pol­lu­tion are defense­less against major cor­po­rate pol­luters, caus­ing vio­lence against those who are poor­est and most defenseless.

Mustafa also ques­tioned Gore on the impor­tance of march­es and oth­er dis­plays have in this issue. Gore stat­ed that those dis­plays of orga­ni­za­tion are extreme­ly impor­tant, but that build­ing per­son­al con­nec­tions with peo­ple is also a major motor of change.

Ref­er­enc­ing the Sanders cam­paign, Gore also men­tioned that the cam­paign proved to every­one that cam­paigns can be suc­cess­ful with­out tak­ing mon­ey from bil­lion­aires, spe­cial inter­est groups, and lob­by­ists, giv­ing hope to Americans.

But Gore also detailed the cri­sis of Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy, that politi­cians spend most of their time cam­paign­ing for mon­ey from the wealth­i­est peo­ple. In turn, they rep­re­sent those who are wealthy in leg­is­la­tion. Gore pushed for an end to this sys­tem, stat­ing that we must to reclaim our democracy.

Mustafa con­tin­ued by ask­ing Gore about the Paris Agree­ment and what it would mean to leave the agree­ment. Gore sound­ed hope­ful, not­ing that the Amer­i­can peo­ple are ded­i­cat­ed to pro­tect­ing our envi­ron­ment and that any new lead­er­ship in our future may eas­i­ly rejoin the agree­ment. Gore stat­ed, “This could just be a speed bump in the plan.”

Final­ly, Gore dis­cussed the fram­ing of cli­mate change as a moral issue, as asked by Mustafa Ali. Gore stat­ed that it nev­er should have been a polit­i­cal issue first, but that the younger gen­er­a­tions will ques­tion why we left them with the prob­lems we did; that in itself is a moral issue.

Gore, like Stey­er, con­tin­ued to dis­cuss how the alter­na­tive is bet­ter: that cli­mate change can be mit­i­gat­ed by inno­va­tions that will rev­o­lu­tion­ize our econ­o­my, pay our work­ers more, and will save our younger generations.

Gore and Mustafa also dis­cussed the need for diver­si­ty in the envi­ron­men­tal movement.


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3 replies on “LIVE from Atlanta: Al Gore Takes the Stage for the Closing Plenary of Netroots Nation 2017”

  1. Every­one who wants to help pro­tect our plan­et and can spare the time should apply to be trained by Al as a Cli­mate Real­i­ty Leader.

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