Hamilton Book Launch

Date: November 8
Time: 7pm
Location: Room 1010, Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Learning (MDCL), McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario

Join author and activist Scott Neigh for a talk and book signing as he launches two new books published by Fernwood Publishing: Gender and Sexuality: Canadian History Through the Stories of Activists and Resisting the State: Canadian History Through the Stories of Activists. Hear about some of the many struggles that have shaped the Canada of today, and talk about new ways of relating to the past as we struggle for a transformed tomorrow.

To learn more about the books and the project of which they are a part, and to read and hear excerpts from the interviews around which the books are organized, visit here. To find out about ways to purchase the books if you can’t make it to the launch, click here.

From the book jackets:

We usually learn our history from the perspective of our rulers — from the top down. In these books we learn about our history from the perspectives of ordinary people — from the bottom up. Whatever liberty and justice that communities, workplaces and individuals in Canada enjoy are due to the many struggles and social movements in our country’s history. Yet the stories and histories of those movements to overcome racism, sexism, and poverty, for example, remain largely untold, thanks to the single, simplistic national story taught to us in school. Deftly combining history with accounts from participants in social movements, Neigh introduces us to the untold histories of activists, histories that encourage all of us to engage in struggles that will shape our shared tomorrow.

Gender and Sexuality unearths a diverse spectrum of struggle through the accounts of longstanding social movement participants. From indigenous women working against colonization and Christian women trying to end sexism and homophobia in their churches, to gay men opposing sexual oppression and women fighting against hostile employers and violence, this book reveals the ways that oppressions based on gender and sexuality — and the struggles against them — have shaped our society.

In Resisting the State, Neigh details the histories of a broad range of social movements and provides readers with a richer understanding of the Canadian state and why so many people — including military draftees, welfare recipients, workers, indigenous people, psychiatric survivors, immigrants and refugees — have struggled, and continue to struggle, for equality and justice for all members of society.

What people are saying about Gender and Sexuality and Resisting the State:

“Never doubt that a few committed people can change Canada (and the world) for the better. Scott Neigh’s oral histories show not only the power of committed idealism, but also how the history of our whole country has been shaped by brave Canadians who refuse to accept the misery and injustice that surrounds us. Read these books to learn how the history of social change organizing is indeed the history of Canada — and then go out and start making your own history.” — Jim Stanford, union economist and peace activist

“This work is a treasure that provides a portal to Canadian history, bringing it alive and urgent through the voices and profound insights of veteran social justice activists, an indispensable guide for present and future generations to carry on these struggles.” — Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, veteran activist and author

And even more.

Scott Neigh is a writer, parent, and activist currently based in Sudbury, Ontario. He lived in Hamilton, Ontario, from 1993 until 2004, where he was active in student, anti-poverty, anti-racism, environmental, and other social justice organizing, including as a board member of OPIRG McMaster. He blogs regularly on political topics at A Canadian Lefty in Occupied Land. You can learn more about these books and the project of which they are a part at the Talking Radical site, and more about Scott here.

This event is sponsored by OPIRG McMaster, Bryan Prince Bookseller, and Fernwood Publishing.

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Radio — Migrant agricultural workers dreaming a better future

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Evelyn Encalada of Justice for Migrant Workers and multiple award-winning filmmaker Min Sook Lee. They talk about the experiences and struggles of migrant agricultural workers in Canada, and about the new feature-length documentary Migrant Dreams.

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Every year, hundreds of thousands of people — mostly working-class people of colour from the Global South — come to Canada as “migrant workers” to do various sorts of hard, low paying, low-status work. There are a number of different programs through which this is organized, from the 50 year-old Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which has mushroomed in the last 15 years. Across the board, however, migrant workers face intense restrictions on basic rights that would be unimagineable for workers with Canadian citizenship, and this restriction of their rights by the Canadian state makes them highly vulnerable to and exploitable by employers.

Evelyn Encalada is a co-founder of and organizer with Justice for Migrant Workers, a group that has organized with migrant workers in the agricultural sector for more than a decade and a half. Their work runs the gamut from provinding acute support to individual workers in moments of crisis; to the long, quiet process of building the relationships that are the basis for exerting collective power; to mobilizing migrant workers and the broader public in visible efforts to push for change.

Min Sook Lee is a long-time activist and filmmaker. Her past films include My Toxic Baby; Tiger Spirit; Hogtown: The Politics of Policing; The Real Inglorious Bastards; and many more, and the awards at the Mayworks Festival — Canada’s oldest labour arts festival — are named in her honour.

Lee’s first documentary about the struggles of migrant workers, the Gemini-nominated El Contrato, was made in collaboration with Justice for Migrant Workers and was released in 2003. In 2013, she approached Encalada again, this time with an interest in making a feature-length documentary about the lives of women working in Canada as migrant agricultural workers — the film soon to be released as Migrant Dreams. It follows the struggles of a group of Indonesian migrant workers living in southern Ontario and fighting back against the lies, coercion, and exploitation they face at the hands of recruiters and employers. It shows the deplorable conditions faced by migrant workers, and it shows both the determination and the complexity of these workers as they take a range of actions to survive and to resist. The world premiere of Migrant Dreams is on May 1, 2016 at the Hot Docs International Film Festival in Toronto. Encalada and Lee speak with me about organizing with migrant workers, filmmaking, and the relationship between the two; and about Migrant Dreams.

To learn more about Justice for Migrant Workers’ latest campaign, called Harvesting Freedom, click here. To learn more about Migrant Dreams, click here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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Radio — A community challenging racial profiling in stores

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Ann Divine and Pastor Lennett Anderson about the racial profiling that Black people and other racialized people often experience in stores — both in general, and about the specific case of Andrella David — and what one community is doing to try to make things different.

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In 2009, Andrella David stopped in a Sobey’s grocery store near where she lives in Nova Scotia to buy some ice cream to take home for her daughter. She was waiting in line to pay when she heard someone shouting — something about “stealing” and “video” and “you people” — and she realized the yelling was at her. Publicly and vocally, a store official accused her of shoplifting and said a number of derogatory and disrespectful things, and then claimed they had her on tape. Knowing full well she had done nothing of the kind, she demanded to see the tape. And other than the fact both she and the woman on the video were Black, they looked nothing alike.

David took Sobey’s to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, and after a lengthy process — which involved a great deal of stress and many days of lost work to participate in the process — she received a ruling in her favour from a Board of Inquiry in 2015. In response, Sobey’s expressed concerns about the fairness of the process, and exercised its right to appeal, naming not just the Human Rights Commission but also Andrella David in that appeal, which guarantees she will face yet more stress, yet more time in the public eye, and yet more days of lost work — all because she was a target of racial profiling and decided to stand up for herself.

Ann Divine, one of today’s guests, is a management consultant, and in earlier years she worked as the manager for race relations, equity, and inclusion at the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. She and her colleagues at the commission published a ground-breaking study on consumer racial profiling in Nova Scotia in 2013. The study demonstrated what many Black (and other racialized) folks in the province (and, indeed, across the continent) already know: racial profiling in stores is widespread, and is quite traumatic for those profiled. It can include being followed by store personnel, being served slowly or not or not all, being harassed by other customers or by staff, being accused of theft, or a range of other experiences.

Pastor Lennett Anderson is the senior minister at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Upper Hammonds Plains, a historic African Nova Scotian community. Andrella David attends his church. Recently, the church community organized a rally at the Sobey’s store in question to tell the store that if it felt that it must appeal (rather than simply abiding by the ruling and instituting policies to prevent future racial profiling), it should at least remove Andrella David’s name from the suit and spare her more years of hardship. Sobey’s has so far refused. And beyond supporting a specific individual, the community is keen to draw broader attention to the issue in hopes that stores and policymakers will begin to make the changes that might make racist humiliation while shopping a thing of the past.

Divine and Anderson speak with me about the realities of racial profiling in consumer contexts, about Andrella David’s case in particular, and about efforts both to support her and to bring attention to the issue more broadly.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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Radio — The World Social Forum is coming to Montreal

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Sarah Sultani and Katia Stuart-Gagnon. They are members of the organizing collective that is bringing the World Social Forum – the largest gathering of civil society and social movements on the planet – to Montreal from August 9 to 14, 2016.

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The World Social Forum has been taking place on an almost annual basis since 2001. With roots in the Latin American social movement tradition of encuentro, or encounter, it began as a deliberate counter-event to the annual World Economic Forum, a meeting of political and business elites held in Davos, Switzerland. The World Social Forum was first held in the city of Porto Allegre, Brazil, and over the last decade and a half has been held in a range of cities across the Global South.

The organizers of this year’s forum are expecting between 50,000 and 80,000 people to make their way to Montreal this August. These attendees will be able to participate in 1500 separate self-managed activities, from conferences to workshops, from debates to cultural events. Representatives of more than 5000 organizations from around Quebec and around the world will be involved in helping make the event happen.

There are a number of features that make this iteration of the WSF unique. It is, for one thing, the first to be held in a country of the Global North. As well, the Montreal forum is experimenting with a number of new approaches. Unlike all of its predecessors, the organizing is not being driven by one or a group of large, funded non-governmental organizations, but rather by a grassroots collective comprised of individual activists that is doing its best to be exhaustively transparent in its processes, budgeting, and decisions. Rather than orienting the event towards producing some sort of final overall statement, the organizers are concentrating on using both the event and the process of organizing it to bring people and groups together in ways that they hope will go farther than ever before to implement what has long been a core principal of the social forum process: supporting existing local struggles and catalyzing new initiatives on the ground.

Sarah Sultani is an environmental educator, and her role in the organizing collective for the WSF in Montreal is as the co-facilitator of the mobilization and international relations working-group, and the facilitator of the environment committee. Katia Stuart-Gagnon has been involved in the logistics working-group and is now the communications officer for the forum. They speak with me about the World Social Forum and about the process of bringing it to Montreal.

For more information about this year’s World Social Forum, to find out how you can get involved in the organizing, or to register to attend from August 9 to 14, 2016, click here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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Radio — Towards a feminist re-iminagining of motherhood

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Candida Hadley, Susanne Marshall, and Andrea Smith about the Halifax Motherhood Collective. They are working to develop grassroots feminist understandings of motherhood and to provide opportunities for mothers to come together, share their experiences, and imagine new ways for mothering (and for other aspects of the work of caring and social reproduction) to happen in our society.

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Becoming a mother — or, with some gendered differences, also other sorts of parents who play a significant caregiving role — can be really, really hard. Yes, it can be wonderful too, and have moments of satisfaction and joy and fulfillment, but for many women, those initial years as a mother come along with an incredible weight of social isolation, personal constraint and intensely regulatory expectation.

Candida Hadley, Susanne Marshall, and Andrea Smith are all mothers. They all also have histories of grassroots political involvement of various sorts, including in feminist politics. So a few years ago when they were hanging out and talking about being moms — about the isolation and about all of the other motherhood-associated challenges — it was a perfectly natural step for them to take those conversations in public directions. As the Halifax Motherhood Collective, they have held several events over the last couple of years. Importantly, this work has involved rethinking the practicalities of what a parent-and-child friendly grassroots event actually looks like — something most movements and grassroots organizations grounded in the dominant culture completely ignore, even when they pay token attention to providing child care. And through these events, most promiently Alternative Mother’s Day gatherings in the last two years, they have given mothers and other parents a chance to come together, share their experiences, and collectively develop politics flowing from critical analyses of contemporary ideologies and diverse lived experiences of motherhood. In particular, they have developed an analysis that points to the nexus of capitalism, patriarchy and colonialism in shaping the social organization and ideologies of motherhood that dominate in North America today. Hadley, Marshall, and Smith talk with me about those experiences and critical analyses; about the collective; and about how they hope to build on this work in the future.

To learn more about the Halifax Motherhood Collective, click here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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Radio — Supreme Court challenge to Line 9 pipeline by First Nation

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Myeengun Henry, a band councillor for Chippewas of the Thames First Nation in southern Ontario. He talks about his nation’s legal challenge to the Line 9 tar sands pipeline.

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Pipelines are a key focus of struggle in many regions of the country today, along with other sorts of fossil fuel-related developments that put profits before the well-being of…well, of all human and non-human life on the planet, really. In many places, it is Indigenous nations that are on the forefront of the resistance to pipelines. There are many reasons for this. It is, after all, Indigenous land that companies are attempting to build on without permission, and a strong relationship to land is integral to indigeneity. It is also connected to the broader resurgence of Indigenous nations and cultures, part of which involves asserting rights and traditional responsibilities in ways than past colonial circumstances did not always allow. And partly, the prominent Indigenous role in this struggle is a product of specific aspects of how settler colonialism in northern Turtle Island has come to be, where part of how settler legal and political systems have historically responded to the unceasing Indigenous resistance of the past five centuries has involved making tactical concessions by recognizing rights that amount to fractions and fragments of the sovereignty and self-determination which Indigenous nations have never surrendered. However partial and incomplete, these rights recognized by the settler state can be a way to win certain kinds of practical victories, and can be a basis for expanding the rights and powers of First Nations.

Line 9 is a pipeline that has existed for around 40 years. Historically, it has carried oil from Montreal, Quebec, to Sarnia, Ontario. More recently, the company that owns it — Enbridge — has sought permission to reverse the flow in the pipeline in order to carry not ordinary oil but bitumen from the tar sands to Montreal for export. In order to get this much thicker and heavier substance to flow requires diluting it with a greater range and amount of toxic chemicals.

One of the many communities through which Line 9 flows is Chippewas of the Thames First Nation. When the pipeline was first built in the 1970s, nobody bothered to ask Chippewas of the Thames what they thought about it, and at the time the community’s energies were taken up with surviving in the face of residential schools and other aspects of institutionalized settler colonial violence. With the recent application to reverse the flow, however, and to bring an even more toxic substance through an aging pipeline in a way that puts lives and land at risk, people in Chippewas of the Thames decided that they had to act. In a relatively short time, they developed community knowledge and capacity, and they intervened in the regulatory hearings at the National Energy Board. When the NEB decided in favour of Enbridge, the folks in Chippewas of the Thames were determined to keep up the fight. Though they have not ruled out taking direct action if necessary at some later stage, for the moment they are fighting through the settler legal system. Their argument is that the federal government has not adequately fulfilled its constitutionally enshrined “duty to consult” with their nation. They lost in the Federal Court of Appeal, but despite mounting costs, they decided to push forward with a request to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. When this interview was recorded, they did not yet know whether they would be granted leave to appeal, but since that point the Supreme Court has announced that it will hear the case.

Part of Myeengun Henry’s responsibilities as a band councillor for Chippewas of the Thames First Nation includes looking after the legal challenge to the Line 9 pipeline. He speaks with me about the land, the threat posed by the pipeline, and the legal struggle that his nation is waging to stop it.

To learn more about the Supreme Court challenge to Line 9 and to donate in support, go to crowdfunding pages here or here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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Radio — Building a broad community coalition in Vancouver

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Deb Cameron Fawkes and Deborah Littman about their involvement in the Metro Vancouver Alliance, a coalition of more than 50 community-based, faith-based, labour, and academic organizations in Vancouver that has been enacting campaigns around public transit, affordable housing, poverty, and social inclusion.

In this neoliberal age, it feels like all of us are becoming ever more atomized and isolated from each other with each passing year. In part because of that (though also because of the many ways that power imbalances so often internally distort and disrupt our groups), it can be tremendously difficult to figure out the basics of how we can work with each other in struggles for social change, even when there is some axis of commonality — a shared workplace, a shared faith, a shared neighbourhood, or what have you — from which to begin. And when you don’t even have that, and everyone involved is coming from a range of completely different starting points, it can feel next to impossible.

The Metro Vancouver Alliance is an exciting experiment happening in Vancouver with exactly that sort of broadly based coalition, and it is having some significant success. The model itself isn’t new in an absolute sense — it comes from the Industrial Areas Foundation, which was the organization that emerged in the US in the 1940s from the work of noted organizer Saul Alinsky, author of such classics as Rules for Radicals. But it’s a model that has been used quite a bit less in Canada than south of the border, and it was very new to Vancouver when a small group started working towards its implementation in 2009. Rather than the more common approach of identifying an issue and trying to gather people and organizations together around it, the key to this model is building strong relationships among organizations grounded in diverse sectors of the community via a commitment to deep and ongoing listening before making any decisions about what issues to tackle. As a result of that slow, patient work, the MVA now brings together an impressive number and range of member organizations. Moreover, it has been putting forward concrete, winnable demands, and winning some victories.

Deb Cameron Fawkes works in a grocery store and has a long history of activism within her union, the United Food and Commerical Workers Local 1518. She participates in the MVA as a representative of labour, but she has also done theology degrees and is a lay preacher, so she approaches the work from a faith stance as well. And Deborah Littman is the lead organizer for the MVA — her earlier background was in the labour movement, but she also spent ten years as part of a similar community organization in London, England, and the expertise and experience she gained in that decade have certainly played a role in the MVA’s growth and success. They speak with me about the Industrial Areas Foundation’s model of change, about the process of founding and building the MVA, about its campaigns and victories, and about what it means to work for change in a way that puts relationships first.

To learn more about the Metro Vancouver Alliance, click here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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Radio — Trans people supporting each other and pushing for change in New Brunswick

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Reid Lodge and Mable Wheeler. They are members of Fredericton Gender Minorities, which aims to support trans people, to create spaces for mutual aid and support, and to engage in educational community outreach; and of TransAction NB, a smaller group with a more explicitly activist orientiation that engages directly and politically with questions of government policy, barriers to health care and services, and more.TRR_mar14-18_2016_fredericton_trans_rect

Transgender people are people whose gender identity does not match the gender they were assigned at birth. The range of ways of experiencing, identifying, and living gender within that is enormously broad (including, for some people, ways that push beyond the rigid binary that structures dominant understandings of gender). Trans people often experience severe social stigma and are at heightened risk of interpersonal violence (especially trans women, especially trans women of colour). They face disproportionate poverty and barriers to accessing employment, housing, and other services, including health care services. In the health care context, barriers are experienced in accessing the gender confirmation surgey that can be an important part of transitioning for some trans people, but are also a factor in accessing general health care. As well, getting state-issued identification that correctly communicates their gender can be a tremendously difficult process, and not having such ID can put people at risk.

These things and more are true across the continent. But there is variation, and accoridng to Lodge and Wheeler, New Brunswick is one of the Canadian jursidictions with the most work still to do. The province does not even have a major non-profit that spans the entire LGBTQ acronym, let alone funded trans-specific services, so it can be incredibly difficult for trans people to find safe spaces, supportive professionals, or even other trans people to talk to. Also, New Brunswick has no human rights protection for trans people, and it is currently the only province that does not fund gender confirmation surgery through medicare.

On today’s show, Lodge and Wheeler talk with me about trans experiences in New Brunswick and about two different grassroots groups through which trans people in New Brunswick are organizing collectively to survive and thrive: Fredericton Gender Minorities and TransAction NB.

To learn more about the work of Fredericton Gender Minorities, click here, and to learn more about TransAction NB click here or here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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