As South Carolina state lawmakers begin debate on whether to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state Capitol in Columbia, we are joined by Bree Newsome, the 30-year-old African-American woman who took down the flag herself. On June 27, 10 days after the Charleston massacre and one day after the funeral for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Newsome scaled the 30-foot flagpole at the state Capitol and took the flag in her hand. "I come against you in the name of God!" Newsome said. "This flag comes down today!" As soon as she reached the ground, she and fellow activist James Tyson were arrested. The protest went viral and was seen around the world. Newsome and Tyson join us to discuss their action in an extended interview.
Greek voters have overwhelmingly turned down the terms of an international bailout in a historic rejection of austerity. With a margin of 61 to 39 percent, Greeks voted no to further budget cuts and tax hikes in exchange for a rescue package from European creditors. Polls had indicated a narrow vote, but the "no" side swept districts across the country. Thousands of people flocked to Athens’ Syntagma Square Sunday night in celebration. In voting against austerity, Greeks have rejected measures that helped cripple the economy, but also turned down a financial lifeline for its struggling banks. The banks will remain closed today as the European Central Bank meets to consider new emergency loans. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras says he will seek a new round of talks with creditors in which restructuring Greece’s $267 billion debt is on the table. In a surprise move, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis announced his resignation today, saying Greece’s creditors no longer want him involved in the talks. Varoufakis said, "I shall wear the creditors’ loathing with pride." We are joined by Costas Panayotakis, author of "Remaking Scarcity: From Capitalist Inefficiency to Economic Democracy" and professor of sociology at NYC College of Technology at CUNY.
We end our Fourth of July holiday special remembering the late legendary folk singer and activist Pete Seeger. For nearly seven decades, Seeger was a musical and political icon who helped create the modern American folk music movement. We air highlights of two appearances by Seeger on Democracy Now!. Interspersed in the interviews, Seeger sings some of his classic songs, "We Shall Overcome," "If I Had a Hammer" and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone." He also talks about what has been described as his "defiant optimism." "Realize that little things lead to bigger things. That’s what [the album] 'Seeds' is all about," Seeger said. "And there’s a wonderful parable in the New Testament: The sower scatters seeds. Some seeds fall in the pathway and get stamped on, and they don’t grow. Some fall on the rocks, and they don’t grow. But some seeds fall on fallow ground, and they grow and multiply a thousandfold. Who knows where some good little thing that you’ve done may bring results years later that you never dreamed of?"
Seeger led an illustrious musical career. In the 1940s, he performed in The Almanac Singers with Woody Guthrie. Then he formed The Weavers. In the 1950s, he was blacklisted after he opposed Senator Joseph McCarthy’s political witch hunt and was almost jailed for refusing to answer questions before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Seeger became a prominent civil rights activist and helped popularize the anthem "We Shall Overcome." In the 1960s, he was a vocal critic of the Vietnam War and inspired generations of protest singers. He was later at the center of the environmental and anti-nuclear movements. With his wife Toshi, Pete helped found Clearwater, a group to clean up the Hudson River. Toshi died in 2013 just weeks before their 70th wedding anniversary. In 2009, he and Bruce Springsteen performed Guthrie’s "This Land is Your Land" on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at an inaugural concert for Barack Obama.
On June 27, Bree Newsome, a 30-year-old African-American woman, was arrested at the state Capitol after scaling the 30-foot flagpole and unhooking the Confederate flag. As police officers shouted at her to come down, Bree Newsome shimmied to the top, took the flag in her hand and said, "You come against me with hatred and oppression and violence. I come against you in the name of God. This flag comes down today!" Newsome recited Psalm 27 and the Lord’s Prayer as she brought the flag down. As soon as she reached the ground, she was arrested, along with James Tyson, who had stood at the bottom of the pole to spot her as she climbed. The action went viral and was seen around the world. Democracy Now! was at the jail where Newsome was taken, where we spoke with her supporters. The flag was replaced about an hour after Newsome took it down. We also spoke with supporters of the flag, who rallied at the Capitol Saturday, and with the counter-protesters who confronted them.
In a Fourth of July holiday special, we begin with the words of Frederick Douglass. Born into slavery around 1818, Douglass became a key leader of the abolitionist movement. On July 5, 1852, in Rochester, New York, he gave one of his most famous speeches, "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro." He was addressing the Rochester Ladies Antislavery Society. This is actor James Earl Jones reading the speech during a performance of historian Howard Zinn’s acclaimed book, "Voices of a People’s History of the United States." He was introduced by Zinn.
The FBI is launching an investigation into fires set at seven different African-American churches in seven days. So far none of the blazes have been labeled as hate crimes, but investigators say at least three fires were caused by arson. The fires began on June 21, just days after the Charleston massacre, and have occurred in six different states: Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Ohio. We are joined by Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has been tracking these most recent fires.
In the latest allegations of child sex abuse by Western troops in the countries they are supposed to be protecting, France has suspended two soldiers accused of sexually abusing two children in Burkina Faso. The soldiers reportedly filmed themselves abusing one of the victims, a five-year-old girl. The suspension of the French soldiers comes weeks after it emerged the U.N. failed to investigate allegations of sexual exploitation of children by French troops in the Central African Republic. Even after the exploitation was brought to the attention of senior U.N. officials, the U.N. never reported it to French authorities — nor did it do anything to immediately stop the abuse. A forthcoming report by the U.N.’s Office of Internal Oversight Services says peacekeepers frequently engage in "transactional sex," forcing impoverished citizens to perform sexual acts in exchange for food and medication. We are joined by Paula Donovan, co-director of AIDS-Free World. Her group has launched the Code Blue campaign, which seeks to end the sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations military and nonmilitary peacekeeping personnel.
After half a century, the United States and Cuba have announced they will reopen embassies in each other’s capitals and formally re-establish diplomatic relations. Secretary of State John Kerry said he will travel to Havana to open the U.S. Embassy there. In a statement, the Cuban government said relations with the United States cannot be considered normalized until trade sanctions are lifted, the naval base at Guantánamo Bay is returned, and U.S.-backed programs aimed at "subversion and internal destabilization" are halted. But in a letter to Obama on Wednesday, Cuban President Raúl Castro acknowledged much progress has already been made, and confirmed the openings of permanent diplomatic missions later this month. We are joined by Peter Kornbluh, author of "Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana."
Two-term New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has formally launched his bid for the GOP presidential nomination, promising "straight talk" and touting his record. In the months ahead, Christie will work on repairing his battered image after last year’s "Bridgegate" lane closure scandal. Critics say the closings were political retribution against a Democratic New Jersey mayor who refused to endorse Christie’s re-election campaign. But the governor has denied any knowledge of the closures. Meanwhile, Christie’s approval ratings in his home state have fallen to new lows amid a series of credit downgrades and weak job growth. We are joined by Bob Hennelly, political analyst and investigative reporter for Newark’s WBGO and a regular contributor to Salon.
After historic rulings that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide and upheld a key provision of the Affordable Care Act, this week the Supreme Court handed down its final rulings for the current term, dealing with abortion access, air pollution, executions and elections. We examine the decisions and look at pending rulings on affirmative action and union dues with Ian Millhiser, editor of ThinkProgress Justice and author of "Injustices: The Supreme Court’s History of Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted."
Thousands of people gathered in New York City last month for a march calling on President Obama to release a longtime Puerto Rican independence activist from prison. Oscar López Rivera was convicted in 1981 on federal charges, including seditious conspiracy — conspiring to oppose U.S. authority over Puerto Rico by force. He was also accused of being a member of the FALN, the Armed Forces of National Liberation, which claimed responsibility for more than 100 bombings to call attention to the colonial case of Puerto Rico. In 1999, President Bill Clinton commuted the sentences of 16 members of the FALN, but López refused to accept the deal because it did not include two fellow activists who have since been released. 2015 marks López’s 34th year behind bars. He is scheduled for release in 2027. We discuss López’s case with Congressmember Nydia Velázquez, Democrat for New York and the first Puerto Rican woman to be elected to Congress.
Puerto Rico could be on the verge of following Greece in defaulting on its debt. Puerto Rico’s government and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority say they will miss today’s deadline for more than $1 billion in payments on a debt of more than $73 billion. This comes as Puerto Rico’s unemployment is more than twice the U.S. national rate, and its poverty level is nearly double that of the poorest U.S. state. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico’s healthcare system may also be on the verge of collapse. We are joined by Congressmember Nydia Velázquez, Democrat for New York and the first Puerto Rican woman to be elected to Congress.
To mark her 100th birthday, we pay tribute to the legendary activist and Detroit-based community organizer Grace Lee Boggs. We play an excerpt of the documentary, "American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs," and revisit a 2008 Democracy Now! interview about Boggs’ work in the civil rights, Black Power, labor, environmental justice and feminist movements for seven decades.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for a full investigation after Saudi coalition airstrikes hit a U.N. compound in Yemen. A guard was injured when the office of the U.N. Development Programme in the southern city of Aden was hit Sunday. The United Nations has warned Yemen is one step away from famine as a humanitarian crisis intensifies. We discuss the latest with Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous, who reported recently from Yemen.
Egypt’s public prosecutor has been killed in a bomb attack in Cairo. Hisham Barakat died in hospital Monday after a remote bomb detonated next to his car outside his home as he drove to work. Eight others were also hurt in the blast. Barakat became a target of militants after he sent thousands of Islamists to trial following the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi in 2013. We speak with Cairo-based Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous.
Today marks the deadline for Iran and six world powers to reach a comprehensive agreement on curbing Iran’s nuclear program. Iran has dispatched two top officials to Vienna in a last-minute push for a diplomatic breakthrough, but the talks will likely be extended. The outstanding differences include access to international inspectors and Iranian nuclear activity in the deal’s final years. Negotiators are also trying to determine the timing of sanctions relief and the scope of Tehran’s nuclear research. We are joined from Tehran by Reza Sayah, a journalist who has covered Iran for CNN International for the last seven years.
Tens of thousands of Greeks have protested against further austerity cuts ahead of a key referendum on a new European bailout. The demonstrations come as the country confirms it will not meet the deadline for a $1.8 billion loan repayment due by 6 p.m. Eastern time tonight, deepening Greece’s fiscal crisis and threatening its exit from the eurozone. Greece will hold a vote this Sunday on whether to accept an austerity package of budget cuts and tax hikes in exchange for new loans. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has urged a "no" vote, calling the proposal a surrender. We go to Greece to speak with Costas Panayotakis, professor of sociology at the New York City College of Technology at CUNY and author of "Remaking Scarcity: From Capitalist Inefficiency to Economic Democracy."
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