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Assembling for environmental justice

On April 19th 2020, Olympia Assembly will be hosting a Spring Assembly, focused on ecology and food systems. The assembly will occur at 5:00 at Mixx96 (119 Washington St. NE). Our general assemblies occur once per season (winter, spring, summer and fall) and are a place for community members to come together to discuss social, political and economic issues facing Olympia and actions that we can take to address them. According to Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson, a People’s Assembly is “first and foremost a mass gathering of people organized and assembled to address essential social issues and/or questions pertinent to the community.”

We chose the topic of this upcoming assembly because we recognize the importance of connecting ecological action to social issues and local action to global problems. In an era in which climate change poses an existential threat to humanity, non-human life, and the biosphere, it is more important than ever that we find ways of building resilient communities in harmony with ecosystems we are connected to and embedded within. We need to build a mass movement capable of fighting back against a ruling class dedicated to endless extraction and colonial expansion at the expense of all other life on earth. We also need to build soil, provide free high-quality food to people, and engage with nature in a mutualistic way.

We hope that through this assembly we can bring together groups and individuals across Olympia and surrounding areas to create space for common dialogue, brainstorming, and problem-solving. Participants will be able to present the ecological work they are already doing, find areas for collaboration and coalition building, and get community feedback on potential new projects to take on.

One group involved with this upcoming assembly are the Vangardeners, a radical gardening collective and partner organization of Olympia Assembly. The Vangardeners are starting a mass chestnut planting project and are also involved in ongoing gardens, gardening skillshares, and ecological restoration projects. Other groups interested in participating should contact us at OlympiaAssembly@gmail.com.

In the past, our general assemblies have been host to a variety of discussions rooted in our points of unity and core values of participatory democracy, direct action, collective liberation, cooperative economics and ecological stewardship. By engaging with the existing frustrations of members of Olympia Assembly and the wider community, we’ve been able to taylor our projects and campaigns to the needs of our communities. When tenants were angered by rising rents and abusive landlord practices, we helped to form Olympia Solidarity Network to organize tenants to fight back. When there was rising anger over the inhumane treatment, and intensified imprisonment and deportation of our undocumented neighbors by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, we formed an Abolish ICE working group and participated in nationally coordinated direct actions against financial firms invested in immigrant detention.

Because we have left the agendas of previous general assemblies open to a wide variety of topics, we have been able to engage Olympia’s activist community to participate and take action. The vagueness of the assemblies has also made it difficult to reach out beyond already politicized and socially conscious people, though. By focusing this assembly on a specific theme, we hope to be able to more effectively reach out to people outside of our milieus by drawing the connection from environmental crisis to their daily lives. From access to healthy and affordable food to responding to rising sea levels that threaten to put downtown Olympia underwater, ecology and food systems affect us all.

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