Former Obama administration environmental advisor Van Jones will address an art show and protest training event in L.A. on Saturday titled “All in for the 99%.”
The founder of the green economy organization Green for All, as well as several other advocacy groups focused on civil rights, Jones was tapped as a policy advisor on green jobs, enterprise and innovation for Obama’s Council on Environmental Quality. He resigned in September 2009 after Republicans in Congress began attacking his past affiliations, none of which had to do with his environmental work but which included a signed petition questioning if the Bush administration had purposely allowed the 9/11 attacks as a pretext to war*, his advocacy for death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, and a one-time involvement with a Bay Area radical group.
Jones’ work on the Council on Environmental Quality became a soapbox issue for conservative radio talk show host Glenn Beck, and many congressional Republicans joined in a drumbeat for Jones’ ouster. Since leaving Obama’s team, Jones has been focused on economic issues with his new book, “Rebuild the Dream,” and organization of the same name.
“Occupy Wall Street showed that if people began to speak out, that you can change the conversation and change the political dynamic,” says Jones, interviewed while boarding a plane for the L.A. event. “We want to bring that spirit back, but this time, we’re going to have much, much broader participation. And over the next couple weeks, our organization Rebuild the Dream will be encouraging 100,000 people who are getting trained in peaceful non-violent protest.”
The “All in for the 99%” event takes place all day at 400 S. La Brea Ave., beginning at 10:30 a.m. with the opening of an art show featuring works by scores of artists and activists including Shepard Fairey, Jill Greenberg and Robbie Conal. A series of readings put on by Slake magazine begins at 3 p.m., including a performance by actor Val Kilmer as Mark Twain, and then moves on with a 4:30 talk by Jones.
Participants can then join in non-violence training as preparation for direct action protests, which are supposed to take place at a later date as the Occupy movement begins its awkwardly named “99% Spring,” a reference to the “Arab Spring” of 2011.
Jones says his environmental outfit, Green for All, is headquartered in Oakland and currently active in 50 cities. His involvement in ecological issues also stemmed from economic concerns.
“I had been working with low-income young people, and I didn’t want them to go from hurting the neighborhood with drug sales to hurting the environment by polluting it, working in a factory, or hurting people overseas who are forced to make cheap goods for Wal-Mart,” Jones adds. “I wanted the young people I’d been working with to have jobs that made them into both economic heroes and environmental heroes, putting up solar panels, weatherizing homes, working in community gardening. There are green pathways out of poverty.”
[For the record, 9:40 a.m. March 31: The original title and first line on this post claimed this event was affiliated with the Occupy movement, but it is not. *Jones has denied signing this petition, as have several other people whose names appeared on it.]