In the final week of its last term the U.S. Supreme Court’s extremist right-wing majority issued a succession of regressive rulings, that included striking down a Colorado nondiscrimination law that made it illegal for businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ customers, effectively ended affirmative action in college admissions and blocked President Biden’s plan for student debt relief that would have benefited some 40 million borrowers.
In response to the high court’s decisions, Get Free, a new national Gen Z and millennial-led movement, organized three days and two nights of protests and civil disobedience actions the second week of July outside both the Supreme Court and U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. The group says it seeks to “center young people in the fight for freedom from rising authoritarianism and supremacy pushed by the Republican party nationwide and their political appointees in the federal courts.”
Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Nicole Carty, executive director of Get Free, who discusses the main objectives of her group’s recent protest actions in Washington, D.C., and the challenge of mobilizing young people to confront the multiple urgent crises facing today’s younger generation.
NICOLE CARTY: We had a lot of goals when we were in D.C. The first thing is to connect the dots between the different rulings that were coming down. They’re not just one off. The rulings that happened this session, as well as Roe and others from last Supreme Court session are really built around taking away our freedom. They’re trying to rewrite the 14th Amendment, try to create a sort of norm in which we ignore inequality, can’t look at it, don’t look at disparity and therefore can never fix it.
And what that really is, is maintaining and propping up hierarchies that just go to benefit the wealthy white few who are holding onto power very strongly right now and trying to rig the rules further in their power to control the country for the next generation. They’re doing this because they see our generation, Millennials, Gen Z — the youngest, most diverse generation in American history, coming of age — and they know that the numbers aren’t on their side.
They know that our generation wants a future where freedom and equality are for all. And so they’re taking out every tool in their toolbox in order to lock us out of power and hold onto the status quo which benefits them and try to erase history.
So that’s part one of what we were trying to do. Part two, we were trying to do is be clear about the Supreme Court. So the Supreme Court is not just, you know, umpires calling balls and strikes. The Supreme Court right now is really been captured by this faction that is trying to prop up these rules to benefit themselves. And so six of the nine justices on the court have been hand-picked and courted and bought by the Federalist Society in order to move this agenda.
So we’re trying to reframe how people understand the court as not just, “Oh, they’re conservative. Oh, like maybe I’m angry at them and they don’t do things that I agree with” into a position where they understand that this is actually going against Americans, it’s going against the Constitution, it’s going against any promise of creating equality and freedom in this country.
So they are at odds with our very core mandates. And then the next thing you were trying to do in going from the court to Congress was really to ask our congressmen, which side are you on? Are you on the side of this faction that is passing laws of supremacy, trying to keep us out of power? Or are you on the side of the future about a multiracial democracy and doing the things that are necessary for us to have a country that actually works for everyone?
SCOTT HARRIS: As you’ve been talking about, the focus of Get Free is mobilizing young people. Your generation is facing multiple crises. The authoritarian fascist Republican Party is now attempting to dismantle democracy in plain sight. They certainly have an explicit desire to turn back the clock 100 years on civil and human rights and the climate crisis, which is threatening life on planet Earth as the fossil fuel industry and politicians collude on blocking substantive policies to mitigate climate change. And then, of course, there’s record inequality in the U.S. not seen since the Gilded Age, with the super-rich accumulating power while the rest of us are losing ground, especially the younger generation, which likely won’t be doing as well as their parents.
Economically speaking, with all these challenges, Nicole, what are the techniques that you’re using to get young people involved, not just in voting once every couple of years, but to actually get engaged and involved in what’s going on in their community, in their state and in national politics?
NICOLE CARTY: You talked about a lot of crises that kind of are a bit Whack-a-Mole, right? You have police brutality and climate crisis and etc., etc., ending abortion and fascist Republicans. One tactic that we have at Get Free, we’re trying to use is actually connecting the dots between all of these different seemingly separate issues rather than only looking at the Whack-A-Mole pieces that we have been looking at and organizing against just the most immediate crisis, take a step back view and create understanding and do action that actually unites a lot of these issues together and grounded in our history and really asks the most important question, which is, “Are we going to create a world, a country where we’re equal and free, or are we going to let these lies continue to play on us, divide us against each other, and really hold some people in permanent positions of being subclass?” The reason why it feels so bad right now is because we’re actually so close to winning.
You know, we’ve transformed the narrative. We have won the culture. People agree with that. People want a better future. Our numbers are many, and so do taking action and voting. And the combination of those things really shows our power. It just takes us deciding that we’re going to be the grown-ups and take charge of our own destinies.
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