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High Country News

High Country News August Vol. 52, No. 08

High Country News is the nation's leading source of reporting on the Western United States. Through in-depth reporting, High Country News covers the West’s social, political and ecological issues.

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12 Edities

in deze editie

2 min.
where people are stepping up

EACH DAY LATELY has been like waking in an alternate reality. The United States has become a country where facts are optional, face masks are political, and climate change is a hoax. In this issue, we explore conflicting realities and spreading ideologies, and we offer several stories of cooperation and hope. The past decade has been a boon for the West’s militia movement, but with the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter uprising, “Patriots” are making a recruitment push. Where concerned citizens assemble to protest state violence, police brutality and white supremacy, militia members have also appeared, armed and dangerous. Amid the pandemic, similar groups have sought to provide services, from security to food distribution, eroding the legitimacy of the government. The pandemic has also brought on warnings of plagues and…

3 min.

YAQUI CATFISH The July feature story, “Fish Out of Water,” has everything: colonization’s long-term effects, the ridiculously destructive border wall, the environmental costs of human habitat, the imminent loss of a species that lasted millions of years, and so much more. Jennifer Taw, via Twitter “Fish Out of Water” by Maya Kapoor, is a great (sad, beautiful, thoughtful) story. Vicky Stein, via Twitter Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the border wall construction in Arizona continues at a breakneck pace, using local #water to spray down dusty roads and mix concrete, with a devastating impact on #wildlife, too, including the Yaqui catfish. Fred Page, via Twitter AMERICAN VIOLENCE To provide some historical framing for current socio-political happenings, look to Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s “Armed and contagious” in the June issue. When things don’t make sense, dig into history to find out why. Alan-Michael…

7 min.
turning back gentrification

IN THE SUMMER OF 2019, Elizabeth Bell’s apartment building in San Francisco’s Mission District went up for sale, and real estate agents were soon giving tours to prospective developers. As fear of eviction or rent hikes sank in, Bell, 74, started getting heart palpitations. Her apartment was cheap, rent-controlled, a necessity for Bell, who supplements her Social Security with gig-translation work to make ends meet. There’s a rail stop less than two blocks away — useful, because Bell does not bicycle as easily as she used to. And she loves the place, which has a “beautiful arch over the front door” with cracked stained glass above the frame. The other residents are a diverse mix — longtime Latino families, one with a disabled son; low-income seniors like Bell; a young…

7 min.
the thin blurred line

IN MID-JUNE, ON A SUNNY late afternoon, dozens of protesters led by Indigenous and youth organizers gathered in front of the Albuquerque Museum at the feet of La Jornada, a statue of Spanish conquistador Don Juan de Oñate. They called for the statue’s removal, saying it was a monument to a genocidal colonial history. On the outer banks of the crowd, at least six militiamen from the New Mexico Civil Guard, a civilian militia, flanked the protest in a tight semicircle, some of them shouldering semi-automatic rifles. When some of the protesters began taking a pickax and chain to the statue, a man in a blue shirt — later identified as Steven Baca Jr. — began shoving protesters. Then he threw a woman to the ground. Her head hit the pavement…

7 min.
extremists as opportunists

IN THE FIRST WEEKS of June, as protests against police brutality spread across the country, a group of people who were neither demonstrators nor law enforcement began to appear in the streets. These members of the Patriot militia movement — an assortment of groups defined by antigovernment, pro-gun and conspiracy-driven ideologies — watched from the sidelines, kitted out in bulletproof vests and camouflage and armed with semi-automatic rifles. By mid-June, there had been 136 instances of paramilitary, far-right and armed militia groups or individuals attending anti-police violence protests nationwide, according to Political Research Associates, a social justice think tank. In Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, militia groups and motorcycle clubs gathered in hopes of confronting antifascists who never materialized. In Oakdale, California, rumors of a Black Lives Matter protest drew members of the…

1 min.
a reprieve for dreamers

Backstory In 2017, when the Trump administration rescinded DACA, the Obama-era program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the University of California filed a lawsuit against the federal government to challenge the termination. DACA, which protects eligible undocumented youth from deportation and provides work permits, has helped some 700,000 recipients remain in the country. Ending the program would endanger the legal status of undocumented UC students and hundreds of thousands of others (“Why the University of California is fighting for DACA,” 1/13/20). Followup On June 18, the Supreme Court blocked the effort to end DACA by a 5-4 ruling, with Chief Justice John Roberts concluding that the administration’s decision to rescind it was “arbitrary and capricious.” The University of California hailed the ruling as a victory, but vowed to continue its fight for DACA…