Category Archives: Politics

Articles about political events and individuals.

Informed Voting

November 6 , 2018 marks the United States midterm elections. Across the nation people from all walks of life will take to the ballot boxes to vote for their representatives and decide the course of the country. Consequences for not voting can be devastating. Participation is imperative. “ I think voting is a large part of what it means to be civically engaged in America,” says Alex Cragun Executive Director of The Utah Democratic Party. “I don’t want to say if you don’t show up and vote you don’t have a right to complain — I don’t believe in that. But if you don’t show up and vote, you’re surrendering your power to those are more eager and interested in claiming it.

Read the full article published at Utah Stories!

Salt Lake’s Anti-Racist Solidarity Rally

Photo: Mike Jones

In response to the protests on Saturday August 11 in Charlottesville, Virginia, the League of Native American Voters organized a rally against racism at the Salt Lake City and County Building. Around 2000 protesters attended. Whole many groups participated—such as Antifa, Black Lives Matter, Democratic Socialists, Indigenous resistance, Students for a Democratic Society, Pandos, Utah Against Police Brutality, and others. There were also many individuals who came to show solidarity, with some being armed. Observing the growing crowd of demonstrators, one protestor, Josh Straugther said, “Being here is amazing, because… this is not the most black city out here.”

Read the full article published by Utah Stories!!

Salt Lake City Marches Against Trump

Man waves banner in protest of Trump’s presidency
Photos by Jesse Stewart

On January 20, 2017, the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) protested the inauguration of the Trump presidency. They protested in conjunction with others nationwide. Between 1000 and 1200 protesters organized at the Wallace B Federal building. Among them were members of SDS, Black Bloc Anarchists, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, students as well as many other individuals—young and old who represented all walks of life. Many held signs with creative slogans like “Send Pence To A Conversion Camp,” “ Pussy Grabs Back” or “Welcome To Fascist America.” Some protesters displayed flags symbolizing Anarchism, Anarcho-Communism, Communism, LBGTQ or upside down Stars and Stripes…

Read the full article published at Utah Stories!!

Rocky Mountain Power Proposes Increase on Solar Energy Rates

The popularity and accessibility of solar energy is on the rise, and according to Rocky Mountain Power, solar panel implementation had a projection of nearly 17,230 new customers for 2016.

To try and meet the demand for clean energy, Rocky Mountain Power has been buying energy from solar and wind plants around Utah. Customers who install their own panels are able to connect to the grid via a net metering program. This program pays customers for excess energy that is generated and sent back through the grid.

Read the whole story about Rocky Mountain Power and Solar Energy published at Utah Stories!!



Not OK PDX is a non-profit organization founded by Kelly Vaughn, Dani Verbus, Frankie Howell, and Jessica Rosengrant in Portland, Oregon. Coming from a variety of professional and academic backgrounds, they seek to create a support and healing network for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. On October 31, 2016, Not Ok PDX will be hosting their first fundraiser. They plan to host several more throughout November. The October 31 fundraiser will be held at Pop Tavern (825 N Killingsworth ST). To get some backstory on Not Ok PDX and their future plans, they agreed to reveal to readers what one can expect from this new and budding organization.

NixBeat: What inspired forming Not OK PDX?
Rosengrant – Oh man. That’s such a huge question. There are the personal reasons that we all became involved in this work, and then there are the numerous societal problems that lead to the need for this kind of work. Initially, this was Kelly’s project, and when we look back at what we wanted to do in the beginning, and compare it where we are now, we’ve added a lot of components. Kelly’s original idea of starting a support network for survivors is still very much at the center of what we’re doing though. Every one of us who has had a hand in forming this organization has also had personal experience with the things that we’re fighting against, and of course that helps to drive us forward. Once we started forming, we started hearing more and more stories from other survivors, and of course that is an inspiration as well. If you look at the statistics though, this is such a common experience for so many people.
Dani- There’s a huge need for more services catering to folks who have been affected by gender-based violence because it’s so prevalent. A recent report from the Women’s Foundation of Oregon found that over half our state’s female population has been subjected to some form of domestic or sexual violence. Oregon actually has a higher rate of this type of violence than the national average. So, yeah, it’s a huge problem and it really hits close to home. For me, becoming involved in an effort to fight this type of injustice helps quell the feelings of powerlessness and isolation often experienced by those of us who have been affected firsthand.
Rosengrant – And there is just so much silence surrounding it. Survivors are so often made to feel that they don’t have a voice, and that is not ok. They’re made to feel alone, and embarrassed; they’re made to feel as though they are to blame. I think, for me at least, combating that is one of my biggest inspirations.

NixBeat: What kind of services does Not OK PDX offer to the Portland community?
Rosengrant – We are just getting off the ground, so we won’t be offering services until January of 2017. But, when the time comes, we’ll be offering regular support groups to survivors of sexual assault, intimate partner violence and abuse and we’ll offer a program that will match trained advocates to survivors to as they navigate life after an attack—these folks will accompany survivors to the police station to report an attack, to court dates, to medical appointments, etc. It can be very scary to do that by yourself, and it is never a bad idea to have an extra set of eyes and ears when going through something that can be so traumatic.
Verbus – One of the first services we’ll be offering is a training program for bar staff on how to recognize and interrupt behaviors leading to sexual assault. It piggybacks on similar bystander-intervention programs that have been successful. We know alcohol consumption is a correlate to sexual assault; with some studies showing alcohol was involved in upwards of fifty percent of sexual assaults. It makes sense to have the folks who are serving it trained in this area. Everyone deserves to be able to have fun in a safe environment and we hope this training will aid in that.
Rosengrant – In the long term, we hope to have an emergency rental assistance fund for people who need to leave abusive domestic situations, regular legal clinics for people who need to seek the assistance of a lawyer, and, one of my personal favorites—social worker ride alongs with the officers who respond when there has been an attack; I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard about the police inadvertently triggering, and intimidating survivors.

NixBeat: Not OK is registered as a nonprofit, what was the process like to attain this status?
Rosengrant –Theoretically, it’s just a lot of paperwork—you have to register with the Secretary of State, the Department of Justice, and the IRS… Realistically, it took a lot of discussion between the four of us. Even just coming up with a mission statement that succinctly explains what we’re about took weeks. We had to come up with our bylaws, which includes a lot of legal jargon that none of us is too familiar with, and of course none of this even includes program development or implementation. Fundraising is a whole different story, because we can’t do any of this if we don’t the money to get off the ground. We’ve been working on all of this since June of this year, and are just now seeing all of our plans and goals actually start to take shape.

NixBeat: What kind of reception has Not OK received from the Portland Community?
Rosengrant – It’s been overwhelming, but in the best way possible. We’ve been receiving messages from complete stranger who just want to tell us to keep up the good work, which I think helps motivate us. And the list of local businesses that have donated to us for our fundraisers keeps growing by the day. I keep saying that we couldn’t do any of this without the help of our community, and it’s true.
Verbus – It’s really great to know people care about what’s going on in our communities and are willing to help out. We’re able to donate our time and experience to this cause, but without the support of the community, Not OK would not exist.
Rosengrant-People have donated beautiful works of art for an art auction we’re holding in mid November, people have donated spaces for us to hold other fundraising events, people have donated their time and consultation services to us so we can figure out how to best move forward. The support that this community is giving us has just been really beautiful, and we couldn’t be more grateful for it.

NixBeat: I noticed that Kelly Vaughn posts on Facebook and Instagram about abuses experienced. What do you hope sharing these posts will accomplish?
Vaughn – My hope with those posts is that people will recognize the fact that the language and approach they use when talking to a survivor can be greatly triggering. Also, I want to raise awareness in general—these issues are not faceless, and the people affected by them have names.

NixBeat: What has the reaction been like to these posts?
Vaughn – The responses have been overwhelmingly supportive and positive. So many survivors have reached out to me with their own stories, and I will always encourage them to do so! Our voices need to be heard, because for so long we have been told to be quiet. Speaking out, when one is ready, can not only be therapeutic, but it can also serve as a beacon of hope for other survivors who are struggling. By coming forward, we have unity. With unity, we have healing. With healing comes the ability to love yourself and others again, and with all of that comes personal growth.

NixBeat: On October 31, there will be a fundraiser for Not OK. What does Not Ok have planned for the Fundraiser?
Rosengrant – So, we’ll actually be hosting fundraising events all through the month of November, but Halloween is going to be our first kickoff fundraising event, and we’re super excited about it. We’re hosting a Halloween dance party at Pop Tavern in North Portland—this is a bar that Kelly helped build, and the owner has been hugely supportive of our cause. We’ll have four awesome DJs, one of which will be Kelly, really cool raffle prizes from local businesses like Paxton Gate and Stonedware Company, and a costume contest, which will have a pretty sweet grand prize. We’re asking for a suggested donation of $5-$10 at the door, but people can give what they’re able—we’re not going to turn anyone away who wants to support us and learn about the work we’re doing. We’re also asking for an additional donation to enter the costume contest, and then of course we’ll be selling raffle tickets. I think it’s going to be pretty fun.

NixBeat: How much are you hoping to raise with the fundraiser and how will what you raise go to support Not OK PDX?
Rosengrant – Our fundraising goal for November is $5000, which is what we need to really get off the ground running. Of course, we don’t expect to raise that much on Halloween, but any percentage of that amount will be a good start. None of us is being paid for the work we’re doing, so 100% of what we raise will go directly to the costs associated with starting a nonprofit. This will help with administrative costs, supply costs, the costs of program development and implementation, etc. A lot of our expenses up until now have been coming out of our own pockets, and it’s becoming a little bit of a drain. I think we’re all happy to personally pay for things as we are able, but that’s not really a sustainable way of doing things.

NixBeat: Where would you like to see Not OK PDX go from here?
Rosengrant – Well, there are the programs I mentioned previously, and those are of course our main focus right now. When I look to the future of our organization though, I see big things. I’d love to see us become known for the services we provide in the Portland area, and I’d love to for us to be known as an innovative organization in terms of those services. We are certainly not the only organization in the area that provides services to survivors, but I think that there is a pretty big gap, and hopefully we can help fill it. Additionally, I think some of the approaches we take in terms of combating the issues we’re talking about, as a society, are pretty stale—I think there needs to be a fresh approach, and I’d like us to be very much involved in figuring out what that approach is.
Verbus – We are looking to connect with other agencies in the Portland area that are already providing services. We would like to learn from them about which populations they see falling through the cracks, and what services need to be expanded in order to meet service user needs. We’re meeting with the Executive Director of Bradley Angle next week and are really looking forward to learning from her expertise.

For more on Not OK PDX check out their Facebook and website or on Instagram @NotokPDX

SDS Fundraiser: A Night of Punk Rock for the People

On September 30, the University of Utah Chapter of Students for a Democratic Society will be putting on a fundraiser at Diabolical Records. They are hoping to raise enough money to send 10 of their chapter’s members to the SDS Annual Convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The convention will be held on October 9 and 8.The fundraiser has an impressive lineup with locals All Systems Fail, Bancho, Cady Heron, Sympathy Pain, Hylian and touring act neutral shirt providing the entertainment. Also included during the event will be art, tasty treats, and a raffle. To find out more, I sat down with University of Utah’s SDS President Theresa and member Doug to find out what can be expected from this event and from the University of Utah’s SDS chapter.

NixBeat: What is the agenda for the SDS National Conference in October?
Doug and Theresa: The conference consists of plenaries and workshops for both Saturday and Sunday; workshops have a variety of topics, while plenaries set out broad outlines for the coming year for national SDS. For example, our current national campaign, Education for All!, is a broad outline of goals such as support for affirmative action, undocumented access to education, and tuition decreases, and was passed at last year’s conference.

NixBeat: How did you attract bands like All Systems Fail to play the benefit show?
Doug: To a large extent it was just a natural outgrowth of the really great DIY ethic held up by the bands who are playing. We were able to get in contact with people various ways, through personal connections and the local music scene generally, but the folks who agreed to play didn’t really need any prodding or persuasion. They’re just great people generously donating their time as a great testimony to Salt Lake’s local music scene.

NixBeat: The San Diego Lo-Fi pop group neutral shirt is also on the bill, what’s the story there?
Doug: A friend of mine was a very hard working person organizing a lot of DIY shows in Salt Lake, but they moved off to Sweden. So neutral shirt was looking to put on a show in Salt Lake on the 30th for a while and they got a hold of my friend, who had actually helped us with some advice organizing our show, who forwarded them to us and we threw them on.

NixBeat: What other activities will the SDS fundraiser include?
Theresa: We’ll hold a raffle and have some speeches from SDS members.

NixBeat: Does this show include the participation of other organizations?
Doug: We’re hoping to see some old friends from other groups (in addition to new friends, of course) but, while we work with various groups on campus and throughout our communities. No other activist groups are formally involved in the fundraiser itself.

NixBeat: How much money does SDS need to raise to get its members to the conference?
Theresa: We are hoping to raise about 300 dollars.

NixBeat: Why is SDS having their fundraiser at Diabolical Records?
Doug: Diabolical and its owners, Adam and Alana, are great resources in local music and host shows really often, generally for free. They were definitely the most obvious option among (sort of) established venues in Salt Lake, and they were kind enough to tell us yes when we asked.

NixBeat: Does the local SDS chapter coordinate with other national branches of the organization?
Theresa: Absolutely; national work amongst members from various chapters has been crucial for local work and building the national student movement. We give each other advice, help build new SDS chapters, and plan national events like the national convention through regular conference calls and communication on social media.

NixBeat: SDS stands in solidarity with 17 year-old Abdi Mohamed who was shot by an officer of the SLCPD. What actions is SDS taking to support Mohamed and stand in opposition to police brutality?
Theresa: Many SDS members consistently attend solidarity events for Abdi organized by Utah Against Police Brutality.

NixBeat: What other campaigns is SDS involved in?
Doug and Theresa: SDS’s main focus is the Education for All! campaign. We demand access to state-funded scholarships for undocumented students in Utah, which is currently illegal under state Senate Bill 81. We’re trying to build momentum and support around town and on campus for this goal through rallies, call-ins, and education (flyering, panels, etc) in order to amend—and hopefully, eventually repeal—this bill. Beyond this, we have also worked behind the slogan Dump Trump! and we organized a protest of Trump when he was in town. We try to stay abreast of struggles going on in our communities—usually not in as much of a formal group role, but to lend our support as individuals to organizing around town.

NixBeat: Has the recent controversial rhetoric used by GOP presidential candidate Donald J. Trump inspired curiosity toward SDS from the wider student population on campus?
Doug: We had a big presence protesting him when he was in town in March which got our name out to some people, and a lot of people can get behind “Dump Trump.” So it’s a slogan we have on some of our pamphlets and such. I would describe it as Donald being a man that people can easily agree to oppose, so we’ve used that a little bit.

NixBeat: What’s next for SDS?
Doug: We’ll continue to focus on our demand for state-funded scholarships for undocumented people, and the amendment of SB81; we’ll post about future events to that end on our Facebook page and spread the word on campus. We’ll continue working on this concrete, material goal and on building the student movement, and anyone interested in helping us is welcome to join. Attendance at future events, meetings and our fundraiser this Friday will be hugely appreciated and go a long way towards progressive change in Utah.

The requested donation for attending the fundraiser at Diabolical Records is $5. According to their event page, all donations will go to the planning of and travel to the National Convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota. For more information on the University of Utah’s SDS chapter, check out their Facbook page:

Salt Lake’s demand of justice for Alton Sterling and Philando Castile 07/09/2016

Demonstrators demanding justice for Alton Sterling and Philando Castile in Salt Lake City, July 09, 2016. Photo by Tyson Call

Demonstrators demanding justice for Alton Sterling and Philando Castile in Salt Lake City, July 09, 2016.
Photo by Tyson Call

On July 09, 2016 two rallies were held in Salt Lake City, Utah in solidarity with Black Lives Matter  to demand justice for the police killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. The latter rally was held by Utah Against Police Brutality at 6:00 PM at the Public Safety Building on 475 E and 300 S. Organizer Carley Key Haldeman shared what was going on. “This was struck up in response to Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, but we {also} want to show solidarity with people who have been shot down here, Darrien Hunt, Corey Kanosh and Abdi Mohamad,” says Halderman “We’re rallying because we’re trying to get community control now. What that means is that we’re trying to push for community review board campaign so we stop reacting to these deaths and start acting on preserving the lives we have now.”

The rally began relatively small, but quickly built up in size. A diverse assembly of 350 people were in attendance. Speakers started off by warming up protesters with chants like “Black Lives Matter” and “We’re going to be alright!” Speakers demanded that a democratically elected civilian review board  be put in place, and that protesters take part in community involvement. One speaker also denounced the shootings in Dallas, TX.

An idea that largely dominated the rally was that only with community control, tragedy could be averted. An example that is reflected upon by organizers is how the Salt Lake Police Departments is handling  the recent police shooting of 17 year old Abdi Mohamad on February 27,2016  and the subsequent refusal to have the name of the officer involved released and his camera footage of the incident shared. The anger regarding this was directed toward Salt Lake District Attorney Sim Gill. Halderman says “We’re asking Sim Gill to step down because he has not held police accountable and he is not releasing the footage or name of the officer who shot Abdi Mohamad.”

Photo By Tyson Call

Photo By Tyson Call

Additionally with demands for justice were also calls for compassion towards one another. This could be heard via the unifying echoes of the chants of “Black Lives Matter,” “It’s right to rebel” and “Whose streets? Our Streets!” When the rally turned into a march, the chants from those participating inspired the support and in some cases even participation of bystanders. At one point when the march was moving South along State Street, a car pulled over and three Muslim women briefly joined the protesters. This subtle and brief participation served as an example of the wide draw that this cause has. The welcoming of these additional supporters would have not likely occurred in other, more exclusive nationalist Trump-like centered camps. Rather, what one can observe from this march  is a visible and authentic representation of  ideals rooted in empathy and true unity, not soulless exclusivity.

Photo By Tyson Call

Photo By Tyson Call

This inclusion represented a stark contrast to that of the few counter demonstrators who showed up earlier on during the rally. Two of these demonstrators displayed their clear support for Republican Presidential nominee Donald J. Trump. One of them even found it necessary to proudly carry around an American flag.  This individual ,armed with this American flag, must have had some absurd notion that he was somehow the one defending American ideals instead of those who had actually gathered to demand accountability for all. While his presence was denounced by passionate speakers, his attempt at proud symbolism appeared to be lost in translation and perhaps even misplaced.

Photo By Tyson Call

Photo By Tyson Call

The march came to a head on 300 E and 500 S. There the protesters briefly occupied the intersection, which by this time was deserted. During the march there had been a small police presence that could be seen zooming about to block traffic (something that organizers peacekeepers also took part in doing).  Other than that, the police largely kept their distance, but remained visibly around. Finally the march ended back at the Public Safety building. The protest ended with no violence or agitation and the organizers made it clear to their fellow protesters that even though the protest has concluded, the struggle continues until the systematic abuses are rectified. “ I hope we push people to fight for their own democracy and the democracy of others, and to get organized and involved with local community campaigns like Utah Against Police Brutality,” says Halderman. “We’re going to get our community control review board organized and we’re going to try and present it to legislation. We brought it to the City Council members, but we’re here just to get more people rallying behind it so we can get it pushed into policy.”

For more from Utah Against Police Brutality, check out their Facebook Group Here.

Movers and Shakers: The United Progressive Coalition of Utah

Movers and Shakers: The United Progressive Coalition of Utah
By Nick Kuzmack


Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders fiery rhetoric has captivated the hearts and minds of movers and shakers nationwide. He has inspired a sort of “political revolution” within the United States democratic process.   Across the nation grassroots efforts have mobilized to enact the progressive ideals invoked by Sander’s example. Their goals are diverse and include electing candidates who will represent the people instead of the whims of the wealthy, a demand for a livable minimum wage and action on the impending threat of Global Warming. The United Progressive Coalition of Utah is one such group.  Since their formation after Sanders’ victory in the Utah Democratic Caucus on March 22nd, they have begun shaking things up within the Utah Democratic Party by supporting progressive candidates to run for local office.  To find out more about The United Progressive Coalition of Utah, I spoke with Co-founders Sarah Baytop Scott and Darin Mann.


NixBeat:  United Progressive Coalition of Utah formed shortly after the Utah, Democratic Caucus on March 2nd. How has the participation been for the Coalition in comparison to the Caucus?
Mann: The Participation has been phenomenal. The amount of people we have ready and willing to contribute their time and efforts to the cause of getting new people elected in local politics is truly humbling.

NixBeat:  Described as a coalition, what groups make up the body of the United Progressive Coalition?
Scott: The Coalition is a group of progressive members who are tired of the continuous traditional mentality that the Democratic Party holds and the level of entitlement that things need to happen their way or no way. We care about corporate finances, because we want the people to run our politicians, not corporations.
Mann: We are a coalition, because we are a group of people from all demographics, religions, and financial backgrounds. We are people fed up with the current political process and want a truly representative democracy. We have waiters, nurses, laborers, and many more who live out their lives without being heard by those who govern them, we aim to fix that.

NixBeat:  What do you think of when the term political revolution is used to describe the current political climate? How is it a revolution?
Scott: The biggest mistake we make, is reliving history, they say you cannot learn from your mistakes if you are unaware of what happened previously. Our nation’s middle class continues to diminish, while the 1% control continues to increase. The lack of diversity within our politicians, both economically and culturally, is frightening. This revolution isn’t new, but it’s new to our generation. This revolution is about bringing back a diverse government, one that represents the people and not the corporations. I want politicians to be fighting for myself, and the community I live in, and I’m not seeing that.

NixBeat: How does one get involved with United Progressive Coalition of Utah?
Scott: The best way to get involved is to check out our Facebook for events, signup for our newsletter, and e-mail us that you want to be a part of our group. We welcome all newcomers, regardless of how knowledgeable you are in the political world. The first step to being involved is having passion!

NixBeat: Is the United Progressive Coalition of Utah coordinating with other Bernie Sander affiliated groups?
Mann: Well many of us are originally from the Utah for Bernie Sanders group, but other than that we are currently talking to groups from many places; including Alaska, Wyoming, and Nevada.

NixBeat: What other events locally is the United Progressive Coalition of Utah involved in?
Mann: We will be attending as many events as possible; one of our main focuses is Building Man. We want to spread awareness of how we can really create a system that thrives on sustainability.

NixBeat: What has the relationship been like between United Progressive Coalition of Utah and the Utah State Democratic Party?
Mann: It was a little contentious at first, but now that those in the Democratic Party see how passionate we are and are truly here to stay, they are warming up a bit

 NixBeat: How did the Democratic State Convention go on April 22nd?
Mann: It went really well! We had people repping our shirts all over the place, showing that they stand in solidarity with us and the purpose of our organization. If we stand together we can truly rid our political system of corporate money and fight for truly progressive legislation.

NixBeat: Referencing the “Boat Rockers” article published by City Weekly on April 13, 2016, it is said that the United Progressive Coalition supports 8 candidates who represent the ideals of Vermont Senator and Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders. What criteria do you look for in a candidate who wants coalition support?
 Mann: We look for a person who is dedicated to ridding our system of corporate financing of campaigns, joining the fight against climate change, education and health care reform, and addressing wealth inequality. We ensure their commitment by having each candidate sign a pledge to uphold those values.

NixBeat: Some candidates that are running under United Progressive Coalition are Rachel Nelson (Utah House Representative District 59), Brooke Swallow-Fenton (Candidate for Utah House seat 60) and Edgar Harwood (House District 43). What can you tell me about these candidates?
Mann: Rachel Nelson is a mother from Provo who is standing up for those around her.  A huge cause for her personally is to address the crumbling state of education in our state to ensure a better future for our posterity.
Brooke Swallow-Fenton is a graduate in Behavioral Studies and has long been a community organizer and activist for many years. See is most known for her recent work with LGBT groups and will definitely be a staunch warrior opposing injustices of our state.
Edgar Harwood is a really sharp person who will really bring some much needed vigor to the house floor. His Latino roots will also be a welcome addition to the floor, for he will be yet another voice to speak on behalf of so many who are silenced.

NixBeat: What’s next for United Progressive Coalition of Utah?
Mann: We will be attending events as well as hosting our own to keep spreading awareness of the local revolution that is happening, and of course work towards the victory of all our candidates currently running.


For more on the United Progressive Coalition of Utah, check out their website and their Facebook page

Utah Millennials for Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders is arguably the one candidate in the 2016 presidential race who has managed to truly engage Millennials in the democratic process. Following the announcement of his candidacy, millennials across the United States began organizing to help Sanders win the democratic ticket for the United States presidency. My first encounter with the Utah’s local chapter, Utah Millenials For Bernie Sanders, was when I DJ’ed their benefit concert at the Woodshed on November 27, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Since then, Utah Millennials for Bernie Sanders has been actively campaigning to support the national effort for the Vermont senator’s presidential run. To find out more about this group I sat down with organizer Samuel Greeny , and asked him about the groups origins and plans to ensure a Bernie Sanders presidency in 2017.

NixBeat: How did Utah Millennials For Bernie Sanders form?
Grenny: I started the general group “Utah Millennials for Bernie” because I saw Bernie’s campaign as an opportunity to get my generation to engage in politics in a real way. But the individual college groups exist thanks to students at each college that have taken the initiative themselves.

NixBeat: How big is the organizations membership and where does Utah Millenials for Bernie Sanders draw most its support from?
Grenny: We have had groups at five different colleges, which vary in size and activity level. We draw support for our student groups primarily from those who are enrolled in each college, but our general SLC events are supported by the large body of progressive Millennials in the Salt Lake area.

NixBeat: What kind of support does Utah Millennials For Bernie Sanders offer to the national campaign?
Grenny: Our groups that currently meet regularly do so almost exclusively to phone bank into early primary states. We are tasked with voter identification – finding those who are likely to vote for Sanders or still undecided so that Sanders’ staffers on the ground can go and make contact.

NixBeat: My first experience with Utah Millennials for Bernie Sanders was the benefit show at the Woodshed on November 27, 2015. The performances included a wide variety of artists including Talia Keys, Lost, The Artist, Hectic Hobo, and Baby Gurl. How did that show turn out for Millennials For Bernie Sanders? What did the money raised contribute to?
Grenny: The show was incredibly successful – we split proceeds 50/50 between donations to the national campaign and paying for local expenses like supplies, promoting, and supporting events.

NixBeat: Do you find that benefit shows are an effective way to mobilize support for the Bernie Sanders campaign? And if so, how?
Grenny: We incorporate things like shows into our repertoire of events because it appeals to a larger group of people, and we can then use those events to try and get people out to actual organizing events like phone banking. That is their real value, and that is the reason we put most of our focus into things like phone banking.

NixBeat: On December 23rd, 2015 there was an event called Bar Crawl For Bernie Sanders that intended to 1st. register people to vote and 2nd promote the Bernie Sanders Campaign? What sparked the idea for this event?
Grenny: The Bar Crawl was not a Utah Millennials sponsored event and we did not help to plan or execute it in anyway. I did participate, but I had absolutely no hand in planning it and it did not incorporate the goals of Utah Millennials.

NixBeat: An appealing thing about Bernie Sanders is that he advocates for participation in the democratic process by citizens. How has Utah Millennials for Bernie Sanders mobilized it’s supporters to stay engaged in the democratic process?
Grenny: The central purpose of our organization, as stated in each of our club constitutions, is “to engage millennials in the political process in a real way, in order to affect progressive change socially and economically.” It is only the first objective of our group to get Bernie Sanders elected President of the United States. Our underlying purpose for existing is to get Millennials to engage in politics, and we try everything we can to make that happen. We register voters at every event we sponsor, we hold a variety events to try to appeal to all and get new people to begin participating, and we table and flyer on campuses regularly to find new people

NixBeat: Does Millennials for Bernie Sanders endorse other active groups fighting for similar if not the same causes that Sanders advocates? If so, what groups does Millennials For Bernie Sanders support?
Grenny: We not only endorse, but also actively organize with groups like Students for a Democratic Society and Socialist Alternative. We are eager to find other like-minded groups and build an even broader coalition. We were a part of the Million Student March actions on the University of Utah Campus and we continue to participate in the Education is a Right movement going on there.

NixBeat: Bernie Sanders has been gaining momentum in the polls, but, hypothetically speaking, if he does not win the Democratic Nomination, does Utah Millennials For Bernie Sanders plan to continue advocating his work of addressing wealth inequality, raising the minimum wage, universal healthcare, reducing student debt and taking on global warming?
Grenny: Our organization plans to become an action-based club after the election, no matter what the result is. What that will look like will be up to each individual club as they each vote democratically, but I will be encouraging a close relationship with SDS and other well established student groups. Our central goal is a unified student movement – I imagine whatever we do after the election will be to build this. And all of those issues would be important to such a movement.

NixBeat: If Bernie Sanders wins the national election, who would you hope to see in his cabinet?
Grenny: I would hope to see a progressive cabinet of non-establishment candidates. Elizabeth Warren would be at the top of the list for me, along with people like Robert Reich Bill McKibben.

NixBeat: What are Utah Millennials For Bernie Sanders plans to support Sanders’ candidacy in 2016?

Grenny: Phone bank, phone bank, phone bank. And then go canvas in Nevada.

NixBeat: Does Millennials for Bernie Sanders have plans to support other Democratic or alternative candidates seeking election in the State of Utah? If so, which ones and why these particular candidates?
Grenny: Our UVU group has discussed supporting Doug Owens, something I would encourage. But again, that will be up to each group individually, as they operate democratically and have their own elected officers.


(L–R) Josh and Heidi Belka sit in front of their mural homage to musician and labor rights activist Joe Hill. Photo courtesy of Heidi Belka

Joe Hill—born Joel Emmanuel Hägglund—was a prominent Industrial Workers Of The World (IWW) musician and agitator who was controversially arrested, convicted and executed for the alleged double murders of John Morrison and his son Arling while working in Utah. The flurry surrounding Hill’s conviction and death sentence generated a great outcry from many of the well-known individuals of his day, including two letters to stay the execution by then U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Despite this, Hill was executed by the state of Utah on Nov. 19, 1915. As a songwriter, Hill was, in many ways, the bard of the labor movement, and, ironically, the subsequent result of his death is a long-lasting legacy of martyrdom within the labor movement.

Read the full story published @ SLUG Magazine!!