Activists plan to disrupt the American Legislative Exchange Council summit

PHOENIX, AZ- The anti-corporate spirit that has occupied cities across the United States will take a new form in the streets of Phoenix and Scottsdale next week.

Protestors plan to disrupt the States and Nation Policy Summit for the American Legislative Exchange Council to expose the non-profit group’s ties between state legislators and the private sector.

“We intend to demonstrate the connections between colonization, the prison industrial complex, the criminalization of migrants and ALEC,” said Ari Marie, housing and logistics organizer for the protests.  “It is the root of the marriage between capital and the state.”     

ALEC brings together roughly 2000 conservative legislators from all 50 states and 300 corporate members to, according to their website, “promote free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty,” by drafting model bills for legislative members to sponsor in their home states.  Of the nearly 1000 ALEC bills introduced annually, about 20 percent become law.

The organization meets three times a year, and drafts most of the model legislation at their Annual Meeting each summer. The meeting in Scottsdale will focus on educating newly elected legislators on issues that will be at the top of the agenda in the next year.

Despite nearing its fortieth birthday, ALEC remained virtually invisible to the public eye until recently when a number of reports came out about the group. An investigation published by National Public Radio citing ALEC for authoring Arizona’s controversial SB 1070, which created tight restrictions for undocumented immigrants and required police to ask for documents proving immigration status from anyone they suspect might be in the country illegally.  

The bill was sponsored by Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce, an ALEC member who was recalled from public office during a special election Nov. 8. 

ALEC faced resistance for the first time in its long history this spring in Cincinnati, when hundreds of people gathered outside of the Spring Task Force Meeting.  In August, hundreds more protested ALEC’s Annual Meeting in New Orleans.  

And the dissent will continue to grow in Phoenix.

Protestors plan to mobilize Nov. 30, which marks the 12-year anniversary of the protests that effectively disrupted the meeting of the World Trade Organization in Seattle.  Organizers in Phoenix want to reclaim that spirit and attempt to shut down the meeting and expose ALEC.

“This is an issue that ties us all together.  They (ALEC) are the epitome of all the really bad people we are fighting on so many fronts,” Marie said.

The loose coalition of several Phoenix and Tucson based groups, including Occupy Phoenix, are calling for a diversity of tactics in order to further expose ALEC and shut down the meeting.

Although ALEC has nine task forces that draft legislation concerning everything from energy policy to education to health and human services, a big concern for protestors in Arizona are ALEC’s ties to the private prison system.   The two biggest private prison firms in the United States, Corrections Corporation of America and the Geo Group, are influential members and ALEC has been key in putting more people in prison and therefore leaving the prison industry with huge profits.

Geo Group President Wayne Calabrese identified immigrant detention as their next big market, according to the 2010 NPR report.   Arizona SB 1070 and the 13 states that have since proposed copycat versions of the strict law put a lot more immigrants under lock and key in facilities that are increasingly privately owned.  

ALEC also has been traced to the source of “three strikes” laws in California, “truth in sentencing” laws which aim to decrease the possibility for parole of incarcerated individuals and the Prison Industries Act, a 1995 law that opened up prison labor to the private sector in Texas and since has been replicated in 26 other states.

The City of Scottsdale Police Department has no public plans for security at the States and Nation Policy Summit, and said they did not know the event was happening. 

“We don’t know anything about that,” said Sargent Mark Clark.  If the organizers expected protests, they would request security from the department, but if the police were doing security, it would not be public information, he said.

Several protests are planned around the city during the meeting, which have been scheduled from Nov. 30 until Dec. 2.   Although the protest plans have been in the works since before the start of the Occupy movement, the organizers hope to build off the energy around the occupations, which have seen thousands take to streets of cities across the United States and the world, decrying corporate greed and the growing division between rich and poor.

“The Occupy movement is convenient for us because everyone involved in ALEC is in the one percent,” Marie said. “It’s been a really great place for us to connect with a lot of people who feel the same way about corporations, the people who hold all the power and all these oppressive forces that affect all of our lives.”

The media office at ALEC ‘s Washington, D.C. headquarters could not be reached for comment.

--leila peachtree


leila peachtree is a reporter for The Precarious.http://theprecarious.com

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leila peachtree is a reporter for The Precarious.

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