Tag Archives: Bernie Sanders

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 http://upcutah.com and their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/upcutah/

A Positive Difference Between Extremes

March 18, 2016 saw two events that produced results of a contrast of ideas. One candidate’s rhetoric supported the progressive ideals of an optimistic and viable future, while the other professed the ideas of backwardness and fear. Admittedly the following words invoked certain emotions and opinions of this writer. The day started out with a mad scramble to attend the Bernie Sanders rally being held at This Is The Place Park. After securing a lyft and arriving onsite, it was clear that the attendance for the Sanders event would be impressive. An estimate later provided by the Salt Lake Tribune suggested that about 14000 people showed up to support the Senator from Vermont. Mind you, this was an estimate of people who rallied with only two days’ notice. The line to get into the grounds for the rally wrapped through the parking lot and all the way towards the This Is The Place Visitors Center. Though the weather was brisk, those already queued waited with eager anticipation. After more than an hour of being in line, and going through the Secret Service Security, I arrived at the rally site. The backdrop for the rally was an impressive site to behold as just beyond the grounds stood the majestic beauty of the Rocky Mountains.

Sanders did not make his appearance until around 3:30 P.M. While his supporters waited, they were entertained with an upbeat selection of music that ranged from soul, funk and contemporary rock—all selections that kept the crowd excited. There were a couple speakers who addressed the Sanders supporters prior to his arrival. The most notable being the Utah based activist Lex Scott. Scott cited Sander’s work as a longtime activist and one whose record for supporting of civil rights was noteworthy—this particular mention was celebrated by the assembled audience. When Sanders motorcade arrived there was a certain buzzing in the air that was followed by jubilant cheers when he finally took to the podium. His presence was awe-inspiring. It was like witnessing an icon whose ideals are bigger than any one person but are embodied by the man. Sanders delivered his trademark talking points about a rigged economy, and education and criminal justice reform. He also touched on environmental issues and shined a much needed light on communities—like that of the Native Americans— that have long been overlooked by the rhetoric and actions of mainstream politics.

One subject that Sanders talked about was Police violence. He stressed that a majority of police officers are hardworking, but that all needed to be held accountable for their actions—for this he cited the Salt Lake police shooting of 17-year old Abdi Mohamed. Sanders’ honesty and frankness to be easy to respect. He does not shy away from tough controversial topics, particularly the need of America to accept and take on the country’s obvious imperfections. Sanders does not mix words and wastes little time getting straight to the core of the issues he addresses. He is not restricted by false niceties and he is unabashedly sincere. Unlike his political counterparts he does not use that as a smoke screen to justify controversial hate-speech or to fly false flags. Rather, when Sanders takes on relevant issues, he talks about realities while providing the framework for a future to believe in and fight for. He does not shy away from the world’s problems, he doesn’t bullshit his audience and in a unique way he proposes solutions that seem actually viable. Furthermore, Sanders is running for the President of the United States to unite and move people forward, not backward nor to encourage folks to hide behind a wall with fingers in the ears.

Leaving the Bernie Sanders rally I could not help but feel that was an actual reason for optimism. This is not a common feeling for me as I have been seeing the world through the eyes of one who has recently read On The Beach. But with all that is beautiful and gold there is the presence of an obvious contrast. Later in the evening I found myself observing the counter Trump Rally at the Infinity Center in downtown Salt Lake City. Hundreds of protesters had lined up against a much smaller crowd of Trump supporters. Things quickly got heated with several Trump supporters antagonizing protesters. A fragile peace was maintained—though this peace was partly established by the presence of the police officers and cool heads among the protesters ranks. Unlike the Trump supporters who represented a diverse array of white folks, the protesters represented a wide coalition varying ethnicities and groups like anarchists, communists, Sanders supporters, Republicans, students and many others. Several protesters carried the Mexican national flag as an obvious display against Trumps racist remarks about Mexicans months prior. To keep up morale and shout down the Trump supporters, the protesters shouted a wide array of chants like “Shut It Down” “Black Lives Matter” and “Dump Trump.” The Trump supporters on the other hand relied on chanting “U.S.A!” and waving American flags to make their point. I’ll admit though, I’m not sure what exactly that was, unless that their display of dramatic patriotism was suggesting they were the true patriots present at the protest.

Rumor spread through the protester ranks that Trump was going to enter through a side entrance. The protesters swarmed with the intent of preventing Trump from giving his address. After it was clear that Trump had managed to get into the Infinity Center, the protesters then moved to the front entrance of the building. During the assembly the protesters demolished the security tent stationed at the entrance and in response the riot police, with shields deployed, mobilized to make a stand against the demonstrators. The standoff was tense as police reinforcements arrived for the outnumbered police units. The protesters were not deterred in the slightest and reformed to maintain their position surrounding the Trump supporters and their police protectors. While the situation remained tense no further provocative actions were made by the protesters against the police. However, some Trump supporters did make their way into the crowd and tried to antagonize someone holding a Mexican flag, but that provocation was quickly quelled—although one Trump supporter mockingly offered to buy the flag for $10. In all the anti-trump protest demonstrated certain solidarity in the face of something most foul. At the end of the rally, the considered their actions a victory and then proceeded to march South on State Street after being deflected by a police line who were protecting their fleet of cruisers parked East on 600 S.

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.