Has ‘Together Baton Rouge’ Hijacked the Opposition?


Opponents of incorporating the proposed City of St. George gained a round of publicity this week with a rally of more than 250 people at St. Patrick Catholic Church.

But behind the headlines and unreported by the media was something supporters of St. George say they find disturbing — few of those in attendance were from St. George and the leadership of the group Together Baton Rouge seemed to be calling the shots.  The rally was organized by a group called “Better Together,” which wants to keep Baton Rouge and St. George together.  [Actually, St. George is an unincorporated area, which is not part of the City of Baton Rouge.]

Together Baton Rouge was organized by the Industrial Areas Foundation, a group founded by Saul Alinsky to promote urban socialism.  Together Baton Rouge led efforts to promote the $180 million CATS tax.

Lionel Rainey III, a spokesman for St. George, said “Better Together” and “Together Baton Rouge” appear to be one and the same.  He said the leadership of Together Baton Rouge appeared to be running the meeting Tuesday night, and well known TBR activists were throughout the crowd.

Metro Council member Buddy Amoroso, who is neutral on incorporation, said he saw few of his constituents from St. George in attendance.  He noted that Brod Bagert of New Orleans was present.  Bagert is state organizer for the Industrial Areas Foundation.  He said Edgar Gage and Dianne Hanley were among the leaders of Together Baton Rouge in attendance.

Metro Council member Ryan Heck, who represents parts of St. George on the Metro Council, also attended the meeting.  He said he saw few of his constituents in attendance.

Rainey said, “This is mostly Together Baton Rouge supporters from other parts of the Baton Rouge area, and there were few residents of St. George.”

When a community is targeted by the Industrial Areas Foundation, it sends in a community organizer to get area churches and other organizations to buy into its agenda.

Prior to pushing for passage of the CATS tax, Bagert helped Together Baton Rouge organize mass meetings and generate media exposure in almost every major media outlet in the city. They said poor people were suffering and the reason very few people rode the bus was not enough buses and not enough routes.

A tax would be needed, Together Baton Rouge said, to increase the CATS budget from $12 million a year to $30 million.  A new tax, generating $180 million over 10 years was proposed for Baton Rouge, Baker, and Zachary.  Other parts of the parish, which had voted against a smaller tax two years before, were excluded from the vote.

Bagert organized churches in the inner city to get out the vote, and the tax narrowly passed in Baton Rouge and Baker.  The website of Together Baton Rouge, togetherbatonrouge.org, says in the “About” section that the group is part of the Industrial Areas Foundation. The Industrial Areas Foundation was organized by Saul Alinsky in 1940 and still follows many of his teachings on community organizing. Alinsky is famous for his book, Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals.  It was published just before his death in 1971.

Rules for Radicals, which is in pdf form on-line, says the end justifies the means and advocates direct action to create conflict.

Alinsky said community organizers should use symbol construction to create unity.  He would draw on loyalty to a church or religious group to create an organization within which to function.  Alinsky said create unity by identifying a common enemy, usually a local politician or opposing group.  The next step is to destroy that person or group. The tactic is “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”  Often those who disagree are labelled as “racists.”

One of Alinsky’s rules is “Power is not what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.”  Another is “Make the enemy live up to its own rules.”  Still another is “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”  Alinsky focused on class warfare and knew that if he could make in-roads in the “middle class,” he could be victorious.

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