I’ve been a lot of different things in life: OU student, tenant, food service worker, reporter, opinion columnist, magazine editor, nonprofit director, artist, food truck owner... But more than anything else, I’ve been a grassroots organizer dedicated to helping ordinarily disempowered people come together to win a more just and equitable world. That's what first brought me to Athens 20 years ago, and it's what I've been doing ever since.
I first moved to Athens in 1999 at the age of 19 to launch Free Student Press, an organization I co-founded to teach public high school students about their little know First Amendment rights to pass out their own, uncensored publications at school; to support those students in the struggle to make their voices heard; and to use independent student journalism as the basis for doing empowering educational work with students outside the school system, based on the ideas of John Dewey, Paulo Freire, Septima Clark, and Myles Horton. Less than 3 months later, students I worked with at Nelsonville-York High School released their own paper. Corrupt school officials immediately threatened the student publishers with suspension, arrest, and more. But after a highly publicized 4-month struggle, the students prevailed, their principal retired, and I continued to work with them and students at other area schools for the next several years. In response to a film I made about Free Student Press in 2015, FSP was praised by such prominent progressive educators and activists as Noam Chomsky, Bill Ayers, and Ira Shor.
That same fall, I joined other Athenians in traveling cross country to join the “Battle in Seattle,” the historic 1999 demonstrations against the World Trade Organization’s efforts to increase the power of global corporations. There we faced days of extreme police violence and the declaration of martial law but ultimately prevailed in disrupting the WTO’s meetings and giving birth to the alliance of labor, environmental, and human rights concerns that still defines the modern American left.
In 2001 I did front line support work for the Zaleski Forest Tree Sit, a 10-day activist blockade of a 300-acre clear cut on nearby public lands, and I organized against the US invasion of Afghanistan.
In early 2002, after a surge of sexual and heterosexist violence on OU’s campus, I revealed that for at least 5 years Ohio University had been violating federal guidelines for informing students and employees of campus crime (including sexual assault and hate crimes), as well as prevention programs, reporting procedures, and survivor support resources. I then helped organize a 300-person student walkout and subsequent demands campaign at OU that attracted statewide and national media attention, and succeeded in forcing OU into compliance with the Clery Act and in getting administrators to commit to the creation of the OU Women’s Center, which finally opened in 2007.
In late 2002, I used my weekly column at the Ohio University Post to argue against the impending US invasion of Iraq. I organized against the invasion with OU Students Against the War, and in 2003, I helped found OUSAW’s successor, InterAct, which continued to oppose the war and work on a wide array of other Social Justice issues. I was arrested twice during anti-war demonstrations, including one at Kent, Ohio on the 33rd anniversary of the 1970 Kent State Massacre, where former Dead Kennedy’s singer and punk rock legend Jello Biafra helped bail me out of jail. In response to that arrest, I was part of a successful wrongful arrest lawsuit against the City of Kent and its police force. (I would eventually drop out of OU –where had I studied education, politics, history, anthropology and media – less than a semester shy of graduation in order to devote more time to the anti-war movement.
From 2003 through 2006, I worked to build InterAct into the hub of local progressive activism. The group organized charter bus trips to bring Athenians to national anti-war demonstrations in Washington, DC and many local anti-war actions, including an action that disrupted military recruitment in action organized in conjunction with the Pittsburgh Organizing Group, whose counter recruitment activism resulted in the Bush administration deeming it a domestic security threat. I also helped shoot footage for filmmaker Roger Hill’s anti-war documentary Witness a Peace Movement. Meanwhile, InterAct organized against the 2004 anti-marriage equality amendment to Ohio’s state constitution and helped make Athens the only of Ohio’s 88 counties to vote against that bigoted amendment. And InterAct joined with a coalition of regional building trades unions to strive to improve working conditions on OU construction and renovation projects. This work served as the basis of Athens City Council’s passage of its Responsible Contractor Bidding Resolution of 2008. (Mayor Patterson would later choose to ignore this resolution in 2019 when his administration sought to eliminate nearly 40 good-paying, union jobs with benefits – and risked derailing successful composting and recycling programs – when it attempted to take the city refuse and recycling contract away from Athens Hocking Recycling Center.)
For my role in founding InterAct, I received the 2003 annual social justice award from local nonprofit UCM: Center for Spiritual Growth and Social Justice. Later, Athens News readers voted InterAct “Best Student Organization” in Athens in the newspaper’s 2006 Readers Choice Awards.
From mid-2005 through the end of 2008, I directed People Might, a community-based nonprofit organization that provided skill building workshops to dozens of campus social justice activists, and which transformed The InterActivist from InterAct’s sporadically published newsletter into a 40-page monthly magazine, with a print circulation of 3,000 copies per issue, published by a coalition of 5 different organizations, and produced and democratically governed by an all-volunteer staff of 30 people. The InterActivist provided progressive commentary, news coverage of local social justice organizing, in-depth interviews with local activists, and an events calendar that publicized hundreds of events and dozens of progressive organizations. As The InterActivist’s Project Coordinator and Editor in Chief, I used the magazine to train a total of 100 young progressive journalists and media activists. The InterActivist continued to be published until 2015, lasting a total of 12 years.
During this time, I also did a lot of journalism related to social justice issues, including my 2007 Athens News cover story on nearby top industrial polluter Eramet Marietta. The most in-depth report at that time on the specialty metals refinery, my expose contributed to the successful campaign of Ohio Citizen Action and Marietta Neighbors for Clean Air to force Eramet to reduce its toxic emissions.
From 1998 to the present, nearly 100 of my news articles, opinion columns, and letters to the editor have been published by the Athens News, Athens Messenger, OU Post, The InterActivist, The Athens Agenda, Santa Monica Mirror, Daily Utah Chronicle (Salt Lake City), Arbiter (Boise, Idaho), Observer-Reporter (Washington, Pennsylvania), the progressive educational journal Democracy & Education, The Chronogram (Kingston, New York), The Terminal Journal magazine (Chicago, Illinois), the online publication Znet, the Psychology Today website, the Alternatives to School website, the Conscious Consumer Network website, and the webzine Bettawreckonize (Akron, Ohio). Meanwhile, my activism and organizing has been covered by many of the above publications, as well as by the Los Angeles Times, Akron-Beacon Journal, Pittsburgh City Paper, Record-Courier (Kent, Ohio), Pitt News (University of Pittsburgh), The New People (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), Logan Daily (Logan, Ohio), Athens Insider, Athensi.com, WOUB Radio and Television, WTTE Television (Columbus, Ohio), Fox8 Cleveland, and publications of Ohio Citizen Action (Cleveland) and the Appalachian Peace and Justice Network (Athens). Most of this writing, as well as links to news coverage of my organizing, is available at my writing website and blog, www.DamonKrane.com.
In 2008, I successfully sued an Athens landlord for violations of our lease and got the City of Athens to criminally convict the landlord for multiple violations of the city housing code – and I helped my downstairs neighbor sue the landlord as well. (In 2010, I would also successfully sued a landlord in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and help some of his other tenants do the same.)
In 2009, I left Athens to serve as Communications Director for the Oregon Student Association, that state’s largest member-based advocacy organization. I then lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Atlanta, Georgia before moving back to Athens in 2016 to launch Hot Potato Food Truck.
Yet even while away from Athens, I stayed involved here, writing occasional columns on local events for the Athens News and the OU Post, including my 2015 defense of embattled Palestine Solidarity activist Megan Marzec.
In 2016, I backed the presidential primary campaign of Bernie Sanders and returned to Athens to publicly criticize Hillary Clinton’s policy record during her primary season visit here. (While I vigorously opposed Clinton in the primary, I publicly encouraged progressives and leftists to vote for her in the general election as a lesser evil compared to Trump.)
Shortly after moving back to Athens, in 2017 I co-founded that Athens Tenant Union, supported the Baker 70, and joined the campaign to abolish OU’s unconstitutional restrictions on campus speech and assembly.
In 2018, I organized the Athens Mobile Vending Association, an alliance of more than a dozen local mobile vending businesses. After being elected president of the AMVA, I helped the organization defeat councilmember Pat McGee’s efforts to reduce mobile vending opportunities in Athens and to get City Council to instead change vending regulations for the better, in order to support the local independent food and beverage scene which provides instrumental support to our local arts and music scene and to local social justice organizing. I continue to serve on Athens City Council’s Ad-Hoc Committee on Mobile Vending.
In early 2019 I became a founding member of the Southeast Ohio chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, and I participated in the campaign to prevent the Athens County Board of Elections from reducing the number of polling stations and moving some to less accessible locations.
Finally, in March of this year, I announced my campaign for Mayor of Athens in order to restore and expand local democracy, to defeat local slumlords and self-serving politicians, and to win the Athens that students, workers, and struggling young families deserve.
I am not a career politician attempting to use Athens as my personal stepping stone to power. My goal in life is not to gain as much personal comfort as I can in exchange for maintaining the status quo. Instead, for my entire adult life I have shown an unwavering commitment to fighting for a better world. If you elect me Mayor, you can trust I’ll not only continue that work but do it more successfully than ever before.
Above left: Damon Krane (in red shirt) participates with 1,000 other Athenians in the March 19, 2003 anti-war sit-in at Court & Union on the day of the US invasion of Iraq. Above right: Krane is arrested for refusing to comply with the police order to vacate the street.
Below: Damon Krane leads a November 2, 2005 anti-war demonstration to disrupt recruitment for the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan at the US Armed Forces Recruitment Center in Athens.
Above: Cover of two of the roughly 60 issues of The InterActivist published between 2003 and 2015.
Below: Damon Krane with numerous InterActivist staff members during his tenure as the magazine Project Coordinator and Editor in Chief, and the Executive Director of its lead publishing organization, People Might, from 2005 - 2008.
Damon Krane and his wife, film scholar Ece Üçoluk Krane, working the Hot Potato Food Truck at the 2017 grand opening party of Ohio is Home / Redtail Design Company at ACEnet.
Damon Krane conducts a People Might workshop on community organizing for OU campus activists in 2007.