Ben Manski

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Benjamin Robert Manski
Born (1974-07-16) July 16, 1974 (age 44)
OccupationSociologist, Lawyer, organizer, speaker
Home townMadison, Wisconsin
Spouse(s)Sarah Grace Manski

Ben Manski (born July 16, 1974) is an American sociologist, lawyer, and democracy advocate. He is the founder of the Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution, and co-founder of Move to Amend, the 180/Movement for Democracy and Education, and United for Peace and Justice. In 2011, he chaired the first biennial "Democracy Convention."[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Manski was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on July 16, 1974, to economist Charles Manski and educator Kate Manski. When he was three years old, his family moved to Jerusalem, Israel, where he and his sister spent their early childhood years. In 1982, his parents returned to the United States, moving to Madison, Wisconsin.

Manski was influenced by the lifelong civil rights activism of his maternal grandmother and by the participation of his father’s family in the Jewish resistance movements of the 1930s and 1940s.[2]

Manski received a B.A. in sociology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1999; a law degree from the University of Wisconsin–Madison Law School in 2005; an M.A. in sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2016; and is currently seeking a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.[3][4]

Sugihara Memorial[edit]

In the summer of 2011, Manski was invited to Suruga, Japan, in place of his recently deceased grandfather, Samuil Manski, for a celebration of the life of Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat stationed in Lithuania responsible for saving thousands of Jewish refugees from Nazi cruelty through the granting of visas allowing for their escape. Manski's grandfather was one of the refugees saved by the grace of Sugihara and later helped to raise awareness of Sugihara's deeds.[5]

Democracy movement[edit]

Democracy Teach-Ins and 180/MDE[edit]

In 1995, Manski began coordinating a series of "Democracy Teach-Ins" on college campuses around the nation. They were aimed at educating students and communities on the issues of corporate rule and the corporatization of higher education. He continued his role as coordinator, eventually co-founding 180/Movement for Democracy and Education, or MDE, as a means to expand the platform of the teach-ins.[6] Through MDE, Manski organized teach-ins leading up to the 1999 Seattle WTO protests


Through 180-MDE, Manski helped to organize a national mobilization of students to converge on the meeting of the WTO in Seattle, November 1999. Along with thousands of other prominent pro-labor organizations, including the AFL–CIO, the famous WTO protest was a major reversal of the consolidation of corporate power. Seattle was an important event for American pro-labor movements in that the police "lost the battle for legitimacy to the moral force of non-violence," according to Manski. Losing control of the streets and thereby the protest, it was a clear victory for the protesters.

However, this would not be the case in the 2003 protest of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), who were convening in Miami for trade negotiations. Miami saw scores of protesters numbering over 22,000 in opposition to the FTAA. "The message of the demonstration was clear," said Manski. "No to closed door trade meetings. No to corporate-made law. No to the race to the bottom. In sum: No to the FTAA." The march was to begin in end in Miami's Bayfront Park. As the march completed its route, many demonstrators departed while others stayed for a free concert in the park. Without warning, the police converged on the remaining protesters. Rubber bullets and pepper spray pellets were fired at the fleeing crowd, in addition to tear gas. In what came to be known as the Miami model, the Miami police pursued the fleeing demonstrators, dividing them street by street employing brutality resulting in 125 reported injuries and 250 arrests made. "If there is a lesson from Miami, it is this: Retreat usually leads to defeat," notes Manski.[7]

Liberty Tree[edit]

The summer of 2004 saw the creation of the Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution. Founded by Manski during his last year of law school, this non-governmental organization was formed as a means to reinforce pro-democracy campaigns across the United States. Through Liberty Tree, Manski has helped solidify networks of people whose aim is to have a more participatory system of government. "I had come to recognize that while we were winning any number of significant victories, we were losing the larger struggle for democratic self-governance." [6]

  • No Stolen Elections! was the first project by Liberty Tree beginning in 2004. Its focus was to protect voting rights and to protest against election manipulation during the 2004 presidential elections. Multiple protests were organized following election day resulting in a successful seeding of voting rights groups across the United States. This campaign continues on today as No More Stolen Elections! with a strong commitment to upholding election transparency.[8]
  • Bring the Guard Home! It's the Law. was a national movement prepared by Liberty Tree to end the deployment of the National Guard in Iraq. The campaign spread to over 20 states whose aim was to work with state legislators to pass laws as a means to prevent the deployment of the National Guard in future conflicts.[9]
  • Democratizing Education Program is a network of student associations, labor unions, faculty organizations, as well as grassroots student, parent and community groups working to unite against the corporatization of the education system and to promote democracy within school, colleges and universities.[10]
  • Move to Amend was created by Liberty Tree, Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County, Alliance for Democracy and the Center for Media and Democracy and is now a national movement working towards overcoming corporate power in the government by calling for a constitutional amendment to end corporate personhood. The formation of this non-partisan group was in response to the controversial Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Move to Amend believes that the ruling by the Court is a disruption in democracy by granting a disproportionate amount of power to the nation's most wealthy.
  • Wisconsin Wave was created in January 2011 as a means to fight corporate power in politics. Liberty Tree began the campaign through the distribution of the "Wisconsin Wave of Resistance". This document outlined the movement's progressive agenda to put an end to corporate attacks on labor unions. The Wisconsin Wave was largely created in solidarity with the 2011 Wisconsin protests, and moved on to organize annual conventions to protest the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce as well as a series of workshops including a "People's Assembly" designed to bring together organizers from around the state.[11]

Green Party[edit]

Manski joined the Wisconsin Green Party in 1990. In 1996 he led the effort to place Ralph Nader on the Wisconsin ballot. In 1999, he became a member of the staff of Ralph Nader's 2000 presidential campaign, serving as Midwest field director in that election. In 2001, he was hired as the first interim national director of the Campus Greens, stepping down in order to take office as co-chair of the Green Party of the United States, a position to which he was reelected in 2003, and from which he stepped down in 2004.[12] He was the Wisconsin representative on the Green Party Diversity Committee,[13][14] and is a former chair of the Green Coordinated Campaign Committee and Presidential Campaign Support Committee.[15] Manski was the campaign manager of Jill Stein, candidate for President of the United States in 2012.[16]


Dane County Board of Supervisors[edit]

Manski ran for public office in 1996, winning 49.8% of the vote for a slot on the Dane County Board of Supervisors, in a close race.[17]

Wisconsin State Assembly[edit]

In 2010, Manski was a Green Party candidate for a Wisconsin State Assembly seat vacated by long-time Madison legislator Spencer Black. He lost to Brett Hulsey of Madison, taking 31% of the vote and finishing ahead of the Republican and Constitution Party candidates.[18] This was the strongest performance of any third party candidate in Wisconsin since 1944.[19]


  1. ^ "Megaphone: An Interview with Ben Manski of the Liberty Tree Foundation". Retrieved November 4, 2012.
  2. ^ "Jewish Currents". Retrieved January 31, 2013.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Biography". Manski for Wisconsin. Retrieved October 10, 2011.
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-03-28. Retrieved 2013-06-12.
  12. ^ Zielinski, Graeme (Fall 2004). "Green and Growing?" (PDF). On Wisconsin. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-28.
  13. ^ "Green Party Committees: Diversity". Green Party of the United States. Archived from the original on June 2, 2006. Retrieved October 10, 2011.
  14. ^ Zaleski, Rob (April 9, 2004). "Green Leader Has Doubts About Kerry". The Capital Times.
  15. ^ "Ben Manski for State Assembly". Green Party of the United States. Retrieved October 10, 2011.
  16. ^ Winger, Richard. "Ben Manski Will be Campaign Manager for Jill Stein Presidential Run". Ballot Access News. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  17. ^ "No Change in Two Recounts". The Capital Times. March 29, 1996.
  18. ^ "Fall 2010 general election results". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. November 2, 2010.
  19. ^ Winger, Richard (January 17, 2011). "Wisconsin Green 2010 Legislative Candidate Set Record Going Back 65 Years". Ballot Access News. Retrieved October 10, 2011.