Friday, October 27, 2006

Over 500 Attend “World Can’t Wait” Anti-Bush Protest

Speakers, Organizers of Oct. 5 Event Divide over Electoral Politics


Copyright © 2006 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved

Over 500 people attended San Diego’s “World Can’t Wait” protest at Horton Plaza October 5, part of an international call to “drive out the Bush regime” and end George W. Bush’s presidency before his term expires on January 20, 2009. But speakers at the afternoon rally that climaxed the event differed widely on whether the end of the Bush regime could best be hastened by voting for Democrats in this November’s election or some unspecified escalation of the protests that avoided engaging the election at all.

The disagreement was apparent as soon as the rally started, when the two people sharing MC duties came down on opposite sides of the electoral question. Though he acknowledged that there are uncertainties about whether election results really reflect the will of the people voting, especially now that so many elections are conducted by computer without a so-called “paper trail,” Matthew Cappadocía said that the solution was to mobilize so many anti-Bush voters that there would be no way pro-Bush forces could steal the election.

“We can’t have these elections constantly won by a margin that is so small you can’t really even measure it,” Cappadocía said. “We need a major movement of people to come out in an election where the end result is known, and if it doesn’t come out the way it’s supposed to, we must rise up! We must bring this injustice to a level of attention where the whole nation knows that we are counting the votes, we are looking at the votes, we’re looking at who’s counting the votes and what that end result is.”

Cappadocía’s co-MC, Aïda Reyes, immediately expressed a different point of view. “The ‘World Can’t Wait’ is not about the elections,” she said. “Both of the parties have screwed us all and are screwing the planet. Excuse me, that’s what I’m thinking. You probably think I’m too radical. … We cannot wait until 2008 for the elections, two more years, to have something done. There won’t be a world, guys.”

“World Can’t Wait” promoted a massive worldwide mobilization on October 5, issuing various statements and calls to action. “We come from different political viewpoints but we all agree: we must bring the Bush program to a HALT,” said one of the documents passed out at the rally and march. The leaflet called the demand for Bush’s mid-term removal from office “an audacious and historic venture born of urgent necessity,” but was vague on precisely how the organizers proposed to drive Bush from office early.

The call included seven accusations against “Your Government,” most of them common criticisms of the Bush regime’s practices and proposals. They included the “murderous and utterly illegitimate” war on Iraq, the use of torture against detainees, the act of detaining people at all “on the merest suspicion” without bringing them to justice, the influence of Christian Fundamentalists on the Bush administration that is “moving [the government] each day closer to a theocracy,” attacks on science “that doesn’t fit its religious, political and economic agenda,” worldwide attacks on women’s right to birth control and abortion, and the “culture of greed, bigotry, intolerance and ignorance” allegedly being fostered by the Bush administration.

“It’s time to feel powerful,” said Jeeni Criscenzo, peace activist and Democratic nominee against Republican incumbent Darrell Issa for a Congressional seat in North County. “It’s time to not stop. We have one chance for a revolution by election in 33 more days. Don’t let them tell you that your vote doesn’t count, because we can win by an overwhelming majority. All right: how do we get an overwhelming majority with what, what have we got here, less than 1,000 people? Every single one of you has to go out and knock on every neighbor’s door and call everybody, and argue with your relatives who think George W. Bush is wonderful. Get loud, get passionate, get strong! You have 33 days to do a peaceful revolution.”

“Thank you, Jeeni, so much, but you know what? They cheat!” Reyes said immediately after Criscenzo stopped speaking. “Look at the 2000 election. Four million of us more voted for Gore. They cheat. It went to the Supreme Court, Florida, whatever. Look what happened here in San Diego three times. They cheated. They took away Donna Frye from us and they put in Sanders, a Republican. O.K. O.K. with voting, but you know what? They don’t play fair. No matter how much we want to think they are respectful for our rights, they don’t give a f--- — I don’t like to say it in English — they don’t give a f--- for what we think. We don’t have the money. We’re not the corporations.”

USCD microbiology professor Milton H. Saier, Jr. gave a talk on the Bush regime’s war against science, criticizing it both for refusing to acknowledge genuine science like global warming and for putting bogus information on government Web sites, including allegations that abortion heightens a woman’s risk of breast cancer and statements that condoms are ineffective in reducing the risk of sexually transmitted diseases. The group then broke for a march through the Gaslamp District, where they were greeted with supportive honks from passing drivers — and accosted and heckled by people who had been drinking at sidewalk cafés.

Upon the group’s return to Horton Plaza, Planned Parenthood spokesperson Carolyn Desert urged people to vote against Proposition 85 on the November 7 ballot. Similar to a measure California voters defeated a year earlier, this would require that the parents of a girl under 18 seeking an abortion be notified in advance. This would be a bad idea, Desert explained, because “three out of five teens who become pregnant already tell their parents,” and the two-fifths who don’t “don’t for a good reason: they fear for their own safety. The bottom line is that, while parents wish to be involved in the health of their teens, you cannot make a law that mandates parent-child communication. Not all families are safe, and not all children can talk to their parents. In the real world, some teens live with real violence.”

After a brief appearance by a spokesperson for Amnesty International, the next speaker was local attorney Randall Hamud. He talked about his experiences representing accused terrorists and the abuses of the recently passed Military Commissions Act, which put Congress on record as supporting the contention of the Bush administration that it should have “carte blanche to declare anyone to be an ‘unlawful enemy combatant’ if he or she may ‘purposely or materially support terrorism or hostilities against the United States.” Pointing out the vagueness of that language, Hamud suggested that what the 500 attendees at World Can’t Wait were doing right then — “requesting the impeachment of a President” — might be defined as “hostility towards the United States” and be grounds for extensive detention without legal rights and ultimate trial before a military tribunal.

But, like Criscenzo, Hamud also closed his speech with an appeal for people to vote for Democratic candidates in the November 7 election, despite the fact that many Democrats — particularly U.S. Senate candidates in closely contested states — voted for the Military Commissions Act. “I don’t care if you disagree with [the Democrats] as far as their personal or political agenda is, we need to take one or both houses away from Bush,” Hamud said. “We need to seize back the government through the Congress. This Congress has been milquetoast. It’s deferred to him on everything. It’s created an autocratic presidency. We need to reverse it. We have one final chance to do that this November. I urge all of you: do not hesitate to be active in the Democratic party. Walk precincts, call voters, get out the Democratic vote, just as the Republicans are trying to do to continue the fascist practice of this regime.”

Once again, as she had done after every speaker who’d endorsed participating in the election and voting for Democrats, Reyes criticized Hamud as soon as he finished speaking. “Me personally, we have a saying in Spanish: ‘The Republicans hit you with a bare hand, and the Democrats just use a club,’” Reyes said. “That’s my thinking only. I’m probably too — I don’t know — too crazy. But, whatever you believe, I voted for Donna Frye three times, and look what happened. I don’t trust them.”