"We're up against the most rich and powerful people in the world. All we have is our convictions really because we don't have the money or the power or the weapons. But I think the anger of billions of people is the weapon that will eventually be used against them." - Arundhati Roy at the 2004 Republican National Convention.
The day before the 2004 Republican National Convention began, Sunday, August 29, more than 400,000 courageous people marched through the streets of New York to tell the world that they oppose the Bush agenda. In the days that followed, more than 1,700 of those demonstrators were arrested when in many cases they had not broken any laws. Their jail was an old bus depot ringed with razor wire. They were forced to sleep on bare floors that were covered with motor oil. They were held for as long as two days without charges or access to attorneys. Most were eventually found guilty of disorderly conduct and received desk appearance tickets that are usually processed in just a few hours. As the convention drew to a close, a judge was forced to fine the city of New York $1,000 for each person who had not been released.
The prescience of these activists makes the force used against them all the more shameful. Their ability to articulate the horrors of the Bush administration varies, but they all know that America is in serious trouble. They were undeterred despite nervous Nellie liberals beseeching them to stay home and not cause trouble. We were told that protests in 2004 would be like those that took place in 1968. A simple glance at the calendar should have squelched such nonsense. Nearly 40 years have passed since that Democratic convention in Chicago. There is no Black Panther Party or Students for a Democratic Society. Anyone active in those groups will soon be eligible for Medicare, assuming that Bush doesn't get rid of it first.
Those 400,000 people are the ones whose voices should be heeded and yet they are the most scorned. The August 29th march was the largest demonstration at any political convention in American history. Of course, the significance of the event was lost on what passes for leadership among the Democrats. Terry McAuliffe, Chair of the Democratic National Committee, went out of his way to disassociate the party from the people who despite their misgivings about John Kerry are the most committed to getting him elected. "We have nothing to do with the demonstrators," McAuliffe proudly proclaimed.
Unlike McAuliffe, the Republicans defend anyone who swears to abide by their twisted loyalty oath. Christian fascists advocate killing Palestinians in an effort to hasten the return of Jesus. They are embraced by Republicans. Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House of Representatives, accused Democratic financier George Soros of being in the pay of drug dealers. No one in the Republican party condemned Hastert's statements. Ministers who compare gay people to Nazis are not only embraced by Republicans but are allowed to give invocations at party conventions. While the Republicans will utter any lie or advocate monstrous public policy, the sad remnants of the Democratic party flee from people who carry signs saying, "Give peace a chance."
The RNC convention featured speakers such as New York City's former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who never ceases to pimp September 11th for personal gain. Arnold Schwarzenegger reminisced about seeing Soviet tanks during his childhood in Austria when in fact he lived in a region occupied by Britain. Democratic turncoat Zell Miller told outright lies about John Kerry's voting record in the Senate. John McCain referred to Michael Moore as a "disingenuous film maker" but later admitted he hadn't seen Fahrenheit 9/11. Speaker after speaker voiced disdain and outright hostility for the United Nations.
The Democratic base is crying for help but has been left to its own devices in fighting the Bush administration. While their party's nominee did not utter one word of even qualified support for their actions they continued to hold marches, vigils, and other actions while the convention took place. John Kerry said nothing about the FBI harassment of protesters that took place before the convention even began. He said nothing about the people who left their home states to march through the streets of New York, all in an effort to get him elected.
The protesters know that a Bush victory will be disastrous for the United States and for the world. If Bush has a second term he will make good on his efforts to ease the tax burden on the wealthy, and do away with the little safety net that America has left. The Patriot Act will be expanded to continue John Ashcroft's goal of criminalizing an entire society. America's surrogate in the Middle East, Israel, will be given permission to make war on its neighbors and destabilize the entire region. The corporate looting of Iraq will worsen.
As Arundhati Roy said, our only weapons against the Bushites are our convictions. If Kerry wins it will be because the people he doesn't want to acknowledge didn't give up on their convictions, one of which is helping him to win, even if he isn't smart enough or brave enough to acknowledge that fact.
Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in . Ms. Kimberley is a freelance writer living in New York City. She can be reached via e-Mail at email@example.com. You can read more of Ms. Kimberley's writings at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com/
September 9 2004
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