Northern California 9-11 Truth Alliance Stands up Against a Criminal Empire
Firsthand Account of a last minute Counter-Inaugural Protest in San Francisco's Civic Center initiated by Veteran's for Peace and the Northern California 9-11 Truth Alliance on January 20th to protest an illegitimate, criminal regime's continuity in waging war against humanity.
I organized the first public march demanding a Congressional Investigation of 9-11 in January 2002, as well as protests, rallies, marches, educational events, the San Francisco International Inquiry into 9-11, a weekly Listening Project in downtown Palo Alto, the publication of 6,000,000 Deception Dollars, and I Co-Founded the 9-11 Truth Alliance and the Northern California 9-11 Truth Alliance whose mission is:
"To seek and disseminate truths about the terrible crimes committed on
September 11, 2001, exposing gaps and deceptions in the official story, and to thus
inspire more eyewitness revelations, truthful media coverage, and a movement that
will bring the responsible criminals to justice and eliminate governmental and
corporate policies that enable criminal elements to commit such acts."
Undoubtedly, I wasn't the only one who would have liked to have gone to Washington D.C. to protest the second inauguration of a man who stole the election, not once, but twice, and deserved a jail term for his behavior on September 11th and used that event as a pretext for wars against Afghanistan, Iraq, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. Family obligations prevented me from traveling, and like thousands, or perhaps millions of other Americans; I did what I could to raise my objection to the Washington theatrics closer to home. In Palo Alto, students protested at Stanford University, and peace activists rallied downtown, but I chose to go to San Francisco, where Veteran's for Peace and the Northern California 9-11 Truth Alliance, Not in Our Name, and ANSWER had mobilized.
A member of Veteran's for Peace and I had wanted to do more than just an evening rally, and Veteran's for Peace voted to support a vigil at the Civic Center. I volunteered to set up the 9-11 banners and tables, and bring a sound system for Veteran's for Peace, who wanted to hold up the panels of all the soldiers killed in Iraq, and read each of their names. The Northern California 9-11 Truth Alliance, also wanted to do something, to help with the table, to pass out literature and signs to those who would come to the big ANSWER rally at 5:00 PM and march.
Since permits take fifteen days to process, and our event was last minute, low-key, (we didn't have time to publicize it, make any flyers, do press releases, only time to mention it on a few activist websites and send out some postcards) I didn't try to get a permit. (At the last big rally I organized on September 11th 2004, over a hundred people showed up, we rallied, marched two miles with a friendly police escort through Golden Gate Park to the 6th Annual 9-11 Power to the Peaceful Concert without permits).
I was quite surprised when I got a call from the Associated Press, the Chicago Tribune, and an e-mail from a San Diego Radio Station who were covering the counter-inaugural protests nationwide.
Early Thursday morning, I listened to the radio on my way to San Francisco. The sad coverage, Orwellian in nature, and the "doublespeak" of "W" made me feel like crying. I was cheered by the action of "Not In Our Name" who hung a huge banner- "Not Our President" over the freeway, just as I was listening to "W" spouting about how American security, depended upon bringing "freedom and democracy" to the rest of the world, as if rigging elections in various places, installing friendly dictatorships under US control, would bring benefits to those who mattered (those who sold weapons, stole resources, profited from institutionalized oppression).
I arrived at the Civic Center at 9:00 AM and proceeded to unload my car, and hang banners. We have an 8 foot by 4 foot Deception Dollar two sided banner which says "Support a People's 9-11 Truth Commission" and "9/11- Follow the Money." George Johnson, my good friend from Veteran's for Peace, stopped by and said, "Why here? Who's going to see you, so far from the street?" I was just setting up in my usual spot, where I've had a table and banners for the past few years at every big anti-war rally held at the Civic Center. George wanted to be on the steps of City Hall, not exactly the ideal location for hanging banners and setting up my tables. I had the sound system and said that Veteran's for Peace could choose to be wherever they wanted to be, but that I needed to be by the trees to be able to put up my banners.
Fifteen minutes later a police officer informed me that it was illegal to hang banners from trees, without a permit. He also said he would ticket me, if I didn't get my car moved soon. He obviously didn't want me to be there and was trying to scare me away with threats. I stood my ground and he left. Another police officer blatantly lied to me to frighten me away (He told me that Veteran's for Peace had a permit, not realizing that we were together.), and threatened to call his superior. I did take the banner out of the tree, placed bamboo poles up the sleeves and put it up again, so it was mainly self supporting, but still attached to the trunks of the trees. I could put up quite a few banners that way, but not all of them. More police came, including a sergeant who informed me that the head of Parks and Recreation would also be coming to assess the situation. They left their police car running and half a dozen cops stood nearby as the sergeant droned on and on at me about how "talking politely" was not "police harassment."
As a seasoned activist, I knew that "the rules had changed after 9-11" and that police and security officers counted on people's ignorance of the rules to intimidate them, and discourage them from exercising their First Amendment Rights. I'm sure that if I hadn't insisted on my First Amendment Rights; they would have arrested me or driven me away. They admitted that I did have some protection under the First Amendment, but they also said that I couldn't put any prices on the resources we were tabling; everything had to be "for free" or "by donation." Other activists had arrived, and supported what I was doing; I wasn't alone. The police did write down my Driver's License number and said that they might issue a citation or make it harder for me to get a permit in the future. The head of Parks and Recreation did come, and didn't want to give me a permit, on that day, which would have created a dangerous precedent.
Of course, what we were trying to do, was to express our opinions, get out information completely censored in the mainstream press, to organize, to create space for public dialogue on the important issues of our time. With a bunch of police standing about and their car spewing fumes; it wasn't the most inviting atmosphere for organizing. They certainly wasted an hour or more of my time, and made it very difficult for us to put up the banners, flags, and signs that I usually put up at rallies.
A steady stream of people flowed by the table, usually stopping, but some just passed by. At 11:00 AM "Not In Our Name" held a rally one block north at the Federal Building and at 4:00 PM "Not In Our Name" rallied at Powell and Market, so I suggested that people who were anxious to do something could help Veteran's for Peace at the steps of City Hall, join Not In Our Name at their rallies, come to the big rally at 5:00 PM, pass out Deception Dollars, or carry our picket signs; I shared our information and resources, and enlisted volunteers to help us. We passed out thousands of the new Deception Dollars, the Election Deception Dollars, the Media Deception Dollars.
Frank Runninghorse brought a huge banner, a hundred picket signs, another literature table, and clipboards with sign-up sheets. Ken Jenkins brought a table, and the latest DVD he produced of David Ray Griffin's recent talk in Santa Rosa, a companion to Griffin's excellent new book, The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions, a damning look at the official 9/11Cover-Up. Janette MacKinley, who lived across the street from the World Trade Center, and wrote Fortunate- A Personal Diary of 9/11 helped me the whole day, and was interviewed by one of the television crews. About twenty or more Northern California 9-11 Truth Alliance people helped with the tables, passed out signs, gathered contact information from our supporters, and answered questions as the day proceeded. About 3:00 PM other tables and banners appeared, in anticipation of the rally. A woman who edited the "Street Sheet" publication that the homeless sell, came by to inform me that the homeless agreed that our 9/11 tables were the best ones, that really had something to say, and weren't just out to make money.
The public support for us has always been tremendous at the street level, and at our large events; people are very appreciative of our message, as well as all the information we try to get out.
I called into the San Diego radio station and reported on our event. Mike Martinez from the Chicago Tribune interviewed me at length. I wondered if any serious facts about 9-11 would appear in any of the print stories.
As the sun went down, temperatures and visibility dropped dramatically. Most of us wondered at the reasoning behind the timing of the rally and march; it seemed so ineffectual, but then the rally didn't prevent people from organizing other actions, many people were aware of and participating in the "Not One Damn Dime" boycott everything January 20th action. Throughout the day and evening, people were incredibly creative in expressing their opposition to Bush and his agenda. The costumes, the signs, the energy of the protestors was inspiring. I had no scientific way of judging the size of the crowd, but there must have been at least five thousand people at the evening rally.
I would have liked to have joined the big march which headed towards Justin Herman Plaza at 6:30 PM, but I had to pack up the tables, chairs, banners... and head home to get some sleep before my family obligations began, at 5:00 AM, I had to drive my three sons to the mountains for a Boy Scout snow trip. We returned late Sunday evening, and I had a chance to read some of the press coverage of the protests. The writer from the Associated Press, avoided any mention of 9-11 and got some of the basic facts wrong.
Why do people protest? I protest because I believe that those who claim to be legitimate rulers are illegitimate, criminals, terrorists, and should be held accountable for their crimes. I protest because I believe truth is more powerful than violence, and that when people learn the truth about 9/11; they will never be tricked into supporting wars again. I protest to draw attention to the failure of the dominant paradigm of "fear and control" and to nurture a new paradigm of "respect, peace, cooperation, and genuine freedom." I protest because it is my right and responsibility; I will continue to question, to protest, to organize, to seek the truth, to end war, for myself, for my family, for the world, for the future.
address: P.O. Box 60511, Palo Alto, CA 94306
add a comment on this article