Tag Archives: white house

Rocking the Boat

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Text by Jehovah Jones.

Photos by Ellen Davidson and Jehovah Jones.

When several hundred social-justice activists gathered at the White House Wednesday to demand that President Obama free the scores of martyrs being illegally held prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, there were some in the crowd who were quietly determined not to be ignored yet again.

Representing Veterans for Peace, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Code Pink, CloseGitmo.net and World Can’t Wait, this constitutionally protected citizens’ protest featured prayer and singing of hymns, a huge contingent of protestors in orange prison jumpsuits, some bearing the names of the 86 prisoners who have been cleared of any crime and yet not freed, and a flock of pink umbrellas spelling out ‘Close Guantanamo.’

There was testimony by some of those whose lives have been impacted, and by a group of women who had just visited the prisoners’ families in Yemen, as well as lots of silent protest by those of us who are just sickened by how badly those people are being treated in our name.

At least one person decided this wasn’t enough, and chose to go the extra mile, which in this case measured about 8 feet vertically.

Texas shrimp-boat captain and Vietnam veteran Diane Wilson was in her 57th day of a water-only fast undertaken to show solidarity with the 104 prisoners of conscience who have vowed not to eat until they are free. That much time without food can make you seriously weak.

But you’re not Diane Wilson.

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 Wilson, 64, draped a painter’s dropcloth across the spikes at the top of the fence that shields the president from his people, got a boost and vaulted over. With that small, innocuous act, she was in effect crossing the rubicon, pissing* in the face of those who believe they are The Law.

As ridiculous as it may sound, when she entered the lawn in front of her country’s seat of government, unarmed and unthreatening, Diane was promptly converted into The Enemy.

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And so this calm, motherly woman who lay on the ground just inside the fence to show she was no threat, was beset by screaming thugs pointing assault rifles, and threatened with the release of a snarling, snapping German shepherd purposely whipped into a frenzy by his grinning frat boy of a handler.

In addition to Wilson, who was roughly cuffed and jailed, at least 18 other protestors were arrested for refusing, when arbitrarily ordered, to leave the sidewalk outside the fence, where any tourist is allowed to stroll.

In an apparent bit of delayed payback, Code Pink’s waifish Medea Benjamin, who confronted the President over exactly this issue a few weeks ago while he was giving a speech at Fort McNair’s War College (sanitarily euphemized as National Defense University), was roughly thrown down on the sidewalk and cuffed, as you can see in the photo below.

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As was former Veterans for Peace President Elliot Adams as he tried to chain himself to the outside of the fence. Frail and in his 41st day of fasting, Adams was pressed facedown on the hot pavement for a ridiculous amount of time, held by the foot of a hulking bully of a cop, who eventually got around to cuffing him.

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Both were released without charges within the hour. Based on the way the cops acted, they apparently felt that they deserved some gratitude for that.

How did we get here, people? How is that a man who ran on a platform that specifically included freeing the people his predecessor had illegally and cruelly locked away in that inhuman hellhole for a decade, sits serenely behind that fence and does nothing while the people he claims to serve are abused by sneering, condescending pricks in clownish uniforms?

How did the country’s first African-American president, running as a progressive and presumptively representing a minority that has long been mistreated in this country, wind up as the defender of a malignant status quo established by neoconservative pond scum?

How is it that this presumably decent professor of constitutional law has become The Man standing in the schoolhouse door barring entry to those who would expose the extent to which that constitution is still being trashed, long after the departure of Grand Dick Cheney and his idiot minions?

How is it that President Obama, who still claims to personally want to close that shameful chapter and return to the rule of law, sits on his nuanced multicultured ass and does not lift a finger to help a courageous kid like Bradley Manning, who’s been stripped of his humanity, had his legal rights trampled for years, for simply trying to tell his fellow citizens about the war crimes committed in their names by Bush and his henchmen? It’s now on your head, Mr. Obama. Make no mistake about that. You inherited this mess, it’s true, but you didn’t have to buy into it.

How is it, now that you’re the overseer of Plantation America, ensconced in the columned antebellum mansion, that you extend such crimes as these, and have added your own? Eavesdropping on citizens without a warrant, and claiming for yourself the right to play judge, jury and executioner of people across the world, fellow citizen or not? How is that you’ve tasked your own AG to play John Ashcroft and break his arm reaching for justification for the Cheneyesque bullshit that you’re pulling?

Where, at last, is your humanity? And don’t give me that ludicrous, juvenile ‘War on Terror’ schtick. It’s an insult to your intelligence as well as mine.

Folks, It’s way past time to rock this boat. Get in the streets, scream and howl, and refuse to be ignored. Do it while there’s time, because it’s fast running out.

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Those prisoners on whose behalf we were here to protest? I doubt the government will admit it, but they don’t want to release them for one simple reason — fear that in the last decade of being imprisoned, abused and tortured, these innocent people have been radicalized and could actually be tempted to commit some of the acts for which they were falsely imprisoned. Would you blame them if they were?

But preemptive imprisonment, for whatever reason, is lawless madness. And it’s exactly that sort of madness that your government is getting very comfortable about rationalizing. Guess what they’ll rationalize next? I don’t wanna.

Rattle the chains. Now. It may already be too late, but there’s only one way to find out.

*Not literally, but I can dream, can’t I?

Transportation Workers, Day Laborers Join Occupy DC’s May Day Protest

By Jehovah Jones

Bus drivers and other rank-and-file union employees of Washington’s Metro bus and subway system, along with Hispanic day laborers from Virginia, joined Occupy DC’s May Day celebration at Malcolm X Park and marched across the city to the White House.

Workers with the Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 addressed the evening gathering in the park on 16th St. NW at Meridian Hill, saying that the revitalization of the unions needs to come from the bottom, because the unions’ leadership isn’t doing the job.

Metro bus drivers Patricia and Shamika, whose surnames are being withheld as befits honorary Occupiers, said that their mission is to fight “racism, sexism and capitalism,” and that a change in the methods used by unions is  long overdue.

“The strategy of the past 30 years is not working,” Patricia said. “Endless negotiation and accommodation doesn’t scare” those who would exploit labor and the poor, she explained. “Strikes scare them.”

ATU’s Mike Golash, addressing a crowd of several hundred, said that the labor movement has been sold out by a union leadership which “has no interest in defying the unreasonable restrictions that have been placed upon them” by such legislation as the Taft-Hartley Act, restrictions that say Metro workers are not allowed to strike.

Like Occupy DC, he said, “they are forcing us to become an illegal movement.”

The union workers suggested that Occupy could lend the unions a hand, and vice versa.

“Metro says it’s illegal to stage a sympathy strike, but there’s nothing to stop Occupy DC from conducting a protest” in support of the union strikes, Golash said.

And while the powers that be can feel unthreatened by Occupy’s actions at times, they’ll have a harder time maintaining being sanguine if Occupy is joined by the city’s transportation workers, Patricia said. “If a few hundred Occupiers protest, they can blow it off,” she said. “But when a thousand Metro workers go on strike, the whole city notices.”

“We are under attack,” she said, and castigated Metro for raising its rider fees and freezing wages to meet its budgeting goals instead of getting the money from the people who benefit from the it the most — the large corporate interests that cluster their outlets around Metro stations.

Those who worried last fall that the Occupy movement was being co-opted by the unions can rest easy, Golash said. “Occupy DC, and the movement in general, has by now clearly shown that it’s beholden to no one.”

The Washington Labor Chorus led the activist crowd in belting out labor classics “Solidarity Forever,” “I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night” and “The Internationale,” each rendered in Spanish and English, and even, in the latter case, French.

Occupiers dressed as heroic figures from America’s labor history gave speeches, including Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, who noted that the “impossible chasm between all workers and all exploiters” has not been bridged, and is in fact widening again.

A re-enactor dressed as Haymarket martyr August Spies read from the speech he gave before he was hanged:

“…Anarchism is on trial! …very well; you may sentence me, for I am an anarchist. I believe that the state of castes and classes–the state where one class dominates over and lives upon the labor of another class, and calls this order–yes, I believe that this barbaric form of social organization, with its legalized plunder and murder, is doomed to die and make room for a free society…but let the world know that in 1886, in the state of Illinois, eight men were sentenced to death because they believed in a better future; because they had not lost their faith in the ultimate victory of liberty and justice!”

Other historical figures invoked the 1971 May Day action to protest the Vietnam War, when 35,000 activists effectively shut down this city, noting some similarities between that movement’s leaderless structure and Occupy. The fact that the Nixon administration also changed the rules abruptly and raided the event despite the permits, knocking down tents and teargassing the legal protest, didn’t escape Occupiers’ notice.

The gathering featured poetry readings, a solidarity speech by a new labor organization that has sprung up among immigrant day laborers in Northern Virginia, the traditional dance of the Maypole, and then, the march.

The crowd, by now numbering about three hundred activists, rode and biked down the 15-20 block route toward the seat of paralysis, accompanied by a giant dragon puppet made up of a dozen or so people in costume, wriggling along at the end of the pack. Chants rose:

“When the working class is under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!

Banks got bailed out, we got sold out.

The whole world is striking!

We are unstoppable; another world is possible.

At 2400 14th St, Hispanic construction workers high on a cable-lowered work car shouted their approval and pumped fists.

“We are the 99 percent; we are the working class. And so are you!”

Horns blared along the route, but most of the honkers did it rhythmically, a smiling show of solidarity with the protest.

“Don’t just watch us, come and join us!” the marchers urged the crowds. “We’re only fighting for your rights.

Greed and corruption are weapons of mass destruction.”

“We hold the system up. We can make it fail,” one sign proclaimed.

On and on, accompanied by two saxophones, a guitar, a violin, and a drummer playing a bucket.

Finally Occupiers reached the White House, and wrapped it up with a performance for its Occupants.

They didn’t grace us with an appearance, but it seems likely they heard our musical entrance.

This article was simultaneously published on OccupiedStories.com