[sixties-l] Denial of dissent

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Mon Feb 05 2001 - 14:26:14 EST

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    Denial of dissent


    Thousands brave cold to protest Bush; media turn a blind eye
    by Tricia Brick (Editorial@boulderweekly.com)

    January 25 - January 31, 2001
    Boulder Weekly

    Deep in the icy mist of a frigidly rainy Washington winter, a pair of
    grandmotherly ladies in jackets emblazoned with Texas flags sit politely on
    the storm-soaked spectators' bleachers at Freedom Plaza.
    A mere 10 feet beneath their feet, thousands of hollering, sign-waving
    protesters chant vicious rallying cries. Lone supporters amid a sea of
    anger and betrayal, the Southern matrons nestle placidly on their rattling
    perch, awaiting George W. Bush's inaugural parade.
    A petite army of young women in sunny yellow raincoats guard the Bush fans
    in the tickets-only bleachers from the gathering dissenters, who
    occasionally add "Whose bleachers? Our bleachers!" to their chants but
    otherwise pay the elderly Republicans little mind. The crowd's focus rests
    on the speakers, organized by New York-based International Action Center.
    The messages are as diverse as the crowd: Activists condemn the racist
    death penalty; speak out against the appointments of John Ashcroft and Gale
    Norton; and urge protesters to fight for equal rights for gays, lesbians
    and transgendered folks. This election was stolen, orators proclaim-the
    Bush/Cheney administration was elected not by the American people, but by a
    conservative U.S. Supreme Court and the purposeful, systematic
    disenfranchisement of voters of color.
    As protesters trickle through the dragging police checkpoint to fill the
    crowded plaza, thousands of cops and soldiers file into place behind the
    barricades that line the parade route, provoking catcalls and chants of
    "Stop police brutality!"
    Near noon, a handful of yellow-clad scouts approach the Texas grandmas and
    lead them to bleachers a short distance from the protest. Seeing the good
    seats vacant and the yellow guards deserted, sign-waving protesters begin
    to fill the empty bleachers, first hesitantly, then at full force.
    "They say get back-We won't go back!" they chant, triumphant, drowning out
    the musicians along the parade route.
    After a few moments, one young man in the crowd tunes in ABC's coverage of
    the inauguration on his portable radio. "They just reported that the
    protesters have seized the bleachers," he announces.
                                  A wall of boos
    Though protesters outnumbered supporters at Bush's inaugural parade, the
    demonstrations earned virtually no coverage in the mainstream media. "The
    corporate media closed ranks, to basically ignore our message or attack
    it," notes David Martin of the Denver Justice and Peace Center. Martin, who
    attended the protests in D.C., later got a chance to see some raw video
    footage taken from the media truck that preceded the presidential limo
    along the parade route. "(The cameraman) isn't showing any protesters; he's
    only focusing in on those occasional crowds that are waving to the
    president," Martin recalls. "But they can't ignore the audio-and just to
    hear the audio is incredible. Because Bush is coming down Pennsylvania
    Avenue, and about 75 percent of the time it's just a wall of boos, drowning
    everything else out. Everyone is booing, everyone is chanting. No one is
    All but ignored by corporate media, the inauguration protests in D.C. last
    weekend unified a tremendous diversity of activists. Participating groups
    included the International Action Center, the National Organization for
    Women, Voter's March, the New Black Panther Party, the Justice Action
    Movement, Billionaires for Bush and Al Sharpton's Shadow
    Inauguration. Protesters endured the miserable cold to demonstrate
    opposition to the right-wing Bush administration; to an unjust electoral
    system; to excessive corporate control of government; to the devastation of
    the environment; to conservative attacks on abortion; to a president chosen
    by a court and not by the people; to improper U.S. intervention in
    Venezuela, Colombia, Cuba, Korea and the Middle East.
    Yet many who are working for reform argue that the movement's heterogeneity
    points to a shared cause.
    "As was pointed out at the Democratic convention in L.A., this diversity is
    actually the strength of the movement," says Brian Drolet, project director
    for the Boulder-based independent media organization Free Speech TV. "I
    think people are beginning to look at this as one battle on many fronts.
    What's really being built here is a united front of organizations that have
    different interests, often different class interests. They're coalescing
    around the common interest of corporate control of government and our lives."
    Certainly, the administration's reaction to the threat of organized dissent
    unified protesters who attended Saturday's inauguration. After fighting in
    court for the right to protest along the parade route, protesters found
    they had to pass through one of a handful of police checkpoints set up
    along Pennsylvania Avenue. By noontime-90 minutes before the scheduled
    start of the parade-the few checkpoints that weren't closed altogether were
    backed up five city blocks, or were located in areas where Bush supporters
    "One checkpoint opened up where there weren't any lines, and that's how we
    got through," Martin notes. "The reason it opened up was to allow access to
    a building where they were having a cocktail party. The wealthy donors to
    the Republican party couldn't get to their balconies without passing
    through a checkpoint.
    "Of course, when we got in line with them, they started freaking out. One
    woman next to us was on the cell phone in a panic, saying, 'I'm in line
    with all these people; can you send someone down here to get me?'" Martin
    "It seemed (Bush supporters) saw us as quite a nuisance," agrees protester
    Sarah Albrecht. "A women dressed in a fur coat and jewels walked up to me
    in the pouring rain and asked me in a Southern drawl, 'Excuse me, but I was
    wondering if you can tell where all the excitement is?' I asked her, 'What
    do you mean?' She said, 'I mean, can you just tell me where are y'all
    located?' I couldn't help but laugh. I said, 'Lady, we're everywhere.'"
    Not all protesters' experiences were so amusing.
    Police reportedly corralled hundreds of protesters at Franklin Square for
    40 minutes, in a move many suspected was designed to preempt any civil
    disobedience. "I think it's a complete suspension of our civil rights,"
    Martin says. "By threatening protesters with mass arrests of the kind we
    saw in Seattle or in D.C this April, they are basically suspending our
    constitutional right to peaceably assemble."
    Yet the fact that martial law was established in the nation's capital has
    passed unnoticed by the corporate media. Few believe this omission was
    "It's offensive that the media tends to portray protesters as violent,
    because that justifies police actions," Martin points out.
    It's not the visibility of recent protests that's provoked the media
    cover-ups of the excessive force mobilized by police and military groups;
    rather, it's the ideological goals of today's activists. "We certainly have
    protests on a regular basis in Washington D.C.: We had the Million Man
    March and the Million Mom March, each of which drew many more protesters
    than we saw in Seattle," Milchen says. "But it's a very different thing
    when people are challenging the very legitimacy of the system. Whether or
    not we have handgun control is not of great concern to corporate powers.
    But when you start challenging the very basis of money's control in
    government, that's much more threatening. And I think that's why we're
    seeing a level of attack on these protesters that we did not see at other
                                  Running on empty
    The almost complete absence of coverage from the mainstream media meant the
    protests' effects would be limited. But the government officials who
    attended the parade could not have completely ignored the demonstrators.
    "Obviously, it would have been different if the headlines read, 'Bush
    presidency exposed as illegitimate by a wall of boos,'" Martin admits. "But
    I'm sure it must have had some impact on Bush's own feeling of
    legitimacy. Think of other presidents, like Carter walking from the
    Capitol to the White House waving and shaking hands with everybody-where
    Bush had to have basically a military occupation of the parade route, and
    couldn't leave his limo until he was safely among his wealthy supporters."
    Shortly before arriving at Freedom Plaza, where a recorded message from
    political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal had worked the rain-soaked protesters
    into a frenzy of chanting and jeering, Bush's motorcade slowed to an abrupt
    halt. After a few tense moments, the presidential limo, with Secret Service
    men at full sprint, sped past the ralliers, who booed and cried out, "Shame!"
    Though they were ignored by the media, the protesters must have had some
    impact: For one brief moment, between his inaugural luncheon and the
    moneyed balls that followed, George W. Bush was forced to acknowledge that
    the mandate to rule is not yet truly his.
    Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Washington, D.C. to protest a
    "stolen" presidency. In a contest won by a candidate who lost the popular
    vote, many who rallied in the nation's capital did so to register their
    resistance to an election they believe was wrongfully handed to George W.
    Bush by a partisan U.S. Supreme Court.
    For many, the weakness in the arguments of the nation's highest court are
    painfully obvious. University of Colorado Law Professor Robert Nagel spoke
    more cautiously than many legal scholars when he explained, "I thought the
    equal protection argument was a bit of a stretch from a legal point of view
    and the point of view of precedent."
    Other well-known legal pundits were less delicate in their condemnation of
    the federal court's decision. Wrote E.J. Dionne in the Washington Post: "a
    genuine patriotism does not require anyone to accept the logic of five
    Supreme Court justices who clearly contorted their own principles and
    created new law to achieve this result."
    Or consider the view of Thomas L. Friedman, of the New York Times: "You
    don't need an inside source to realize that the five conservative justices
    were acting as the last in a team of Republican Party elders who helped
    drag Governor Bush across the finish line."
    The justices who handed the presidency to Bush based their opinions on two
    factors. First, the court determined that the recount ordered by the
    Florida Supreme Court would lead to a violation of the 14th Amendment's
    equal protection clause-because, as specified under the state law of
    Florida and many other states, each individual district determines the
    standards by which the various degrees of chad-hanging will be accepted as
    legal votes. By not establishing a statewide standard for the recount, the
    high court declared, the Florida court's order was unconstitutional.
    Second, the U.S. Supreme Court argued that there simply wasn't time to
    remedy the situation in Florida. "(I)t is obvious that the recount cannot
    be conducted in compliance with the requirements of equal protection and
    due process without substantial additional work," the court wrote;
    therefore, the argument continues, the government shouldn't bother to count
    all the ballots.
    Bush opponents across the country have pointed out the problems with this
    opinion. For one thing, the "violation of equal protection" cited by the
    courts actually describes voting in any state where balloting measures
    differ from district to district. By this logic, even the initial voting in
    Florida violates the 14th Amendment. Further, the December 12 deadline
    cited by the U.S. court is as arbitrary as any date chosen by the Florida
    court; most scholars argue that the recounts could have continued.
    So why did the court choose Bush? Many blame conservative justices who
    longed to see a Republican president in the White House. But it's also
    widely argued that the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in to right a judicial
    wrong enacted by a clearly partisan Florida Supreme Court whose rulings
    were far from flawless.
    Yet in imposing its authority on so political a situation, the U.S. court
    may well have undermined its own reputation: Certainly, the opinion has
    left many Americans feeling that our new president was elected not by the
    people, but by a biased court.
    "I think that the people, the lay public, have a very dissonant view of
    what courts do," says CU Law Professor Paul Campos. "They're both
    idealistic and cynical: They're idealistic in that when the court rules in
    their favor, they very much believe that the court was just enforcing the
    law. When the court rules in a way they dislike very strongly, they believe
    that the court was biased and partisan."
    In Bush v. Gore, the highly visible election underscored the unavoidably
    partisan politics of the case, in both the decisions of the courts and the
    responses of the politicians. "The things the Republicans were screaming
    about vis vis the Florida decision are precisely the same things the
    Democrats are screaming about vis vis the U.S. Supreme decision," Campos
    Many scholars say the reversal goes deeper than this election: The court's
    zealously federalist conservative wing in this case overruled Florida's
    constitutionally assigned privilege to decide the election itself, while
    the liberal wing fought to protect states' rights.
    "The lesson is, it can sometimes seem very unjust and very wrong when the
    court tries to circumvent the political process," Nagel says. "And liberals
    and leftists for many decades now have been preaching the gospel that
    courts should fill that role, that the political process is unstable or
    untrustworthy. Liberals have been pushing the court toward this role for
    all these years, and now they got bit by it."
    Political progressives have long been accused of supporting judicial
    activism in, for example, cases of civil rights and abortion rights-from
    the controversial Roe v. Wade to last year's Violence Against Women Act.
    Now, they're faced with a conservative activist decision that seems
    unconscionably arbitrary. Or worse, blatantly partisan.
    "At bottom, I think a decision like this has to be political in some fairly
    substantial sense," Campos observes. "It can't be legal in much more than a
    purely formal sense."
    Ironically, had the courts left this bitterly heated issue to the political
    branches, the outcome would almost certainly have been the same-albeit
    without the shadow of illegitimacy the courts' interference has brought
    upon the Bush presidency.
    Florida's Republican legislature had already taken steps to send a slate of
    Bush/Cheney electors. If the Florida vote recount had been allowed to run
    its course through the end of the arbitrary time limits set by the Florida
    court, and Gore had been found to be the winner, two slates of electors
    could have been chosen: One by the voters and one by the legislature. A
    Republican U.S. Congress would then be handed the opportunity to choose the
    slate of electors.
    "If you look at the relevant Constitutional provisions, if you're looking
    for straightforward legal arguments, what is least controversial in my
    opinion is that the manner of selecting electors is up to the state
    legislature, and it's the responsibility of Congress to count the votes and
    evaluate which vote counts, if there's a controversy," Nagel observes. "I
    think that's quite clear, and not really subject to doubt."
    But in this highly controversial decision, Nagel sees hope for a deep
    reconsideration of the judiciary's place in American lawmaking. "People are
    thrown off their usual assumptions," he says. "This is a good time for
    people all over the political spectrum to start rethinking-and rethinking
    hard-about whether we've become dependent on the Supreme Court to an
    unhealthy degree. I think we have, and I think this is evident."
    "Even if we thought democracy was kind of weak and ineffective and somewhat
    fraudulent to begin with, it was at least some kind of democracy, however
    poor," says '60s Yippie and lifelong activist Stew Albert. "If we can take
    this illegitimate government as our unifying issue and then work our
    specific issues within this framework, then the stolen election may turn
    out to be this generation's Vietnam."
    Albert will join Tom Hayden in headlining a public forum on "Organizing for
    Democracy After the Stolen Election," this Sunday at the Boulder
    Theater. Other invited speakers include state legislator Ron Tupa, second
    congressional candidate Ron Forthofer, Colorado Daily editor Pamela White,
    poet Anne Waldman, Minola Upshaw of the NAACP and ReclaimDemocracy.org's
    Jeff Milchen.
    The goal of the forum is unifying a diverse movement, organizer Ellen
    Maslow explains: "I want to bring new people in, cross-pollinate," she
    says. "From my point of view, movements are extremely powerful, totally
    important and a hell of a lot of fun. I've seen that grassroots organizing
    can create incredible change."
    Tickets for the show, which begins at 7:30 pm, are $5, or $25 for the
    speakers' reception at 6 pm. Call 303-449-3043 for more information.

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