Coalition on Homelessness, SF
Sat, 12 Aug 2000 09:57:06 -0700
Crashing the party
By Daniel Zoll
WHEN AN ANGRY army of protesters descends on the Democratic National
Convention in Los Angeles Aug. 14, members of Colombia's indigenous
U'wa tribe will be leading the way.
It's a perfect expression of how globalization - so aggressively
fast-tracked by Democratic nominee Al Gore - is inspiring far-flung
movements to get connected.
The U'wa have been fighting L.A.-based Occidental Petroleum's
environmentally destructive plans to drill in their sacred homeland,
and they vow to commit mass suicide if it goes through. Occidental's
partner in the project, Royal Dutch/Shell, has pulled out, citing
human rights and public relations concerns.
Al Gore, whose father was a vice president and board member of
Occidental, owns at least $500,000 in the company's stock.
Environmentalists have lobbied Gore to divest or to pressure
Occidental to abandon the project. Instead, as the Nation reports,
the Clinton administration "has been quietly helping the company - a
generous donor to the Democrats in recent years - to win support in
Colombia for its drilling plans."
If the U'wa can travel thousands of miles to highlight corporate
crime, environmental destruction, and social injustice, Bay Area
activists have little excuse to stay home.
Paul Boden of the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness says such
forums are much more effective than simply voting for political
change. "If we don't use these kinds of forums and we don't apply
direct action as a way of applying pressure, then we lose out to the
moneyed interests," he told the Bay Guardian. "Poor people and
working-class people have never gotten shit in this country unless
they demanded it."
The Democratic convention is the perfect venue for activists to
educate a mass audience about the party's rightward, pro-corporate
agenda and to connect concerns about globalization, the death
penalty, and poverty with the party's advancement of these problems.
A huge hell-raising in Los Angeles can deepen the growing public
awareness of the Democrats' abandonment of the poor, people of color,
workers, and democratic government.
But the L.A. mobilization (popularly known as D2KLA) is not just
about Gore, his corporate sponsors, or the Democrats. It's about
momentum. This is a pivotal moment in the new global justice
movement, and it's happening in our backyard. The protests and events
will shine a bright spotlight on issues of particular urgency to
California, such as the criminalization of youth, and the
That's why hundreds of Bay Area activists are now booking youth
hostels and making carpool plans. Local grassroots social justice
groups have been actively involved in planning D2KLA events, which
means the protests should be more diverse than those in Seattle and
Washington, which were dominated by white twentysomethings (see
"Moving the Movement," page 23). Activists say the convention
protests need to prove that Seattle was not a fluke, that the World
Trade Organization and World Bank protesters didn't just go home and
turn on cable and call it a day. "Nothing will really happen unless
we crash the party," says hip-hop musician Rashidi Omari, whose
Oakland-based band, Company of Prophets, will play at the Aug. 13
Santa Monica event.
The U'wa-led march through downtown L.A. kicks off four days of
alternative convention activities. Every day has an "action theme,"
beginning with "Human Need Not Corporate Greed" and ending with
"Global Economic Justice." Participants can choose between permitted
marches and civil disobedience actions at corporate offices or other
targets coordinated with the daily theme. The DNC should also expect
creative actions at its fundraising shindigs, organizers say.
Events include a mock Million Billionaire March; a Shadow Convention
focusing on campaign finance reform, the widening wage gap, and the
war on drugs; a "No More Ramparts!" march against police brutality;
and a rally by the antiracist, pro-mass transit Bus Riders Union.
Those who can be in Los Angeles only one day should try to make it
the first day of the convention, Aug. 14, organizers say. There are
still free or low-cost rides and accommodations available for the
week (see "Protesters' Resource Guide to Major Rallies and Events,"
Here are several good reasons why you should walk, crawl, do whatever
it takes to get to the protest next week.
Keep the pressure on Gore
The protests will remind Gore of the price he and the party will pay
for deserting their traditional base. The party has rejected platform
planks, proposed by the progressive caucus, calling for fair trade
policies and a living wage. A few of Gore's many failing points:
Trade Though the L.A. protests will encompass a range of issues, the
one that started it all, in Seattle, was trade. In a June 2000
report, the United Nations Development Program, no bastion of
radicalism, concluded that "multilateral trade agreements have
serious consequences for human well-being and human rights." But the
Clinton administration is still pushing its unfair trade agenda.
Environment Incredibly, many San Francisco progressives still believe
the hype about Gore and the environment. Gore, who so eloquently
defended NAFTA in 1992, must be pressured to explain the
environmental disaster that has resulted on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Capital punishment While roughly the same number of blacks and whites
are murdered, 82 percent of executions in the United States since
1977 have been of prisoners convicted of murdering a white person.
Finally there is some discussion in this country on the inequities -
and the moral bankruptcy - of capital punishment. But Gore and many
Democrats continue to support the death penalty.
Poverty Poverty has disappeared from the party's radar screen.
According to a U.N. report, 750,000 Americans are homeless on any
given night, some 40 million go without health insurance, and one
adult in five is functionally illiterate. Clinton-Gore's welfare
"reform" has swelled vastly the ranks of the homeless and hungry. The
scandal of poor people being discarded by the state should be
trumpeted as a central symbol of Gore's politics.
Food safety Before becoming vice president, Gore said he would
support regulations on agricultural biotechnology. The Clinton Food
and Drug Administration has been for sale to the highest bidder. "The
Clinton FDA has been worse than Bush Sr.'s administration, because
they have absolutely not listened to the public on anything," says
Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers
Association. Clinton's FDA has fought all calls for mandatory
labeling or safety testing of genetically engineered food.
Defense and foreign policy There are two parties of war in
Washington. One of the most shameful Clinton-Gore legacies is its
economic sanctions against Iraq, which have killed hundreds of
thousands of innocent women, men, and children. The Clinton
administration is also considering deployment of a national missile
defense system, which Gore supports. According to Physicians for
Social Responsibility, such a system is "not only technologically
unfeasible and expensive, it will only serve to undermine global
stability and security by causing unnecessary tensions among various
nations in order to defend against a threat that does not exist."
It's in L.A.
What better place to protest issues like police brutality, sprawl,
underfunded public transportation, the water crisis, and the fact
that Baywatch is now our country's number one cultural export? It' s
also a great opportunity to support our L.A. allies. Paul Lee, of
Korean Immigrant Worker Advocates, says his group is going to call
Democrats' attention to the country's largest sweatshop zone -
located just under the nose of convention attendees. "Given that the
DNC is going to be held basically a few blocks from this massive
sweatshop industry we have here, we want to bring this issue as much
as possible to the eyes of the Democratic Party leadership," he said.
Support organized labor
Though the AFL-CIO has already endorsed Gore, many rank and filers
say they will be on the streets. Among the unions that have endorsed
some or all of the D2K Actions are the International Longshore and
Warehouse Union (ILWU), the California Nurses Association, Justice
for Janitors, and the Steelworkers.
Yell at Gov. Gray Davis
On the state level, nobody better represents the rightward shift of
the Democratic party than Governor Davis. Among his many cave-ins to
corporate contributors, the man vetoed a "Buy American" bill aimed at
promoting domestic industry, citing potential conflicts with WTO
rules. After he raised $129,000 at a July 1999 timber industry party,
Davis's Board of Forestry watered down proposed timber regulations.
The governor denies any connection between the contributions and his
There's nothing like the smell of pepper spray in the morning. If
that's not enough of an enticement, ask anyone who attended the
Battles of Seattle or Washington, and they will tell you: it was fun,
inspiring, scary - an unforgettable experience.
The convention week is packed with teach-ins, speeches, and shadow
conventions, all with speakers you are not likely to see on the
Sunday-morning news shows. Among the many educational events is
Global Exchange's pre-convention "Reality of Los Angeles Tour," which
begins Thurs/10 and will spend three days exploring the prison
industry, sweatshops, and environmental racism in the city. And on
Sat/12, experts from Food First, Organic Consumers Association, and
Greenpeace will march and speak at the "Stop Genetic Engineering"
Get the media to listen
The turnout in Philadelphia was apparently not enough to get the
media to cover the issues. As the watchdog group Fairness and
Accuracy in Reporting observed in its July 25 report on convention
coverage, "What emerges from this coverage is an image of activists
as a paramilitary mob preparing to take to the streets to frustrate
and discredit the police." The greater - and louder - the turnout,
the more difficult it will be for them to ignore us.
For complete information on all D2KLA events, go to www.d2kla.org.
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