Voter Rights March, May 19, 2001, Protestor Accounts
From Washington, D.C.
It was the best! Unable to sleep the night before, (kinda' like as an alter boy, the first time I had to serve mass (I am a "recovering Catholic"). With 10,000 loose ends tie up, I got to Lafayette in time to hear the speakers, carrying with me the flag. As we started, I had to quickly learn how to keep the flag out of the trees on its 15-foot pole (sorry everyone, about the extra stops at the beginning). Thank God for Les Reiske,(a vet), who helped me with the flag, and stood with me (and the flag)
as we finally got out to 15th Street.
Pedestrians looking on our march with startled response at first, quickly melted in to looks of "of course you're right." We began calling out in unison, "Join the March!...Join the March!"
and as anyone who was there will tell you, many did.
Chants of Solidarity abounded, I kept yelling out to people who started, "Bush is NOT my President" almost caused an accident as we passed one Diamond cabbie (I drive Diamond too).
The police escorted us "around John's Barn," detouring us from the permitted route, around a street fair/chili festival, which was not advised during the permit process. The peak, though, was at the Supreme Court: as we approached, we saw that there was a gang of protestors waiting to join us. We circled on three sides of the Court, shouting "Shame! Shame! Shame on the Supreme Court," "Jail Scalia" and "Impeach Rehnquist!" As we rounded the last turn, to head past the Senate, we yelled, "Bush is NOT my President! Join the March!" to some dumbfounded people in front of the Senate buildings.. They froze in terror, caught between a reaction, a smile, or worry that their thoughts might escape.
Arriving at the Capitol steps, I was relieved to unload the giant flag, and the joy surged within me. We carried the flag right-side up in the march because, together in solidarity, we are NOT distressed. We ARE Democracy. We are the spirit of America, the "America, the beautiful."
Since I did not have to perform 'til the end, I relaxed and met many people that I had only "seen" in E-mails: I hugged so many people that I had just met. I was so happy to feel renewed with hope that we are on the path to restore democracy. We are developing ties to new networks of people, and we have the whole world on our side. Lou Posner, Bob Rogers, Chris Acosta, and I were at home with all this! I really think we are getting familial ! A wise Sufi from ancient times said something like,"Your family is not necessarily just what you are born to; you acquire a family as you live." (it was the same guy who said "Love your neighbor as yourself").
As to the vets, they are the greatest bunch of guys! They are heroes to me. I, personally am a veteran of war protests. They can tell you (like my mom says) what the problem really is, "It's the Oil Mafia, stupid!" (and if you figure that Exxon, alone, is more than 100 times the size of the U.S. Navy, in manpower, and ships (when it was its largest) and that our Energy Department couldn't even begin to audit even one oil company, it really puts it in perspective). All the little stuff, like NRA, so-called "christian Coalition" (small "c" intended) are minor puppets in the big picture. It all comes down to money, our subservience to it (their intention) CHEMICAL (which includes prescription drugs), OIL, and DEFENSE industries (just like old Eisenhower said). They sell us fear and racism: they try to keep us separated.
Everyone's speeches and performances were beyond my anticipation. I missed Rose--I had to go get my taxi off of the cab stand at Lafayette). I was proud to stand with Marc Ginsberg, holding up the "Citizens Against Bush" banner behind Juliet Stewart (my long-time "comrade in arms," and incidentally, her daughters have the earmarks of our future heroes) as she gave her brilliant speech. I am gonna' stop here, many of you "fighters for freedom" know that I love you all dearly, and I am just gonna' get mushy.
Heck, after all that flag carryin' and waiting, I even surprised myself, ad-libbing my songs, straight from the heart. Thanks to "Radio Left" our speeches, performances, and background enthusiasm, was broadcast to the whole world. We let them know that the "Heart of America" is still beating.
Peace with Justice,
Five thousand who believe democracy is worth the struggle rallied and marched from Lafayette Park, facing the White House, to the West Capitol steps in Washington on Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 19, 2001.
The Voter Rights March to Restore Democracy - East Coast sponsored by VoterMarch.org and co-sponsored by over 50 different pro-democracy groups, gathered activists from as far as Connecticut, Florida, Illinois and of course, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware.
Organized by Louis Posner, a New York attorney and leader of the group of volunteers, Voter Rights March produced the successful Anti-Inauguration Rally, and, via an internet call, created this Rally and its West coast twin that contemporaneously took place in San Francisco.
Led by an American flag, the March--peppered by protest banners ranging from the satirical through the clever to almost reverent statements of Democracy--moved past the Justice Dept. and the Supreme Court on its way to the West Capitol steps.
At the Court it was met by the Delaware Valley, Pennsylvania
contingent. It had bussed in to first protest against the five who had sullied the Court by ignoring the law and the will of the voters and by appointing the Governor of Texas to sit in the White House. Forming a round rosy single-file picket line in front of the Court building, the 50 Southeast Pennsylvanians chanted and raised their banners until
they were met by and joined the March on its way to the Capitol.
Posner led off the speakers at the Capitol. Hundreds of tourists who had come just to visit the building stood and listened to electrifying statements of the meaning of Democracy. Frequently applauding the speakers they heard what our "public servants" who we elected and pay
to occupy the Building are failing to do.
Other well known progressive leaders speaking included Robert Borosage, Washington labor movement veteran and Co-founder of the Campaign for America's Future; Ted Glick, National Coordinator of the Independent Progressive Politics Network; Ronnie Dugger, Founder of the Alliance for Democracy, Michael Rectenwald, Founder and Chair of Citizens for Legitimate Government;. Phil Berg, the attorney who filed the Florida class action to overturn the Presidential Election, and the Rev. Sekou, on behalf of the Democracy Summer Coalition (NAACP, IPS, IPPN, Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Global Exchange, etc.)
Tears were brought to the eyes of many participants with the appearance of a group of WW2 veterans. Ranging in age from 76 to 92 they came from as far as Texarkanna, Texas to remind us, on this Armed Forces Day, that 14 million young Americans had fought, and many died, to protect what the Supreme Court, the amoral Florida and Texas twin governors and the Republican Party are destroying.
The day was just a day. But it was a rejuvenating and inspiring day:
A day in which we promised to refer to the occupant in the White House by his only legitimate elected title, "Governor"
A day in which we promised to continue the struggle for progressive causes.
And a day in which we promised to work to elect a President of the United States at the end of this four- year hiatus.
At Lafayette Park we mingled, talked and looked at the wonderful placards and banners people had made for this march. Many people recognized me because my placards were like the stickers on my web page. Several people told me they used my stickers on all their mail. A group from Tennessee told me they left those stickers in cafes and every where. They ask me to make one for Tennessee. I photographed their placard and will make one like it.
There were several speakers and some anti-bush music.
At 11:00 the march started. The WWII veterans lead the parade with other veterans of wars and conflicts of the last half of the 20th century. May 19 was Armed Forces Day. I'm a WWII veteran and marched with the veterans.
All along the march, we chanted, such chants as "Selected, not elected", "We'll move on when bush is gone" and other protests. Many people gave us a thumbs up and cars would honk to show our support.
Some pedestrians would turn their back to us. With many of those, I left the parade and got in front of them and exclaimed loudly, "There's a thief in OUR White House!"
We marched to the west steps of the Capitol, where we heard some very inspiring speeches and some great entertainment. At one point the veterans were honored. Some veterans were unable to be there and their pictures were enlarged and place on placards.
I wore pants with large pockets on the side with a bottle of water and some granola bars in my pockets. I also carried a placard the said, "Not elected, selected against the will of the voters" on one side and the other, "Toxic Texans are raising the price of YOUR gasoline as and excuse to drill in the
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."
At 6:00 p.m. I walked to a Metro station and caught the train back to Rockville, walked to my son's house.
The march was a wonderful experience. Let's do it often for the next four years.
From New Jersey--
A couple notable moments during the march:
As we were marching, a young woman and her father were watching us from the sidewalk. The father was holding a museum guide. His daughter, who appeared to be in her early twenties, grabbed him by the elbow and the two stepped off the curb to join us in the march. She said, "Dad, I know we were going to see another museum but this is more important."
Everywhere we went, people in the streets would honk their horns when
they realized what the march was about. They would lean out their windows and give us the "thumbs up" sign. There were some blocks that were solid, back-to-back car honking.
My favorite, however, was the driver of one of the many sightseeing buses that traveled around the area. Everytime he would see us he would toot his horn and often his passengers, too, would wave and shout their support.
I picked up this gem of a story from a fellow protestor whom I will call Mary. Mary has an in-law in Texas state government who used to work with governor bush. When bush sewed up the republican nomination, Mary challenged her relative, "Give me one good reason why I should vote for bush." Her relative responded (OK, at this point I must ask you to please sit down): "Why should you vote for George? Oh, he's a HOOT!"
Yep, that's what I want in a president. A hoot.
Just another example of the fine critical thinking skills employed by republicans.
From Pennsylvania--We all went to D.C. It was GREAT. Much better march than January 20th mainly because we were in a visible part of D.C. and were given the street(not just the sidewalks) all the way from the White House down Pennsylvania Ave. to the capitol, plus orbiting the Supreme court. That was the best, chanting right into the supremes with "Impeach Rehnquist!" The march started in Lafayette park on the north side of the White House, our jeers sailing over the heads of tourists along the fence in front of the White House (across Penn from the park)..."This is what Democracy looks (sounds) like!" We had a five-hour rally on the West steps of the capitol: great speakers (both the human kind and sound system kind). I met cyber-
acquaintances personally (you know what they say about those web meetings) as well as Lou Posner (Voter March chairman), Phil Berg (plaintiff lawyer on a civil action against the election
results in Florida), Bob Kunst (the "Bush stole your vote" aerial banner dude), Rande Harris (awesome folk singer), Mike
Rectenwald (legitgov.org and the "hey, don't push (hit) me, I'm not trying to count votes here!" dude), and many more.
Bottom line, I had a blast and it boosted morale to know I'm not alone. The biggest controversy this time around is how we are not receiving any media attention, nada, zippo, nothing. For a march that took up 5 city blocks (or more) in central D.C., there's only 1 word for it: scary.
From Texas--A busload of mostly Houston area patriots toughed out the 24-hour one-way bus trip to DC, arriving at Lafayette Square at 10 a.m., in front of the White House, occupied by the illegitimate resident. We celebrated our arrival with greetings to cyber-friends from across the country we finally got to meet, like Rose of Fringefolk. As we visited, our spirits soared as we saw our numbers grow at this gathering. We heard speeches from the Voter March leadership and some of our new cyber-personalities/leaders with whom we are in solidarity in the counter-coup movement. Our Houston contingent then raised our Texas Flag and mounted our banners and protest signs and embarked out a three-mile march on a gorgous parade route, with access to major DC streets as the center of attention to onlookers and tourists along the way. As the sun came out and blessed us with a beautiful day in our nation's capitol, we were joined spontaneously by tourists on the sidewalks, inspired to express their outrage at the coup and trashing of our former democracy. Those in cars along the route honked in a symphony of encouragement, causing cheers to erupt from our ranks. Our chants for freedom and democracy were heard in neighborhoods, government offices and the
Supreme Court as we made our way to the Capitol building and Mall area. We were led by a coterie of veterans who were moved to express their rage at a court and Republican conspiracy to dishonor their sacrifice for our country.
An estimated 4,000 freedom fighters arrived at the West Capitol steps, daily traversed by a mostly timid and pathetic corp of representatives who have so disappointed us in their failure to resist the Coup. Our rage was expressed by a cadre of Voter March allies who,like Ronnie Dugger, Bob
Kunst, the leadership of the Oral Majority and Phil Berg (voter fraud attorney) laid out our plan of non-violent but aggressive resistance to neutralize and defeat this coup, hopefully giving courage to our cowering Democratic congressional representatives (Black Caucus and Progressive Caucus excepted) to awaken to our lost democracy. We celebrated our cause with music and
fellowship, reinforced our commitment to our growing movement with gestures of love and solidarity. We Houstonians did ourselves proud, appearing to have the largest single, unified delegation of Dems, Greens, Socialists, other Radicals and ACORN community activists, a rainbow of ethnicity and ranging in age from 18 to 75+. We were greeted warmly by our colleague-leaders, Suzie Dunlop from Austin and Monica from Dallas, both superb organizers of local protest against the coup and its agents. On
conclusion of this historic gathering, totally ignored by the complicit national media who are sucking up to the Coup to avoid loss of their access to The Power, as did the diminished free media in the early days of the Third Reich, we hit the road to return to our families and friends in Houston.
We reinforced our solidarity and commitment to resist, warmly supported oneanother and began the process of building a coalition of Resisters who will stand for restoring our Democracy.