Friday, February 10, 2006

First-time Activists Lead the Way at D.C. Drive Out Bush Protest

By Jonah Nadir Omowale

Washington, D.C. - Why would anyone want to leave Michigan’s party of the century – Super Bowl XL Weekend – and take a 10-hour bus ride to Washington D.C. to march in the rain? It seems this question never occurred to roughly four-dozen Michigan activists who traveled to the nation’s capitol for a protest at the White House on February 4.

The rally was organized by World Can’t Wait – Drive Out the Bush Regime (WCW), a coalition of groups and individuals who are mobilizing support for Bush’s ouster from office. Though the event drew a tenth of the 30,000 protestors WCW organizers had anticipated, the crowd was enthusiastic - shouting, dancing and marching in an intermittent winter rain.

While some coordinators expressed disappointment that some veteran activists were absent, they were encouraged by the amount of young people in attendance. “World Can’t Wait has done a good job mobilizing first time activists,” remarked WCW Detroit coordinator Scott Koskinen. He feels the organization “is a vehicle for the millions who are dissatisfied with the direction the country is taking.”

Public opinion polls show that such a vehicle is desired. According to a January 2006 poll by Zogby International, 52% of Americans believe Congress should consider impeaching the president if he wiretapped U.S. citizens without warrants. A November 2005 poll found that 53% want Bush impeached if he lied about the war in Iraq. These numbers are higher than 16 major polls taken in 1998, which showed only 36% of the public supported hearings to impeach Bill Clinton.

The two buses that traveled from Detroit and Ann Arbor, offered a representative sample of the larger crowd in D.C. It was 95% white with a smattering of veteran activists surrounded by students and younger adults.

Chris Breight, 36, of Ferndale, has become an avid WCW supporter. For some time he wanted to become involved in a political movement, but World Can’t Wait is the cause he chose. “Everything else was so specific,” he says. “We just want Bush out.” In 2005 Breight attended organizer’s conferences in D.C. and New York where he was “impressed and inspired” by the young activist crowd.

The Ann Arbor bus skewed even younger. Joe, a junior at Western Michigan University, reported that the Ann Arbor riders passed the tour bus microphone around, debating the best ways to drive Bush out. “There were some differences of opinion, but there was a lot of energy.”

At the rally, Georgetown University law student, Rebecca Schaefer, described how she and her classmates made international headlines on January 24 when they donned hoods, unfurled a banner and turned their backs on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as he attempted to defend the administration’s domestic spy program during a speech on their campus. The banner was a bed sheet painted with Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote, “Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.”

“Several students walked out, and several others, not involved in the protest plans, rose and turned their backs as well,” Schaefer said. “Many of the students had no experience with any form of political activism but nonetheless rose in silent protest.

“We learned that we are not alone, or even in the minority,” she continued. “Many lawyers wrote to say that they were proud of their profession… for the first time in years. Many others seemed to reference the fact that this is what we were supposed to do, as law students, as lawyers and as Americans: to expose the Bush Administration arguments for what they are: utterly without precedent or legal merit, and to argue for our laws, and in so doing, for our country.”

Juan Torres, an Argentine immigrant whose son was killed in Iraq, spoke on behalf of Gold Star Families for Peace, an organization lead by Cindy Sheehan. In an interview after his speech he expressed surprise at how Americans have reacted to Bush administration abuses. “I don’t understand why Americans are not out in the streets. In Argentina, when the country is confronted with fascism, the first day there will be a handful of [protestors]. The next day there will be hundreds. The next, thousands.”

Doris “Granny D” Haddock, who at age 94 was the eldest on hand, electrified the atmosphere when she instructed that, “the office of citizen is the highest office in the land.” She implored the crowd to raise their right hands and take an oath, “that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Haddock charged that members of Congress who fail to defend the nation against the Bush regime’s crimes are in violation of their own oaths of office. “They should be tarred and feathered and driven from [Washington],” and she urged everyone to send that message to respective representatives and senators prior to mid-term elections in November.

Another highlight of the event was the toppling of the three-headed Bush Regime statue. At the end of the rally, the nearly 50-foot effigy of Bush, Cheney and Rove was pulled from its station in front of the stage in a dramatic reinactment of the toppling of Saddam's statue in Baghdad. Several people kicked and stomped the statue after it was pulled to the ground.

The crowd then marched around the White House in what was now a heavy rain. Although they were soaked to the bone, the downpour did not dampen their spirits. One chant seemed to rally everyone: “If the people rise up, Bush steps down!”

In the end, Michigan’s contingent was cold and wet, but optimistic. To the question of lower than expected numbers, Breight wondered if some people weren’t allowing others to speak out for them. “If everyone who wants Bush out would act, he would be out.” Breight believes that as people see the movement grow they will become involved. He hopes that World Can’t Wait will motivate others as it has motivated him. “It’s just a matter of what people are willing to sacrifice,” he said. “I could learn to sacrifice for honest leaders.”

For more information about The World Can’t Wait, visit

Jonah Nadir Omowale is a musician, producer, writer and activist who resides in Southeast Michigan. He performed his song, “Guantanamo”, at the World Can’t Wait rally in Washington D.C.


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