Pro and anti-war demonstrators meet in Capitol Park
West last Wednesday.
on to Washington
Them Home Now Tour warms up Albany for larger antiwar demonstration
10 AM last Wednesday, the Bring Them Home Now Tour officially
began its stay in Albany’s Capitol Park West. Members of the
group had already visited 14 cities on a tour designed to
keep discussion of the Iraq war alive. The tour will conclude
at Sataurday’s rally in Washington, D.C.
Cindy Sheehan, the mother who lost her son, Casey, in Iraq
and started the vigil that became know as Camp Casey in front
of Bush’s Crawford, Texas, ranch, skipped the Albany leg of
the tour so that she could assist relief efforts in New Orleans.
It was a disappointment for local organizers; however, members
of the Gold Star Mothers for Peace were there, joined by members
of local peace groups like Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace.
The Albany gathering was named Camp David Fischer, in memory
of a fallen Watervliet soldier.
Capitalizing on the national attention given to Camp Casey,
local activists got the attention for their cause they have
always wanted, and some they may not have.
are the young people in the streets?” asked Albany Common
Council President Helen Desfosses at the start of a discussion
forum that evening. About five teenagers stood up and the
crowd applauded them. Earlier in the day, at the noon rally,
there had been more young people, but they had been mugging
for the news cameras, holding signs reading, “Osama Says:
‘I love Cindy Sheehan.’”
Will Schmarder, one of the seven representatives of the Siena
College Republicans, explained, “We’re just here to show them
that someone supports the troops.” According to the teens,
something like the Bring Them Home Now Tour would never happen
in their hometowns. “A priest in my church spoke out about
the war and he got a talking to,” one said proudly.
glad they are here,” said Trudy Quaif of Bethlehem Neighbors
for Peace. “We need to get people talking about the war. I
would much rather have them here than ignoring us.” Quaif
said she asked the group why, if they believe so strongly
in the war, they don’t sign up to fight in it. She says that
she was told, “We buy savings bonds.”
Without Sheehan to stir up interest, at first it was unclear
how many people the event would draw. “Both of these groups
say they could get a couple hundred people, but who knows?”
state trooper F.C. Cardenas said as he surveyed a mental-health
workers’ protest as well as the peace rally.
Local activist Joe Seeman was more optimistic. “Is it OK to
say a shitload?” he joked. “Yeah, we expect a shitload of
people from around the area.” For an hour, newsmen far outnumbered
those in “Bush Lies” shirts and “Where are the WMDs?” caps.
But around 11 AM, as state workers began exiting office buildings,
activists began to arrive, some carrying makeshift signs from
the office. Workers cautiously gathered on the edge of the
park. As more arrived, the line between demonstrators and
state workers began to blur. More than 300 people filled the
Tour representatives say they were not surprised by the solid
turnout in Albany as they have gotten decent-sized crowds
and warm welcomes on all stops of their tour.
Activists carried around sign-up sheets for the Washington
rally. Some state workers took up signs. Others refused. One
man shouted at protesters, “Step the fuck away from me! Some
people just don’t realize there has to be sacrifice!”
A Fox News truck’s alarm cut through the 6:30 PM reading of
the names of 81 soldiers from New York state who lost their
lives in Iraq. As the reading of the names finished, participants
picked up empty black boots and pulled white crosses from
the ground. Officers on horseback stopped traffic so the procession
could cross State Street.
At the forum, Stacey Bannerman of Military Families Speak
Out told the audience that Rep. Mike McNulty (D-N.Y.) has
signed on to H.R. 55 to bring the troops home starting in
October 2006. She explained that he had also promised “to
do everything he can do to bring the troops home as quickly
as possible, meaning before the October 2006 timeline.” She
admitted that attempts to speak with New York’s senators had
not gone as well.
Mike Ferner reminded the crowd of the Washington protest scheduled
for Sept. 24. “I would really like us to consider on the 24th,
when there are a half- million people in the streets of Washington,
D.C., are we all just going to go home? When we’ve got hundreds
of thousands of people in the streets, I hope someone with
a microphone big enough says, ‘Every one of you who would
like to stop the war sit down!’ ”
Bangs for the Bucks
Upon concluding a round of talks on Sept. 19 between
six nations in Beijing, North Korea announced
that it would halt all aspects of its nuclear-weapons
programs. The deal will allow the nation energy
and food aid, as well as provide economic assistance,
granted that Pyongyang adheres to its promise.
The United Nations met in New York City Sept.
14-16 for its 60th Annual World Summit to discuss
issues including human-rights violations and genocide.
One of the measures agreed upon included the “responsibility
to protect” declaration, which will hold nations
liable for human-rights violations within their
own borders. This declaration will effectively
override a nation’s sovereignty in the case of
such violations, a stipulation that some U.N.
members protested. The move, motivated in great
part by President Bush and U.N. Secretary-General
Annan, will possibly grant the U.N. the power
to take military action in the wake of certain
Aliens in Utah
Salt Lake City station KUTR-AM 820 has recently
canceled Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s show, one day
after he spoke on-air about having a gathering
between Utah residents and Katrina refugees, some
of whom have been relocated to Army base Camp
Williams, to discuss racial bigotry and also encourage
the evacuees to make Utah a permanent home. Boteach
suggested this meeting after a caller complained
that “refugee blacks might move in next door.”
One Katrina refugee at Camp Williams has stated
that “we’re getting shown a lot of love, but we’re
also getting a lot of stares like we’re aliens
or something.” Managers of the station deny the
charge of bigotry in canceling the show, but otherwise
have “no comment.”
Just Passing Through . . .
A couple of “terrorists” in Basra, Iraq, opened
fire on a police checkpoint this week, killing
one officer. Once caught, the vehicle was found
to contain explosives—and two undercover British
soldiers. After they were thrown in jail, British
tanks broke through the walls, rescuing their
soldiers. One-hundred fifty other prisoners escaped
in the process. An Iraqi governor called those
involved “barbaric, savage and irresponsible.”
I gave him $50 for 'cheese' from Vermont, and
he brought back $50 worth of actual cheese! It
was damn good cheese though."
night at the Old Songs Festival campground
resident Donald Whisenhunt [“Faith of the Fathers,”
Newsfront, June 24, 2004] should be happy to hear
that Dr. Michael Newdow of California has made
considerable steps in the case against the
usage of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Newdow’s case was dismissed in 2000, after it
was determined that he was not a legal representative
of his daughter. Newdow recently took the same
case to the court again, this time with a different
judge. Federal District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton
sided with Newdow, barring recitation of the pledge
in the school Newdow’s daughter attends. Karlton
followed the 2003 decision of the 9th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals first pledge case which stated
that the pledge violated “the children’s right
to be free from a coercive requirement to affirm
God.” This will apply only to the state of California,
but the ruling virtually guarantees Newdow a case
with the Supreme Court. A footnote in the ruling
states that Karlton “would have issued a broader
ruling if he could have—one reaching beyond the
classroom.” We’ll have to wait for the Supreme
Court case (if one occurs) to see if that will
be the outcome.