An Occupy Seattle Circle of Protection

Blessed are the peace makers! I am totally in awe of Reverend Rich Lang and the scene I witnessed yesterday at the Occupy Seattle press conference calling for police accountability following Tuesday night’s pepper spraying of Reverend Lang, 84-year-old Dorli Rainey, a young pregnant woman who had to go to the hospital and many others. Following his testimony, and after we heard from Dorli and the young woman, Reverend Lang asked us all to form a circle of protection around the police officers. He proceeded to talk with the officers, and a captain responded, about seeing each other as human beings, not using excessive force and the problems militarization of the police have caused, and how the issues we’re protesting with Occupy Seattle affect them and their families as well.

Reverend Rich Lang Talks With the Police

The stories we heard first were serious and reports were made to the Seattle Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability and no doubt lawsuits will be filed. This kind of police abuse has to change and coming together and seeing each other as human is one step in the right direction. Police training, policy and accountability have to change as well, though. Sadly, this is all seeming too familiar, thinking back to WTO and the protests of that era and a series of police shootings in the African-American community around the same time.

Dorli Rainey

Dorli Rainey spoke first, and it was awesome to be part of her mic check. Dorli is an inspiration, taking her assault by pepper spray with a sense of humor, and using it to bring forward the issues.  It’s still very disturbing that members of the police department pepper sprayed an 84-year-old woman directly, which is a new low (as was a police spokesperson afterwards saying pepper spray is okay for all ages).

Young Pregnant Woman Who Was Pepper Sprayed

We had a lot of media coverage for Dorli; but most of them were gone before we heard from the young woman, Reverend Lang and others.  The young woman’s story was even more disturbing. In addition to being pepper sprayed, she was pushed by an officer with a bike and punched in the stomach. All after telling them she was pregnant, and, when she confronted one of the officers when she saw him later, he said she deserved it. Even more disturbing, now that I think about it, this is not new. We had several incidents of officers getting really abusive of young women protesters in the demonstrations immediately following WTO.  Not much has been said in the mainstream media about what happened to her case.

Reverend Rich Lang

Reverend Lang spoke briefly to the crowd about his pepper spraying before suggesting we form a protective circle around the officers and starting a dialogue with him. Six officers sprayed him directly in the face Tuesday night, in spite of his clerical garments. Reverend Lang talked to the officers about how much we have in common with them. He spoke about how they were there to protect us and the militarization of the police was the wrong path. He talked about the way society is heading with the increasing gap between the rich and the rest of us. That the police are affected by the same issues and his concern for the younger generation, which is feeling the brunt of this; and that it affects the officers’ children as well. He talked about seeing those of us in the Occupy movement as individuals and that we are not the enemy. You could tell that the officers and Occupy Seattle people alike were really moved by what the Reverend said.

Police Captain

The police captain spoke next and acknowledged our commonalities and asked us to view them as individuals and not brand them all on the actions of a few. A fair point, and I am glad Reverend Lang created a space for us to see each other as people. Which isn’t to say the issues of police accountability and policy don’t still need to be addressed.

Young Man Who Was Pepper Sprayed

Then a young man spoke who had talked earlier about having been pepper sprayed at Tuesday’s demonstration and one earlier that he had filed a report on. He wanted to know if he had been targeted for reporting the previous incident. He found this particularly upsetting because he had been “raised by the cops,” in his words. It turned out he knew many of the Seattle Police officers from years of participating in the Special Olympics and volunteering for their events. That human to human connection evidently lost for the moment Tuesday night and in the other incident.

Woman Clergy Member Pepper Sprayed

Then a woman who described herself as the “other clergy member” pepper sprayed Tuesday night spoke about the need for redemption. She talked accountability and a change in the way police are viewing groups of people, not only the members of Occupy Seattle (particularly the ones camping out), but driving while black and also treatment of those homeless or drunk. One important accountability issue she asked for was that records of correspondence and the orders given to the police in handling the Occupy movement be made public. I’m wondering not only about SPD, but orders from further away, as it has already came out that Homeland Security is involved in coordinating raids on Occupy encampments nationwide. The use of pepper spray against peaceful demonstrators is an ongoing theme. Is it just bad policing in so many cities and campuses, or are orders coming from further up?

Buddhist Peace Fellowship Member

A member of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship led us in a round of Keep Your Eyes on the Prize to close out the press conference. I saw many conversations starting between demonstrators and officers.  It turned out one of the officers was in the awkward position of having the same last name as one of the officers accused of punching the pregnant woman in the stomach and pepper spraying her. This was not entirely coincidental, as the two officers were related, perhaps a reminder not to judge people on the actions of their family members as well, and he hugged the woman.

It was an incredible moment to have witnessed and I think there needs to be more dialogues of peace like this opened up nationwide.

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Occupy Seattle Baptized in Pepper Spray

So, Tuesday night while I was getting ready and literally running late for the cross town 48 to go to the inaugural Transit Riders Union meeting the police were downtown pepper spraying (A) an 84-year-old woman, (B) a minister in clerical clothes, (C) a pregnant woman or (D) all of the above?

I wish it wasn’t so, but the answer is (D), which tells you a lot about what has been happening with the police once again with the Occupy movement. Ironically, former Police Chief Norm Stamper just wrote an article in the Nation Magazine about his regrets for giving the orders during WTO and the increasing militarization of the police.

My support for a militaristic solution caused all hell to break loose. Rocks, bottles and newspaper racks went flying. Windows were smashed, stores were looted, fires lighted; and more gas filled the streets, with some cops clearly overreacting, escalating and prolonging the conflict. The “Battle in Seattle,” as the WTO protests and their aftermath came to be known, was a huge setback—for the protesters, my cops, the community.

Indeed, that mentality still exists in Seattle. A quote on KOMO news (and this was after reports that the victims included 84-year-old Dorli Rainey, a pregnant woman and a priest – ok, there was slightly in error – on Reverend Lang’s religion): ” ”Pepper spray was deployed only against subjects who were either refusing a lawful order to disperse or engaging in assaultive behavior toward officers,’ said Seattle police spokesman Jeff Kappel.”

Hope the pregnant woman and her future child are okay. Dorli Rainey and the Reverend Rich Lang have come out of this energized, as violence only helps galvanize a movement.

Dorli tells what happened in the video above, on Keith Olbermann’s Countdown and there is no excuse for it. The crowd was getting ready to leave, and as Dorli notes, the way Occupy works this is no secret, there was a “mic check,” which would have loudly told them that. Instead of letting the crowd peacefully disburse, the police corralled them into the intersection with bicycles and let loose the pepper spray. It could have been much worse for Dorli, who nearly fell and could have been trampled by the crowd, but an Iraq vet nearby helped her. Listen to Dorli’s historical perspective on this, having lived in Austria during Hitler. Interesting as well, her perspective on the money interests from JP Morgan to our downtown developers for the downtown tunnel.

From the Countdown site:

She cites the advice of the late Catholic nun and activist Jackie Hudson to “take one more step out of your comfort zone” as an inspiration, saying, “It would be so easy to say, ‘Well I’m going to retire, I’m going to sit around, watch television or eat bonbons,’ but somebody’s got to keep ’em awake and let ’em know what is really going on in this world.”

Equally inspiring was the response of the Reverend Rich Lang of the University Temple Church posted by Bob Beatie on Facebook.

You could feel the tension and raw energy crinkling throughout the air as the marchers once again began their journey into downtown Seattle. The Occupy Movement is the prophetic voice of God calling out to the nation to “repent” and turn from its ways of corruption. Those who camp are a rag-tag, motley crew made up of mostly young adults, mostly unemployed, almost all of whom are alienated and cast out of America’s promise of liberty and justice for all. They are our canaries, the first fruits being devoured by the Beast of Empire.

The police knew who Reverend Lang was. “Throughout the march I, as a Pastor in full clergy alb, stole and cross, acted as a peacekeeper placing myself between the police line and the Occupy Movement. On four occasions I stepped between verbal battles between the police and the protesters.”

What happened?

The incident was minor in nature. A girl, dressed in Anarchist black waving the Anarchist black flag was plastered side by side with an officer on the bike. They were jawboning each other. At one point her flag was thrust in his direction — a provocation yes – threatening?—no. The officer grabbed the flag and in the pulling, pulled down the girl. Her friends reacted jumping in to pull her away from the officer. It was at this point that the first wave of pepper spray went off.

Point — one might think the officer acted within reason, that the officer was suddenly threatened. But with what? By whom? The friends of the offender were grabbing for the girl, they were not grabbing at the police. Basically the officer, and his comrades, were trigger happy as if they couldn’t wait for just this moment. And so the spray went forth.

I leapt to the front and tried to place myself between the parties — with spray in the air the protesters were also fleeing. Separation between the police line and the protesters was clearly visible … there was certainly no threat of the “mob” suddenly rampaging into the well armed police. The separation had occurred (as can be clearly seen on the video captured by King 5 News). But the spray continued. I walked between the lines, I was alone, I was in full clergy dress, everyone knew who I was and what I was — with the protesters fleeing and the police line holding — with my back to the police and my hands waving the protesters to get back — alone in full alb, stole and cross — six officers turned their spray on me thoroughly soaking my alb and then one officer hit me full throttle in the face.

Wow. . . “Seattle’s finest”. . . ?

I praise the courage and compassion, the discipline and the decency of the Occupy Movement. Out of the rag-tag mob came help, grabbing my hands, leading me (I was blind by then) to the wall and administering care and concern for my well being. The protesters were assembled around all the wounded, and maintained the discipline of nonviolence (granted the nonviolence was in behavior but not language). And they were not afraid. The spraying had been a baptism sealing them into the security of knowing that their prophecy of repentance was indeed the Spirit-Word through them — it is as if they did not prophecy their very bones would melt within them. Against the wall in increasing pain and burning I realized I was in the midst of church.

The police, on the other hand, were afraid. Their quick use of chemical warfare reveals how cowardly they are. The unwillingness of their commanders to maintain discipline reveals how incompetent they are becoming — the only tool in their bag is brutality and like a drunken raging father beating wife and kids, the police have increasingly disgraced themselves. Step by step they are being shaped into the front face of fascism, the emerging police state that protects the property interests of the Marie Antionette’s who have seized control of our government, commerce, media, military and increasingly the Church itself.

Wow again, and this time for the Reverend speaking truth to power.

There’s more. . . Reverend Lang not only calls out the police, he calls out his fellow clergy members to act:

My question to my clergy colleagues is this: Where are you? How much longer can you preach without practice? How dare you remain protected in your sanctuary while your people (the rag-tag mob of the least, last and lost whom Jesus loved) are slaughtered doing that which God has commissioned you to do (prophecy!). Where are you? Who have you become in this age of baptism by pepper spray? Do you not know how much power you have to stop our national descent into chaos? Don’t you realize that the world is your parish and right before your eyes the Spirit of God is doing a new thing? Can’t you hear that God’s judgment is upon the land? God is against the thieves that bankrupted our nation. God is against the armies of the Beast who pillage other lands in our name, and turn and destroy our people on our own soil. Are you blind? — Perhaps you need a baptism of pepper spray in your eyes to restore your vision.

And to the police I say this — there are always the brutal ones in our midst. As colleagues you have the moral responsibility to police your own. If your commanders order you to brutalize your people you have a Higher Command that says, “disarm yourself, turn away from your sin, renounce the orders of unrighteousness.” And in doing so, cross the line, come over and join us because we are the winning side of history. And we welcome your repentance and heal you of your shame.

And to the church, beloved church I say, you cannot sing the hymns of faith if you are too afraid to live that faith. In Amos it says to silence your sacred assemblies and let JUSTICE burst forth. Our nation, with the nations of the world, are under an assault of tyranny and treason of the 1% against creation itself. You may not worship God until and unless you care for the image of God living in those tents and prophesying on your behalf. Once the Powers sweep the Tents away, if you dare to lift your voice even a peep, you too will be swept away. But the destiny of the church, the Body of Christ, is not one of quiet passivity and fear, our destiny is to bear witness having no fear of the Cross because even now we have crossed over into resurrection.

I am reminded of the preacher in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and Springsteen‘s The Ghost of Tom Joad (below with Tom Morello, who sang his intense version when he was in town at the Crocodile last month – more on that soon, hopefully):

We really have gotten that dark again, and for a lot of people it is already like the Great Depression times. What the Reverend recognizes in the Occupy Seattle encampment members that most people don’t want to see. We can’t keep going down this road without there being dire consequences.  Yes, there is more desperation for the homeless and others on the bottom.  How far down have we gotten as a society, as a state – the supposedly progressive state of Washington, when we already have kids living in tent cities because their families have been permanently cut off after reaching a lifetime maximum of assistance as the PI reported? Yet Chase is going tax-free on their mortgage interest income in Washington state, and, oh, surprise, as Dorli Rainey mentions in her interview, their affiliate JP Morgan has their hand prints all over that tunnel.

On the pepper spraying, the Mayor McGinn did apologize to Dorli Rainey (whom he knows personally) and the others, and I was glad to see his statement on the city website. I have to say, after reading the Mayor’s comments in the Seattle Times article after hearing Dorli Rainey and the Reverend Rich Lang’s accounts, that I agree with Occupy Seattle that his response was inadequate. Mayor McGinn echoed the police claim about a “violent element,” and from my own experience the night Chase CEO Jamie Dimon came to town and Dorli & the Reverend’s accounts of Tuesday night, the “violent element” trying to provoke a reaction is the Seattle Police Department. The crowd has been amazingly restrained, even after being pepper sprayed. Maybe the Mayor’s statements below were before he heard from Dorli Rainey and others?

He said he understood that some protesters in the crowd Tuesday, as well as during previous clashes with police, used the cover of the crowd to provoke violence.

“We’re well aware that there are individuals who have been extraordinarily provocative to police over the last six weeks. That was my point in apologizing to peaceful protesters.”

We’ll see how the police treat everyone when we cross the Montlake Bridge tonight. Union members as well as Occupy Seattle will be present. If I hadn’t been through WTO, I would believe that would mean a little more restraint from Seattle’s finest, who claim their guild as a union when they try do prevent meaningful police accountabilty from coming to Seattle.

Then, shades of Footloose in Seattle again, the Seattle Parks Department is trying to deny a permit for a hip-hop dance Friday night for Occupy Seattle at Westlake because it’s too late after dark. Now, what time does it get dark in Seattle in the winter?:

Dewey Potter, parks spokeswoman, said nearby residents had complained about noise during two previous concerts. The department asked the Occupy Seattle representatives not to amplify music after dark, which falls at about 5:30 p.m.

Yes, that’s right, kids – Seattle rolls up it’s sidewalks at 5:30 pm Friday nights! No demon rock and roll hip-hop! So, given the concern for sensibilities of downtown residents, I guess all Downtown Seattle Association‘s evening holiday festivities at Westlake are also cancelled this year? After all, this isn’t just about silencing the freedom of speech of young people, is it?

Un-Occupy-ing the Big Banks

People are breaking up with the big banks! Tuesday’s protest against Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and yesterday’s National Bank Transfer Day were truly inspiring. According to the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), at least 650,000 people have joined credit unions within the last month as of Friday, the day before the official National Bank Transfer Day (further inspiring – a movement started by one woman’s Facebook post!).

A number of people went into and closed their accounts Saturday at both the Chase branch across the street, then the Bank of America branch at Westlake park.

Bank Transfer Day - Seattle

While I understand they are part of the 99% and don’t blame the big banks’ local employees, they do need to either get educated or stop telling lies about credit unions. I forget what else they claimed to one of the customers closing their account that set me off, but one of the things they were whining about was that credit unions don’t pay taxes. That would be income tax, which is true – because credit unions are non-profit cooperatives, where all the customers are co-owners who get to vote on polices and there are no shareholders getting wealthy off ripping people off with bad loans and excessive fees.

http://www.cuna.org/gov_affairs/legislative/cu_difference.html

I’ve been with the Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union for several years, having left Washington Mutual (or WAMU!, as they liked to call themselves), before the crash and Chase taking over. I still have free checking, no charges from SMCU for using other institutions ATMs, and a nationwide network of  credit unions and ATMs I can use for free (including ATMs at 7-11, which admittedly is a little strange).

There are a number of reasons to take your money out of the big banks and go to a credit union or community bank. Fees are one of them. I couldn’t afford $5 or $10 a month for my checking account, yet it’s the customers who have the least money the banks like Chase and Bank of America charge (although they did back down, due to the protests, on charging a monthly fee for using their debit cards as well).  True, they are a business, and if they want to run a business model charging those who can least afford it to subsidize those who have the largest accounts, they can do it. I fortunately still have a choice not to keep my money there (and wouldn’t even if I were one of the wealthy. For shame! Exploiting the poor, like you need it more?).

However, taking taxpayer money for a bailout (with your CEO, who makes $10,000 an hour, on the Fed board, no less), not paying any taxes and foreclosing on homeowners trying their best to pay their bills is not okay, even if it is legal.

Which is what brought so many of us out into the street in the rain Tuesday night, to protest Chase CEO Jamie Dimon:

I’ve already mentioned in my last post some of the reasons we’re protesting Chase (and in my post before that, Bank of America).  Here’s a little more from Working Washington‘s blog entry, November 5: We’re breaking up with the Big Banks (and remember, according to the Seattle school teachers at the other protest, Chase is getting away with not paying taxes on mortgage interest as an in-state bank):

Chase Bank hasn’t been a good relationship. When they first took over Washington Mutual they fired 3400 employees as a way of introducing themselves to our state. They then raised fees on social services like EBT for which they were already being paid by the state at the ridiculous cost of $8 million a year, your tax dollars not at work.

Chase Bank didn’t stop there. They then gave even larger bonuses and pay to their CEO Jamie Dimon ballooning his pay to nearly $10,000 per hour. In fact, he is the highest paid banker in the United States. His earnings have exploded while he continues to foreclose on Washingtonians; nearly 10,000 and counting while making a profit on food stamps from folks who can least afford it.

Now, don’t feel too bad about Jamie Dimon, according to a Seattle Times article about his visit and the protest, he doesn’t lose any sleep at night. Having a lot of money and no conscious will do that for you!

Too much pepper spray flying once again (shades of WTO and the protests shortly after), and I evidently just narrowly avoided getting hit both at the protest I happened upon after my last class let out (maybe 2:30 or 3 pm) at the Chase branch on Capitol Hill on Broadway and at the Sheraton where Jamie Dimon was speaking (video below by Jonathan Walczak of the Seattle Weekly). Ironically, the Sheraton is within a block of the Washington State Convention Center which hosted the WTO a decade ago.

While I wasn’t crazy about some of the “f@#k the cops” chants or the challenging people just trying to get home by the mostly young protesters at that earlier protest; after seeing the photo of the cops pepper spraying them in the Seattle Times, I’d have to say that they were remarkably restrained.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/photogalleries/localnews2016673721/10.html

I was heartened to see so many more people, and including a lot of union members and a Marine with an American flag, by the time the rally and march to greet Chase CEO Jamie Dimon started at 6 pm, in the cold and pouring rain. We even had older people in wheelchairs taking to the streets and one woman on oxygen (which made me very nervous, as she was near the front, like I was, just behind some young people in bandannas and even gas masks, with the already itchy fingered SPD with their hands on their pepper spray canisters. I was glad when her friends persuaded her to move back).

Myself? I sometimes moved back, and sometimes was up near the front, taking pictures, and I checked out the action at all the exits the crowd had eventually blocked. I was generally hanging back just a bit, but ran into a friend and ally who came to America after being involved in the protests at Tiananmen Square in China, and really didn’t feel like chickening out as she went up front and even talked to one of the police officers (fortunately, not while they were into pepper spraying). Which did put things a little in perspective, as I don’t think SPD would get that bad, at least not deliberately, but one of the did have a gun with, I think, rubber bullets ready; and as Oakland showed, people can be seriously hurt by “less-lethal” (and unneeded) weapons.

I noticed the headlights on the police helmets, which I suspect was to make it harder to photograph or videotape their excesses. On the other hand, I could read their name tags and they didn’t seem to be covering those over, which was an issue during the WTO era.

SPD's Helmet Lights

I know a lot is made of the excesses of a few protesters, like the “black block” anarchists in Oakland that same night. I’m not defending them, but anyone focusing on the actions of a handful, when thousands were peacefully taking the highway and closing down the port in a mostly peaceful general strike in Oakland is missing the point.

Teachers Educate Chase Bank

I went down to Westlake and joined Occupy Seattle‘s Robin Hood Tax protest yesterday. I got a good education on Chase Bank‘s corporate greed from Seattle’s school teachers.

Teachers Give Chase a Lesson

It turns out Chase hasn’t been paying any state tax on mortgage interest income, thanks to a loophole created for Washington Mutual as an in-state bank. Chase is based in Manhattan, so how did they get to keep that loophole when they bought WAMU for pennies for a dollar? According to the Social Equality Educators website: “Their fair share would add nearly $100 million per year to our State’s sorely strapped budget.”  Closing loopholes for out-of-state banks sounds like a good place to start to turn around our grim budget our Governor proposed to us Thursday, instead of cutting education, health and social services.

I, ironically, missed the largest march so far, the previous Saturday, catching up on other things, and having been to the march the Saturday before that.  I want to mention that because if, like me, you missed that one, it might seem like energy is waning.

Here’s a video from their march through Pike Place Market:

They were protesting Chase then as well. Following Governor Gregoire’s draconian proposals for our state budget, even though she and other Democrats say they don’t want to do it; I think we need to push them and the Republicans, who are all too willing to cut social services, health and education, on why we’re giving an out-of-state bank a free ride. Its time to end corporate welfare, and they are the ones who should be shamed, not the people who end up out of work or underemployed, just struggling to get by for themselves and their families.

Ironically, Chase even profits on that:

Chase Profits for Food Stamps

Why does Washington, and other states, pay to have their food stamp cards run through Chase bank? Why not have them through a credit union, say for Washington, WSECU, the Washington State Employees Credit Union? Why, in fact, is there apparently a state law that limits cities like Seattle to using only the largest banks, according to the city budget director interviewed in The Stranger, in response to Nick Licata’s proposed resolution for the city to review its banking and investment practices?

OK, I’m off on a tangent. Back to this Saturday’s rally, which was about a proposal to pass a version of the Robin Hood Tax, an idea that originated in England. What Adbusters proposed is taxing 1% of financial transactions and currency trades.

Sounds like a good idea to me. Sadly, the money has been going in the other direction, with the public bailing out the poor bankers, who apparently can’t manage their money properly. Shouldn’t we have some case managers if we’re going to have corporate welfare?

How much corporate welfare? Just for starters, the results first Federal Reserve audit, which happened thanks to an amendment added to the Wall Street reform law by Senator Bernie Sanders (VT):

The first top-to-bottom audit of the Federal Reserve uncovered eye-popping new details about how the U.S. provided a whopping $16 trillion in secret loans to bail out American and foreign banks and businesses during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

$16 trillion – that’s a lot of money, and with some of that (plus interest – it’s a loan, right?) would do a lot towards balancing the budget and we might not need to take a Credo action to tell Congress not to use Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security as bargaining chips.

 “As a result of this audit, we now know that the Federal Reserve provided more than $16 trillion in total financial assistance to some of the largest financial institutions and corporations in the United States and throughout the world,” said Sanders. “This is a clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged, you’re-on-your-own individualism for everyone else.”

Not to mention the conflicts of interest that the Federal Reserve routinely gives waivers for:

For example, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase served on the New York Fed’s board of directors at the same time that his bank received more than $390 billion in financial assistance from the Fed.  Moreover, JP Morgan Chase served as one of the clearing banks for the Fed’s emergency lending programs.

Would that be the CEO of Chase who is coming here to Seattle, and Occupy Seattle is planning to protest, starting at 5:30 pm Wednesday? Seems like we have a lot to talk about. . .

Hiroshima and Hope for the Future

August 6th was our annual From Hiroshima to Hope commemoration, and the 65th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. It’s held on the lawn at Green Lake, just past the Bathhouse Theater, going counterclockwise around the lake path from the community center.

From Hiroshima to Hope

Native American storyteller & flutist Gene Tagaban told us the story of Raven bringing light to the world, followed by an appearance by Raven (with the accompaniment of a taiko drummer).

Gene Tagaban as Raven

The Seattle Kokon Taiko group was next.

Seattle Kokon Taiko

They were really impressive! Here’s a clip by lesvictor on YouTube of “Rites of Thundering”, which they performed at the commemoration as well:

There was also an interpretive dance piece of a Hiroshima widow and White Lightning. Video by subversivepeacemaker:

Mona Akmal, a young woman who created Dreamfly Projects, starting schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, spoke of how much the children inspired her.

Mona Akmal, Dreamfly Projects

We also had poetry from students in El Centro de la Raza‘s Hope for Youth Program.

Hope for Youth Poets

Gene Tagaban played some flute music as preparations were made.

Gene Tagaban

Then there was a Buddhist blessing (there was a Christian one earlier in the evening).

Buddhist Blessing

Lanterns were lit and a procession to the lake, starting with the monks and Hiroshima survivors.

Procession to Green Lake

Then the lanterns are floated on Green Lake, which is always beautiful.

Lantern Floating on Green Lake

According to the program the lantern floating ceremony “is an adaption of an ancient Japanese Buddhist ritual, the Toro Nagashi, in which lanterns representing the souls of the dead are floated out to sea and prayers offered that the souls may rest in peace.”

I hope one day soon the world bans all nuclear weapons.

Remembering Seattle’s Homeless

Yesterday was National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, and not coincidentally, Winter Solstice, the longest day of the year. This morning from 10 to noon, Real Change newspaper and the Finish Company gave away cold weather survival gear like coats, hats, socks and sleeping bags to the homeless at city hall. Then at 1 pm, Real Change, SHARE/WHEEL and Nickelsville issued a Declaration of State of Emergency in 2010 at New Hope Baptist Church. Then at 5 pm, the Women in Black held a candlelight vigil in honor of all those who have died on the streets this year.

IMG_7071

According to the flyer handed out by the Women in Black, “36 homeless women and men have died outside or by violence in King County so far this year.” 36.  They named them all.   36.  Another number – 48.  Homeless people die at an average age of 48.

Why are there homeless in the United States and in Seattle?  Homeless in spite of reading about nearly empty condos because the recession hit. The condos taking place of what once were rentals, and sky rocketing rents that ripple through the whole rental system are part of the problem.

De-institutionalizing people with mental illness, and not coming through with adequate funds for the community based programs that were to replace them are another. The streets and jails have replaced the admittedly not great mental hospitals.

I worry when I read that our state is now closing institutions for the developmentally disabled, with similar promises that there will be community based programs to help them; but without much sign of a plan or funds to follow through. Will some of them be ending up living on the street as well?  How Darwinian can our society get?

The Declaration of a State of Emergency by and for Homeless People in Seattle & King County tells the current situation of inadequate shelters and how their harassed on the street from the homeless people themselves. It’s a situation only getting worse with both county and state budget cuts. 

We are the working poor who have been set up to fail. Our low wages, work insecurity, lack of healthcare, overcrowded and unaffordable housing, and unreliable transportation leave us vulnerable to economic disaster.

We are the expendable, the dehumanized, the written off, and the devalued. We are the sick, the disabled, the mentally ill, and the addicted. We are the too poor, too uneducated, too old, and too unemployable to matter. We are the human wreckage of a broken system that denies its responsibility and blames us for our existence.

IT SHOULDN’T BE LIKE THIS. Homeless people deserve and are entitled to the same protections as our housed brothers and sisters: a right to health and housing, freedom from violence and stereotyping, the ability to keep our families and loved ones together, and the tools to move ahead and thrive.

They have an 8 point plan:

HELP US TO SURVIVE AND SOLVE HOMELESSNESS:

1. EXPAND SURVIVAL SERVICES. Since the Ten Year Plan began, homelessness has grown while emergency shelter supply has held steady and funding for day centers has declined. Stop pretending and meet the need with clean, simple decent shelter.
2. SUPPORT SELF-HELP HOMELESS GROUPS (like SHARE). When we run our own shelters, we cost-effectively offer maximum dignity and community to residents. Stable city funding will help us built community-wide solutions to meet the growing need.
3. PROVIDE A PERMANENT SITE FOR NICKELSVILLE. We need a site big enough for a non-moving eco village of up to 1,000. There are over seventy sites in Seattle that will work and only one is needed.
4. COMPLETE THE HOMELESS REMEMBRANCE PROJECT to honor people who have died while homeless. The Tree of Life in Victor Steinbrueck Park and Leaves of Remembrance in sidewalks throughout the County will serve as reminders to us all that homeless lives have value.
5. STOP THE CRIMINALIZATION. Citations for trespass violations, panhandling, and sitting on sidewalks clog our courts and punish the poor with fines and jail time while denying us due process under law.
6. EXPAND TREATMENT. Drug and alcohol treatment services save lives and money. Punitive policies undermine public health goals and deepen the misery and isolation that often underlies addiction.
7. PROVIDE TRANSPORTATION. As downtown gentrification has pushed more services outside the free ride zone, access to bus transportation has become a barrier to overcoming homelessness. Homeless people should receive free bus passes.
8. SUPPORT AFFORDABLE HOUSING. Strategies to cost-effectively increase supply must be prioritized over big-ticket infrastructure projects and sports arenas. Encourage market solutions that don’t let excellent get in the way of good. We need housing. Now.

HOW TO GET THERE:
Listen to homeless people! We call on our new leaders to govern with progressive values: compassion, justice and common sense. We call on our fellow citizens to act in solidarity with homeless people. We call on voters to insist that human needs come before floating bridges, sport stadiums and arts.

Shelter is one of the most basic human rights.  We shouldn’t have homeless people, let alone 36 of them dying on our streets over the past year.

WTO Still Has To Go

When I first read up about the WTO on the Public Citizen website 10 years and a few months ago, I was really appalled, and hoped there’d be a few of us protesting them when they came to town.  Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine how many.

Ten years ago tonight, November 29, I took part in the Jubilee 2000 protest to cancel Third World Debt. An event organized by a coalition of churches, starting with a rally at First Methodist Church downtown before the march to the event center at Qwest Field where WTO types were meeting.  We blocked their exit and they took the back way out. The police were mellow at this point.  One of our chants was: “We’re cold! We’re wet! Cancel the debt!”

I should note that, then, as now, I missed the marathon Thanksgiving weekend teach-ins (which would definitely be worthwhile, but I’m afraid I’m not that dedicated).

I had to work November 30, 1999.  While I had vacation time, our office was far behind in work.  Some of my friends from the Northwest Veterans for Peace were up from Portland, and I found them and marched with them on my lunch break (the march so backed up that I was never more than a couple blocks one direction or another from my office). This was pre-cell phone era (at least for me), so I was going to meet them after work outside my office.

At least, that was the plan.  My boss closed down the office an hour and a half early, and all my co-workers fled, as there was supposedly a riot and an explosion (which turned out to be some police cannon).  So, I wandered around for an hour and a half looking for my friends in the alleged riot, though a very peaceful crowd, lining both sides of. . . I forget if it was Pike or Pine.  There was a ton of tear gas, pepper spray and/or whatever else the police were using in the area, and I pulled my scarf up over my mouth. 

I did see the one dumpster fire still burning, but that was it. They overplayed the few anarchist vandals on the news, but that wasn’t what was happening in most of the crowd at all.

While the anarchists claimed they had to do what they did to get attention and the turtles and teamsters weren’t doing it, I disagree.  They got attention all right, bad attention, closing off debate even a decade later with people who only saw the smashed windows playing over and over again by corporate media.  While the turtles and teamsters were marching, before all this, people were getting curious, asking why there were people in turtle suits, or why environmentalists and labor were marching together, and there was room for dialogue.

This KCTS special, tomorrow, er, tonight, at 8 pm, looks promising and like it give a more balanced view.

Vodpod videos no longer available.
more about “The Whole World was Watching 5-minute…”, posted with vodpod

I met the vets in front of my office at the time agreed upon after all.  At one point we were where the police were standing ready to fire more of the tear gas (and the guys were trying to get me to stand back, but I didn’t), and fortunately these officers never did.

I was totally shocked to learn from my friends that the mayor had declared curfew at 7 pm.  They had taken the ferry in from Bremerton, and we ate at a restaurant near the ferry launch, and past the south side of the curfew area.  One of my friends walked me to my bus stop, past a lot of now open drug dealing, as all of Seattle’s finest were otherwise occupied. I realized after I was waiting awhile, that it wouldn’t make sense for the U District buses to drive all the way through the curfew area to the  one stop on the other side.  Here I was, with two other people who were waiting as well, amidst all the drug dealing, thanks to the mayor’s concerns for my, oh, wait, for corporate safety! Fortunately, a driver heading up to Capitol Hill took us there to transfer, and the bus I caught on Capitol Hill made it through just before the police pushed everyone up there and were attacking protesters and residents alike.

The situation was totally absurd for the rest of the week.  They were trying to ban protesters, but allow shoppers. As someone who worked downtown, but was opposed to the WTO, I was never quite sure where that left me.  While I had to work, I still wore my No WTO pin and guess I was risking arrest. 

I witnessed the police firing tear gas canisters at a labor march the next day. I realized the police were getting totally out of hand with attacking protesters and didn’t brave it downtown after work and after curfew.

We had two marathon hearings on the police abuses following WTO.  The first one, at the meeting room of the old Seattle Public Library was in a space so small most of us had to stand outside for hours in the rain before some people left and we could go in.  I later learned the council had planned escape routes.  Whatever nonsense they’d been told about the protesters, I think they all could see these were Seattle citizens who came and were outraged (though, in the end, only a few were wanted to do something about it – we had Seattle “process” – hearings, a citizens’ panel, blue ribbon commission. . .then hope every one has forgotten and do nothing).  That hearing lasted until 11:30 pm (starting at 4).

Second hearing was at the Seattle Center, starting at 4 again, and I lasted for most of it, leaving around 1 am (and it wrapped up close to 2 am).

See George Hickey’s photo essay in this week’s Real Change:

http://www.realchangenews.org/index.php/site/archives/3484

& Trevor Griffey’s post last week on PubliCola for more about the police & WTO:

http://publicola.net/?p=19409

There was a reason we were all out there, however, and initially it was not to protest the Seattle Police Department.

While our protests helped give the third world countries the courage to stand up and derailed the 1999 talks, WTO is still around.  I was once again appalled when I read the Public Citizen site to see what’s been going on lately.

http://www.citizen.org/trade/wto/

Basically, rules passed by the U.S. or any other country for food or product safety, to protect the environment or workers, etc., can be overturned as an “unfair trade barrier” by an unelected pro-corporate organization.

Currently, Public Citizen is calling on people to sign a petition online to President Obama, asking him to “Turn Around the WTO” and protect consumers, workers and the environment during the new “Doha Round” of WTO expansion.

http://www.wtoturnaround.org/

Seattle’s LGBT Equality March – Youth Lead the Way

Sunday I headed over to Volunteer Park for a march and rally in support LGBT equality.  It seemed especially important to be there given Initiative 71 made it on the ballot. Initiative 71 was written by religious (and maybe non-religious) bigots to take away the “everything but marriage” civil rights our legislature gave to the LGBT community (and our senior citizens,who often stand to lose to many of their benefits they need to live on if they re-marry). 

Due to the way Washington State ballot measures are required to be written, now that we’re now voting on civil rights for a group of citizens in our state, you need vote to Approve Referendum 71 if you support equal rights for lesbians, gay, bi-sexual and transgender people.

It was a good size gathering, though not as large as I would have expected, given the size of our Pride marches. Not only not as many supporters like me as I would have thought, but not as many older LGBT activists.  As I discovered, the young people, once again, are leading the way, and some of their elders have lost touch with the need to take action and make change happen.

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One of the speakers kept saying “This isn’t your father’s LGBT movement!”, which made me feel old since I knew I was the age of the fathers they were referring to, but they were right.  I was encouraged to hear of support for LGBT rights and against bigotry from straight frat boys and pro-football players these days.

I was also very disturbed to learn of Rep. Barney Frank’s comments

Rep. Barney Frank, the first openly gay member of Congress, has some advice for gay rights supporters: lobby, don’t march.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Frank called the demonstrations in Washington this weekend “a waste of time at best” and “an emotional release” that does little to cause change.

“The only thing they’re going to be putting pressure on is the grass,” the Massachusetts Democrat said Friday.

No, wait, his advice gets even more pathetic and out of touch:

Call or write your representative or senator, and then have your friends call and write their representative or senator,” Frank said. 
“That’s what the NRA does. That’s what the AARP does,” he said, referring to the two most effective interest groups – the National Rifle Association and the American Association of Retired Persons.

The AARP?!  If the AARP wants my support when they start asking for it in, umm, a few months, they better start taking lessons from these young people (or their own youth, when they were singing, with feeling, The Times, They Are a Changing).  As I recall, the AARP caved to Bush on prescription drugs! Yeah, lobbying with stogey old groups is what you do when you really want to make change. . .NOT!

As several of the young speakers pointed out, that was not how change was made in the 60’s.  People were out in the streets, staging sit ins at lunch counters. . . Activists were. . .active! The old. . .it’s not the right time (this time for marriage equality), just wait. . . was very familiar, too, as they noted.  That’s what Martin Luther King, Jr. and the other civil rights leaders were told.  If they hadn’t been ready to take a stand and ignore the advice of their not so helpful allies, they would still be in the back of the bus. Same bigots, and some of them haven’t let go of the racial issue yet, either, if you listen to the rabid right talk about our President.

 We had music by Jared Douglas at the opening rally.  Someone I’m, of course, clueless of, but the young people were very into.

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Here’s a clip of Crazy Thing from the rally on YouTube:

A young woman talked about not wanting to be quiet about her love because she loved another woman, and why should she?  Why should people be offended by any public show of affection from a gay or lesbian couple they wouldn’t be bothered by if it were a straight couple?

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A young man read poetry of love that seemed much too old for his age (like not knowing how to love in this century).

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Then State Rep. Jamie Pedersen came up and talked about coming out in Puyallup and his former girlfriend’s mom telling her she could get AIDS from talking to him. 

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Now, Jamie’s election is a case in point as to why these young people should ignore older politicians like Barney Frank.  I remember the endorsement party for the 43rd the year Jamie was elected.  I remember thinking I was toward the young age of the people there, which was not a good sign as I was in my mid 40s and the 43rd District takes in the U District and Capitol Hill, neighborhoods heavily populated by young people. Seriously, Capitol Hill is even more so than over here near the U.  What happens to people over 30 on the hill? I keep expecting to see Charlton Heston warning “Soylent green (no, wait: tofu) is people!”

About the only young people at the endorsement meeting were Jamie’s friends and those of Stephanie Pure, a member of then City Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck’s staff.  I felt bad when Stephanie came in dead last in the endorsements.  Jamie didn’t do so well either.

Actual election? Stephanie did a lot better, I think better than the 43rd’s endorsements did, and Jamie, of course, won. If you left it to the old, out of touch, political machine to decide, no doubt Jamie would be still waiting to lead. This being Seattle, and the 43rd, his being gay wasn’t even an issue (other than bringing in a few more votes, with Capitol Hill also having a large gay population).

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Then we marched.  Out of Volunteer Park and down Broadway before turning downtown.  They were chanting for people to come out of the bars and into the streets (unfortunately, not too many takers).

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Marched ending up at the Federal Courthouse on 7th & Stewart and another rally.  One of the issues mentioned there was “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which President Obama says he wants to end but. . .hmm. . .but, wait. . .?  One thing that strikes me about that issue, at a human rights rally last year a young woman who just got out of the service as a medic noting no one is particularly concerned about whether you’re gay or straight when they’re wounded. . .

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Ending the rally were two young women performing hip hop.

All in all, an encouraging day of youth activism.  My one thought at the moment, is hoping they’ve also found a way to reach out in the suburbs and rural areas of the state.  Seattle’s vote in support of Ref. 71 should be an easy one. 

While the issue isn’t marriage, at least for this election, indeed, why not marriage?  Who should have the right to say others can’t marry who they wish in a civil marriage?  If we go by religion, who’s religion?  The Catholic Church, where I was raised doesn’t recognize 2nd marriages.  Should they decide for everyone else only a 1st marriage will be recognized and legal?

What if you had to ask everyone’s permission to get married (as this Irish video makes the point)?

Health Care – We Won’t Back Down

I felt inspired and empowered as I walked away from Seattle’s Health Care for All rally Thursday night with Tom Petty’s I Won’t Back Down playing as the crowd streamed out of Westlake Park. On the way home, though, I got to thinking about news reports that the President will drop the public option, and his administration seems to expect the Democrats to just fall in line; and worrying “Will they back down?”

I don’t think our Rep., Jim McDermott, will back down, but what about the others?

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We had about 3000 people in Westlake Park, but as the blog Horse’s Ass reported, the Seattle Times didn’t report it.  I was there, though, trying to connect with my Amnesty International friends and regretting I hadn’t thought to exchange phone numbers with the newer ones so we could find each other.

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Amnesty International believes that health care is a human right, and is working on it as part of our new Demand Dignity campaign.

Here’s some video of the highlights of the rally from the Washington State Labor Council:

In addition to Rep. McDermott, and the Rev. Leslie Braxton, who mc’d the event, we heard from a father struggling to get health care for his sick son because of the “pre-existing” condition clause, and from Jody Hall, the owner of Cupcake Royale on the struggles of a small business owner to keep her employees covered under a system that charges more and gives less in benefits for small businesses. Jody said that 25 cents of every cupcake go to employee health care, which is a larger expense than the combined rent of all four Seattle locations of her business.

We also had the Backbone Campaign’s puppets, including Count Bleed ‘Ya Dry, with his bats from the insurance and pharmaceutical companies, taking blood through an IV from a seriously ailing American health system.

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So, speaking of backbone, how are we doing on making sure President Obama and the other Democrats get and keep one on this issue?

I believe President Obama and the Democratic majority we elected can get meaningful health care with a needed public option to keep down costs from the insurance companies, if they are willing to fight for it. 

What is interesting is that the polling data that the Washington Post reports was sent around in a memo to the congressional Democrats by Joel Benenson, the President’s pollster, show a wide support for health care reform:

–82% of Americans say that the U.S. health care system needs either fundamental changes (55%) or needs “to be rebuilt” (27%). (CBS, Aug. 31)

•A substantial majority of Americans believe that the problems in the country’s health care system will eventually affect most Americans if they are not addressed.

–65% of Americans believe that the health care system’s problems will eventually affect most Americans, while only 31% believe most Americans will continue to get good health care. (CNN, Aug. 31)

What is the problem, then?

–Only 31% say they “understand the health care reforms under consideration in Congress, while 67% say they find them confusing. (CBS, Aug. 31) 
–Indeed, even Republican pollster Public Opinion Strategies found that 37% have no opinion yet on the President’s plan, while 25% support and 37% oppose. (POS, August 13)

However:

•When voters learn about the composition of the plan, support grows considerably.
–For instance, an NBC poll found that initially, only 36% said that the President’s health care plan is “a good idea” while 42% say it is a bad idea. (NBC, Aug. 17).
–However, 53% said they favored the plan after hearing a short description of it that included:
* Requirements on insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions;
* Requiring all but the smallest employers to provide health coverage or pay a percentage of their payroll to help fund coverage for the uninsured
* Tax credits to help families and individuals to help them afford coverage

This is why the President’s televised speech to Congress on Wednesday is so important, and frankly, why both Congressional Democrats and pro-health care organizations should be focusing as much on educating the public as on rallies to counteract the conservatives whipped into a frenzy by talk radio.

Will the President have the courage to include the public option as an important piece of the plan in his speech?  President Obama certainly pushed for the Presidency, and inspired many by doing so.  One of his former campaign staffers, Mike Elk, has started a petition, and asking former campaigners and others to sign it, holding the President to the promise he made election night (and their promise to hold him to his promise):

He said, “I promise you if everybody in this hall is willing to keep doing what you guys did over the last two years, then I am optimistic about America. I may make some mistakes, but you’ll set me right.”

Mr. President, we have not forgotten the promise we made that night. We are here to set you right.
There are rumors that you are considering dropping the public option, despite 77% of the American public and the majority of U.S. Senators supporting it. Sir, there is no way we can have real health care reform without a public option. Any real change requires the inclusion of a strong public option to promote competition, bring down costs and serve the people.
If a vigorous public option is not included, it would be a major victory for the health insurance industry.

If the President is willing to take the stand, we are with him, as Mike Elk notes:

We are the most powerful grassroots army ever assembled in American history, and we want you to fight for a public option. We promise to fight with you every step of the way, just as we did during the campaign.
Mr. President, We are fired up and ready to go!
Are you ready to lead?

Bill Moyers has called for President Obama to stand up to the Republicans and insurance companies as well:

He understands President Obama’s wish for bi-partisanship, but recognizes with the current political climate, that just isn’t possible:

Poor Obama. He came to town preaching the religion of nice. But every time he bows politely, the harder the Republicans kick him.

No one’s ever conquered Washington politics by constantly saying “pretty please” to the guys trying to cut your throat. 

Moyers notes that:

As it is, we’re about to get health care reform that measures human beings only in corporate terms of a cost-benefit analysis. I mean this is topsy-turvy — we should be treating health as a condition, not a commodity.

As with the former campaigners, Bill Moyers remembers the promises President Obama made during the campaign, and is calling on him to keep them:

Come on, Mr. President. Show us America is more than a circus or a market. Remind us of our greatness as a democracy. When you speak to Congress next week, just come out and say it. We thought we heard you say during the campaign last year that you want a government run insurance plan alongside private insurance — mostly premium-based, with subsidies for low-and-moderate income people. Open to all individuals and employees who want to join and with everyone free to choose the doctors we want. We thought you said Uncle Sam would sign on as our tough, cost-minded negotiator standing up to the cartel of drug and insurance companies and Wall Street investors whose only interest is a company’s share price and profits.

This is important:

This health care thing is make or break for your leadership, but for us, it’s life and death. No more Mr. Nice Guy, Mr. President. We need a fighter.

Fortunately, it looks like many of our Congressional leaders will stand their ground.  According to Politico:

Obama spoke by phone Friday with leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, and Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

“Caucus leaders expressed absolute commitment to the idea of a robust public option, and said they expect it to be part of any health care reform legislation,” the groups said in a statement. “The president listened, asked many questions, and suggested the dialogue should continue.”

It looks like the White House is leaning toward putting the public option back in, but still leaving room to waffle?

One top official gave this formulation: “He has consistently said that he thinks the public option is an important way to make sure there is both cost and competition control.  He has also consistently said that if someone can show him a better way or another way to get there, he’d be happy to look at it.  But he’s never committed to going another way.  He’s always said he’d be happy to look at any other proposal that gets to these goals, but he thinks this is probably the best better way to do it.”

I’d like to hear a more certain and committed statement than that on Wednesday, Mr. President.  You’ve showed you can fight and stand up for your principles during the election.  We are asking you now to stand your ground. 

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Official White House photo by Pete Souza

We are behind you, and there are a lot of us, even if newspapers like the Seattle Times don’t want to acknowledge it. Speak to the American public Wednesday and tell them the truth.  Give us hope for a health care system that really works, for all Americans, not the insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

Coming Together for Iran

Iranians and Iranian-Americans carrying different and opposing flags and banners at Westlake came together tonight to protest against the stolen election and for human rights in Iran.

First, I just noticed a few Americans from different sides putting their spin on things.  We had the Socialists there (as usual) and one guy who seemed to be anti-Obama, anti-UN. Definitely not people you often see on the same side of a protest, even if for a short time.

It soon became apparent the Iranians had their own factions, and some of them were having a very heated debate, although fortunately the rally leaders were able to come up with chants to unite both sides.  At first I didn’t understand the issue about the flags, which was the one part of the debate in English.  One of the leaders repeatedly asked people to put down the flags and unite.  I thought maybe it had to do with some post 9/11 fears or fears of stirring anti-immigrant sentiments with the Iranian flags (even though their were some American ones).  The kind of policy debate organizers often have within the group, though it seemed odd that would become such a major issue during the rally itself. 

Then I was thinking maybe it was people for different candidates in the Iranian elections.  As most of the arguing was in Persian, it was hard to know what was going on. 

It wasn’t until Don from our Amnesty International group suggested some of the people were supporters of the Shah that it dawned on me, but even then slowly.  I was in denial that I could be protesting with people who supported the (evil, to me) Shah, who was torturing people in Iran before he was forced to flee the country (only to be replaced by Ayatollah Khomenei, who tortured people).  Then I started recognizing the regal symbol on many of the flags (then a few with a different symbols on them) and realized Don was right.

I then started realizing the significance of the banners reading, “No Monarchy.  No Theocracy.  Only Democracy.”  My sentiments as well.  Note: I’m not officially wearing my Amnesty hat at the moment, although I was literally wearing one for the rally. 

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I got to give the organizers credit for keeping it all together, and finding chants and songs to unite everyone, and even getting everyone together for a march around the block of the Westlake Center mall and back to the square.

Meanwhile, in Iran, the New York Times reports that thousands of people are out in the streets again.

Thousands of Iranians poured into the streets of Tehran on Thursday, clapping, chanting, almost mocking the authorities as they once again turned out in large numbers in defiance of the government’s threat to crush their protests with violence.

As tear gas canisters cracked and hissed in the middle of crowds, and baton-wielding police officers chased protesters up and down sidewalks, young people, some bloodied, ran for cover, but there was an almost festive feeling on the streets of Tehran, witnesses reported in e-mail exchanges.

A young woman, her clothing covered in blood, ran up Kargar Street, paused for a moment and said, “I am not scared, because we are in this together.”

Which is encouraging, people are coming together and marching for justice in spite of massive repression.