October 10, 2008

Guest post: Nina on last week's rally in Carson, CA

Filed under: Media,Politics — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Melanie @ 7:55 pm

I have only been to three protests in the duration of my life. Considering my age (19) and the current state of the majority of my generation, that is saying a lot. For the most, part my experiences have been extremely positive. My first protest was guided by an old hippie couple who had been protesting since they were my age in the 70’s. They taught me the ins and outs of protesting – bring a bandanna, a tangerine, water, and some comfy shoes. The opposition had always been minuscule in comparison to the masses gathered for the said cause (against the war, keeping a wommin’s right to chose, etc.) and the police had always been a looming, often racist, gathering on the sidelines that was and is difficult to ignore.

The protest against Sarah Palin in Carson, California this past Saturday, October 4th was the first time I had been within close proximity to hardcore Republicans supporting the McCain/Palin ticket. Sure, my Aunt and Uncle are conservative Republicans from Fresno who support that ticket, but when I see them they often hug me and buy me dinner. They don’t call me a whore. It was very different to see the opposition as a visible, violent force and the police as a support and protector of that force and not those protesting.

I  have been in the area surrounding the Home Depot Center in Carson many many times.  I used to go to band practice literally blocks away. The place was always very quiet and devoid of any inkling of political uprising such as the wheatpastings you will see in Santa Monica or Los Angeles. To see the intersection hugged by protesters and passing motorists honking furiously in support was overwhelming and amazing. I  parked in the designated parking structure amongst the Republicans attending the event and what immediately caught my eye was a father and his young daughter. Someone had meticulously painted a sign (much larger than her) in big hot pink sparkling letters that said, “Girl Power” and she didn’t look too thrilled to hold the damn thing. They were obviously attending to support Palin and it broke my heart.

I walked down the boulevard to where the protesters were gathered to meet up with my friends from CSULB who, like myself, run a Feminist Alliance on campus.

We demonstrated on the corner, encouraging people to join us and reveling in the support of people passing by. One thing I  noticed in Carson was that it was not just rabble rousing, but actual progression. People were networking, signing up to phone bank for candidates or propositions, exchanging numbers, and organizing further events. It was wonderful to see so many different kinds of people from all walks of life gathered on the street working together.

Eventually, we began to proceed up the walkway into the actual Home Depot Center to demonstrate nearby the line of Republicans entering the stadium. This is where, just earlier, John Voight stood in support of Sarah Palin and ordered his bodyguards to cover the signs of Democratic demonstrators so that their message would not be seen on TV. Don’t you just love him?

We all gathered along the line, “welcoming” those attending the event with posters, chants, and our presence. For the most part it was like many other demonstrations, with the Republicans not saying much. Those who had yelled profanities and flipped us off from their cars on the boulevard simply walked by, flipping us off once more or not looking at us whatsoever. But as more and more people began to show up, you could feel the tension from the opposition. There were many womyn Union Workers at the event, and you could feel their disgust as womyn walked by wearing the Rosie the Riveter icon on her t-shirt with Sarah Palin’s face superimposed on top.

A woman next to me, a union worker said, “I want to rip that shirt off that wommin. Palin is no Rosie the Riveter. I  am Rosie the Riveter!” As we shouted, talked to one another, and held our signs, two young womyn walked by with an open container of homemade cookies. They offered them to the crowd, and I assumed they were from Food Not Bombs, a vegan-friendly organization that cooks food for the homeless and often brings water and sandwiches to protests for demonstrators. As I placed the cookie in my mouth, however, I  was overcome with the distinct taste of Raid and immediately spit it out and crushed it with my food. As the girls proceeded onward I realize they were wearing McCain buttons. The first instance physical of violence I saw, however, was against none other than Jesus Christ.

Jesus had been visibly peaceful during the event, hugging people, chanting, and doing his thing. One wommin (wearing a cross), however, was visibly upset at him dressing as such, and began cursing profanities at him from the sidelines. He began to film her as she did this, and she punched his camera into his face. As the man began to yell at her why she would do such a thing, she continuously smacked his camera and pushed her way towards him. I  found it ironic that the wommin’s husband went to go get the authorities even though she instigated it. This obviously angered the crowd because he had done nothing wrong, but this often happens at demonstrations. Because those protesting are seen are “more radical” the police often push them back or force them to disperse because it is assumed they “started it.”

The next instance of blatant hatred was toward the two men pictured above, who were Iraqi veterans protesting both Palin and the war. An older man broke from the Republican line and began shouting, “Faggots! You are a disgrace! You will burn in hell!” The two men tried to talk to him, stating their reasons for being here but all he could do was shout until another man pulled him back into the crowd. More and more men began to break from the crowd, shouting at us, calling us “faggots” and a “disgrace.” One man in particular came to scream at all the young womyn ad said that we had dead babies smeared on his face. He was gripping the hand of his young son, who looked confused and scared. He was wearing, like his father, a shirt that said “NoBama” with the community hammer and sickle in the “O.” It broke my heart because his son was smiling at us and visibly fearful of his father. We shouted back, “great thing to teach your son!” But it doesn’t end here.

Comments were directed several times to the African American crowd protesting, just a few of these clever outbursts being, “Go home and drink your Kool-Aid” or “Go back to Africa!” At this point, many of the demonstrators had had enough and you could feel the tension in the air. The young womyn dressed as the polar bear and Sarah Palin began to do a skit in which Sarah Palin chased the polar bear with a small machine gun, killed her, and took her ears as a trophy.

Then there was the obvious way to make a statement on their hateful comments, which rose applause and smiles from the protesters. During this process I  was violently grabbed by an older wommin, who shouted in my ear, “Baby Killer! Whore! You will get what’s coming to you!” People chanted “show your face! show your face!” and an older man attempted to pull the bandanna from my face as he passed.

A few people were wearing bandannas because we have been photographed before at larger protests and as a result, have been harassed by the police for being “communists, anarchists, terrorists,” etc. Covering your face conceals your identity, and if the police see you otherwise they would have no idea you even attended such an event. Several police officers began threatening those with covered faces, claiming that the Home Depot Center had a policy that you could not be on their grounds if you covered your face. The police came up to me, grabbed my arm, and told me they would have to escort me out if I would not uncover my face. I told them I would escort myself out, and went back to the boulevard to join the other protesters.

Despite the media coverage of the stadium “overflowing” with supporters, it has to be taken into consideration that they were filling the smaller stadium of the Home Depot Center, and not the larger one used for concerts and such.

You could liken its size to the stadium where Shamu does his flips and tricks, which is not saying much. As everyone knows, this is the event where Palin made her inflammatory statements about Obama “palling around with terrorists.” After a few hours of demonstrating people began to disperse because it was rumored that there would be another demonstration in Costa Mesa near the Performing Arts Center, where Palin would be fundraising.

It was unclear whether Palin was at the fundraising event or whether it was a leak to keep protesters away from where she was speaking in Carson. Aside from a few people walking by in suits and formal attire, she was m.i.a., and so after a few hours the crowd began to leave. For the most part my friends and I sat on the floor with our signs, overwhelmed by the division at this event. People began to take photos of us, taking our like circle of friends on the floor as a statement, when we simply were tired. Our spirits were risen by a few other students from CSULB who were dressed as McCain, Obama, and Clinton. They held these signs beneath them, and often danced around with gay-pride flags.

The protest ended with a man and his young daughter playing the bongos and cowbell and as the man dressed as McCain did a striptease to the counter-protestors on the other side. After this, everyone left the premises, going home to flip through the channels to see if we got any coverage. It’s obvious we didn’t.

And so that is my summation of the protests last Saturday. Carson, I felt, was much more spirited and progressive than the demonstration in Costa Mesa. There was too much inner argument in Costa Mesa and the circular space where everyone was standing made it so that many people were hidden in the back and could not be seen. It was wonderful, however, to see so many small children running around in Costa Mesa in their heely shoes, shouting, “I think she’s here! Grab your sign, Billy!”

And I will leave you with this, a picture of a dancing vagina and the previously mentioned Sarah Palin look-a-like, both wommin from feminist organizations at CSULB.

Peace, Love, and Pie –
Nina, the babykiller whore who no one will sleep with

September 26, 2008

Who is free speech for?

Check out this article at the Utne Reader.

“Three weeks after the Republican National Convention came to St. Paul, Mayor Chris Coleman announced that the city will drop charges of unlawful assembly against journalists stemming from protests outside of the Xcel Energy Center. The Associated Press quoted Coleman’s prepared statement: “This decision reflects the values we have in St. Paul to protect and promote our First Amendment rights to freedom of the press.”

In the weeks leading to this decision, journalists across the country have shared outrage, disappointment, and anger at the sheer number of their own arrested throughout the four-day event. And yet, in decrying the treatment of their credentialed peers, journalists fail to recognize that every citizen has a First Amendment right to record events taking place on a public street, including police actions…

…Notably absent from the panel was a representative of alternative media, although as the conversation ensued, concerned citizens and journalists from alternative media outlets took their turn at the microphone. Charlie Underwood, who was a street medic during the protests, disputed the focus on journalists. “Are you trying to reserve a special category of citizen that does not get pepper sprayed, that does not get arrested, that does not have the same punitive things happen to them under these situations of police brutality that the rest of us do?” he asked…

…“All of us have a right to be on the streets. Journalism has gone through a tremendous revolution in the last 10 years. It’s no longer the two or three corporations that control the television networks or the newspapers. There’s no longer this concentration of power that has a monopoly on all the news. There’s a lot of stuff happening on the Internet, there’s a lot of stuff happening on YouTube and so on, that has much more validity for people than whatever Rupert Murdoch thinks is news. I think Charlie’s point is absolutely to the point. I’m not a member of that media, I’m a member of a different, alternative media, and I have absolute rights to witness what’s happening and a responsibility to communicate that.”..

…When Tompkins confronted panelists with the question of how to define a journalist, they displayed clear reluctance to give a definition. Gottfried seemed the least willing to answer the question, simply responding with, “I don’t know.” Deputy Mayor Mulholland said that she believed the mayor was referring to anyone who was there to tell a story and called themselves a journalist, but went on to say, “I have no idea how to define a journalist, and I don’t know that all of us in the room really know how to define journalist. I therefore ask the question, how are law enforcement officials supposed to answer that question while in the midst of a public safety scene?”