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UNWELCOMING THE REPUBLICANS

About the Author

John Nichols
John Nichols
John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated...

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A new project by NETWORK, the Catholic social justice lobby, invites a reconsideration of a duty to the poor.

A Kansas represented by the outgoing HHS secretary would tell Democrats to get over their timidity.

"It's surprising that the Republicans are coming to Philadelphia, really surprising. They obviously aren't aware of how organized people in this city are--and how angry,'' says

Rebecca Ewing

of

Philadelphia ACT UP

. Organizers predict they'll fill the streets with militant protests--some sanctioned, some not--that recall not just Seattle but Chicago in 1968. "We started this with the slogan, 'Make History in Philadelphia.' I no longer think that's hyperbole,'' says the

Pennsylvania Consumer Action Network

's

Michael Morrill

, organizer for the biggest planned event, the July 30

Unity

march. Long before last fall's demonstrations against the World Trade Organization put protest back on the map, Philly ACT UP and the

Kensington Welfare Rights Union

(KWRU) pioneered the in-the-face-of-power activism that rocked Seattle. Philly ACT UP trained Seattle protesters; KWRU's

Cheri Honkala

was arrested entering a WTO meeting with a citizen's arrest warrant charging G7 trade ministers with economic crimes against humanity. Seattle authorities tried to slap Honkala with a nationwide gag order, but she beat the rap on free-speech grounds. That hasn't stopped Philadelphia authorities from attempting to gag Honkala in her hometown. Denied a city permit for their

March for Economic Rights

on July 31, the convention's opening day, KWRU will take to Philadelphia's Broad Street anyway. "If the police try to stop us, George W. Bush and his compassionate conservatives will open their convention by throwing poor and homeless people in jail,'' says Honkala. Marchers from as far away as Idaho and Florida will pitch a tent camp dubbed "Bushville.'' But the bulk of the crowd is expected to hail from Philadelphia, with a big contingent from Philly ACT UP, an AIDS activist group that has stretched to address issues ranging from healthcare reform to global trade. "We won't let them rest easy,'' says Ewing.


PLENTY OF PROTESTS

Delegates arriving July 29 will be greeted by the

Ad Hoc Committee to Defend Health Care

march, a protest organized by healthcare professionals under the banner for our patients, not for profit.... On that same day,

Silent March

, the grassroots gun-control group, will lay out 30,000 pairs of shoes on the Liberty Bell Pavilion and Independence Mall. "The shoes represent the number of people killed each year in America by firearms,'' explains co-founder

Ellen Freudenheim

.

Handgun Control

's July 30

Slam the NRA

concert at Philadelphia's Trocadero will feature

Blessid Union of Souls

,

The Samples

,

Melissa Ferrick

and organizer

Leslie Nuchow

.... The July 30 Unity march will include activists from the

AFL-CIO

,

NAACP

,

NOW

, the

Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

and "

Corpazilla

,'' an eighty-foot float featuring mud wrestlers decked out as Bush and Gore.... The satirical

Billionaires for Bush (or Gore)

hit the streets July 30 for a

Million Billionaire March

to complain that "inequality is not growing fast enough.''... Noting GOP support for capital punishment, groups like the

Campaign to End the Death Penalty

and the

Pennsylvania Abolitionists

promise July 30 protests to "crash the executioners' ball.''... The

Philadelphia Direct Action Group

and the

Ruckus Society

plan street protests August 2-3, with highrises sporting anticorporate banners, blockades at delegate hotels and other acts of nonviolent civil disobedience.


OUT OF THE SHADOWS

Don't look for issue dialogues at the stage-managed convention. But at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Center, Arizona Senator

John McCain

and Connecticut Congressman

Chris Shays

will talk campaign finance reform, and New Mexico Governor

Gary Johnson

and California Congressman

Tom Campbell

will discuss failed drug policies. The renegade Republicans join the

Rev. Jesse Jackson

, Ben & Jerry's co-founder

Ben Cohen

and others for a four-day

Shadow Convention

organized by

United for a Fair Economy

,

Common Cause

,

Public Campaign

, the

Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation

,

Call to Renewal

, the

National Campaign for Jobs and Income Support

and author

Arianna Huffington

. "Even Republicans realize you don't go to the Bush coronation to talk about issues,'' says UFE's

Chuck Collins

.


PAUL ROBESON'S ECHO

Philadelphia hasn't hosted a high-profile party convention since 1948. At the Progressive Party gathering that year, former Vice President Henry Wallace launched a crusade to revive the New Deal and prevent the cold war. Retired farm activist

Merle Hansen

, a Wallace campaigner that year, says

Paul Robeson

's "presence just took over everything.'' Robeson brought 3,240 Progressive delegates to their feet with songs and an oration unlikely to be echoed from this year's GOP podium. "What a mockery. Our high standard of living for a minority in the richest country on earth! Absentee ownership still rules supreme,'' the actor declared. "One percent of the population still owns as much wealth as one-third of the ill-housed, ill-fed, ill-clothed whom [Franklin] Roosevelt so feelingly described.'' Were he still alive, Robeson would deliver the same message today, says Hansen. As it is, visitors can catch a fine Robeson exhibition at the African American Museum in Philadelphia.

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