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The songs of Johnny Cash--"the Man in Black"--were beacons of light for those who were unjustly locked up, kicked down, and knocked around. He sang from his heart for the poor, the imprisoned, and the oppressed.
And, as John Nichols wrote in his Nation weblog after Cash's death last year, "Though he was not known as an expressly political artist, Cash waded into the controversies of his times with a passion. Like the US troops in Vietnam who idolized him, he questioned the wisdom of that war. And in the mid-1960s, at the height of his success, he released an album that challenged his country's treatment of Native Americans."
But it was his songs which really marked him as a man of the people. He took sides in his songs, and he preferred the side of those imprisoned by the law--and by poverty and hard luck.
Yet, this Tuesday the GOP and the American Gas Association, a network of 154 utility multinationals, are shamelessly trying to appropriate the singer-songwriter's legacy by hosting an exclusive "celebration" of Cash for the Republican delegation from Tennessee inside the elite corridors of Sotheby's auction house.
In response, an ad-hoc group of activists have created a website to honor Cash's memory (www.defendjohnnycash.org) and to express what is safe to say would be Cash's outrage over the Bush Administration's malign neglect of the poor in this country. Do you think Cash would be supporting the President's economic policies? How about the Iraq war? If you think the answer is "no," then come join other Johnny Cash defenders at 4:00pm (dressed in black if you'd like) on Tuesday, August 31st, at Sotheby's at 1334 York Avenue in Manhattan.
As the call to action reads: "Bring your black clothing, pompadour, guitars (real or cardboard), hair grease, singing voice, megaphones, jail-stripes, skeleton costumes, signs, art, posters, CD players, boom-boxes, musical instruments, Johnny posters and records, and, of course, your favorite political Cash lyrics as big as you can print 'em!"
And check out a Tennessee group that is doing work in Cash's tradition: Music Row Democrats, formed in December 2003 by a group of Nashville music industry leaders who were "fed up with feeling as if they had to apologize for being Democrats, particularly when they knew that Republican policies were negatively affecting the lives of the working class people who make up much of the audience for their music."
We'll continue to highlight some of the hundreds of anti-RNC protests, panels, presentations and parties as the RNC draws closer, so watch this space for details and let us know about any activities you think we should be featuring by clicking here.
On the eve of the Republican National Convention, the Artists Network of Refuse & Resist! is presenting an evening of performance to honor "Courageous Resisters" this Thursday, August 26, at 7:30 PM, at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at New York University in lower Manhattan.
Co-sponsored by The Nation and a host of other New York City-based progressive groups and organizations, the event will celebrate the courage of those resisting the conservative agenda sweeping the US today. Honorees include Aaron Lebowitz, a high school student in Darby, Montana who resisted a resolution to make creationism part of his school's curriculum; Toni Smith, the New York City college basketball player who refused to line up with her teammates during the national anthem as a symbol of her opposition to war in Iraq; Camilo Mejia, the first US soldier to go AWOL because of his antiwar stance (now in the brig); Juanita Young, a leader of the movement against police brutality in New York City whose son was killed by the police and Jason West, the mayor of New Paltz, New York, who was charged with 19 criminal counts after he married gay and lesbian couples. (Click here for a complete list of the honorees.)
Numerous artists--graphic, visual and musical--will present original work in honor of the Resisters, including Odetta, Steve Earle, Andre Gregory, Dan Bern, Blair Brown, Vijay Iyer, Martha Lavey, Mari Mariposa, Ellen McLaughlin, Omar Metwally, Tracie Morris, Mikel Paris and Beau Sia. Click here for tickets and info or call 212-992-8484.
The Imagine Festival of Arts, Issues and Ideas is another of the many creative responses to the RNC and the threat posed by a second Bush term. A gala of more than 125 events mixing artistic and educational activities through a series of concerts, performances, screenings, forums, town meetings and artwork, the Festival takes place all over New York City from August 28 to September 2. Click here for the full schedule and click here to see The People's Guide for a daily calendar of RNC-related events generally.
Earlier this week, Mayor Bloomberg offered, among other inducements, a ten percent discount at participating New York City Applebee's to all RNC protesters who picked up and presented a powder-blue NYC "Peaceful Political Activist" button.
The location of these Applebee's are some of the few points of interest to protesters not chronicled in The People's Guide, a free compendium of events, directions, legal resources, restaurant recommendations, hospital locations, and other valuable RNC-related material. "Intended to standardize communication among event-planners, protesters, media, tourists, wanderers, monitors, hangers-on, and friends," the recently published guide offers a tremendous amount of info on the anticipated protests, panels, presentations, performances and parties that are expected to greet the GOP delegates when they hit New York City.
Click here to check out The People's Guide, click here for a daily calendar of RNC-related events and click here for a list of suggested ways you can help the anti-RNC efforts. We'll continue to highlight various events, protests and campaigns as the RNC draws closer, so watch this space for details and let us know about any activities you think we should be featuring by clicking here.
As virtually all Nation readers know, there are literally hundreds of events being planned to greet the Republican delegates when the GOP arrives in New York City to convene at the end of August. Kicking off the anticipated protests, panels, presentations and parties is this Friday's Beyond Bush: A Night of Visionary Resistance, taking place at Hunter College in Manhattan.
The keynote event of the Life After Capitalism Festival, this evening features talks by some of the most inspiring dissident voices of the time, including Nation columnist and award-winning author Naomi Klein, Robin Kelley, Vijay Prashad and Michael Albert. The session will also include a special extended preview of the acclaimed documentary, The Fourth World War.
This all takes place at Hunter College's Assembly Hall this Friday, August 20, at 7:00pm. Click here or call 212-817-8215 for tickets, which are being sold on a sliding scale, and click here for directions to Hunter.
Taking place this coming weekend, the LAC Festival aims to provide space for activists to gather and reflect on the importance of long-term vision and strategy through a series of workshops, breakout sessions and informal networking. Panel discussions over the course of the weekend featureAdolph Reed, Michael Hardt, Lisa Fithian, Jason West, Lynne Stewart and Starhawk, among many others. Click here for more info.
The first-ever Imagine Festival of Arts, Issues and Ideas is another of the many creative responses to the RNC convention and the threat posed by a Bush victory in November. A gala of more than 125 events mixing artistic and educational activities through a series of concerts, performances, screenings, forums, town meetings and performance art, the Imagine Festival takes place all over New York City from August 28 to September 2. Click here for more details, event listings and ticket info.
And check out the CounterConvention website for information about the full range of planned protest, cultural and educational activities while the Republican Party meets in New York City. You can also find useful resources at RNCNotWelcome.Org, including info on housing and transportation, downloadable flyers and graphics to help get out the word, and a list of suggested ways you can help the anti-RNC efforts.
We'll continue to highlight various events, protests and campaigns as the RNC draws nearer, so watch this space for details and let us know about any activities you think we should be featuring by clicking here.
Nation readers are likely familiar with the way that New York City has been stonewalling the antiwar coalition United for Peace & Justice's efforts to obtain a legal permit for what will be the biggest rally of the Republican convention week on August 29.
UFP applied for a permit for a rally in Central Park last April. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg refused, citing concerns for the grass and offered an arid, treeless stretch of the West Side Highway, far from Madison Square Garden, as the only possible alternative. Yesterday, with the convention only three weeks away, United for Peace and Justice insisted it be allowed to protest in Central Park and said it will sue the city for the right to rally there, if necessary.
This insistence has received widespread support from local elected and civic officials, especially since the same space has held events--like an Elton John concert--with far more people than the rally will draw. And it's not unusual for things of this sort to be held in grassy areas. As New York Newsday columnist Ellis Henican asked today in his column: "What do the gardeners in Washington know that the gardeners in Central Park never learned?"
Mayor Bloomberg is willing to spend millions to subsidize the RNC, but isn't willing to consider any expense related to a protest. In any event UFPJ has even offered to put up a bond for restoration of the grass, if necessary, but the city won't discuss it.
A Quinnipiac University poll found that 75 percent of New Yorkers back the park protest. Even Rupert Murdoch's strongly pro-war New York Post has joined the chorus along with all of New York City's other dailies, in calling on Bloomberg to reverse his decision: "A gaggle of lefty agitators wants to convene in Central Park this summer to give President Bush a little grief. But the Parks Department says no, because they might bend the grass. Well, too bad. 'Keep Off The Grass' appears nowhere in the First Amendment."
UFPJ is asking people to call Bloomberg to politely protest the city's denial of the right to rally in Central Park on August 29. You can email the Mayor by clicking here or call his office at 212-788-3000. It may also help to let the Parks Commissioner, Adrian Benepe, know how you feel. His office can be reached at 212-360-1305 or by clicking here.
You can also click here to go to the UFPJ website for updates on this struggle to secure the right to protest, and click here for information about the full range of planned protest, cultural and educational activities while the Republican Party meets in New York City.
Despite scant notice from the media, a potentially historic bill was recently introduced in Congress by Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and George Miller (D-CA). The "Play Fair at the Olympics Act" requires companies under contract with the US Olympic Committee to observe international labor rights standards, including freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively as well as the elimination of child labor and discrimination in the workplace.
This bill could be a major step forward for the Play Fair at the Olympics Campaign and in the global struggle against sweatshop labor. Ensuring that a world-wide event such as the Olympics promote internationally-recognized workplace standards strengthens the struggle to expand and enforce those rights around the globe. As Rep. Miller stated, "Our bill says that no matter where products with the US Olympic logo are made, the fundamental human rights of the workers making those products must be respected. Just as we expect fair play from our Olympic athletes, the Olympic gear our athletes use should be made under fair conditions."
To promote support for the bill (H.R. 4988), organizers from the AFL-CIO and Oxfam America are trying to get the US Olympic Committee on board. Its endorsement could really help push Congress to do the right thing for workers' rights.
Please click here to join Oxfam America's petition to the US Olympic Committee, asking for support for the bill, click here for contact info for your elected rep to write them yourself and click here to read and circulate more info on the International Play Fair at the Olympics Campaign.
In his last year in office, President Bill Clinton passed the so-called Roadless Area Conservation Rule, a conservation initiative that protected 58.5 million acres of wild national forest land from commercial logging and road-building. The rule was enacted with widespread public support, generating 1.5 million positive comments from US citizens who praised the effort to protect the last remaining wild forest lands.
On July 12, the Bush Administration reversed its pledge not to dismantle these environmental protections, announcing a wholesale weakening of the rule that puts the fate of our national forests in the hands of state governments.
Since it took office, the Bush White House has been quietly undermining the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. But now the President's proposal will openly allow timber, oil, and mining interests to build roads in these last protected areas in order to facilitate logging.
As the Center for American Progress showed recently on its website, this Administration decision has sparked editorial outrage nationwide, suggesting widespread public opposition to this latest assault on the environment. The lead from the Kansas City Star's editorial of July 15 is a representative example: "In another payoff to campaign contributors, the Bush Administration has swept aside federal protections for the nation's forests. The result will be chopped-up forests in many parts of the country, particularly in the West where most untouched forests remain."
Or this from the Louisville Courier-Journal of the same day: "From the people who produced Iraq World--a $100 billion mess that has claimed thousands of lives in a war based on false premises and shoddy planning--now comes Timber World."
The Nation shares this outrage and has joined a coalition of groups--including the Sierra Club and 20/20 Vision--sponsoring a national letter-writing campaign to Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth. Write Bosworth today to make it clear to the Bush Administration that Americans oppose the wholesale destruction of America's last wild forests.
With Boston in the books, progressives can now get ready for some serious protesting when the GOP hits the unlikely shores of New York City for its convention, beginning on August 30. There are scores of demonstrations, marches, protests, vigils, concerts, panels, presentations and parties planned in opposition to George Bush's visit and his Administration's reactionary extremism. (Probably the largest single march will take place on August 29.)
Watch this space in the coming days for info on what's planned and click here to check out CounterConvention.Org, a new website designed to facilitate and highlight organizing against this year's Republican National Convention.
Many Americans oppose the war in Iraq, and they want to vote for a party that will bring the troops home. The Democratic Party has not promised to do that, which is why antiwar protesters have gathered in Boston.
They had hoped to stage a series of peaceful protests, to show the Democrats, who are holding their convention in Boston this week, how strongly they feel. The problem is that organizers of the convention have said protesters can gather only in a large wire cage that has been built under Boston's elevated train tracks. It has one entrance and one exit, and is topped by razor wire. As AP reporter Mark Jewell wrote, "The maze of overhead netting, chain link fencing and razor wire couldn't be further in comfort from the high-tech confines of the arena stage where John Kerry is to accept the Democratic nomination for president."
Click here to read a report on the DNC Protest Pit by Caroline Overington from the Sydney Morning Herald and click here to listen to Amy Goodman's Democracy Now!, which is broadcasting live reports on what's happening on the streets of Boston.
Though they won't come close to matching the intensity or volume of expected protests at the Republican National Convention in New York City at the end of August, there are numerous progressive demonstrations taking place all over Boston this week as the Democrats convene.
The Boston Social Forum is winding down today after a standing-room-only weekend of alternative networking, performances, discussions and debates. On Monday, the Black Tea Society will sponsor a rally against police brutality, prison abuse and the Patriot Act from 10 am to 12 noon on the Boston Common, followed by a march to the Fleet Center; Dennis Kucinich and his supporters will hold a public forum on Civil Liberties at 12 noon at St. Paul's Church on Tremont Street and the Massachusetts Civil Liberties Union will host an Alternative Freedom Trail Tour through Boston from 2:00pm to 5:00pm.
On Tuesday, the American Friends Service Committee will sponsor the Eyes Wide Open Exhibit opposing US war in Iraq from 9:00am to 9:00pm in Copley Square with speakers and music starting at 7:30pm. And on Wednesday, the Campaign for America's Future and The Nation team up to present a forum on Iraq, the US and the Democrats featuring Katrina vanden Heuvel, Joe Wilson, Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee, Gail Smith and Tom Andrews. Watch this space and click here for more info on planned events in Boston.
Bonus Media Link: Click here to read Anne-Marie O'Connor's July 24th Los Angeles Times op-ed surveying the activist community for its views on protesting at this year's DNC.