The tangible evidence that the change
promised had indeed arrived in Washington came two days before the president was inaugurated, when
stepped off the blacklist to which some would still consign him and serenaded Obama. Seeger, the unrepentant radical who once directed the song “Dear Mr. President” to
, still gets redbaited now and again. But the 89-year-old singer has outlasted the members of Congress who called him before the
House Un-American Activities Committee
(where, famously, he asserted his freedom-of-association right to refuse to answer questions about the
) and the entertainment industry executives who refused him microphones for decades.
It helped that Seeger appeared with a kid named
and that the song they sang,
‘s “This Land Is Your Land,” is darn near the progressive national anthem. But for all the talk of Obama’s centrist inclinations and cautious messaging, he began his inaugural celebration by singing and clapping along with an old lefty who remembered Depression-era verses of the song that took a class-conscious swipe at those whose Private Property signs turned away union organizers, hobos and banjo players. JOHN NICHOLS
FREE THE ALAMO:
San Antonio may become the first major US city in which only those who can afford to pay for the right to march can exercise it. Members of the
San Antonio Free Speech Coalition
(SAFSC), a broad-based and fast-growing alliance of local groups, are organizing against a parade ordinance passed by the mayor and city council in November 2007 that would require permitted protesters to pay for traffic control, barricading and cleanup.
Critics fear that if the ordinance is allowed to stand–it is under a court injunction–only those events sponsored by the powerful military and tourism industries, which dominate San Antonio’s economic and political landscape, will be seen on its streets–streets with a long history of protests like the massive immigrants’ rights marches of 2006. Events like a recent pro-Palestine protest outside the
will, coalition members say, become prohibitively costly endeavors setting organizers back thousands of dollars for expenses that are free or very inexpensive in other cities: costs for police traffic control, overtime pay for the officers who may arrest and beat protesters, and barricades that limit space in which marchers can march. An even greater threat, locals like
say, is the assault on their First Amendment rights to free speech and free assembly.
“This [ordinance] pushes people to internalize the official antagonism to dissent,” said Sánchez, who directs the community-based
Esperanza Peace and Justice Center
and is one of the leaders of the SAFSC, which has sued to stop the parade ordinance. “The police and bureaucrats are using the ordinance to discourage protests and make the city more hospitable to tourism and investment. They believe that downtown marches against police brutality or protests against the Israeli government in front of the Alamo are bad for business, especially in difficult economic times.”