BUSH IN PHILADEPHIA, JULY 4TH


July 5, 2001

Dear Bill Borders,

Well, you did it again. I just read, on-line, the NY Times coverage of > Bush's appearance in Philadelphia yesterday. And once again, those of us who had traveled down from New York, New Jersey and elsewhere to protest, and those who were citizens of the city Bush was appearing in, who came together with us to tell him he was not welcome there -- not even a sentence about us was to be found.

Wherever Bush goes, he meets with angry protests on a scale never seen in the Clinton era. This is news. This is an aspect of his presidency worth covering, along with the puff nonsense about how well he passes a football, and the picture with the "Philly Phanatic," and reports on whether or not he read the script written by someone else without any gaffes. HE is the scripted, artificial event; the protesters, what our home-made signs say, what we chant, how far away we are, cordoned off in our little "First Amendment Zone" (that bit of Bush II Newspeak itself is worth some coverage and contemplation) and how we interact with those in the crowd who cautiously support us, those who oppose us and with the police and the secret service is the real news. Anything can happen; there is no script pre-designed by spin doctors. You covered civil rights protests in the 1960s. You covered those who turned out to protest Bush all over Europe a month ago. Are not American citizens, here and now, as important as Europeans? The article on the 4th mentions how Bush praised our nations' traditions of freedom and limitations on government; do you see no irony in this administration's efforts, at such a moment, to sweep debate and dissent under the rug? Since your reporters did not manage to cover it, I'll tell you a bit of what happened. We were first coralled in an area far away from Independence Hall. We surrounded ourselves with orange police tape (orange for Florida) on which Dean, from DemocracyMarch, had had printed: FIRST AMENDMENT ZONE. Mike of Citizens for a Legitimate Government had the leading role in organizing the protest, but others of us were from DemocracyMarch which is NYC-based, and other groups who interact on-line. Mike yelled to the crowds about Database Technology and the voter purge in Florida, and the hundreds of lawyers who have decried the Supreme Court's ruling.

Across the street from us, granted far greater access and proximity -- of course -- were a group with a name like BushTaxRelief.com. Their yellow and blue signs were, of course, all glossy and the same and mass-produced, as no doubt is their ideology. We heckled each other across the street. We shouted: "You sold your constitution for $300. Think you got a bargain?" My friend Chris passed out flyers with quotes from Washington and Jefferson and other founding fathers she had found which seemed to cannily comment on the day. There is a very vocal French-born woman named Monique who lives in Philadelphia whom we met, who passionately shouted to the crowds about democratic rights and constitutional freedoms. We told her she was our Lafayette.

We were eventually allowed down a side street nearer to Independence Hall. People who were attending the festivities by the hall told us later they could hear us; your reporter David E. Sanger might know better than we whether Bush heard us. When we heard cheers to signify he was arriving, we yelled "Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame!" and "Fraud!" and "Stop, Thief!" We talked to people in the crowd about how all these festivities in Philadelphia on the 4th, including Bush's appearance, were sponsored, appropriately enough, by Sunoco. (Another fact your puff piece omitted to mention.) But, we said, only people can sponsor liberty and democracy. We chanted "A democratic nation, not owned by corporations." We chanted "We are the patriots." To those who shouted "Get over it!" we chanted "We'll get over it when he moves out." We shouted to impeach Bush and to impeach the Supreme Court Five. We shouted: "Undo the coup!"

We shouted that Jim Jeffords is a hero, Bush a zero. We begged Bush to go AWOL again. We shouted that we joined with the rest of Planet Earth in repudiating Bush's agenda. I held a home-made sign that proclaimed "THE DIMNESS OF KING GEORGE."

I spoke to people in the crowd about how a mind-addled king, remote from the colonists here in America, cannot impose his unfair new tax distribution upon us when we have no representation (for he is not legitimate) and how July 4th was the time to come together to take back our our country and fight the crown. A woman with a hand-held microphone came over to heckle us and to try to drown us out. I yelled to the crowd: "That Tory supports the King, but she is no friend to our constitution and no friend to democracy. They may have the high-tech equipment and the media, but we have the numbers, they can't drown us out!" This evoked a positive response from some of those on the balcony of the building next to us, watching our little drama unfold. I demanded if the woman with the mike had a permit for it, as we did not. This caused the police to, reluctantly, ask her to desist. The police were more hostile than those I have encountered in Washington and NYC: pushing us back down the sidestreet as far as they could, until we yelled to the crowd to fight for the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights on the Fourth of July.

We were not the whole story, but we were part of the story. You distort the national record by blacking us out. Perhaps you will finally cover the domestic opposition to Bush when he comes to Manhattan on July 10th for the ceremony to honor Cardinal O'Connor. The White House, in order to avoid the protesters you so stoutly refuse to cover, has developed curious strategems when it comes to having Bush visit unfriendly states. They keep upcoming trips to such places a secret, and float rumors about different dates, to frustrate civic dissent, to make it difficult for us to apply for permits and organize in time. The trip to NYC has been planned and scotched so many times that local groups have on-line lists pertaining to that only: we stand by like the Minute Men for word of his plans; we wait for a Paul Revere signal. Is he going to Liberty Island or Ellis Island, or isn't he?

Local planners join in the coy games; they won't tell us. The other part of the White House strategy is to have Bush fly in and out to attend events that in and of themselves appear worthy -- so that protests can be spun as being in bad taste. His only venture to a place like Boston will be for the funeral of a man like Joe Moakley, so that those who protest can be presented as protesting the funeral. And so people are debating how to handle his first trip to Manhattan since the campaign, should it be comprised only of the stop at St. Patrick's. A coalition of groups, from the staid Sierra Club to some much newer and more radical, is looking for a way to mark the occasion appropriately. Our guess is that media like the Times will be apt to present us in the negative light the administration wants, whatever we do -- again, if we are covered at all.

George W. Bush was not elected; over a third of the electorate does not consider him legitimate. His approval rating is down to 50%. He made us a laughing stock before the world; he does not know that Africa is a continent and not a country. He cannot speak English in clear, coherent sentences. There is a growing movement, springing up fairly spontaneously nation-wide and around the world, to oppose his agenda. People in this country show up to protest him wherever he goes. Strangers are coming together, in living rooms and on the internet, who were never politically active before. There are law suits over Florida pending, and impeachment proceedings pending. People are taking their freedoms for granted much less, and are re-examining what it means to be an American, what makes a nation a democracy, the role of the electoral college, what sort of ballot-counting system would be most fair and most tamper-proof, and so forth.

2002 could see a landslide for the Democrats in both the House and the Senate -- which will mean that all these legal initiatives acquire far more momentum. The newspaper of record should discuss and document this story as it unfolds. Stop trying to bolster the status quo by making him appear "more legitimate" in people's minds -- because that's not what honest journalism is about, and it isn't working anyway. Declare your independence!

Just one voter and reader's opinion --

Judy Klass





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