Wait not

Last Wednesday, as mourners gathered by the thousands to pay tribute to civil rights icon Rosa Parks, about 150 people honored her memory in a different way, standing on the corner of Woodward and Warren avenues in Detroit, declaring that now is the time to drive George W. Bush from office.

The protest wasn’t intended to coincide with Parks’ funeral at Greater Grace Temple. Plans for the demonstration were formed weeks ago, with the event coordinated to occur as similar actions were staged in cities across the country. Given that the local media were understandably focused on the funeral, the protest received no coverage locally — as far as we could see. But attention was scant most everywhere protests were held. There were reports that a couple of thousand people turned out in Los Angeles, and more than a thousand in Seattle. Many of the demonstrations took place on college campuses, in places like Athens, Ohio, and Enid, Okla.

The propelling force in all this is the group World Can’t Wait (worldcantwait.org).

The Detroit protest, taking place near the Wayne State campus, featured a healthy mix of young, old and middle-aged. There were college students in torn jeans, and grannies in flower-bedecked straw hats. There was even a suit-clad businessman or two. We got a kick out of the guy wearing a Bush mask pretending to kick three people dressed as political prisoners with black hoods over their heads. Gotta love that street theater.

Speaker Julie Hurwitz, executive director of Detroit’s Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice, told the crowd:

“On the day when one of our country’s greatest heroes is laid to rest — Rosa Parks, a woman who took a stand for civil rights and whose bravery triggered an unprecedented mass movement to advance the rights of the oppressed and the underrepresented — we are witnessing the culmination of another unprecedented movement. Not a mass movement, but rather a movement of a few. The few who own and control the vast majority of wealth in this country and the world. The few who seek to garner control over our individual rights. The few who seek to move this country in a direction frighteningly akin to what we witnessed in Germany during the 1930s and 1940s.”

As News Hits watched, drivers of cars rolling by blasted their horns in support of the demonstrators. It’s a safe bet more would have been there had the funeral not been going on at the same time. But we’re also guessing that the showing wouldn’t have been huge, no matter what. And we’re left to wonder what it’s going to take for people to wise up?

Certainly, the Bush administration’s horrific response to Hurricane Katrina pulled off a lot of blinders. The mounting death toll in Iraq, and the spiraling costs of that ill-fated war are becoming harder and harder for the complacent to ignore. Those tax cuts for the rich, while public schools languish and the nation’s health care system becomes more dysfunctional, are no longer abstract notions, but rather implemented policies with verifiable repercussions. Still, people aren’t taking to the streets en masse. At least not yet. Not in this country, anyway. But consider this report from Reuters regarding events in Argentina last week:

“Anti-U.S. demonstrations at the Americas Summit turned violent on Friday as protesters set fire to a bank, looted stores and battled riot police blocks from a luxury hotel where U.S. President George W. Bush met with regional leaders.

“The violence came hours after tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets shouting ‘Get out Bush!’ in a peaceful protest against the U.S. leader, who is unpopular among many Latin Americans who oppose the Iraq war and his push for a regional free trade deal.”

Last Friday, News Hits went to hear a presentation by former Wayne Circuit Judge Claudia Morcom held at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Detroit, which is just across the street from the scene of Wednesday’s demonstration. Morcom talked about two reports she recently presented to the United Nations Human Rights Committee on behalf of the nonprofit Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute.

In one report, Morcom outlined “17 types of human rights violations” committed by the United States in relation to Hurricane Katrina. A second report detailed human rights violations related to anti-terrorist actions committed by this country since Sept. 11, 2001. Regarding that issue, Morcom told the UN:

“The report cites the laws violated and ignored, including the U.S. Constitution, the UN Charter, the treaty and laws of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, The Geneva Conventions, the Convention Against Torture, the Nuremberg Principles, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.”

Morcom told a group of about 40 people that if change comes, it won’t be from the top down, but rather from activists working at the grassroots level. It is the same message being sent by the World Can’t Wait organizers. What’s needed is for people to organize, and to act cohesively.

The next target for a mass demonstration is Bush’s State of the Union address early next year.

“We remember how Bush used his State of the Union in 2003 to make his lying case for the war against Iraq,” say WCW organizers. “We know that he will want to use it this year to lay out his plans for another year of his literally horrific agenda, and set the political terms for the whole country.”

The world really can’t wait.

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