Saturday, November 10, 2007

On the road to taking back democracy

While the goal is to pro-actively set the political agenda rather than react to one set by our elected officials, we are far from being in that position currently. On the road to achieving that goal we have to continue to give voice to what we want and what we need, especially when it is in direct conflict with the behavior, decisions, policies or legislature being proposed or supported by those elected to represent us. And we need to continue raising the profile and decibel of our message by broadcasting it in as many open forums as possible in an attempt to generate enough energy and momentum to create change.

The remainder of this post is the work of a New York State Netroots, a group to which I belong, in reaction to Senator Schumer's declaration to support Michael Mukasey's nomination for Attorney General. It starts with a summary, written by NY NetRooters Sari Joseph and Joanne Lukacher, describing how some emails coalesced into an event and ends with Julie, RagingGurrl's video of the event. It is a great demonstration of people power
Sari Joseph and Joanne Lukacher's written summary
As soon as word came out on Friday afternoon, that Senators Schumer and Feinstein had decided to vote in favor of Michael Mukasey's confirmation, our NY Net Roots group started the barrage of emails to one another that seemed to cause actual wisps of smoke to waft out of our computers. Mukasey's testimony about waterboarding and his "tortured" theory about the scope of presidential privilege was, to say the least, disheartening and alarming. We worked through the weekend on a strategy to try and persuade Senator Schumer to change his mind when he voted on Tuesday. Monday was the one day we could try and reach him when he'd be in NYC before heading back to DC to vote on the nomination.

The efforts of the New York group were augmented by the talents of Selise from Massachusetts who assisted Jill in downloading Mukasey's testimony to the Judiciary committee for a video focusing on the nominee’s statements regarding torture and executive privilege. From Jill’s video compilation it became obvious that Mukasey would become a vehicle for providing retroactive immunity for the crimes of the Bush administration. In an effort to follow protocol as much as possible while insisting on a timely meeting prior to the scheduled Tuesday vote, Joanne worked on a cover letter to fax to Schumer's office requesting a meeting and a list of questions to which we wanted a response. The questions addressed the specific specious assertions in Schumer's statement announcing his vote, demanding answers as to how Mukasey, who had publicly succumbed to the Bush administration’s tortured theories of executive immunity, had demonstrated, in Schumer’s own words, “strength, independence and integrity.” With the assistance of Siun, Lee who would be unable to attend the Monday meeting worked late into the night on Sunday to compose and fax a press release to AP date book and first thing Monday morning while some of our group were driving and training to New York City, Julie made a call to the Senator’s Manhattan office to try to confirm a meeting with his staff for later that day.

When we arrived at Senator Schumer's office there was a very respectable showing with several groups already gathered outside the building for a scheduled vigil. There were some great signs too - medieval drawings of waterboarding and others shredding the Constitution. Although Julie, who was remembered by the Senatorial staff for her exploits with the video camera on our last visit in May 2006, was initially encouraged that we would get a meeting, ultimately we were turned down, the message conveyed to us by the guard on the reception desk. It seemed that the office was taken aback by the turnout of protesters and were in no mood to try and justify Schumer's vote. The phones were ringing off the hook, besieged by outraged constituents and they were probably quite concerned about any press the scene in front of the building might get.

While, not surprisingly, the event was not covered by the local or national press, we came prepared to be our own media.

Julie interviewed and videotaped the people in front of Schumer's building. The range of folks was great - we had orange jump-suits, black hooded protesters and other folks, young and old, some of whom had traveled long distances to be there. Everybody interviewed in the video is articulate and compelling and pretty fed-up with the "opposition" party which seems to enable Bush and the Republicans at every opportunity.

Enjoy the video - these folks speak for all of us.

Schumer's Constituents Speak Out!
Julie, (RagingGurrl) shot and edited the video

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