Washington University in St. Louis was the setting for the Vice Presidential Debate yesterday evening. Picture perfect, against a sedate Midwestern sunset, barricades were erected and helicopters flew overhead in an Orwellian version of 'freedom lite.' While luxury chartered busses escorted Wash. U. alumnus and various other sundry elites; citizen activists had gathered on a tree lined street to protest the 700 billion dollar bailout to Wall Street, and the ongoing assault on civil liberties.
The crowd for this peaceable protest was diverse. African-Americans, Latinas, young, old and canine were present to exercise their G-d given rights to free speech, peaceable assembly and the right to redress civic authorities for grievances without police threats of tasering.
Groups gathered included Code Pink-St. Louis, Iraq Veterans Against the War, St. Louis Instead of War Coalition, Missourians for Honest Elections, Missouri Jobs With Justice, ACLU, SIEU, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and the National Educational Association. Among these groups were people of faith, who had affiliated themselves with Missouri Jobs With Justice. This subgroup included religious leaders from St. John's Episcopal Church, Aquinas Institute of Theology, Jews United for Justice, Lane Tabernacle CME, and members from the General Baptist Convention of Missouri. It seems that while Sarah Palin was 'preaching the gospel' and pleading the case for endless war; these people of faith were living the gospel.
They wanted an end to these wars of empire in Iraq, Afghanistan and possibly Iran in the future. Local speakers mocked politicians pleading for the 700 billion dollar Wall Street bailout, while noting that some 630 billion had recently been approved in the Defense Spending bill. Denouncing 'trickle down' economics as another ponzi scheme; they demanded healthcare for all and a return to constitutional rule.
While Sarah Palin mocked protesters and declared her patriotism for those serving in Iraq (Sarah pronouncing it EYE-RACK); a grieving father of a deceased soldier was telling his story. His daughter was one of the many deceased female soldiers reported as a suicide. The father explained how his daughter's death had received no true investigation, and how the military had stonewalled his best efforts to unearth the truth. Her body had been sexually assaulted and her left arm mutilated from the blast of her gun with an alleged self-inflicted fatal wound. This father then explained that his daughter--was right-handed.
This bereaved father was one of the protesters wanting admission to the debate. He wanted accountability and transparency from his government--the very same government his daughter volunteered to defend with her last breath. Somehow I suspect that Sarah Palin's son will never receive the evil treatment this young woman did. This grieving father was one of the 'radicals,' or 'militants' that Sarah Palin mocked, while our government denied him and the rest of us--our constitutional rights.
In a bumper sticker society; slogans crafted by the people said more than any 'sound byte.' Some of the more clever examples are as follows:
"2 Parties = 0 Choice"
"Jesus Was A Community Organizer--Pontius Pilate Was A Governor."
"McCain=Bush--4 More Years of Pillaging the Treasury."
"A Woman CAN Be President--Just NOT This Woman."
And of course my favorite; "McCain=Bush--Those Poor People in India Need Your Job."
Immersed through this crowd were young women adorned with faux tiaras and identical helmet hair 'ala' Sarah Palin, and John McCain/Sarah Palin Halloween Masks. All humor aside; mumblings in this neighborly crowd echoed the morbid joke about 'enjoying dessert with a little pepper spray aperitif.'
Facing a police line, the protest leaders of Code Pink and St. Louis Instead of War Coalition requested admission to the debate for selected speakers. Armed with only paper posters and their constitutional rights; they repeated the request while the police line stood there in silence, refusing to acknowledge the presence of fellow citizens. As the protesters continued to plead their case, St. Louis County Police increased their presence with bicycle patrols, dog teams and a paddy wagon. After a tense 15 minute period of police silence, hands ready on firearms--the protest leaders expressed pity for these police waging a silent civil war on fellow citizens, declared the protest pit an obscenity on our Constitution and announced their intention to walk away.
One protester declared that "the entire United States is a Free Speech Zone," and equated police actions with Hitler's fascism in its early days. It wasn't the blood bath of New York in 2004 or in St. Paul this summer--it didn't have to be. The mere action of caging fellow human beings in a protest pit, because their opinions offend the rich and powerful IS an act of fascism.
Some of the officers were asked by a speaker how they could face their families knowing they had created a 'sidewalk jail' for some of the same people they attend church with, or live next door to. One officer replied to this reporter that ..."they were just doing their job." So were Hitler's brown shirts, as they hauled off dissidents to prison camps. While this statement may seem a bit extreme; the precedent is accurate. When did it become morally acceptable to deny some their rights while others receive privilege?
Part of the Washington University campus is in a sleepy, but affluent town of Clayton, Missouri. The average house in this small township costs in excess of a million dollars. Keep in mind, this is the Midwest, not New York. Clayton's local ordinance regulating 'parades,' and 'processions,' demands a permit obtained well in advance of the event, with the exception of a FUNERAL PROCESSION.' We had a funeral in Clayton today--the death of our free society.