All right: Blackwater and other contractors have four BILLION dollars in US
funds and, the New York Times reports that almost no oversight in Iraq;
wildfires are consuming acres of Southern California and many counties have
been declared to be in a state of emergency -- and nothing at all but a
whisper of popular opposition and a prayer -- nothing legal -- would prevent
Bush today from declaring that the National Guard is overstretched and that
it is Blackwater's torturers and murderers, recruited from Salvadoran,
Ecuadoran and Nigerian paramilitaries, who will be `maintaining order' in
the `public emergency' that is Southern California; and here in Chicago, at two separate events today citizens have told me that `Blackwater is in Illinois' -- the paramiltary force apparently having opened a training facility this summer in the heart of the nation, in a site with easy access to the main waterway of the Mississippi River; and Mukasey has informed
Congress that he has no idea what waterboarding is -- which professed
cluelessness alone should disqualify him from service -- and that the
president does not actually need to obey the law of the United States of
America -- which alone should alert us that if he is confirmed the ga me is
over. Once Congress confirms someone to decide the law of the land who holds
that the president is exempt from the law of the land (which assertion was,
notably, an historic tipping point when Hitler asked his Reichstag to
confirm a similar position about his powers in regard to the law and the
constitution) it is open season on all of us.
It is time to take to the streets.
Many of you have asked about a national strike. This is the next step
in a democracy movement. We need to hold monthly strikes -- a word that is
too scary for some, and we want to be inclusive, so rather we will urge
people of all walks of life to participate in mass-action Constitution Days.
What will we do -- in our millions, hopefully, we will Sit Down for
the Constitution in the most public space in our communities. The seated
mass citizen action is more effective now than a march; less cause for
confrontation, more family-friendly, you can gather more people for a
longer time and it can be more of a community affirmation of American values
and the Rule of Law. Daniel Ellsberg, whom I had the honor of meeting last
week in Berkeley, along with his brave and beautiful wife Patricia, reminded
me that it took only three days of a widely observed National Moratorium to
strike a real blow to the war in the Vietnam.
We propose that local citizens organize these Constitution Days once a
month, on the 6th, starting Nov. 6 (before or after you vote). We suggest
that those who can refrain from going to work or to school -- use the time
to be with your fellow citizens at the event or reading about democracy and
sharing those ideals with your friends and neighbors. Those who can't leave
work, come for lunch hour. If millions join the nation will react, and even
if the first few are small, we must begin. You guys have to organize these
locally -- we can't. But that is powerful. Here is how to proceed:
The Liberty Kit for Constitution Days: Assemble a Powerful `Sit Down For the
Constitution' Citizen Action November 6 and Monthly Thereafter
1. Locally, a volunteer should set up a website announcing the time (start
at noon, stay till five; you will have most visitors between twelve and
two). The place should be the steps of the Town Hall or the most obvious
civic space (in Chicago for instance everyone said Fenwick Park). Send a
press kit to all local media outlets -- you can get the resources in the
library or online. If you don't get coverage you can write to local
advertisers of your local news and newspapers -- cc the ad department of the
media outlets -- that you will stop buying their products and will urge
others to do so as well unless they encourage local media to cover this
local important news. Barbara Martinez who started at
sitdownfortheconstitution.org provides a central space -- send an email to
the site after you event so we can get an accurate nationwide count of
2. Ask all to wear red, white or blue t shirts or sweaters and dark slacks.
A strong visual is more likely to get wide press coverage and a good color
photo on the cover of a news section of local news. It is an even better
visual if you arrange people into red, white and blue sections. That will
inspire wide angle shots from a higher position. Protests from progressives
always seem visually disorderly -- making coverage less likely -- and a
visually orderly, peaceful set of groups also makes it harder for police to
crack down violently on protesters after accusing them of misconduct.
3. Have people bring uniformly sized US flags -- tell them a good local or
internet source -- or buy a lot and sell them there. It reinforces that this
is pure support for the American system, not partisanship. (And it is a bad
media image to taser people supporting the flag.) We want to send a clear message that this is above all a patriotic, transpartisan action on behalf
of our founders' vision. People should not wave the small ones, but rather
good-sized ones that will blow in the breeze (again, visuals and media
attention) -- 2x3 at least. Signs should be in red, white and blue and
uniform: `Moms for the Constitution', `Vets for the Bill of Rights'
`Teachers for Liberty'; `Americans Don't Torture' `The Constitution Keeps us
Safe' `Stand Up for the Founders'. Important are: `Independents for the
Constitution' `Swing Voters for the Constitution' and `Republicans for the
Constitution' and `No President is Above the Law'. Signs should NOT address
unrelated issues -- veganism, Palestine or Israel, patriarchy -- the left
tends to let a chaos of messages dilute the force and inclusiveness of one
strong message. The civil rights marches were always disciplined in focusing
only on civil rights, for instance.
4. Encourage soldiers and vets to sit down for the Constitution in uniform.
Give them the names of good local pro bono lawyers to call if they face
reprisals. Publicize the reprisals.
5. Distribute copies of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Let people
download them from the website.
6. Have people bring guitars, musical instruments and sing. Let ordinary
citizens lead the singing from a microphone. For some mysterious reason,
protests swell and move people when there is singing, but depress and
dispirit people when there are only speeches or angry chanting. The civil
rights movement sang. The contemporary left speechifies. So sing. Create a
Constitution Songbook you distribute -- with songs that are widely
known and loved. Often our protests have
some very edgy band that alienates others not so edgy -- people want to feel
included across the political spectrum. Have the words of the Star Spangled
Banner, My Country 'Tis of Thee etc -- as well as inspirational songs that
are inclusive -- in the songbook. It is hard to engage in mass arrests
against people singing the national anthem.
7. Have people also bring sleeping bags and folding chairs, food and drink
and children. Encourage people to bring food to share informally -- it is a
community pot luck in honor of Liberty. You can set up folding tables where people bring their food to share across race, class and party lines. People
feel disconnected and powerless after random protest meetups. You want to
foster community and let people find each other as local patriots and build
bonds that make other kinds of action possible.
8. Invite local clergy of all faiths to sit down for the Constitution in
their religious garb. Ask local clergy of many faiths to bless the gathering
in their many voices from their many different faith traditions, thus
reminding us that this is a pluralistic society (and making it hard to
dismiss protests as hostile to mainstream values).
9. There can be periods of quiet or people simply playing their own music as
an offering to the community during the Sit Down for the Constitution. Have
children give five minute talks or read essays of `What America Means to
Me.' Have ONE lawyer who speaks ENGLISH explain every hour on the hour just
what the Bill of Rights means to ordinary people. Endless speechifying
exhausts people. You are there to be witnesses and to encounter one another
as citizens. Have ONE table where local literature about activism is
displayed and have people wear name tags that identify them by name and also
by resource or skill or organization that they can contribute to saving
democracy. Let them find one another. Give priority to vets or military men
and women to speak very personally about what liberty and the Bill of Rights
means to them -- the values they wish to uphold.
10. At the end of the vigil, create a massive circle and light a million
candles and ask everyone to take the AFC pledge to protect the Constitution.
It is powerful to hear the sound of a multiplied voice. Go
home in a broad stream holding your candles -- another great visual for the
cameras. Meet again in a month. If you want to connect before that in a
Citizens' Home Gathering -- which many people have asked for -- let someone
host it in his or her home or in a public space in a restaurant or friendly
bookstore/cafe. Take citizen action out of an impersonal space -- make
citizenship human, face-to-face, easy, supportive and effective.
These are just suggestions -- but order, strong visuals and patriotic
symbolism are key. Most important is simply to act.
Will it be a groundswell all at once? Maybe not, but we have to begin; all
great democracy movements began with a handful of citizens. Will it
be challenging? Yes, but you can do it and maybe bring to nation to a radical
pause to reconsider its darkening path. After all, you are