As the Republican National Convention began on Monday, thousands rallied outside to protest Donald Trump’s candidacy. In the largest protest of the day thousands took part in the "End Poverty Now, March for Economic Justice." Democracy Now! spoke with activists and organizers who took to the streets after a concert by Prophets of Rage, a new project of Public Enemy’s Chuck D and Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, "Breaking with Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency," our special expanded two-hour daily broadcast for this week in Cleveland at the Republican National Convention and next week in Philadelphia at the Democratic convention. Well, yes, we are covering both conventions inside and out, from the streets to the corporate suites to the convention floors.
As the RNC began here on Monday, thousands rallied outside to protest Donald Trump’s candidacy. In the largest protest of the day, thousands took part in the End Poverty Now March for Economic Justice. The march began after a concert by Prophets of Rage, a new project of Public Enemy’s Chuck D and Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello. After the concert, Democracy Now!’s Mike Burke spoke to march participants, beginning with the musician Tom Morello.
TOM MORELLO: We are Prophets of Rage, and we’ve come here to confront the racist, misogynist, imperialist policies of the RNC, and to provide a counter-voice to what they’re saying inside the convention center. We’re saying something very different out here on the streets. We’re not here to give Donald Trump a message. We’re here to put wind in the sails of the people who are standing up against his message.
PROTESTER 1: Hands down!
PROTESTERS: Fists up!
PROTESTER 1: No justice!
PROTESTERS: No peace!
PROTESTER 1: No justice!
PROTESTERS: No peace!
CONNIE BURTON: My name is Connie Burton. I’m from Tampa, Florida. I’m here representing Black People Advancement and Defense Organization. The reason why we are here is because we want to expose the contradiction that for the last 50-plus years we’ve been dealing with the issue of poverty, and all we see is people on the top getting rich and fat, while the people at the bottom, they’re poor and oppressed, continuing the same cycle for the last 50 years.
MIKE BURKE: And what is your message to Donald Trump?
CONNIE BURTON: Well, it’s not going to be the America that he think when he say he want his America back. We hear those as cold messages that reeks with white supremacy. And if he think that the Africans are going to live peaceful on the plantation with this America, he has another thought coming. We don’t feel any better under Hillary Clinton, and so we plan on being disruptive from the first day, whoever is elected to office. It’s not going to be any peace for them, as well.
LUKE NEPHEW: [singing] The walls that they build to tear us apart will never be as strong as the walls of our hearts. The walls that they build to tear us apart will never be as strong as the walls of our hearts.
BALDEMAR VELÁSQUEZ: Baldemar Velásquez, president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO. And we’re here telling the Republican National Committee that we want a fair day’s pay for a fair day of work. That’s all we want.
MIKE BURKE: And what is your assessment of Donald Trump?
BALDEMAR VELÁSQUEZ: It’s going to be very interesting to see if he’s going to live up to his big words about—surrounding how he operates his own businesses. I mean, he’s one of the greatest outsourcers there is, and he’s talking all this nationalistic trade stuff. I wonder how it’s going to apply to his own personal business. So that’s going to be a very interesting challenge for him.
MIKE BURKE: If you had a chance to meet with Donald Trump, what would you tell him?
BALDEMAR VELÁSQUEZ: I would say, "Give me a specific plan how you’re going to make good at ending all these global corporations and their—and their international supply chains that marginalize people here in the U.S. and in the countries where they operate."
NOZOMI IKUTA: My name is Nozomi Ikuta, and I’m a local church pastor for the Denison Avenue United Church of Christ. What’s going on in our country is really all about division, and people have to come together, you know, learn how to understand each other, learn how each of us has to give a little bit to have a better understanding of people who’ve had different experiences and backgrounds.
MIKE BURKE: If you had a chance to speak to Donald Trump, what would you tell him?
NOZOMI IKUTA: Well, I’m a Christian, right? And so, what was Jesus about? About love, about respect, about treating your neighbor as you want to be treated. Right? And that’s not what I’m hearing. He can say whatever he wants about almost any group that he’s assuming is not going to vote for him—black people, Muslims, women, gay people. And is that how you build community? Is that how you—is that the kind of society we want? We want a society where everybody has a place and an opportunity to raise their families with some decency and dignity.
RODSTARZ: My name is RodStarz.
G1: And my name is G1.
RODSTARZ: And together, we’re Rebel Diaz.
MIKE BURKE: Why are you out here in the streets of Cleveland?
RODSTARZ: We’re out here in the streets of Cleveland fighting against the fascist otherwise known as Donald Trump. He’s a racist, and it’s a problem for this country that he’s even the candidate. A lot of folks thought it was a joke, that it was part of a reality show gone wrong. But the reality is that the reality show gone wrong is the current state of the U.S., in America. So, we here demanding—you know what I’m saying?—freedom for our people, justice for all those murdered by police, and at the same time saying dump Trump and his racist, fascist ways. We’re immigrants, so we stand up for the immigrant community, as well.
MIKE BURKE: Now, I know you just performed at the concert. I was wondering if you could share a couple verses with our audience right now.
RODSTARZ: You want to do something?
G1: [rapping] See, before I draw the line, let me welcome you close, to all the folks who knew Obama sold the people our hopes, sold the suckers from communities, want us poor. But you know we back at it, ready for war, here at RNC. Please, R-O-D and G-1 ready to run. What up?
RODSTARZ: [rapping] Ready to run. Share with Democracy Now! I’m gonna show y’all how we do this right now. We out on these streets, rocking to no beats. It’s a cappella. Old school NWA like DJ Yella. We just seen B-Real and Prophets of Rage. Man, I was amazed. But best believe we gonna fight against Trump. Trump gonna get dumped like a bad date. Freestyle RodStarz, you know that we great. I inspire the youth, every time when I rock with these Iraqi troops, Veterans Against War. What I got in store, I got ill metaphors, because we got to knock down all the walls. Freestyle RodStarz, ’cause you know we smoke, we like Bob Marls. Peace.
GARETT REPPENHAGEN: My name’s Garett Reppenhagen. I’m with Iraq Veterans Against the War and Vets Versus Hate. I’m out here because, you know, Trump doesn’t know service, doesn’t know military service, he doesn’t know community service. The only person he’s ever served is himself. You know? And I think he’s trying to make himself great again, not America. And I served this country, and I’ve been lied to, and I’ve been betrayed. And I’m here, basically, using my First Amendment right, a right that I fought for. And, you know, I’m going to express that to say that Trump is not an option for the United States. He’s a racist. He’s making our country less safe. He’s increasing domestic violence. He’s destroying our national security. That’s not what I fought for.
MIKE BURKE: If you had a chance to speak to Donald Trump, what would you tell him?
GARETT REPPENHAGEN: I would tell him that he should end his race, that he’s not our candidate, that we don’t want him as Americans, that he’s only going to destroy everything that we’ve worked to build, and he’ll erode our country, not make it great.
MIKE BURKE: And what is—can you talk a little bit more about Vets—is it Vets Against Hate?
GARETT REPPENHAGEN: Yeah, Vets Versus Hate is a bunch of veterans that just kind of started around a hashtag, realizing that Trump’s racist speech didn’t really represent our values as American veterans, that we served alongside Muslim Americans, we served alongside Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan, we served along, you know, Mexican Americans, we served along all sorts of people. The military is a very diverse place, and we work with coalitions all across the world to get our job done. And, you know, he’s destroying that every time he opens his mouth with a racist statement, using hate speech. It destroys that. So, we gather, basically, as a group of veterans that kind of have that common cause and common mission to oppose what he’s saying.
MIKE BURKE: Can you tell us your name, the group you’re with, and why you’re out on the streets today?
ANNIE KROL: Absolutely. My name is Annie Krol. I am the northern Ohio organizer with NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. We are the statewide affiliate of NARAL Pro-Choice America, the National Abortion Rights Action League. So, we are the state-level advocate ensuring that abortion stays safe and legal in Ohio for all its residents. We’re here specifically for the End Poverty Now March, because we want to push onto the platform of the End Poverty Now March that without full-spectrum access to abortion care and reproductive health services, you cannot eliminate poverty.
PROTESTER 2: [singing] There’s no hiding place down here. I went to the rock to hide my face. The rock cried out, "No hiding place."
CHUCK D: Chuck D, Public Enemy number one, Prophets of Rage, here in the streets of Cleveland. Black lives matter, because black lives—people have seen in history, black lives—all of history, all the way up to damn near Baton Rouge and Minnesota, black lives didn’t matter, especially with acquittals. I was just talking a second ago with this gentleman that, you know, we understand, overstand, when the flags are at half-mast. But in this city, the flags should have been at half-mast for Tamir Rice and all the people that got killed from brutality.
MIKE BURKE: What is your assessment of Donald Trump?
CHUCK D: He is the most inappropriate person ever to think that he can actually run a country. I’m like, how come this dude doesn’t just decide to run a town or a city first? Start from [bleep] there. What is this "I want to be at the top of the pile"? That’s the arrogance of businessmen. I got to be the top kahuna or nothing else. So, that arrogance is what gets me about the Donald Trump. This ain’t no [bleep] TV show. Ain’t The Apprentice. "OK, this is your boss here. I can run America like a corporation." I’m like, dude, man. It’s like it’s a—you know what it is? It’s disrespectful to think that somebody could come from left field and do the job of a person who holds public office just because they feel like it. Gotta do the work. Gotta do the work.
LUKE NEPHEW: Peace, my name is Luke Nephew of The Peace Poets. I’m here with Witness Against Torture and with my crew The Peace Poets. And we’re here in Cleveland to support the good people of Cleveland, who we know are about justice.
MIKE BURKE: What are your thoughts about Donald Trump, especially his call to, you know, bring back waterboarding and, what he says, even more?
LUKE NEPHEW: Yeah, I think it’s really important to recognize that Donald Trump said the words "torture works." And it’s profoundly ignorant of the truth, as well as in contrast to the United States military, that told their infantry for decades and decades never to torture a prisoner, because the intelligence you get from torture will never, ever be correct, reliable or anything that they can use. That’s the United States military. I was in a Senate hearing where I heard a United States general in Iraq say the presence of Guantánamo and the torture of prisoners in Guantánamo made U.S. soldiers and U.S. citizens less safe. So, he is saying the words that "torture works" and advocating for indefinite detention, for the practices that profile Muslims and result in the torture of human beings simply because they’re othered. And he’s denying the facts that both the professional psychologists and the professional—of the U.S. military say that torture does not work.
RYAN HARVEY: Well, my name’s Ryan Harvey. I’m from Baltimore. And, well, I’m a musician. I’m an activist. I’ve long been an organizer in the antiwar movement, often working with the Iraq Veterans Against the War. And then I play music, and I also co-own a record label called Firebrand Records that I own with Tom Morello, putting out radical political music.
MIKE BURKE: We just heard you perform at the concert, and there was one song that really stood out, and it was actually about Donald Trump’s father.
RYAN HARVEY: Yeah.
MIKE BURKE: Could you talk about that song?
RYAN HARVEY: Yeah, yeah. So that song is called "Old Man Trump." And I recorded that a few months ago with Ani DiFranco and with Tom Morello. And that song was written by Woody Guthrie originally in 1950. His landlord was Fred Trump, Donald Trump’s father. And, of course, Fred Trump, believe it or not, was a bigot, a racist, a xenophobe and a slumlord, all mixed into one, as often is the case. And so, yeah, so Woody wrote these lyrics about him, but like never recorded it. He was getting old. He was starting to die, you know. And at the time, Fred Trump was just a bad landlord—right?—and a bigot. And now it’s like, what a relevant—what a relevant name to bring up. So it’s kind of like amazing to be able to sort of like resurrect Woody Guthrie’s voice and add it into the current debate about this rising far right, this like fascistic rhetoric that’s coming out of not just Trump, but Trump’s base. So, you know, it’s like, what’s more American than Donald Trump and Woody Guthrie, you know?
MIKE BURKE: Could you sing a little bit of the song for us?
RYAN HARVEY: Well, so, it’s like: [singing] I suppose that Old Man Trump knows just how much racial hate he drawed up in that bloodpot of human hearts when he drawed that color line here at his Beach Haven family project.
So, Beach Haven was the name of the apartment. It’s still there. And, you know, Woody was living there. And the second verse goes into sort of like what he would do if he ran the apartment, and everyone would be welcome. And then, you know, the chorus—
POLICE OFFICER: Hey, you guys [inaudible] moving in.
RYAN HARVEY: Oh, here we go. Yeah.
MIKE BURKE: How does it feel to sing a Woody Guthrie song surrounded by police?
RYAN HARVEY: I think I’ve done it before, but it always feels relevant, you know.
PROTESTER 3: We want to tell the Republican Party, quit bringing that division here. Don’t bring no polarization here. Don’t bring no xenophobia here. Don’t bring no Islamophobia here.
PROTESTER 2: [singing] My liberation is your liberation, and your liberation is my liberation. So let the people say let’s get free, let’s get free, let’s get free.
LUKE NEPHEW: [singing] Let’s get free.
PROTESTER 2: [singing] My liberation is your liberation, and your liberation is...
AMY GOODMAN: Special thanks to Democracy Now!’s Mike Burke and Hany Massoud. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. We are "Breaking with Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency." Back in a minute.