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Democratic National Convention Wrap Up

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Hosts Amy Goodman and Salim Muwakkil wrap up convention coverage in Chicago with poetry from the protest pen. [includes rush transcript]

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StoryAug 28, 20181968 DNC Protests, 50 Years Later: Organizers Recall Coalition Building & Running Pig for President
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We have a few minutes just to talk before we move on to that poetry from the protest pen, which was an amazing moment just in the last few nights of the Democratic convention in that empty place where only police surrounded it. And this group of poets came to let people know, or let themselves know or let the police know, how they felt, in some beautiful prose. So we’re going to be going to that soon. But, Salim, before we do that, just a chance to hang out and talk about this week.

SALIM MUWAKKIL: Well, you know, that pen, that protest pen, is perhaps the best metaphor for what happened this week. Everything—all of the dissent was constrained and contained and sanitized. And even the dissent that was—that attempted to transverse the boundaries was weak and ineffectual. It was really the triumph of consensus politics and really boogeyman politics. I mean, evoking the name of Gingrich as this terrible alternative just forged a unity that was unshakable, unbreakable.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, I had to say, the fact that there was no protest on the convention floor by delegates who, a number of them, absolutely outraged—I mean truly outraged, not just saying it—about welfare repeal, or, as Studs said, welfare deform, and yet, in the end, Donna Shalala and Henry Cisneros, people who were opposed to welfare repeal bill but now were sent out by the administration to be the best ones to convince the Democrats not to rise up—there these people were, from local union leaders—I know from the delegation in New York, talking to them, tremendous anger, and yet, they sat there. And there were two—there were a lot of choices. They could have protested on the convention floor. They could have gone outside, still been delegates, and protested with the people outside. Or they could have torn up their delegate credentials. Bobby Rush, the former Black Panther and now Chicago congressmember, said he was going to rip them up, but then he said he decided not to, that they could work on the bill. And I said, “Well, why didn’t you remain a delegate but actually protest on the floor?”

But Clinton was very afraid of that protest, and I think that could be a big problem for him now, because, as a result, there was no story, and when the Dick Morris flap came out yesterday, that was the story everyone was reporting on all day, all the networks. Now, some might say this guy is a—you know, just a staff person; you’re not electing a president—a staff person, you’re electing a president. But Dick Morris really is a symbol of all that President Clinton is, because President Clinton is following his lead on tax cuts, on welfare repeal, etc.

SALIM MUWAKKIL: And on welfare repeal. I mean, and Clinton is comfortably ahead in the polls, and most pundits think that this welfare—signing this welfare bill was really unnecessary, and—but yet, at the urging of Dick Morris, he pushed that particular aspect of it. And also at the urging of Dick Morris, this kind of a consensus, democratic facade is also his doing, and, again, maybe his undoing, because there was no controversy, and, as you pointed out, the press went straight for the Dick Morris story.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, I went on the floor with Michael Moore, Michael Moore who has just written Downsize This and produced Roger & Me, the story of him chasing after Roger Smith, who is the head of GM. He was amazed, first of all, being legitimately on the floor, but talking about the fact that 120 million people in this country don’t vote. Now, this is an amazing figure. I knew that the figures are very high. You know that President Clinton got elected by just about a quarter of the vote in this country, a quarter.


AMY GOODMAN: Imagine if that was the case in a country that the United States government didn’t like, what they would make of that.


AMY GOODMAN: But 120 million people didn’t vote. That is equivalent to the voting-age population of 42 states, not including the eight largest states. That’s the number of people that do not vote. And the Democrats and the Republicans who are in power benefit from this.

SALIM MUWAKKIL: They like it that way. They like it that way. Incidentally, let me mention that Jesse Jackson, who was a team player in the convention, did in fact join the protest. He was part of this protest, the campaign to cash the check, which I was quite surprised to see him there, in fact. He was enthusiastically supporting it. So there is one exception, but you may look at that exception again as Jesse kind of playing both sides.

AMY GOODMAN: As he did inside the convention. I mean, here you had his performance inside the convention not in prime-time, in the beginning, a very powerful speech. He wasn’t reading it from the teleprompter, which was the first time I didn’t see someone reading from the teleprompter; he had it in his hands. But what did that mean? Because in the end, he came out more strongly for Clinton than he had for any Democratic presidential candidate in all the time he’s been active. He was actually chanting, “Four more years!”

SALIM MUWAKKIL: He was indeed. And again, it’s the specter of Gingrich, the Gingrich-Dole combo, that strikes fear in the hearts of folks like Jesse.

AMY GOODMAN: And it also may be a lot of corporate money that’s floating around, that’s going to a lot of candidates and delegates, that are keeping them in line. And when push comes to shove, the Clinton administration can go after people like Bobby Rush and say, “We’re going to cut off the purse strings.”

SALIM MUWAKKIL: When push comes to shove—and it often comes to shove.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, you know, in last night’s speech, what I was most impressed by was how much President Clinton was dealing with welfare. And yet, welfare is what? Less than 1 percent of the budget. What takes up more than 50 percent of the budget is the military. He did address it, but just once.

PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: We are developing a sensible national missile defense, but we must not—not now, not by the year 2000—squander $60 billion on an unproved, ineffective Star Wars program that could be obsolete tomorrow.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, this is a little argument that the Democrats are having with the Republicans, and I was just thinking of Studs saying the difference between them can fit into a thimble.


AMY GOODMAN: With a little—what was it?


AMY GOODMAN: Martini in there, with plenty of martini in there to fill it up. But here, yes, they’re battling over Star Wars. But the fact is, the Democrats and the Republicans have actually increased what the—what has been called for by the military. I mean, they are both in the pocket of the—I don’t want to say defense contractors, because this is not about defense. It’s about corporate welfare, and it’s about military contractors like Norm Augustine, who heads up Lockheed Martin.

SALIM MUWAKKIL: And also, Clinton also came out strongly in favor of “three strikes you’re out” and all of these laws that are accelerating the incarceration rate, especially in inner cities. And this brings the specter of another complex, this jail-industrial complex that’s becoming quite an economic power in this country and is also capturing the minds and hearts of the Democrats and Republicans.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s right. In California, what, the prison guard lobby is the second-strongest lobby in that state. Prison building is going on at an accelerated rate all over this country, as states say they don’t have money for anything else, chain gangs being reinstituted. Actually, Salim, you and I were at that event the other day, a progressive event, the—what was it? The campaign for a new America—


AMY GOODMAN: —or America’s future. And Maxine Waters gave a powerful speech—she didn’t quite do the same thing on the floor of the convention when she spoke from the podium—as she said, “What are we doing in here when people like Gator Bradley are outside working with gangs, young African-American men who had gathered in the park?” And she said, “Where are the organizers? Where is the concern for inner-city youth and including them in this process?”

SALIM MUWAKKIL: Absolutely. And the groups that do emerge to represent these youth are demonized by—unfortunately, by progressive forces as well as the mainstream. In Chicago, there’s a group called the 21st Century Vote, which has been attempting to have some effect on the political process and in organizing them, some sort of protest. But they’ve been pretty well marginalized by traditional civil rights activists as well as mainstream city officials.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, in the next few months, as we move into the election, we will continue to observe how the Democrats and Republicans have a stranglehold on organized politics. But there are some signs of hope. I mean, you’ve got new parties forming. You’ve got the new party. You’ve got the Green Party with Ralph Nader, who did make a showing at the convention. We followed him around for the day that he was there. Clinton clearly not happy with Ralph Nader. And I think an interesting thing is that Haley Barbour saw Ralph Nader there and in the last few days has said he wants him in the debates.


AMY GOODMAN: So we’ll see what happens, and we’ll certainly be bringing you those debates. Salim, we have to take a break, and then we’ll be back with poetry from the protest pen. You’re listening to Democracy Now!


AMY GOODMAN: I’m Amy Goodman, and this is Democracy Now!, actually the last segment that is being broadcast out of Chicago, as we’ve been here for the Democratic National Convention covering what’s inside and outside the United Convention Center. And I think that’s an appropriate term for it, the United Center, where the Chicago Bulls play. By the way, the Republicans put out a fax every day criticizing what the Democrats had said, and they called it “Chicago Bull.”

But anyway, on—let’s see, what night was it? On Wednesday night, I went outside. I had actually just seen Ralph Nader, had been following him around. And when I was walking back to the convention center, I was passing by the protest pen. Yes, it was a lonely place. Most of the protesters here in Chicago had decided they didn’t want to be penned in, and so they just took to the streets and went to parks, like Grant Park, well known for what happened in 1968. But here at the protest pen, it was actually a quiet moment, because there was so little happening. There was a group of Muslims who were there protesting U.S. aid to Israel, saying, “Look what’s going on just here on the West Side of Chicago and the amount of money that has been drained from here, and look at the $5 billion in aid that go to Israel.” And then they started to chant prayers, and I was recording that, and it was very quiet, because the delegates were all inside. The police ringed the whole protest area with this group of 20 people. And then, when their hour was up, it hit 60 minutes, they turned the mics off. That’s how the Democrats allow protest in this country and when they have control over it. So it was quiet there. And all of a sudden, a group of people came up—oh, about 20 or 25. And a man came up and started to read poetry. And it was 60 minutes that I won’t forget, and I wanted to be able to share it with you.

LARRY WINFIELD: Yes, my name is Larry Winfield, and we are the DNC Poetry Patriots, not connected to the Democratic National Committee in any way; otherwise, I’d be reading these poems inside the convention center. A new poem that I wrote just for this little soirée, so let’s get right to it.

Here we are, hustling wordslingers
Strolling through the valley of pundits
Upscale anarchists, true believers
Tabloid commentators, and another convention
Running smoother than the evening news.
Is that why ’68 is getting more coverage than ’96?

We stand not so politely
Amid the glittering band-aid of the Near West Side
In all its green, leafy, wrought-iron splendor
As we wait our turn, as we pretend
To exercise the birthright
None of us was supposed to have.

Here, in the official playpens of invective
We’re expected to step up to the PC plate
And slam nasty home run metaphors into the convention
Like water bombs splattering satisfaction.
Should we believe we’re really speaking truth to power
To the police, the politicians and the press?
Is this the same as blocking a line of tanks in the street
Shouting, lecturing, a sack of groceries in our hands?
Maybe. We do have a job to do.

The summer soapbox is loaded down with outrage
Anticipated outrage, easily dismissed
Like the immigrant bashers and English-only illiterates
Who still crave the bargains slave labor brings
Like moralizing welfare reformers
Whose idea of tough love is throwing families off a cliff
And suggesting they learn to fly
While corporate welfare queens float serenely by
On clouds we paid for.

Like the children of a stupid god
Who burned down other people’s churches
In memory of the good old days
The purity-obsessed mongrels in camouflage and hoods
Clutching dog-eared copies of Mein Kampf and The Turner Diaries
Too dumb to realize we’ve already eaten their souls
And given them country music.

We purge ourselves to the full moonlit sky
And step back. Now what?
In a one-party state with a right and left wing
It’s hard to get worked up over the election
I’m still waiting for “none of the above”
To make it onto the ballot
It worked for the Russians.

I know. I know. After the spectacle of a Trojan horse convention
Of multi-culti makeup hiding the same old fascist visage
Of those who’d rather die than be controlled
Grasping for control
I should be grateful
I don’t have to choose a putative, moderate Republican
When a liberal Republican is already in place.
But I’m not.
Eternal gratitude is not the price of liberty
We bought in blood and free chattel sweat.
So, now what?

In ’94, staying home in disgust served its noble purpose
Giving the rogue elephants two years of rope to hang themselves with
But this is ’96
No time to turn my back
So I’ll play the game with the ballot I’m dealt
I’ll keep vigil with a jaundiced eye
Because in the end I still believe.

Thank you. Had to do that for the next brother coming up, who—five minutes—who is going to come up and read, a member of the Black Arts group, and a very substantial member at that, Mr. C. Otis Grant. Let’s give him a hand.

C. OTIS GRANT: That’s the Black Poets group.

Ommmmmm, America, America
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with the brotherhood
Of a select group of liars, cheaters and thieves
Who use that brotherhood
To form the most arbitrary and ambiguous history
The world has come to know
Red, white and blue
The symbolism of hypocrisy
And bureaucratic stagnation
Men of power glossing the fault line cracks
In historical facts
Red, white and blue
Those stars and stripes for never
Never again will I take a back seat
Genuflect those my equal
Sing that whining anthem
Or tatter my clothing with those tired-ass colors

Blue is the mood that sweeps my emotions
Into a disastrousness of color me sad
Color me gray, color me gloomy
When thinking of those colors

Patriotic white
White are the ghostface pointed hoods
Swinging my ancestor from the tree
That fed life back into earth
To breed an abundance of fork-tongued serpent
Erecting sacrilegious torches in the face of phoenix
Who takes flight up out of the ash
Leaving that glow in its dust
Its winged span spreading a shadow over hatred

And I see red
Red are my bloodshot eyes
Streaming tears down that flag
Shrouded in Glory, glory, hallelujah!
My country ’tis of thee
Waving ambers across purple mountains majestic
Only to those who believe
While in the sky atmospheric radiation
Beams down singing surf and turf
Blistering the feet of the unprepared
Running, running, running
From those poisonous rays
Seeking to alleviate your pain
Caking your face with sun block 2000
Covering up your face
Covering up your skin
Covering up your history
Of bad blood and foul misinterpretations
Running from each other
Running out of the frying pan
And into the fiery douses of Hell
And forever will you burn
With those crosses of iniquity
And let those you’ve abused
Inherit your precious earth

So fly your flag in Hell
’Til streaming down its acts of change and cover-up
That have insistently been deemed necessary
And I will cry
Cry social injustice
Cry racism
Cry sacrilege
Cry freedom
From sea to shining sea
My tears will not provide you with escape
And you
Your pointed hoods and your smoke and crosses
Shall burn forever
Marching in the parade of Hell’s fire and brimstone.

LARRY WINFIELD: All right. Next up, who did have a little bit of parking trouble, but it don’t matter because they’re here now. These three people work in public schools. I know a couple of them also have been involved in Gallery 37, which is a great, great public institution. And they also perform around the country. So I want to bring up right now Ms. Glenda Baker, Ms. Emily Hooper Lansana and Mr. Quraysh Ali Lansana.

The wounds of the sons
The wounds of the children of my people
Wound me too
The wounds of the daughters
The wounds of the sons
The wounds of the children of my people
Wound me too
Who will turn my head
Who will turn my head into a fountain
And my eyes into a stream
So that I might cry
So that I might scream
So that I might cry all day, all night
For all of the wounds of the daughters
The wounds of the sons
The wounds of the children of my people
We are wounded
Listen to the children
They are wounded
We are wounded
And those who are wounded
Will be rising up
Listen to the wounded

On the backs of their plantation
New plantation industry dreams
We send our brothers
The wounded will be rising up
None of us are free
We say free Mumia
Free Mumia
None of us are free until all of us are free
Free Leonard Peltier
None of us are free until all of us are free
Free Geronimo ji-Jaga Pratt
None of us are free until all of us are free
Free Mumia Abu Jamal
Free Mumia Abu Jamal
None of us are free until all of us are free
Free Mumia Abu Jamal
Free parking, free checking
Free to speak
Free, free coupons
Free to speak
Free, free, freedom is a road seldom traveled by the politicians
Free to speak
Free to speak
Free, free, free, free
Free to speak
Free to raise our children
Free to teach our children
Free minds so your ass will follow
Free to raise our children
Free to teach our children
Free minds so your ass might follow
Free, free, free
Free minds so your has an opportunity to follow
None of us are free until all of us are free
Free children
None of us are free until all of us are free
Free minds
Free to marry whom we love
Free to marry whom we love
Free to marry whom we love
None of us are free until all of us are free
Free to experience
Free to walk and talk and live and breathe
Free to breathe, to pray
$223 a month is not free
Free to raise our children whole
None of us are free until all of us are free
And the right to control our bodies
Free to raise our voices
The right for our sisters
Free to raise our voices
None of us are free until all of us are free

Freedom is a road seldom traveled by Mr. Clinton
I’m not talking about George, you know
Freedom is a road seldom traveled
By those of us who live close
To the white ivory-towered lie
Suit and tied hypnotize
Niggers in suits and ties
But what about those of us on the pavement
Close to the earth
Living, living
How can $223 a month feed anyone
Let alone a baby, a mother
Who is free?
None of us are free until all of us are free

Free me
Free me
Free me
Free me
Free me
Free me
Free me
Free me
Free me

From the shackles of Eurocentric thinking
Free me.

No justice, no peace.

LARRY WINFIELD: Thank you. Thank you. All right. All right. Next up—oh, before that, I just want to say, there have been a lot of different kinds of poetry readings out, and this at least makes another first. This is the first poetry reading where we’ve had so many police who have had a chance to hear what’s been going on. And now—and I appreciate it. Let’s give the police a big hand for attending a poetry reading. Yeah. All right. All right.

Next up, we have the artistic director of the Red Path Theater and a very active brother with the American Indian Movement, Mr. E. Donald Two-Rivers. Let’s give him a hand.

E. DONALD TWO-RIVERS: I’m going to read two poems, then I’m out of here. For Leonard Peltier. He’s imprisoned in United States government’s jails. We’re hoping that he’s going to get out pretty soon. And on November—December 23rd at Truman College in our space, Red Path Theater space, we’re going to have a big party for him. So hopefully you’ll come around. To Leonard:

Your name thunders through our realms
Our destinies weld together to walk in detours of conflict
Where nothing is clear
Deception hidden in law man’s eyes
The women sing in sadness
Warriors’ eyes hug Mother Earth
A tear softens a defiant glare
This land’s First Nations tired warriors
Watch you dance with gourd rattles in a tight circle
The hour recoils in tormented grief
At every pow-wow your name is spoken on urgent lips
So much is at stake
An argument of principle

AMY GOODMAN: Poetry from the protest pen. And that wraps up our week of coverage here in Chicago. Salim, thanks for having us.

SALIM MUWAKKIL: Thank you for coming. I enjoyed your presence.

AMY GOODMAN: Even if we weren’t on the guest list.

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