Bob Broughton's Blog about British Columbia politics

First-hand report from End the War in Iraq rally in Washington

No, I didn't go to Washington on September 24. However, Lynn Moyers, a friend of mine from university days, was there, and here is his first-hand account:

From the Front Lines: My report on the Anti-war protest in DC, 24 Sep 05

I'll Save YouLike many others who think the war on Iraq is wrong, I went to Washington DC this weekend to express my displeasure. Being among thousands of similar mind was a stimulating experience and one that helped renew my faith in our country.

The day was warm and overcast, typical for the central East Coast this time of year. I started the day from Centreville, a northern Virginia suburb. I was staying with my friend Bernie who accompanied me downtown as an observer. We rode the Metro light rail system into town. The system was on time, clean, and efficient. We exited at Federal Square station and headed out thru the Ronald Reagan office complex to the grounds of the Washington Monument.

We arrived about 10:15 and found a crowd of thousands already gathered. There were about 50 vendors and organizations scattered around the Monument grounds and on the Ellipse in front of the White House, mostly in tents. The atmosphere was calm but serious. Lots of people in costumes and protest signs everywhere. Bernie and I wandered around for an hour or so, looking at the people and visiting all the information and vendor booths. Have never seen so many ways of saying "We don't like the people in charge and want them to go away".

The pre-rally speeches started around 11:15. We walked over to the Ellipse grounds and listened to speaker after speaker fire up the rapidly swelling crowd. There were several members of Congress, labor leaders, and activist group representatives speaking. The speakers that got the most attention and did the best job of energizing the crowd were Cindy Sheehan, the lady who camped out at Bush's ranch, and Wesley Clark, retired Army general.

During the less-inspiring speeches I was talking w/some of the people around me. The most interesting were a couple of evacuees from NOLA that left the day before the Katrina hit. 2 things they said really caught my attention. The first was the story about their neighbors' house. The flood waters got up over the wood floors on the first floor of their house. When the flood waters receded, they found the waters had stripped the finish from the floors! Now that's some nasty water.

The other story was their belief that the Industrial Canal, the 17th Street Canal, and the 9th Street Canal were all purposely breached to prevent the flooding of rich people's homes. The water level peaked 2-3 feet below the top of the levees so the levees were not undermined by water flowing over the top as we were told by the press. They also believed the Industrial Canal was purposely breached during Rita to flood the same areas again. What a better way to keep people out than to keep flooding the areas they try to occupy.

The march was supposed to start at 12:30 but didn't get moving until around 1:15pm. Bernie and I managed to circle around the huge throng and work our way up near the front of the march. The crowd was jam-packed and it was a non-trivial exercise to work our way thru the crowd. We got separated about 1:00, so I headed off with the march while Bernie headed home to watch VA Tech football. I was in the first 10,000 or so to start moving at around 1:15. We started north up 14th street in a huge throng. I was behind several veterans groups that were marching together. After chanting and marching with them for about 15 minutes, I got past them and broke into relatively clear area.

Turning left (west) onto New York Avenue, I found the street almost totally blocked. NY Ave passes by the Treasury Dept and the North side of the White House. There were large groups of people gathered here, often dressed alike with signs and banners identifying them. Most were aiming their protest at the White House, railing against what it represents. It took me a good 15 minutes to gently work my way thru the crowd backed up at Treasury to reach the WH. Hung around for a few minutes talking w/people and soaking up the ambiance. Sprinkled rain for a few minutes. Was fun to watch all the weenies pull out their umbrellas and rain coats.

Lots of organized protest at the WH. Chanting and singing, there were a number of viewpoints represented. The amazing thing was they weren't shouting over each other; the groups were taking turns making their voices heard and on occasion the thousands in the area joined in common chants. The most frequent one was "This is what Democracy looks like."

Moving on past the WH, the march thinned out dramatically. The short spur of 17th St (north) only had a few dozen people, maybe a hundred or so. Seems like everyone stopped at the WH and just stayed there. Wished the 2 screaming young women with the bullhorns had stayed there. Was interesting and bit spooky to walk down a major street in DC with no traffic and almost no people. Same situation on H Street going East. Could only see a few hundred people in front of me. Walked mostly alone thru here.

Turning south onto 14th, I saw large groups of people walking along and the Washington Monument off in the distance. Walked rather slowly down this street thinking about what it was like to be part of history and the sacrifice people made to come here and make their voices heard. I had to talked to and seen people from all over the US, several foreign countries, all manner of political and religious persuasions, united by a common cause. Made me proud to be an American and realized how fortunate I am to be one.

Got to see the crowd still going North on 15th as I was going south. They were packed in tighter than when I went thru earlier and showed no signs of diminishing in number. That's when I realized how big the protest really was.

A little over halfway thru the route, I turned East onto Pennsylvania Avenue. There were a few spectators along the way, mostly guys in business suits with looks of curiosity on their faces. The were groups of 10 to 20 people occupying the street in front of me. Still that spooky feeling of walking down the middle of a 7-lane street virtually alone. Lots of time for reflection; feeling good about what were doing.

So far I had only seen a small handful of counter protesters and only in 2 spots. They were all religious wackos telling us we were violating God's laws by protesting, waving their Bibles and screaming at us. Didn't remember anything from my readings of the Bible that told me protesting was wrong.

That changed when we turned south onto 9th Street and walked past the Justice Building. There were about 150 Repubs behind a barrier fence and screened off by cops. Seems appropriate to keep Repubs behind bars. That's where a lot of their compatriots are winding up these days. These people were calling us Communists, Traitors, unpatriotic; the typical things that small minded people call others they disagree with. Interesting to compare the groups. Marchers were a mixed group, racially, age-wise, and in gender. The counter protesters were nearly all white, mostly fat middle-aged men. Only saw a few women and 2 token Arabs. Not a black person among them. Lots of screaming going on from both sides. I watched for a few minutes, then moved on. Neither side was listening to the other, so the whole thing seemed rather pointless. Protesters outnumbered the counter protesters by about 4 to 1 at this spot.

Turned west onto Constitution Ave. and saw a large crowd in front of me. These were some of the first people to finish the march. I finished a bit after 3pm and watched the groups just starting out for a while. I estimated 25K-30K people still to start when I had finished. I suspect it was 6pm or after until the marchers all finished the route.

I chose not to attend the concert afterward, as I was rather "peopled out" at this point. Went back to Federal Square and hopped a train back to Vienna. Got to Bernie's house in time to watch the last 3 quarters of the VA Tech/GA Tech game. (Hokies kicked butt!).

Everyone I saw was well behaved, earnest and forthright in their beliefs. Even with the large police presence I didn't see the cops harass anyone and didn't see anyone harass the cops. Didn't see any fights, no disagreements except with a few counter protesters and only smelled pot smoke once. There were a large number of women and children at the march which surprised me. Saw people from nearly every religious persuasion and big groups of teachers and union members. There were a lot more 20-35 year olds than I expected, as that generation is supposedly disinterested and not involved.

I thought the march was a huge success and am thankful to all who sacrificed their time, money, and talent to make it happen.

Your humble scribe,

Lynn

A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition

The Grim Reaper attends the Terry Fox Run

ImageI accompanied the Grim Reaper at the Terry Fox Run in Port Coquitlam on September 18.

The Grim Reaper has a long history of showing up wherever the consumption of tobacco products is being promoted. A few years ago, he was a regular at the Benson and Hedges Symphony of Fire and the Du Maurier Jazz Festival. He also showed up when former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who became a consultant for Philip Morris after she left office, came to Vancouver for a speaking appearance.

The consumption of tobacco certainly wasn't being promoted at the Terry Fox Run. Locating a lit cigarette there would have been a challenge. The Reaper's visit was prompted by the presence of Gordon Campbell, who has a deplorable record on tobacco issues, and Paul Martin, who is a former employee of the tobacco industry.

One of Martin's first acts when he became Finance Minister in 1993 was to reduce taxes on cigarettes. It wasn't enough just to reduce federal taxes on cigarettes, either; he pressured Ontario and Quebec to reduce their taxes on cigarettes, too. The excuse for doing this was that reducing taxes would reduce smuggling. However, the cause of the smuggling was the tobacco industry. RJR employees have served time in jail for their involvement in it, and JTI-Macdonald was recently taken to court by the federal government in an effort to recover $10 billion in lost revenue due to smuggling.

As always, the response to the Grim Reaper from passers-by was overwhelmingly positive. There were, however, a few people who complained that the Terry Fox Run is not a political event. Sorry, but the presence of Martin and Campbell makes it a political event. And since the Terry Fox Run is about finding a cure for cancer, it's entirely appropriate to raise the issue of Paul Martin's involvement in the leading cause of cancer, which is cigarettes.

ImageThere were also some people who questioned the effort by the Grim Reaper and Airspace Action on Smoking and health to draw attention to the cause of cancer instead of the cure. Well, I have no doubt that the money raised by the Terry Fox Foundation is well spent. I know that the Foundation provides substantial funding for the BC Cancer Agency.

Airspace, along with similar organizations like Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada and Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, has a different emphasis. Cigarette smoking is the single most preventable cause of premature death. The blame for this has to be placed firmly upon manufacturers of cigarettes and those who collaborate with them. This is the message that the Grim Reaper and his acolytes brought to Port Coquitlam on September 18. It's a message that makes some people uncomfortable. Perhaps that's because it's a message of common sense; the most effective way to reduce the incidence of cancer is to reduce the amount of carcinogens that go into peoples' bodies, and that includes cigarette smoke.

Airspace Action on Smoking and Health
Grim Reaper Society
The Terry Fox Society

George W. Bush and Hurricane Katrina

U.S. President George W. Bush has been quoted in the press as saying that his administration is moving quickly to save lives, evacuate people and provide sustenance to victims of Katrina. His administration has outlined a massive disaster relief plan, vowing to "work tirelessly" in the aftermath of the hurricane.

According to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, "The president has been unambiguous in his mandate that we leave no stone unturned, and leave no efforts unexhausted in proceeding to do whatever we can to rescue people and alleviate suffering."

If, indeed, no stone is to be left unturned, will he bring home the 141st Field Artillery unit of the Louisiana National Guard, which is currently stationed in Iraq?

Update on Sept. 1: OK, I don't hold out much hope that Bush will divert some of the billions of dollars being handed to his buddies at Halliburton to feeding and clothing hurricane victims in his own country. What I'll do, instead, is join the ranks of bloggers who have recommended charities capable of helping. (See the list at instapundit.com.)

ImageThe one I'm advertising is the United Negro College Fund. This is a charity that has been around for a long time, and three of its members, Dillard and Xavier Universities in New Orleans and Tougaloo College in Mississippi, have been severely damaged. The UNCF has set up a special fund to help these schools. To contribute, click here.

Barisoff turns "lodges for high rollers" into "modest hostels"

A letter to the editor I wrote, which was published in the Royal City Record on March 19, attracted a response (published March 30) from Bill Barisoff, Joyce Murray's successor as Minister of Water, Land, and Air Protection. You can read Barisoff's letter by clicking here (PDF); my original letter appears below.

Barisoff wrote that I "couldn't be more wrong". Well, Bill, I have to go with the information I have available, supplemented by common sense. This is the first time that I (or anyone else) have heard the words "modest hostels" used in connection with the Liberal initiative to put lodges in provincial parks.

More about fish farming

I've lost track of the number of letters to the editor I've written about provincial issues that have been published over the last five years. Here's the latest one, which was published in the Royal City Record on May 11:

Editor, The Record;

In "More about fish farming" (May 7), incumbent New Westminster MLA Joyce Murray accuses the Record of misleading the reader. Actually, Murray's article provides ample reinforcement for those who have no confidence in Murray's former Water, Land, and Air Protection portfolio.

She refers to "confusing and inconclusive research on this issue". There's nothing at all confusing or inconclusive about the study published in the March 30 edition of Proceedings of the Royal Society B. This was a peer-reviewed study, and it concluded that sea lice production from the farm they studied was four orders of magnitude higher than natural, and that infection of wild juvenile salmon was 73 times higher than ambient levels near the farm and exceeded ambient levels for 30 kilometers of the wild migration route.

As for Murray's claim that her government "put in place one of the most comprehensive aquaculture regulatory regimes in the world", the real story is that Norway and Scotland do not allow open-net cage salmon farms to be located near wild salmon migration routes. And next door Alaska has an even stricter regulatory regime; they don't allow salmon farms at all. Instead, they have taken steps to protect and enhance their wild salmon fishery, and that's what we should be doing here.

Robert Broughton
Green Party Candidate
New Westminster

They didn't tear Saint Mary's Hospital down fast enough

I was out on the 200 block of Royal Avenue on Wednesday afternoon, with a group of volunteers. We were waving signs that said, "the Liberals closed Saint Mary's Hospital".

If the reaction we got from the passers-by is any indication, the Liberal strategy, which is, everyone would have forgotten about the Saint Mary's closure by now, has failed.

It's also worth mentioning that during the April 25 all candidates meeting at the Burr Theatre, I said, "I'm surprised that the Saint Mary's closure hasn't come up more often tonight." The response I heard from the Liberals sitting in the front rows was, "we're sick of hearing about it".

Well, it's very inconvenient for these people that the demolition of Saint Mary's Hospital is under way right in the middle of the election campaign, and that the location is next to a very busy street.

Just to reinforce this inconvenient reminder further, there was a front-page story in the May 4 News Leader with the headline, "Saint Mary's plan on hold." The first sentence of the article reads, "The former Saint Mary's Hospital is coming down to make way for - nothing, at least in the near future."

The substance of the story is that Embassy Developments has taken their plans for the site back to the drawing board, and they won't have a proposal available for another year.

Well, if Embassy Developments is uncertain about what they should do with this property, here's a friendly suggestion; put a health care facility on it.