Reporter's Notebook

Voices from the Feb. 4 "Bush Step Down!" Protest

Revolution #035, February 19, 2006, posted at

Thousands came together in Washington DC on a rainy February 4 to declare The World Can't Wait...Drive Out The Bush Regime - Bush Step Down And Take Your Program With You! A reporting team from Revolution talked with dozens of people to find out why they had come and where they came from. Some of the reporting team rode on buses from Chicago to DC, where we conducted many of our interviews. We asked people to speak to the seriousness of the times and the need for resistance, as they see it.

We were struck by the diversity of those who came and the seriousness with which they took their purpose. Some had just found the World Can't Wait movement and jumped in eyes wide open, attending the first protest of their lives. While others we met were long time activists. Many we talked to had come as individuals. We met people who were taking their voices to the streets for the first time in 30 years. These are some of their comments.

Curtis, a young Black Katrina survivor from New Orleans now residing in DC, told Revolution: "I was looking on the Internet--gotta deal with FEMA, FEMA was bullshitting on the Internet. So I went to CNN and I saw an article about World Can't Wait and I went to their website and I was like ‘I gotta get with these people, man.’ My reason for being here is that I'm an evacuee, I had to leave all my stuff back in New Orleans and that don't feel good... There's more things going on than the hurricane but it's hard for me to overlook that because there's still people dying at Lake Pontchartrain [New Orleans], there's still people floating around dead--that sounds like genocide to me! With him [Bush] in... I'm scared, man, to be perfectly honest--I'm a grown man and I ain't scared of nothing. But when he gets on TV and can bark lies and be proud of that, that's not a good thing."

Elizabeth, a white woman from Peoria, Illinois, who works for the American Red Cross blood services, had just found out about the demonstration in DC days prior and went on line to buy a bus ticket. "I think that there's this notion in America that all we can do is get out and vote. That's the catchphrase, get out and vote, and there's so much more than that. I think, sometimes I feel like that doesn't make a difference at all, the getting out and voting part, it's what you do at a local level, and what you stand for and what you stand up against, and having the courage to do all of that matters more than signing a ballot."

Julia, an artist and senior at Chicago's Lincoln Park High, told us she is an avid reader. She found out about the demonstration in DC during the November 2nd World Can't Wait protest.. "I felt a certain responsibility to express my discontent with a lot of the things this administration does. I felt if I couldn't do something like this then I would be sort of not supporting myself, not supporting what I believe, and I thought it would be an amazing experience, I've never done anything like this."

Ladonna and her friend Audrey, two young Black women and Chicago State University students, had literally just heard about the trip to DC after watching the State of the Union address. Ladonna explained why she got on the bus: "I'm young, it's time for young people to start stepping up, being more active about what's going on for the future...and hopefully I can influence more people my age to become active in situations like this. It's time to take that stand and I felt like this was the perfect opportunity."

There was a real sense of how people have been seeing themselves in relationship to this movement. Tori, a woman who came with her partner from San Francisco, told us, "If we were able to make it to DC, why wouldn't we, why wouldn't we join the movement? I really was thinking about it, we can all go to these easy protests that are right next door and feel like we've done our job, but it's really something that we live, instead of like, this once every so often, that it's actually is going to cost us a change in our life; it's going to be an inconvenience and are we willing to have that inconvenience in our life so that we can make some positive changes for our community...instead of people living as individuals and trying to get their own gain. I want to see a socially minded community and that is sort of what I'm feeling that I'm seeing. There needs to be a lot more people spreading this message."

As part of learning the sentiments of people we asked about the comparison of Bush to Hitler made in the World Can't Wait call.

George, an older man from the Du Page County [Illinois] Democrats, shared with us this story: "I went out to Yellowstone National Park this past summer, and the best part of the trip was that I stopped in Sauk Centre, Minnesota at the Sinclair Lewis Museum. [Sinclair Lewis] is a Nobel Prize winner, wrote a book that no one knows about in 1934, entitled 'It Can't Happen Here.' It said when fascism comes to the United States it will be wrapped in an American flag and carrying a cross. So that hit me like a ton of bricks and I said, yeah, well it's slow, but incrementally we're in trouble right now in terms of civil liberties, this is just like Watergate, all this business about if Osama Bin Laden calls the United States, we wanna know about it, you think we're dealing with children? You actually think they're gonna use a cell phone to call their sleeper cell? This is domestic spying just like Watergate but thirty years later, know you have high tech, access to phone conversations, cellular and otherwise, they’re basically spying on their political enemies, so next election you have another swift vote or a flip flop, they can listen in on the Democratic Party all they want, and call it domestic surveillance or surveillance in anticipation of some attack from a foreign terrorist organization but basically, its big brother watching, that's what it boils down to."

Alexis, an Egyptian American Loyola University student who came with her sisters and father, joked, "A family that brings down the Bush regime together, stays together." She commented, " 'If you're not with us, you're against us', this is why [Hitler] could condemn Germans who weren't pro-NAZI, it's the same thing, all this patriotism..."

Terry, a woman in her 50's from the Chicago suburbs, said she hadn't been to a demonstration in 30 years. A self-described former hippie, she spoke bitterness of working with, then being betrayed by her local Congressperson after working for him. She heard the WCW ad every twenty minutes on Air America radio and decided to get involved. She told us, "The more I understand what's going on the more frightened I get. Because I really do understand that this country is quickly sliding towards a fascist state whether anyone wants to acknowledge it or not. As [Hitler] took over, people, just like now, were going ‘that can't happen here.’ It's all ‘good, that can't happen here’ and it did. Most people in this country just want to be comfortable, go about their lives and have their family and their friends and pay their bills. But you can't afford to be complacent anymore because very quietly everything is being stripped away in the name of terror. And they are going to play this as long as they can, they are going to keep people afraid as long as they can, so that they can do whatever the fuck they want. And I'm not down with that."

We talked with James, a WCW organizer from Southern California, and a Massachusetts student, Usher. In speaking to the comparison of Bush to Hitler, Usher said, "At first I was like ‘wow, that is a strong statement’ and it bothered me cuz I was like ‘Bush has yet to kill millions of people,’ but it is the direction that it's going and that is the important part. And it becomes scarily similar when you look at what was actually going on at the beginning of Hitler’s time in power. The more you look at it the more and more you see, and it's no longer that radical of a statement to make."

James added, "I’m right on board with that…I sat in during the [Bush Crimes] tribunal and some of the testimony there just blew me away, like what we were doing to these Abu Ghraib prisoners. The first thing Hitler got rid of when he was appointed to power was women’s right to choose, the appointment of Alito, if this doesn’t happen, if we don’t make this work I’m sure if that’s gonna be the first thing to go."

In the spirited march, we shared an umbrella with Daya, a young Black corporate computer technician from New Jersey. He heard about World Can't Wait on two radio stations. The added factor of torrential rains seemed to cement in his determination. "I'm also terrified as to what the Bush Regime is doing, the way the whole entire world is working, I'm one of the people who says, I'm a concerned citizen, I think I should be out here. Could be 100% true the only difference between Bush and Hitler is so far Bush hasn't turned on the American people and start killing them left and right, so maybe we should, like, get him out of office before that happens."

When the march ended, protesters boarded the bus to go back home, triumphant, drenched, exhausted, and energized. Pulling away from the capitol chanting "Bush Step Down, Bush Step Down." Many talked into the night, reflecting on the day. Some of our team rode back on a bus to Chicago.

We talked with Brad, a member of the United Auto Worker's Union in his late 30’s. He told us "this country is going backwards, we are losing everything that people before us have fought for and got and it's all being taking away now and on top of that what we're doing around the world, used to be I heard the national anthem and I cried out of pride, now I cry because I'm embarrassed." He talked about the 30,000 auto workers to be laid off and the growing trend of de-unionization under Bush. He said, in reference to the day, "I got the fire rekindled in me. I found like-minded people. We all toughed it out, standing in the cold rain for so long. I'm going to spread this message into other unions."

Jack and Gene O'Mally, an older couple, had driven from Indiana to catch the bus in Chicago. Jack said, "I've got 14 grandchildren and I'm afraid Bush has screwed their future. This is the first rally we've been to and we would like to thank the organizers."

A young punk rock Latina woman who called herself Anti reflected on the day, "Youth of today see the world as it should be, not as it is. Bush is evil and I think we need to give our youth a hand for coming out. I was fearful of the future, but I want to turn that around so Bush is afraid of us."

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