WASHINGTON – Behind a banner proclaiming “Jobs, Justice & Peace,” hundreds of demonstrators marched to the Justice Department Sept. 13 to protest the Bush administration’s attacks on civil liberties and its drive toward war on Iraq.
The march, sponsored by the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, AFL-CIO, National Organization for Women (NOW), Arab American Institute and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), was swelled by busloads of union members – Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees and United Mine Workers – who streamed up Pennsylvania Avenue chanting “Justice now.”
“We have an administration that really doesn’t care anything about poor people and people of color,” Detroit City Councilmember Alonzo Bates told the World. “George W. Bush has made it plain that he is nothing but a warmonger. We should be trying to sit down and talk with people rather than drop bombs on them. Bush has no mandate for war. He didn’t win the election. He stole it.”
Florida SEIU leader Tony Hill, fresh from his Democratic primary victory in a Florida state senate race, told the World the turmoil in Florida’s Sept. 10 primary is a warning that George W. Bush and Gov. Jeb Bush continue to pose a threat to voting rights. “We had the 2000 debacle all over again,” he said. “We have to move nationally to insure our voting rights.”
A contingent of high school and college students walked behind the banner of the “New Civil Rights Movement,” chanting “We won’t take resegregation.”
Jodi Masley, a recent graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, assailed the Bush administration and Attorney General John Ashcroft for waging war against affirmative action. New York SEIU member Stephen Jones said, “We don’t like Bush and his war. We are talking about the slaughter of thousands of lives. It’s about the oil they want to control.”
The crowd gathered in front of the Justice Department where AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Linda Chavez Thompson said, “We are here for what is right and fair, for justice. We want guaranteed economic rights, a livable wage, and affordable, quality health care for everyone, not just for the rich.” Referring to the Bush-Ashcroft Homeland Security Department plan to strip 170,000 federal employees of union rights, she said, “Working people have the right to belong to unions. … We are here to prevent Bush from stealing those rights from us.”
NOW President Kim Gandy denounced Bush and Ashcroft for using the Sept. 11, 2001, terrrorist attacks “to press forward a right-wing domestic agenda” and to intimidate and silence opposition.
“Speaking up when the government is wrong is the highest form of patriotism. It’s a badge of true patriotism to be called ‘unpatriotic’ by the likes of John Ashcroft.”
Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, drew cheers, saying “We have to teach the president of the United States what the Constitution means: Congress alone can declare war.… We should repeal the Patriot Act. We can defend the nation’s security without giving up one of our constitutional rights. There is no reason that thousands are being arrested and held secretly for months. No wiretapping! No secret courts! No secret evidence!”
He called for a huge voter turnout this fall “to uphold the Constitution.”
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, demanded that Bush stop saber-rattling against Iraq. Sept. 11, he said, “didn’t change everything. It changed the subject. Iraq will change the subject again. The real subject is Enron, WorldCom, corporate greed when we have so much human need.”
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