HOUSTON — Over 300 activists gathered on Dec. 5 to give Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Sugar Land) and Vice President Dick Cheney a warm welcome here by shouting, “Clean the House — Dump DeLay” during rush-hour traffic. The protesters gathered in the front of the Galleria shopping center where DeLay was holding a fund raiser in the Westin Hotel. The Galleria shopping center is one of the most up-scale shopping centers in Houston.

It was a chilly evening for Houston, but the diverse group of activists warmed up with chants of “What do we want? Stop the War! When do we want it? Now!” and “No justice, No peace — U.S. Out of the Middle East!” Some people wore Abu Ghraib-style clothing to protest the U.S. use of torture. Others carried brooms to symbolize the need for a clean sweep of the U.S. House of Representatives.

People carried homemade signs and banners and some that were professionally made. One carried a sign that read, “Put the Hammer in the Slammer!”

The response from people in cars passing by was overwhelmingly positive. One family in a BMW drove by and gave a thumbs-up sign and honked to express their support. People on buses stopping at the bus stop joined in with the chants.

A few politicians from the Democratic Party joined the protesters. David Murff is running for the House of Representatives against John Culberson, a well-known right-wing crony of Bush and DeLay. In a prepared statement, Murff said, “As a congressional candidate for District 7 in 2006, I fully support the efforts of the groups protesting against Tom DeLay and the vice president; specifically on issues ranging from the current wide spread corruption in Congress to the poor handling of the war in Iraq. … For countless families having lost loved ones to a war supported and encouraged by those individuals, this holiday season will bring only sorrow.”

Murff called on DeLay to donate the proceeds from the fund raiser “to the families of fallen and/or wounded service men and women. If he will not support them through legislation, he can at least step forward and support them now.”

Stan McCandless told the World that he was “protesting the government in general — it’s a travesty what’s going on. Is there anything that we can be proud of nationally?” Bob Thornthwaite said: “The person that irritates me the most is Dick Cheney because he persists in lying about the reason we went to war. He believes in torture. I think torture is absolutely wrong. The idea you can lock people up indefinitely without charge or trial. It’s not the America I was raised to believe in. It’s outrageous.”

DeLay was previously indicted on charges of money laundering and conspiracy which led to his resignation as House majority leader. His attorneys had moved to have the charges dropped, but were thwarted when Senior District Judge Pat Priest upheld charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Priest did throw out charges of conspiring to violate the state election code. Republicans are already pushing to replace DeLay in January as House majority leader.

According to the Houston Chronicle, DeLay’s staff alleged that most of the protesters were professionals from as far away as San Francisco. Local activists scoffed at the claim, noting that most of the protesters were Houston residents.

The event was sponsored by over 21 organizations, including Code Pink, Gold Star Families for Peace – Houston, Harris County Green Party, Harris County Young Democrats, Houston Peace Forum, Progressive Action Alliance, Progressive Populist Caucus of the Texas Democratic Party, Progressive Workers Organizing Committee, Veterans for Peace and others.

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