San Francisco— As a nation deeply divided on the war in Iraq enters the homestretch of the 2004 presidential election this week–and the prospect of massive confusion and re-count scenarios seems more and more likely anti-war and pro-democracy organizers in cities across the country are making preparations for demonstrations on Nov. 3, the day after the election.
Emphasizing health care, education, the direction of US foreign policy, and drawing attention to mass-disenfranchisement and the flaws in the electoral system in the United States, Beyond Voting, demonstrators will hit the streets next Wednesday from Baltimore, to Chicago, to Pittsburg, Vermont and San Francisco. The demonstrations are meant to spark a grassroots dialogue on “The Day After” about the real meaning of democracy and the next steps for taking the country back post-Nov. 2.
“Even though millions of people did not support this war and marched in the streets to stop it, an antiwar candidate will not win the presidency in 2004,” said Shahid Buttar, an attorney and activist in Washington, where organizers plan a rally in Lafayette park on the 3rd. “Sadly, our votes will not be enough to save lives and end this unjust war. In order to end the US empire’s occupation of Iraq, we must go beyond voting on Nov. 2 and engage in the honorable American tradition of civil disobedience to restore justice, peace, and real democracy.”
The decentralized, grassroots, pro-democracy movement, coordinated via the website www.beyondvoting.org, has grown out of a year of organizing, from a strategy conference at the New Hampshire Primary, to the demonstrations at this summer’s Democratic and Republican National Conventions (DNC/RNC). The network protests the building of a US empire and a war without end, and insists that real democracy is more than voting on Nov 2 and requires citizen involvement at the grassroots level to shape the decisions that affect our lives, communities, and country. Beyond Voting, featured in this week’s Time Magazine cover story on “The Morning After,” aims to harness the collective outrage that may erupt in case of election fraud or a “victory by the Bush Administration” and to project an anti-war message to whomever clinches the White House this year.
“We are demonstrating on Nov. 3 to draw attention to the dismal state of health care in this country: While we spend billions on bombers we have 43 million uninsured, and pharmaceutical companies cashing in on the crisis,” said Dr. Michael Kozart, of Code Blue, the group of health care workers organizing civil disobedience at the Federal Building in San Francisco. “We are health care workers who are addressing the fact that neither Kerry nor Bush are putting forth sound proposals for universal access to quality, affordable health care, while both will continue the occupation and we feel it is time that we go beyond voting to expose this crime with nonviolent civil disobedience.”
“In the rural state of Vermont, where farms are disappearing and the only jobs for young people are in the service sector, we have suffered among the highest per-capita casualty rates of US soldiers in this quagmire war. That’s because we are feeling the chill of a back-door draft in this country, when the only way that poor kids can go to college is by killing in the oil fields of Iraq,” said Nicholas Parrish, a social worker from Burlington, with Direct Action Resisting Empire, VT (DARE). “We are marching to tell our congressional delegation to stand up for fair elections, and that we want education, not endless war and occupation.”
Beyond Voting events are still being planned, and the outcome on Nov. 2 will surely influence their tone, message and impact. Sister networks planning election protection efforts on Nov 3 also include “This Time We’re Watching” (www.ttww.org) and No Stolen Elections (www.nov3.us). For more information, contact www.beyondvoting.org.
To see how the working America has fared under the Bush administration, visit America AmBUSHed: Report Card on Bush’s Four Year’s in the White House at http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/?q=node/view/95