Amazing, I thought. I had never seen so many crows in my entire life- every crow in California was there in Monterey! I panned the camera to get the footage, and guessed they had been spooked by all the fallen trees- it had been a hell of a rainstorm.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium was closed, so we swung the rented RV back out on the highway and headed to Santa Cruz, where a site waited for us at KOA. I tended a fire, trying to meditate my way out of a bad bou t with indigestion. It's not hard to guess why I was experiencing the great wall of China inside my esophagus; military spending in the trillions, Kucinich banned, American flags on people, products and police cars, a dying republic and impeachment a pipe-dream.
We stopped in at Berkeley to film the real troops defending our homeland, finding them perched high above the Berkeley campus in Oak Trees, slated for removal to make way for a Football stadium parking lot.
After a brief but emotional trip through Peoples Park (where I once lived), we headed off to San Francisco for the Great (Green) Debate of 2008!
Knowing San Francisco as I do, I headed there a day early, for parking purposes. A traffic jam of monumental proportions awaited us at the Bay Bridge. We creeped and creeped, until we saw the line of police cars parked at the apex of the enormous span. Eleven squad cars for a fender-bender, I thought? Then I saw her- a distraught youngish black woman -already over the railing- shaking her head in dispair, eyes on the frigid water far below. My heart sunk. And here I thought I had problems. 'Don't do it, girl', I said beneath my breath. The drama still unfolding, traffic dictated we push on.
We arrived near the Herbst Theater at an empty parking lot and took up two spaces with the 30' RV. On the wall above, a large sign proclaimed: THIS MAN IS AN IMPOSTER! and showed a photo of a balding black man. DO NOT PAY ANYONE BUT THE MACHINE! it continued. Nearby in a filthy doorway, slept this 'imposter'; destitute, cold, and, apparently, somewhat resourceful!
The Green Presidential Debate
Our dogs camping safely, we dressed and walked to the Herbst Theater. A security guard pointed us in the right direction and we entered at the stage door. At this point, it was an empty theater but for two hard-working soundstage engineers and we hit it off famously. I did all their sound checks and, within an hour, I had a front row press seat (from where I filmed the entire debate*) and had my new CD playing over the beautiful house system!
A countdown began, and every minute it was announced to those working how long until the doors would open to allow the public in. "Two minutes", came the call. "One minute".
All manor of Green (and the occasional undercover, I'm sure) splashed into the theater, rows filling and eventually spilling- a great turnout!
The event MC was a lovely and poised lady from a progressive media outlet, and she handled the occasional activist-outbursts by announcing, "That's why I love doing public events; you get, you know, the public". There were three such outbursts, mentioning impeachment, tree-sitters and a complaint about Naders speech running over his alloted time. The response of the green 'security' crew was to quietly reason with these modern day Paul Reveres. I was proud. We are quite evolved!
After short statements by distinguished Greens like San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, and a few words from Americas sweetheart Cindy Sheehan, the cadidates themselves were shown to their seats on stage.
From left-to-right, it was:
* Jesse Johnson, the candidate from West Virginia. Jesse had a powerful stage presence and along with Kent Mesplay was the most environmentally outspoken. His ideas were fresh, and he oozed leadership. His one area of weakness was his inability to break out of the issues of his region, where mountain-top coal removal is a destructive force. With more national experience, this is a future Green President.
* Kat Swift, Green Presidential Candidate from Texas:
Young, spirited and courageous, Kat seemed a bit overwhelmed by emotion at times. A dreadlocked former food-not-bombs volunteer, she represented hope for the future, with an ability unique among the candidates to reach out to the youngest Greens. Particularly interesting was her comment against divisiveness, warning of the dangers of "Rabid Veganism" among other things. As with all the candidates, the new Farm Bill was basically a mystery to her.
* Cynthia McKinney: The former Democratic Congresswoman from Georgia was easily the high point of the program when she recieved a sustained standing ovation after a spirited call for unity within the Green Party. Beautiful and well-spoken, this is an electable candidate in any race. Although lacking Ralph Naders complete mastery of the issues, she is an excellent example of the value of experience.
* Kent Mesplay:
Perhaps because of lessons learned growing up in Papua New Guinea, Kent displayed a very appealing environmental ethic. Scholarly and refined, Kent provoked a comment from Ralph Nader that he "doesn't even look like a green, and that's not a bad thing". Among the great work by organizers of this event, was the seating arrangement. Putting Mesplay next to Jared Ball was the perfect compliment for them and treat for us. Two men of solid substance, black, white, fire, ice, it was an excersize in texture. Kent Mesplay would make a fine President.
*Jared Ball: This firebrand from Washington DC is far and away the most dynamic of the candidates. With a mastery of black history to rival Malcom X and the motivational skills of Dr. King himself, Jared Ball is a force for change. He expressed his unabashed support of Cynthia McKinney, and his entourage of hip-hop artist 'Head-Roc' escorted her to and from her seat on stage like an adoring disciple. Count me among those disciples!
Jared made profound statements early and often, at one point politely correcting Kat Swift when she mentioned blacks had come to America 'as slaves'. Jared replied, "I respectfully correct my sister Kat that these people came not as slaves, but as a people enslaved".
Perhaps a Jared Ball presidency would ignite the smoldering rags of a new American revolution. To paraphrase Nader, "That might not be a bad thing"
Green Debate, epilogue~
That mornings newspaper held a small, but significant article, saying that San Francisco Police had contacted the family of the woman on the Bay Bridge. They arrived in time to save her. We cheered!
We drove off into the night, watching the lights on the dark highway fade toward the horizon, where their stellar counterparts rose up in their stead. I chose the brighest one and headed toward it.
Joey Racano, Director Ocean Outfall Group www.stopthewaiver.
My music: http://www.myspace.com/joeyracano
Member, California Green Party Delegate, 2008 Green National Convention Endorsements: California Green Party, 2002, Orange County Patrick Henry Democratic Club, 2004 Huntington Beach Mobile Home Owners Association, 2004 Former CDP State Central Committee Delegate, 2003-2006 Former Member- CDP Environmental Caucus Author- CDP 'Heritage Tree' State Resolution, 2003, La Jolla Marine Sanctuary Resolution, 2007
Tel and Fax: 805-772-2988 Cell: 805-540-8970 Address: P.O. Box 1260 Morro Bay, Ca 93443-1260 USA
The authorities in Los Angeles plucked the actor Daryl Hannah from her perch in a walnut tree last week, arresting her and dozens of other protesters at an urban farm they were trying to protect from development.
Ms. Hannah may be the most famous person to take up residence in a tree as a form of protest, but she was hardly the first. When and where did tree-sitting originate?
It began, by most accounts, in a grove of old-growth Douglas firs in the Willamette National Forest in western Oregon in the spring of 1985. Members of two environmental groups, Earth First and the Cathedral Forest Action Group, were trying to block logging in the forest and were frustrated that their tactics, including blockades and sit-ins on cartons of explosives used to blast roads, were not having much effect.
Mikal Jakubal, one of the protesters, recalled that at a campfire meeting one night, the subject of putting people in the trees came up. No logger, the thinking went, would cut down a tree with a person in it.
But an old-growth fir, which has no branches for the first 50 or 60 feet, is not an easy tree to climb. Mr. Jakubal, who now lives in Redway, Calif., was a rock climber who had climbed El Capitan in Yosemite the year before. "I said, 'Well, I could get up in one of those old-growth trees no problem.' "
Two mornings later, on May 20, Mr. Jakubal climbed the tree, hammering nails into the trunk every few feet to hang his climbing gear. When he got about 60 feet up, he spread out a portaledge - a platform used by rock climbers - and set up shop.
Since his climb, hundreds of people have taken up residence high in trees, usually to protest clear-cutting. The most famous tree-sitter, Julia Butterfly Hill, lived 180 feet up in a California redwood for 738 days, coming down in 1999 after a lumber company agreed to spare her tree, which she named Luna, and others in a three-acre tract.
Paul Hirt, an environmental historian at Arizona State University, said that the early 1980's was a time of "real historic crisis" in the national forests. Intensive logging had occurred since the end of World War II, and the United States Forest Service had abandoned its traditional alliance with conservationists in favor of closer ties to the timber industry. When President Reagan appointed a timber company executive to head the forest service, environmental groups responded by stepping up their efforts. "It was throwing down the gauntlet," Mr. Hirt said.
Tree-sitting was seen by some as a nonviolent alternative to "monkeywrenching," or environmental sabotage like tree spiking and vandalizing of equipment. "People thought if you were going to break the law, you should do it in a way that puts your own body on the line," Mr. Hirt said.
The tactic was useful in getting news coverage. "Tree-sitting had a real interesting social order," he said. "There were the people who would climb the trees, and a whole support crew on the ground, including people who brought media people to the tree."
Loggers responded by trying to scare sitters - felling trees near them or occasionally cutting part of the way through an occupied tree. When that didn't work the companies opted for "extraction," most often accomplished by sending a crew up the tree.
Mr. Jakubal came down on his own, at the end of the first day. Loggers had cut down all the trees around him and he wanted to inspect the damage. "It was my first direct action," he said. "I was very naïve. The police were waiting in the bushes."
Mr. Jakubal was arrested, and the tree was cut down the next morning.
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