Si, Se Puede!

I got a sense of how large the April 29th March for Peace,
Justice and Democracy was a little after 1 pm on Saturday.
While helping to get things organized down at Foley Square
for the end-of-march grassroots action festival, I overheard
on a police walkie-talkie the news that the head of the
march was at Bleecker St., 16 blocks down from where it
started. Then, 5-10 minutes later, I got a call from someone
who was at 21st and Broadway asking me what was happening,
that they weren’t moving. I told him, “That’s good news, it
means that this is very big, that’s why you haven’t moved

I heard afterwards that when people in the lead contingent
got to Foley Square and called back to the beginning of the
march that there were still people who hadn’t left. That’s
about 30 blocks worth.

It was very big, certainly in the hundreds of thousands.

Then on Monday I went to the immigrant rights march at Union
Square in NYC. It was astounding to experience the sight of
many tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of
people, a crowd overwhelmingly working class and Latino,
marching down the same exact route, from Union Square to
Foley Square, just two days later, demanding to be treated
as human beings, with justice and respect.

Between the two marches, there had to be close to a half
million or more people demonstrating in NYC on those two
days, and on Monday there were millions more around the

No question about it: the spring of 2006 has announced to
the world that the justice movement is alive, well and
growing in the U.S.A.

There are differences, of course, between the massive,
semi-spontaneous movement for immigrant rights that has
erupted over the last two months, beginning in Chicago in
the second week of March, and the multi-issue,
multi-constituency coalition which organized the April 29
action. One is predominantly Latino, the other is
predominantly white. One emerged in large part because of a
strikingly repressive bill passed earlier this year in the
House of Representatives that would criminalize those
without legal documents and those who help them. The other
was decided upon over a two month period between
mid-November and mid-January through a series of meetings
and conference calls and the working out of an approach
which centralized a call to end the war but which also
addressed a number of other major issues. This included
immigrant rights, part of the April 29 coalition’s public
call to action in February.

Given the reality of the legislative process taking place
right now in Washington to try to decide on what new laws
should be enacted to deal with immigration issues, it is to
be expected that the immigrant rights movement is not fading
away anytime soon. We can expect more massive immigrant
rights actions in this spring month of May.

As far as the April 29 coalition, it has called for local
actions on July 4th, on August 29th, the first anniversary
of Hurricane Katrina, and in support of early September
Labor Day marches. And it has called for an electoral focus,
for “every candidate to address our agenda: end the war in
Iraq, dismantle the bases, return the troops, no military
action against Iran, rebuild communities in need, stand for
immigrant rights and racial justice, protect our civil
liberties, defend women’s right to control their own bodies,
ensure rights for labor, veterans and lesbian-gay-bisexual
and transgendered people, get serious about the climate
crisis before it is too late.”

Exactly how this issue-oriented, electoral focus gets
carried out remains to be seen. But here’s an idea:

What if, in cities, towns and rural areas around the
country, local coalitions formed behind this program and
made plans for how to bring it to every candidate in their
area running for federal office, whether Republicans,
Democrats, Greens or other independents? What if there were
a willingness to use not just the usual methods-public
forums, leafleting, petitions, meetings with those running
for office-but more creative and more confrontational
tactics as necessary? What if throughout the country this
summer and fall there were a growing number of sit-ins in
the offices of Congresspeople and Senators, Republicans and
Democrats, who get a big fat “F,” or even a “D,” on a
progressive scorecard on these issues? What if many
hundreds, thousands, of people got arrested sitting in,
standing up, for our turn-the-country-around agenda?

What if 2006 saw the on-going growth of a new
grassroots-based, consciously multi-cultural, independent,
multi-issue movement willing to act in a coordinated way,
one consistent with the urgency of the multiple crises we
are facing?

It’s too bad that we have to suffer under an undemocratic,
winner-take-all electoral system (instead of proportional
representation) that is dominated by corporate money. Such a
system has served historically to divide progressives who,
on the issues, are generally in agreement but who,
tactically, either run or support independents or, more
pragmatically, run as or support progressive Democrats.

That’ll keep happening for a long time, at least until our
progressive movement is strong enough to win public
financing of elections and instant runoff voting as a step
towards proportional representation. In the meantime, why
don’t we try the time-tested, direct action approach to
single out and put on the defensive those elected officials
of both corporate parties most responsible for the mess we’re
in? If done intelligently, this can only strengthen those
candidates running for office who support our program,
strengthen the overall movement for campaigns in 2007 to
impeach Bush/Cheney, end the war, terminate all government
subsidies to oil companies and put that money into
urgently-needed renewable energy, and more.

It is time, long-overdue time, to unite for change so that
we really can turn our country around. It is happening; let’s
deepen and strengthen it!

As millions are publicly chanting all over the USA, si, se