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Protesting Hillary at Progressive Conference

 

New York Senator Hillary Clinton was the only source of controversy at the annual meeting of progressive Democrats held in Washington, DC June 12-14.  Speaking on the second day after breakfast, she was the only speaker to be booed in three days of discussion and strategizing on how to "Take Back America" from the Republicans.

However, those boos came only when she repeated her position that it is not "a smart strategy" to set a "date certain" for withdrawal of troops from Iraq.  She was repeatedly applauded during much of her speech, which emphasized domestic issues, and received a standing ovation at the end. According to a recent CBS poll over 60 percent of all Democrats want US troops out of Iraq as soon as possible, but there is no agreement on what that means.

Sen. John Kerry was by far the most highly cheered speaker in a lineup which included House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) and several potential candidates for President.  The 2004 Democratic candidate gave what can best be described as a rousing anti-war campaign speech. His declaration that he was wrong to support the war originally and that setting a timetable for the removal in Iraq is not "cut and run" was what this crowd wanted to hear.

Missing from the speakers list was Al Gore, the 2000 Democratic candidate, who is currently promoting a book and a film warning against global warming. He was not completely absent.  In the exhibits area a grass roots "Draft Gore" group paid $250 for a table from which to promote his candidacy and many people wore its button.

Among those booing Clinton were several men from Vets for Peace and women from Code Pink. Before the speeches began on Tuesday a half dozen grey-haired Viet Nam vets held up a large banner saying "Impeach Bush."  After about five minutes of cheers from the crowd, the banner was taken away by hotel security.  During Clinton's speech they stood up again.  This time three of them held up sheets of paper on which they had written "IMPEACH BUSH NOW".  Security did not intervene. Nor did the guards go after the three CodePink women who stood with hands raised in the V sign, or when they chanted in unison while Clinton was speaking on Iraq, "What are you going to do?"  But when they started to pull out a pink banner to hold up as Clinton was leaving the podium, security grabbed it from their hands.

This small demonstration was the outcome of serious negotiations between the conference organizers and CodePink, which has launched a nationwide campaign against Hillary Clinton because of her opposition to immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq. They are 'bird-dogging' her wherever she speaks.

According to CodePink spokeswoman Gael Murphy, in exchange for not protesting during Clinton's speech, "we were told that we could distribute flyers explaining Hillary's pro-war position to the crowd inside and outside the hotel, and we would be called on to ask the first question after the speech."  Code Pink agreed to this but came with both a question and a banner, as well as flyers and signs.

A half dozen CodePink women were met outside the hotel by conference personnel but were not allowed in with anything visible.  Instead they were directed to stand outside several different hotel entrances without being told which one Hillary would use.  They split up to try to cover all possibilities.  Those few who got inside tried to raise their banner once it was clear that there would be no question period after Clinton's speech.  Indeed none of the plenary speakers at this conference were subject to questions; only those in the workshops.

Unquestioned and unexpelled were those protestors who walked around the conference (but not in the plenaries) wearing various costumes.  Particularly popular was the Bush Chain Gang which sported four large papier maché heads of Bush, Cheney, Rice, and Rumsfeld in support of the impeach Bush campaign.

While Sen. Clinton ignored CodePink, she gave an honorable mention in her speech to Moms Rising, a new organization which looks like it's trying to co-opt the Republican Party's 'family values' rhetoric from a labor perspective.  Started by Joan Blades, a co-founder of MoveOn, only a few weeks ago, Moms Rising was given prime time spots at the TBA conference with a plenary and a workshop.  Focusing on policies to make it easier to balance work and family obligations, it's trying to build a base both online and through books and a film.  However, the film that was previewed at the TBA conference has too many historical errors in it to be taken seriously even though it tells a good tale.  Unlike CodePink, Moms Rising loves Hillary Clinton because "she's working on several pieces of legislation that address the core goals of Moms Rising (children's health care, minimum wage issues)."  The Iraq occupation is not one of its issues.

After the conference ended Wednesday afternoon, most of the 2000 people who attended went home.  They did not join CodePink's march from the TBAC hotel to the White House in memory of the 2500th US military death and thousands of Iraqi deaths so far. (The 2500th soldier died on Thursday).  Moms Rising was nowhere to be seen, but interns from the National Organization for Women (NOW) made up about 40 percent of the five dozen people who carried signs and flag draped cardboard coffins down to Pennsylvania Ave. where they lay in state in full view of the White House while the marchers held a rally.

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