|From: News and Views | Beyond
the City |
Friday, August 18, 2000
Dissent's Real Democracy
LOS ANGELES erri Swearingen didn't wait
around last night for Al Gore's big acceptance speech. She's heard
his flowery promises before, which is why she came here all the way
from West Virginia this week, paying her own expenses, to stand
outside the Staples Center and denounce the vice president as a
Swearingen, a 43-year-old nurse, speaks in clear, measured tones,
and is stylishly dressed. Like many of the thousands protesting
outside the Democratic National Convention the past few days, she
fits none of the images of wild-eyed, disheveled radicals being
disseminated into America's living rooms by the media hordes who are
offers a peace sign to police in Los Angeles after officers
tried to clear protesters. |
The country keeps hearing about the boring events inside the
convention and about the unruly protesters outside, but hardly
anything about who the protesters are, why they are here, or what
this has to do with the Democrats and choosing a President.
Here are just a few examples of the stories you didn't hear:
Back in 1992, when he and Bill Clinton were first running for
office, Al Gore visited Weirton, W.Va., near the Ohio River.
Swearingen was there when Gore promised to do something about a huge
waste incinerator across the river in East Liverpool, Ohio.
The incinerator, run by Waste Technologies Industries, burns
70,000 tons of hazardous waste each year. It is the largest
incinerator of its kind in the country.
It also sits in a flood plain and is only 1,100 feet away from an
elementary school attended by 600 children. Since the school is on a
hill, the incinerator's stack releases smoke directly onto the
children each day.
Al Gore promised that if he and Bill Clinton were elected, they
would do something about the incinerator.
"We'll be on your side for a change," he said. Eight years have
passed and the White House long ago forgot Gore's promise.
protester is surrounded by police.
But Swearingen, who lives less than 2 miles from the incinerator,
didn't. She became an activist against the plant and has now been
arrested nine times in protests, including once in front of the
Along the way, she read an article from salon.com, the Internet
magazine, saying that an Arkansas man named Jackson Stephens, whose
company was involved in financing the incinerator, had raised more
than $100,000 for Clinton-Gore and once gave the campaign a $3.5
million line of credit.
Another of the demonstrators this week was Dee Dominguez. She is
the tribal chairwoman of the Kitanemuk/Tejon Indians whose ancestral
lands are in the Elk Hills of the San Joaquin Valley, 100 miles
north of Los Angeles.
Back in 1997, Al Gore backed the government's sale of the Elk
Hills oil reserve for $3.5 billion to Occidental Petroleum. The
transfer of the 78-square-mile field was one of the largest
privatizations of federal property in U.S. history. The Gore family
has substantial investments in Occidental. The firm's founder and
longtime CEO, Armand Hammer, gave Gore's father a $500,000-a-year
job and a seat on the board of directors when the elder Gore retired
from the U.S. Senate.
Then there were Maria Elena Durazo and the hotel union workers
who marched outside the Loews Hotel in Santa Monica on Sunday. The
union is in a tough campaign to represent the hotel workers, and the
millionaire who runs the hotel, Jonathan Tisch, has been fighting
them at every step.
Tisch is a key confidant and financial contributor to — who else?
— Al Gore. The same Al Gore who talked last night about defending
working people and their rights.
And so it went with so many of the demonstrators. Each had a
story worth listening to. Even if you didn't agree with them, you
had to admire their passion and conviction.
They didn't come for lavish parties. They came to register their
dissent, which is how this country started in the first place.
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