An overflow crowd, at least 1,000, packed the Covenant Church in Inglewood, where church employees had to shut the doors due to fire regs that limit the sanctuary to 800. In short, the Out of Iraq! teach-in was a phenomenal success organized by a rainbow coalition of diverse organizations, from the NAACP to Rock the Vote to Iraq Vets Against the War and various Democratic Clubs (first time I've ever seen such a Democratic Club presence).
Waters moderated the whole four-hour affair -- talk about hands on! We called journalists across the country on our cell phones, requesting coverage of the Downing Street memo. "Hello ... I'm calling from one of 300 town meetings across the nation and I am sitting here with members of Gold Star Familles for Peace and Military Families Speak Out. We want you to tell the American public the truth about the Downing Street memo ... " Others were less polite. "Why the hell aren't you reporting the truth about the massacres in Iraq?!"
Willie B. led a hip hop rap "Stop the war -- no, we don't want to go to war, we've seen this before, it's going to wind up in a third world war." (Let's hope not ... ) When Waters mentioned impeachment, the crowd echoed -- "Impeach, impeach, impeach" -- Plenty of standing ovations for Waters, and for Barbara Lee, whom Waters honored as the only congress member courageous and intelligent enough to oppose the Iraq war resolution. Waters told us CA Assemblyman Jerome Horton, on hand, would soon introduce a resolution in the state legislature, calling on Pres Bush to bring the troops home. Same for Mae Thomas, a trustee with the Compton School Board. Waters to the crowd -- "You are going to have to help the scared members of Congress. You are going to take them by the hand and lead them out of Iraq."
At one point she called all the veterans against the war who were seated in the audience to come up to the podium. Waters thanked the veterans of Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, WWII for their service, and for speaking out against the occupation of Iraq. The crowd roared. At another juncture she asked all the children to come up to remind the crowd that the military wants to recruit them for an illegal war. A young boy, clearly anxious, came up to me at the press table, asking, "When will I be drafted?"
Often on their feet, waving, cheering, members of the audience held up photographs of Martin Luther King and signs that shouted, "Liberty without Lies" -- "No more Lies" -- The front of the church wore huge "Out of Iraq Now" banners. For the first hour of the teach-in, the cost of war figures -- $182,628, 817 and changing were projected onto a screen. At one point I heard a man say to his friend, "We've already spent $7,000,000 since we got here." CPAN covered it all, as did Truth Out, KPFK, and the Washington Report.
One of the highlights of the Inglewood "Out of Iraq!" teach-in was a speech by Reverend James Lawson, former Director of the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC). In reference to congressional representatives who continue to fund the war, Lawson said, "We must make it so hot for elected officials that they must change or perish." On the media, "It is bad, it is corrupt. Let's organize to change that. There are a number of stations in LA that are vulnerable to a boycott." On the will of the people, Lawson told the spirited standing-room only crowd, "You are not impotent. You have power."
Waters, the organizer of the Out of Iraq caucus in Congress, urged parents to summon their power to confront school principals who, under the No Child Left Behind Act, may feel compelled to turn over the names and addresses of students to military recruiters. Earlier, Palisadians for Peace and the Coalition Against Militarism in Our Schools stood at the door, supplying participants with Opt Out forms, so that sons, daughters, nieces and nephews might officially opt out of NCLB's data-sharing with the military.
During the four-hour program, a teenage activist came to the microphone to describe how she and her friends had staged a sit-in at their school to protest the initial bombing of Iraq. When the angry Principal threatened to punish them if they made too much noise, the girl said they used their bodies to form a silent human peace sign.
At various times during the program, participants shouted, "What about depleted uranium? Let's talk about that." And finally they did, when Waters spontaneously decided to share the microphone with someone not slated to speak -- Andrew Moriarty, a member of the newly-formed Progressive Democrats of the Santa Monica Mountains. Moriarty spoke of the generational effects of US weapons made with depleted uranium and urged the crowd to read more, learn more about our own weapons of mass destruction.
As the teach-in came to a close, a group of leafleters headed to Hollywood to hit the streets with leaflets urging an investigation into the Downing Street memo.
President, Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles