Liberals gather to 'demand answers'
Venues include parties, town hall meeting, convention
- Kelly St. John, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, July 24, 2005
The political left came out in full force across the Bay Area on Saturday.
In Berkeley, they explored the spiritual side of being liberal. In Oakland, they blasted the Bush administration over the war in Iraq at a town hall meeting with Rep. Barbara Lee. And all over the region, Bush bashers heard former Ambassador Joseph Wilson rip into Karl Rove via conference call.
Such a harmonic convergence of activism could almost be dubbed "liberal bliss" day -- if everyone weren't so fighting mad.
"Just because they run the show doesn't mean we're not going to put up a fight," said Lee, D-Oakland, who spoke to a standing-room-only crowd of 850 at the Grand Lake Theater. "We will demand answers, we will demand accountability, and we won't stop until we get them."
Lee's town hall meeting was one of 320 events nationwide, planned on the third anniversary of the meeting between U.S. and British officials, whose minutes have come to be known as the Downing Street Memo.
That memo says "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" to justify the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq.
"It's unbelievable that millions of Americans still don't know about the existence of the Downing Street Memo, despite the fact that its contents are so controversial they could provide grounds for the impeachment of the president," said Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Global Exchange, a San Francisco human rights organization.
To answer questions about whether intelligence was "fixed" to justify an invasion, Lee has introduced a resolution of inquiry asking President Bush to give Congress the administration's communications with the United Kingdom from the period leading up to Oct. 16, 2002, when Congress authorized the use of force in Iraq.
"People are dying because of the lies that Bush is telling, and it's just repugnant," said John Glynn, 54, an Oakland health care consultant at the town hall meeting. "It's got to be stopped."
"It feels like you can't sit by and do nothing," added Sheryl Lipari, a 50-year-old mother who is trying to prevent military recruiters from visiting her son's high school in Castro Valley. "Slowly I'm seeing our freedoms taken away."
Other events included a smattering of smaller "house parties" across the Bay Area designed to educate voters about the Downing Street Memo and the grand jury investigation of Bush administration leaks of the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame, whose husband, Wilson, is an outspoken critic of the Bush administration.
John Sanchez hosted a house party Saturday evening at his home in Alameda. He broadcast clips of the White House press corps grilling Bush spokesman Scott McClellan about whether Bush adviser Rove broke the law by leaking Plame's name, then played a similar exchange between officials and the press corps during the Nixon administration.
Sanchez, a 33-year-old investment analyst, said it was the first political event he had organized.
"I sense there's a movement happening, and I want to be a part of it," he said.
According to staff members of Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), almost 15,000 people nationwide attended house parties, where they also heard a conference call with Wilson.
"Weeks ago, we learned that Karl Rove betrayed national security, but not one Republican has bothered to stand up and say that was wrong," Wilson said.
In Berkeley, the Network of Spiritual Progressives wrapped up its four- day conference on Spiritual Activism, which drew 1,400 people.
The Rev. Christine Morgan, hospice chaplain at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco, said she left the event determined "to be more outwardly activist."
Many in the conference have been vocal about how to counter the religious right, Morgan said.
"It's not about bashing anybody," she said. "It's about saying wait a minute -- not all the Christians are in agreement with what is happening in the political arena."
"This is an antidote to the politics of fear," added Fred Hosea, an Oakland resident and Green Party member. "It's possibly the beginnings of a spiritual reformation in America."
E-mail Kelly St. John at email@example.com 
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