Election Night, San Francisco

Tuesday evening, our WCW crew set up at the doorstep of a city-sponsored Election Night celebration -- where hundreds lined up to go in (big screen TVs! cash bar but free pizza!). We had stacks of WCW flyers, big bold picket signs saying "No War! No Torture! No Matter Who the Next President Is" and we wore more WCW slogans on orange papers pinned to our clothing. As people lined up to go inside, we got our flyer into everyone's hands and we talked with as many as we could.

We expected that some Obama supporters would disagree with WCW's message. It was a little surprising when nobody got shouting mad at us, all night To be clear, WCW really was controversial, and some people were offended - some stiffly refused our flyer and wouldn't talk. But many, many others heard our call-outs, read our signs, and took flyers with nods, smiles, and conversation. And some people initially wouldn't stop, but then they"d hear us talking, and they"d reach back and take the flyer.

This was a mainstream SF crowd who had voted for Obama, mainly in their 30's to 50's (some were younger). They were of many occupations and life paths, from art students and office workers, to creative artists and teachers. Of course, this being a culturally cool and progressive venue, there weren't any pro-McCain voices raised at all. There were a fair number of "NON-Obama" people in the crowd (supporters of Nader, McKinney, or people who disdain voting all together). Very few were activists in protest politics, most were white, and most had never heard of World Can't Wait. We talked about people's support for Obama coming from such a deep desire for change - yet the prospects of an Obama presidency promising changes that will not be the ones the people want. And we talked about why the world needs the real change that won't come if there's not serious resistance from the people to where Obama will steer this empire, and what are you going to do about this? And as we talked, we handed out flyers and invited conversation.

The time for good conversations went on for hours - since we were outside, where people's attention was not glued to the TV screen. Of course once the Obama victory was announced, then most attention went there, and there was a lot of cheering and hollering as the auditorium opened its doors to let everyone in for the acceptance speech. But we had already gotten to talk with a lot of people, and posed up the hard questions and listened to them, all of this laying ground for WCW to continue being there, as events in the real world bring our message to life!

A lot of people we met were first-time involved. They had gotten "hooked" sometime within the last year as Obama's campaign stepped up - many had come aboard as Obama's campaign stepped up, since the primaries or even later. Many said they had never been much involved in Democratic Party politics before. Some said the choice of Palin on McCain's ticket had scared them into going some activism for Obama, such as volunteering for a few nights of phone-banking, or putting up neighborhood signs.

Some of the 60's generation people were more in tune with WCW's exposure of Obama being pro-war, pro-government spying, and pro-Israel, yet they could be quite cynical - voting for Obama "because we can't vote for McCain the looney-bin ticket, right?" as one man put it, but he and others also said they"d love to see real change "but it's never going to happen, we just need to hope things don't get as bad as they could be." Whereas there were others with real hope for change welling up in their words - people who have just been sick at heart that the Bush program went on 8 years "and it seemed like it might never end," said one teacher in her late 20's. But a lot of those who truly feel hope in Obama, did not know a whole lot about his actual platform - didn't know about where he stands on widening the war to Afghanistan or Pakistan, didn't realize he had voted for the Patriot Act and the FISA bill, many even mistakenly think he is pro-gay marriage -- it was as if they just had not been listening, as if hope was stopping up their ears. There were several people who had been Clinton supporters - "I was excited to see the possibility of the first woman president, but the first Black president is also going to be really great," said one middle aged white guy with long hair, whose wife was a Feminist Majority activist. Neither of them knew that both Obama and Clinton had refused to filibuster the FISA bill, or that Clinton talked of "obliterating" Iran and Obama just chided her for rough language. When we told them, she said "if Nader could win that would be nice, but it"ll never happen, if you want change we"ve got to get it the way it can actually come. That's how change always happens."

Both white and Black people often said it means there really is change in the air, now, when America can have a Black president. We would answer with prison and employment and poverty statistics, and Katrina, and people would say Yes But he"ll be trying to make change which the Republicans never did. When we"d give them a taste of what Obama himself has actually said about the plight and problems of Black people, they usually hadn't registered those comments, or they"d say he didn't really mean it, these were just things he had to say to get elected.

A lot of the youngest people were first-time voters, didn't remember Kerry or the crash of the anti-war movement, but have just felt that all their lives (the Bush years) politics in America has been totally reactionary and oppressive, and they talked about the change that the Democrats could bring. They usually had no worked-out ideas about how that could happen, except that "a Democrat in the White House combined with a Democratic-controlled Congress could make better decisions," said one art student with a pierced eyebrow. Another young intellectual property law attorney was more radical, saying he knows Obama is going to due what the corporations want, but "at least he's not going to rig up the Supreme Court to take away abortion." Oh no? Why is that so different from conciliating and finding common ground with those who would? He wasn't sure, "but at least he's not a freakin" fascist."

And everyone, including many who leaned the most toward WCW's exposure and said they were glad we had come out tonight toraise it - everyone seemed to have gotten the memo about "giving Obama some time" - "wait and see" - "he can't change everything overnight. Over this kind of "settling for reality" we did get into more argumentative discussions, because there really is a kind of built-in excuse that lets ourselves off the hook of responsibility if people leave it there, which we tried to delve into. It really can't be left that, as one liberal columnist who ought to know better has been gushing, "It's Morning in America" if it's still the dead of the night of war and torture in Iraq, in Afghanistan, or anywhere else in the world.


REPORT ON THE WCW PROTEST Wednesday evening, Powell and Market

We went out to the downtown crossroads at rush hour with our flyers, with banners and signs saying "No War On Iran" and "No War! No Torture! No Matter Who Is President, Only You Can Stop the Crimes of Your Government." For two hours, with bullhorns and lots of personal conversation, we had San Francisco's first anti-war protest of the Obama presidency. [NOTE: The local TV news stopped by because they were doing a story - Code Pink had protested at the Marine Recruiters in Berkeley at noon, and Channel 2's reporter told us their story would be headlined, "How Long Will Obama's Honeymoon Be? Anti-War groups already protesting".."

It was really exciting to greet Ann Wright, who arrived very glad someone had called a protest the night after the election, and came ready to rock - she was second up on the bullhorn and really ripped into the war, and the need for people's resistance. We passed the bullhorn around, and WCW's agitation stopped all sorts of passerbys to listen, to engage with us in conversation and to take flyers, some promising they are going to active forces themselves because they agreed with us that no change will come without a whole new atmosphere of political resistance. People stepped up to speak out who were Green Party activists, anti-war women, and others. A WCW speaker told the crowd about the air strike in Kandahar the night before Obama's election: the US bombed another wedding party and killed 34 civilians, mostly kids and women, in a war Barack Obama is calling a "good war" as he prepares to expand it.

Once again, we were being very plain-spoken about the gaping chasm between what the people HOPE will change under Obama, and what we and the world will actually get. And once again we were a little surprised that more people didn't get more loud and angry at us. Sometimes people would pass by muttering or taunting us, but they wouldn't stop to argue their case.

Some African-American young guys were hawking copies of the morning Chronicle with Obama's photo on Page One, and at first they weren't pleased with WCW talking negatively about Obama - they were proud that a Black man is going to be president. But when we started in on the fact that he's Black but he's going to head up an empire that's all about white supremacy, that was at this moment holding 1 in 9 young Black men in prison, and let people die on their rooftops for 5 days after Katrina, and that Obama's not about changing any of that -- these young guys heard reality, and smiles broke, and their ears were open for more. And as happened last night at the Yerba Buena event, again today we met a few older men, African American guys whose faces looked like they"d seen hard times. They"d come up closer to say, quietly, they thought we were right -- that Obama was not going to bring a new day, and we were right to be speaking out, "You keep talking on that megaphone, you hear?"

Our mass-flyering crew included four friends who came off our e-mail call, who don't usually attend WCW meetings; there was time in between stints on the bullhorn to talk with them. Listening to their perspectives gave us more insights into what makes activism controversial these days. "People went into the streets last night [to celebrate the Obama victory] not because they"re so devoted to Obama, but out of a sheer sense of relief," said one friend. "People just hate Bush so much. Last night in Berkeley, young people who don't remember a time before Bush were excited, about a big upset like this, maybe because he's a Democrat, maybe because he's Black, but they were also climbing the lamp poles chanting USA USA to express it. And they were loud but it was only older people like myself [he's of an age to remember the 1960's] who had tears in our eyes, we feel emotions about where this country is at and how badly we need things to change."

We got out a lot of flyers, and had a LOT of people say "thanks for being out here," which sometimes can be taken as a sort of pat-on-the-back that doesn't mean much, but there is so much riding on WCW really STAYING "out here," and with the future unwritten a lot of people might be hoping for Obama, but they"re not saying we"re wrong, either"