Rev Billy talks to organizer Elaine Brower in NYC’s Union Square (Photo: Thomas Good)

New York, NY – July 27, 2007. The second Cindy Sheehan event in as many days drew a lot of attention from the mainsteam press – and Reverend Billy’s “The Fear Stops Here” First Amendment rally drew quite a bit of attention as well including from the NYPD. Overall the police kept a discreet distance until the very end of the event when an officer attempted to arrest a cyclist. The arresting officer was surrounded by a group of protesters who recited the First Amendment until the cop backed off. After nearly inciting a riot, the NYPD announced that the charges would be voided. The twin events, held at either end of NYC’s beloved Union Square were well attended, well received and very inspiring.

The World Can’t Wait rally, held on the southern end of the Square, featured good music and interesting speeches (mercifully brief and on target) including inspiring efforts delivered by Cindy Sheehan and Chilean activist (and former political prisoner) Victor Toro – who was yanked off of a train in Rochester by Office of Homeland Security on Friday, July 6th, 2007. Sheehan spoke about how Representative John Conyers “broke my heart” by stating that he is more concerned about getting a Democrat in the White House in 08 than seeing war criminals Cheney and Bush impeached. Toro spoke about solidarity with political prisoners everywhere – including those held at the concentration camp/penal colony in Guantanamo. Reverend Billy (actor Bill Talen) spoke at the WCW event before walking to the north end of the park for his First Amendment rally. Rev Billy defended the First Amendment and advised people to vote for “Saint Cindy”.

The “Fear Stops Here” rally held at Union Square North opened with the always entertaining Rude Mechanical Orchestra doing a couple of numbers off of their recently released CD. Beka Economopoulos from urged those attending the event to sign the petition at in defense of the right to film on NYC streets. Speakers from Times Up challenged the recent attacks on Free Expression and led a recitation of the First Amendment. MC Savitri D (Director of the Church of Stop Shopping) kept things moving along, occasionally speaking through a paper First Amendment megaphone (not particularly effective as an amplification device but a good prop). Norm Siegel spoke on the need to defend Free Speech which he stated was being eroded a step at a time. He ended his remarks with his famous quip: “Reverend Billy has the First Amendment right to recite the First Amendment.” Rev Billy himself followed Siegel and was as dynamic as ever, although he needed a quick prompt from Savitri when he forgot part of the 44 word First Amendment – a lapse he made fun of from his impromptu podium. Rev Billy was flanked by red robed members of the Stop Shopping Choir and they brightened things with a spirited musical version of the First Amendment – led by superlative soprano Laura Newman whose singing is simply divine. The event ended with Savitri wishing the assembled cyclists “a good ride” – which was apparently the case except for one incidence of the NYPD doing what Rev Billy might well call “something embarrassing”. An abortive arrest of a cyclist – who was freed when the crowd unarrested him by reciting the First Amendment – failed to marr a very inspiring evening, one that ended without Rev Billy spending the night in The Tombs.

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Cindy Sheehan speaking outside the US Mission (Photo: Thomas Good)

New York, NY – July 26, 2007. Cindy Sheehan spoke at an Impeachment Rally on Thursday, July 26. Members of The World Can’t Wait (WCW), Military Families Speak Out (MFSO), Veterans For Peace (VFP), CodePINK, The Granny Peace Brigade, Movement for a Democratic Society (MDS) and several other groups gathered at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at 5 pm for a rally that demanded impeachment of Dick Cheney, first – to be followed by war criminal George W. Bush. Around 6:30 the group formed up and marched to the US Mission. At the Mission, an impassioned Cindy Sheehan urged the group not to go into the “protest pens” setup by the NYPD. The protesters responded to Sheehan who is now running for a Congressional seat, representing California’s 8th District – running against Democrat Nancy Pelosi, the current Speaker of the House. After Sheehan and others spoke the crowd formed up again and processed back to Dag Hammarskjold where Reverend Lennox Yearwood Jr., president of the Hip Hop Caucus had the assembled hold hands saying: “Do you feel that? That’s life”. Asking people to slowly release their grip, he said: “Do you feel that? That is death.” Asking the activists to again hold hands, and “squeeze”, Yearwood proclaimed that “we must stop the war.” “We can do it,” he added.

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Posted by Next Left Notes - July 25, 2007 | News

New York, NY – July 24, 2007.

In that:

We believe that a truly democratic movement can only take root and grow from the bottom up;

We favor a decentralized structural model and believe that Movement for a Democratic Society (MDS) would best function at this time as a federation of local grassroots chapters;

We envision MDS Staten Island as part of a growing network of autonomous community based chapters;

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Posted by TAG - July 14, 2007 | Events

Reverend Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping (Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

New York, NY – July 14, 2007. Reverend Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping, who stated he was “glad to be out of jail”, rocked the Highline Ballroom Sunday in a “Hot and Holy Revival” on July 1, 2007. If you missed it, you’re in luck – two more shows are scheduled. The next two “revivals” will occur on consecutive Sundays – July 22 and July 29. See for the complete liturgical calendar.

The cozy Highline Ballroom offers “twelve dollar french fries” according to good pastor Bill but is a decent venue for what is an excellent show. As I sipped a bloody mary (seemed appropriate at the time) the horn section jammed. A lifelong Chicago fan (the “real” Chicago – i.e., the first five recordings) I enjoyed the prelude and found myself thankful that Protestants maintained the long standing practice of music before the service.

Entrance: the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir entered the room from the rear singing their anthemic – and infectious – “Stop Shopping”. Clad in green gowns they ascended the stage and lined the rear of the space, beneath a glistening disco ball. Reverend Billy, aka Bill Talen, entered the room a short time later, greeting members of his flock as he made his way to the stage. Wearing “the full chicken” (a white suit, black shirt and white collar) Rev Billy sported his familiar blonde (could it be dyed?) pompadour. He took the stage and warned the assembled sinners of the dangers of the Shopocalypse – in prayer and song.

The repertoire has gotten really strong over the years – these days high points include: Gina Figueroa singing “Lover Logo”; Reverend Bill offering a “Pushback” prayer and song; William Moses, composer/singer/guitarist, performing “Can I Shop Enough For Africa?”, and; Adetola Abiade singing about “Sidamo” (the Ethiopian coffee that Starbucks hawks for $26 a pound while paying the coffee growers just a tad less). The greatest rapture, however, is reserved for one Moment of true transcendence. Laura Newman, a spiritual soprano par excellence, provides a communion with the divine when she offers up “Back Away From The Walmart”.

View Photos/Videos from the performance…

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Movement for a Democratic Society sign calling for impeachment (Photo: Thomas Good)

New York, NY – July 13, 2007. About a dozen protesters gathered outside Staten Island’s borough hall near dusk on a very pleasant evening. Wearing black tshirts with “We Will Not Be Silent” silkscreened in white, the activists held aloft signs calling for the impeachment of Dick Cheney. The action, called and planned by Movement for a Democratic Society’s Staten Island chapter, was regarded as very successful by organizers.

Lining Richmond Terrace and facing the Ferry terminal, the demonstrators were flanked to their left by NYPD officers – the Staten Island Yankees were playing a home game in their ballpark opposite the 120 Precinct. Drivers passing by honked in support of the MDSers and friends – particularly taxi drivers, bus drivers and other working people – including one very supportive FedEx driver.

Organizers noted that the police presence appeared to cause many drivers to postpone honking while they waited for the traffic light. However, once the green light was given the honking commenced. The police did not seem inclined to leave their patrol vans as motorists chatted on cellphones and performed u-turns and other technically illegal maneuvers, however, an African American man on a motorcycle was pulled over. He had been revving his engine in response to the Honk For Impeachment signs, he later informed NLN. Several protesters noticed that the largely disinterested NYPD ignored numerous other drivers but focused on this one man. After examining his papers the police allowed the motorcyclist to continue on his way. The man later told NLN that the cops had told him he was “making too much noise”.

Response to the protest was very positive. A large supply of fliers was completely exhausted – passersby were very curious and receptive to the message. One man insisted on signing the petition calling on congressman Vito Fossella to support H. Res 333 (the articles of impeachment against Dick Cheney put forth by Dennis Kucinich) before he could be asked to do so. After 90 minutes of honking, cheering and chanting, the protesters declared victory and called it a night. More protests are planned according to MDS-SI.

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Impeach Cheney First!

New York, NY – July 13, 2007.
From MDS Staten Island:

Come to Staten Island’s Borough Hall Friday, July 13th from 7 to 8:30 pm
*** please forward to your friends, families and fellow activists ***

What: A Honk for Impeachment protest. Impeach Cheney now! Sponsored
by MDS, Staten Island.

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Posted by William Blum - July 10, 2007 | Analysis

William Blum (Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Washington, DC – July 9, 2007. Who do you think said this on June 20? a)Rudy Giuliani; b)Hillary Clinton; c)George Bush; d)Mitt Romney; or e)Barack Obama:

“The American military has done its job. Look what they accomplished. They got rid of Saddam Hussein. They gave the Iraqis a chance for free and fair elections. They gave the Iraqi government the chance to begin to demonstrate that it understood its responsibilities to make the hard political decisions necessary to give the people of Iraq a better future. So the American military has succeeded. It is the Iraqi government which has failed to make the tough decisions which are important for their own people.”[1]

Right, it was the woman who wants to be president because … because she wants to be president … because she thinks it would be nice to be president … no other reason, no burning cause, no heartfelt desire for basic change in American society or to make a better world … she just thinks it would be nice, even great, to be president. And keep the American Empire in business, its routine generating of horror and misery being no problem; she wouldn’t want to be known as the president that hastened the decline of the empire.

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Posted by TAG - July 8, 2007 | News

Bernardine Dohrn

New York, NY – July 7, 2007. Bernardine Dohrn will be speaking at Bluestockings bookstore in New York City on Wednesday, July 11th at 7PM – the event is free. Bernardine will read from “Sing A Battle Song: The Revolutionary Poetry, Statements, and Communiques of the Weather Underground”, the new book that brings together the three complete and unedited publications produced by the Weather Underground during their most active period – The Weather Eye: Communiques from the Weather Underground; Prairie Fire: The Politics of Revolutionary Anti-Imperialism; and Sing a Battle Song: Poems by Women in the Weather Underground Organization. The book is introduced and annotated by Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, and Jeff Jones. Idealistic, inspired, pissed-off, and often way-over-the-top, these writings epitomize the psychedelic, sexual, anti-war counterculture of the American 1960s and 1970s.

Bluestockings is located in the Lower East Side of Manhattan at 172 Allen Street between Stanton and Rivington – 1 block south of Houston and 1st Avenue.

By train: 1 block south of the F train’s 2nd Avenue stop and just 5 blocks from the JMZ-line’s Essex / Delancey Street stop.

By car: take the Houston exit off of the FDR, then turn left onto Essex (aka Avenue A), then right on Rivington, and finally right on Allen.

Posted by Elaine Brower - July 7, 2007 | News

Brooklyn, NY – July 5, 2007. The day after this Country celebrated “Independence Day” which marks the declaration of the colonials breaking off relations with King George of England, the Iraq Veterans Against the War arrived in Brooklyn, New York. The New York Harbor, and surrounding areas, was the bloodiest battlegrounds of the revolution which earmarked the birth pangs of a new nation. Fittingly, a huge bus, “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” arrives in front of Ft. Hamilton Military Base, which was then and still is a bastion of the harbor. Troops fought and died in this harbor, and now troops train and leave for another bloody battle, but this time in an occupied territory. It seems that this Nation, founded on “Common Sense” and independence, has now become what it loathes.

The day started with food taken into the park, long before the bus arrived. In the tradition of Brooklyn, large 6 ft. heroes, with Italian roast beef, ham, cheese, turkey, salami and tomatoes, with salads, fruit and vegetable platters, were placed on top of picnic tables in the middle of Dyker Beach Park, a half a block away from the gates to Ft. Hamilton Military Base. This was all done under the strict supervision and surveillance of New York’s Finest, the NYPD. One lonely woman, and 3 police cars with inhabitants watching, set up the picnic area, and surrounded it with pictures of the boots of fallen soldiers killed in Iraq and who were from the State of New York, approximately 200 of them. They watched as she struggled arranging these pictures with care, but did not offer any assistance, which was not a surprise since obtaining the permits was nothing short of a miracle for that day. The NYPD expressed concern that this may get “out of control.” Ha! It was a picnic.

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Posted by Next Left Notes - July 6, 2007 | News

Vito Fossil and his Filthy Rich admirers (Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

New York, NY – June 30, 2007. The “Filthy Rich for Fossella” solicited “donations” for their favorite chickenhawk congressman as the Rude Mechanical Orchestra rocked the Peace Action Rally Saturday in Staten Island’s largest peace event in years. John Lawrence, aka “Vito Fossil”, wasn’t shy about asking for donations directly – he made a pretty fair Faux-sella, according to rally attendees.

The Peace Action rally, held on Staten Island’s North Shore (very close to the SI Ferry Terminal), drew a good crowd and offered a variety of speakers and performers.

Democrat Steve Harrison, who did surprisingly well in a run against Congressman Vito Fossella in the last election, spoke about ending the Iraq War now. Harrison traded barbs with “Lotta Bucks” – Sally Jones of Peace Action, very much in character as a member of the Filthy Rich for Fossella. Harrison concluded his remarks with a call for the impeachment of George W. Bush.

Bill Tate spoke on behalf of councilman Mike McMahon’s office – reiterating the theme of the day: the need to end the war now and find a way to get the troops home as quickly as possible. Tate added that any political leader who fails to see the necessity for peace is a “self serving, flag waving hypocrite” and a “rabid jingoist”.

View Photos/Video Clips from the Rally…

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