Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Clintons' 1996 Chicago Democratic National Convention Revisited--Part 2

(The following article first appeared in the September 25, 1996 issue of Downtown/Aquarian)

Grant Park is somewhat isolated from Downtown Chicago’s commercial district, but is still within walking distance of the streets that are filled with office workers during commuting hours and lunchtime. The site of the 1996 Democratic National Convention, the United Center, however, is not within walking distance of Downtown Chicago. It’s usually used as the basketball arena where the Chicago Bulls play before fans who drive in from the suburbs, and park their cars in the huge parking lot that surrounds the Center. During Convention Week, the parking lot, as well as the streets surrounding the Center, was part of a fenced-in security zone; and Chicago cops prevented pedestrians and local residents from walking closer than a third of a mile from the bussed-in Dem delegates and media people.

At Wicker Park, a few miles north of the convention hall, around 4,000 Not On The Guest List! Coalition demonstrators gathered for a late afternoon rally. Chicago cops on horses and foot watched from a street near the park, but only a few media people were there to report on what the speakers said. One of the speakers was a Puerto Rican nationalist activist:

“There are people today, political prisoners and P.O.W.s, who are in prison. Many for more than 25 years. Many from the Black Liberation struggle. Many anti-imperialists. Many from the Native American struggle…

“If you look at U.S. prisons and jails…You can look at the fact that there are 1.5 million people in prison and jails [in 1996]. And 70 percent of them are people of color. And then, on the other side, you can see that there are about 1.5 million people in higher education and 80 percent happen to be white. There’s something wrong in that set-up also.

“So when you look at the fact that we have Puerto Rican political prisoners. And we have 15 of them who have been in prison for more than 16 years already. For the `crime’ of wanting to put an end to one of the most heinous crimes against humanity: colonialism and racism. Because the two go hand-in-hand. You can’t have one without the other.

"And so today, we have gathered here to not only tell people that we demand justice for everyone and that there can be no peace without justice. At the same time there are very particular elements of justice and that includes, obviously, an end to colonialism. An end to racism. And that is why all of us here must demand the immediate release of all political prisoners. And, in particular, on behalf, obviously, of the Puerto Rican political prisoners and P.O.W.s…”

(Downtown/Aquarian 9/25/96)

Next: The Clintons’ 1996 Chicago Democratic National Convention Revisited—Part 3