Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Clintons' 1996 Chicago Democratic National Convention Revisited--Part 3

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

The woman activist who played a major role organizing the demonstration and who acted as the rally moderator later introduced [the now-deceased] former Chicago 8 Conspiracy Trial defendant Dave Dellinger and Dellinger’s grandson. After Dellinger’s grandson sang a song he had written while accompanying himself on a guitar, Dellinger spoke:

“Now I think that we should all understand that the organizers, all the various groups on the Not On The Guest List! Coalition, do not want a riot or expect a riot here today. Now before I say a few words about Leonard Peltier, I want to say—well, the Black Panthers used to say: all prisoners are political prisoners.

“The United States, you know, supported Hitler until the very last minute. And I actually went to Nazi Germany as an anti-Nazi and actually carried messages for the anti-Nazi movement. But, anyway, I didn’t register for the draft. And at that point, when I did three years in federal prison, they concluded `he’s yellow.’ So they always put me in with the most violent criminals, at least at the beginning. And like one time, I remember, I was in with 13 people in a cell for two people, where every one of them had committed murder.

“But what I found out was—if you treated each one of them with love and understanding, and tried to help them to believe in themselves—that there was a potential Buddha within them…

“Well, anyway, I want to say one other thing…We heard the name Geronimo today. Now there is another Geronimo, originally Geronimo Pratt…

“There was an FBI agent who resigned many years ago now, in protest over what the FBI was doing. And he came to me through the services of Charley Garry, the lawyer for the Black Panther Party. And we talked. And I wrote an article and included words in a magazine that I was editing at the time. And he told me then that he received death threats. And so did I.

“Well, he spoke at the University of Vermont this Spring. And he recounted one of the stories that I had known. And that was that Geronimo was the leader of one faction in the Black Panther Party in Los Angeles. And, as often happens, there were some rivals also who wanted to be leaders in the Black Panther Party.

“And one day, when Geronimo was in San Francisco for three days, somebody connected with the FBI killed his rivals. And then he was tried and railroaded. And he’s been in, if I remember correctly, 23 years now. [In the late 1990s, Geronimo Pratt was finally released from prison].

“And as this ex-FBI agent said to the University of Vermont people: `We knew that he couldn’t possibly have done it. Not just because one of our own people was implicated. But also because he was away for three days—the day before, the day of the murder, and the day after.’

“Now about Leonard Peltier. I think that Vernon [Bellecourt] has said enough about the case so I think I’m not going to talk about that: the injustice of it and the lies and so forth. But I’m going to say that, maybe by now at least 18 months ago, I decided, working with Ron McBride of the Peltier Defense Committee, that we would get together the kind of people that the White House would consider prestigious. And ask for an interview to discuss the case.

“And I’m sure I’m not going to remember them all. But we got Pete Seeger and Dick Clark and, if I remember correctly, Martin Sheen and Grace Paley and Buffy St. Marie and Gandhi’s grandson…and various others of that type. And then we wrote, made the formal applications…

“It took awhile. And then we got the answer. The answer was that…Clinton or nobody else in the White House—we mentioned his legal counsel, we mentioned Hillary, we mentioned Janet Reno—would discuss the case until the Justice Department has made its ruling on what the case deserves.

“And already it had been more than two years since the Appeals Court…demanded that the Justice Department make a ruling or an investigation and come up with some conclusions. So I decided than, and got together with a few other people, and we organized the Campaign For Non-Violent Civil Disobedience To Free Leonard Peltier.

“On March 20 [1996], there were nonviolent protests in three places in the country. I happened to be one of the ones who were arrested in Washington, D.C. for blocking the Justice Department door. And I wish that was the form of civil disobedience that we were doing here. That it would be clear that it was the federal government and the Justice Department and the FBI. But circumstances are such that it will be some other form of civil disobedience which will probably give the message.

“Now before I read a poem by Leonard Peltier. Well, maybe I’ll say this before I do it…

“But I will say that Gandhi once said `that if you are concerned with acting violently, then you must be trained in the art of killing.’ And then he said: `But if you plan to act nonviolently, then you should deal with the art of dying for the cause.’

“I thought of that because I was thinking about Martin Luther King. And there were references to him today. And I know, from working with him, in the very last six to eight months of his life he became an over-all radical in the way he had never been before…

“Black people like SNCC were way ahead of him in coming out against the Vietnam War. But when he did, then there was the death threat. And I want to quote this from the last few months of his life…And after you hear this, if you think that some single white anti-Black person in the South was the one who killed him, then you’ll understand, if you read this, that wasn’t it. And there’s a lot of other evidence I won’t go into, that the government, itself, was involved.

“So here are the statements by King. I’ve got to put on my glasses. Now that I’m over 40, I have to do that.

“`For years I labored with the idea of reforming the existing institutions, a little change here, a little change there. Now I feel quite differently. I think you’ve got to have a reconversion of the entire society, a revolution of values. We can’t have a system where some people live in superfluous, inordinate wealth, while others live in abject, deadening poverty. From now on, our movement must take on basic class issues between the privileged and the underprivileged.’

And then one final sentence: `The evils of capitalism’—what they now call the `free market’--`The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and the evils of racism.’…” (end of part 3)

(Downtown/Aquarian 9/25/96)

Next: The Clintons’ 1996 Chicago Democratic National Convention Revisited—Part 4