Commentary: The Power of the People is Now By PAUL ROCKWELL

Tuesday October 11, 2005

Energized by Camp Casey and the creativity of Cindy Sheehan, a change is taking place in the peace movement.  

Two events took pace in Oakland recently, reflecting a shift in focus from electoral pressure politics to direct mass action. On Sept. 23, hundreds of demonstrators, organized by Courage To Resist, Not In Our Name and other organizations, shut down the Oakland Military Recruiting Center. Graffiti across the front of the building said: “A better world is possible.” The activists took over a Chevron Station in downtown Oakland, and students from Skyline High, Oakland Tech, and McClymonds High chanted “The power of the people is now.” One demonstrator said that creative tactics and improvisation, a people power strategy, can halt the occupation of Iraq. “ We don’t need to rely on intermediaries to make change. We ourselves are the agents of peace and democracy.” 

On Oct. 6, Cindy Sheehan returned home to the Bay Area. The Grand Lake Theatre in Oakland overflowed with cheering supporters. Introduced by Medea Benjamin of Global Exchange and Code Pink, Cindy described the growing power of the democratic peace movement. “America is coming out,” she said. “We the people have the power. Camp Casey was a place of love, of hope and acceptance. Every need was fulfilled. Everyone did a job joyfully. Two couples were inspired to get married at Camp Casey.” While the Camp Casey story ran in the media, its profound significance has yet to be understood. Camp Casey represents the power of direct democracy—where strangers become friends, where everyone extends a helping hand in the euphoria of real human community. “A while back,” said Ms. Sheehan, “it did not seem like anything was working. The peace movement was there, but we did not know what to do. Now Americans are ready.” 

Cindy Sheehan recently met with the unresponsive, pro-war Senator John McCain in Phoenix, Arizona. In her return to Oakland, she expressed contempt for the dereliction and cowardice of Congress (“always excepting Lee and Conyers and a few others”). “But we must face it,” she said. “We cannot walk slow so that they can catch up. How many parents will get a knock on the door while Congress is farting around? We have no opposition party. We, the people, are now the Opposition Party.” 


Oakland resident Paul Rockwell is a columnist for In Motion Magazine and Common Dreams. 


Photo by Photos by Paul Rockwell: 

Recent protests in Oakland reflect a shift in focus from electoral pressure politics to direct mass action..