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Nader's Corporate Crimebusters arrested at an Edwards rally
Crashing the two parties

November 5, 2004 | Page 4

JESS KOCHICK was part of the Nader campaign's Corporate Crimebuster van tour. She and another volunteer traveled through South Florida, promoting Nader's independent candidacy and putting pressure on the two mainstream parties and their allies. As she explains in this article, the Demoblicans definitely felt the pressure.

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BEING A corporate crime buster in South Florida is no easy job. But the Nader van tour was able to reach out to communities across the country. In Florida, we had the most success in forcing celebratory rallies of both Republicans and Democrats into heated debates.

The first party we crashed was a speech by Michael Moore at the University of Southern Florida in Tampa. We challenged his endorsement of John Kerry and were able to engage him in a short dialogue. Moore self-righteously claimed that his endorsement would spare a woman from seeing her son die in Iraq--and brushed off our argument that Kerry will be just as likely to get her son killed, and there will be no antiwar movement to stop him.

Since that first event, Nader vans haunted Moore wherever he went--because we don't think someone on the left who has that much influence should expect to rattle off his Kerry propaganda unopposed.

I'm pretty sure he doesn't anymore. By the time we saw him again in Boca Raton, he was visibly jarred. Pretty soon, we were yelling back and forth again, but this time, he wouldn't let us be heard. Instead, he pretended to imitate a Nader voter contemptuously looking down on working people, and mocked Nader for losing all his "friends."

Even people in the audience were shocked by Moore's undying support for Kerry. Some Democrats even loudly defended our right to hold up signs.

It was at a John Edwards rally in between these two Moore appearances that no one defended our right to hold up signs. We went to the Tamarac rally with signs saying that the Kerry/Edwards ticket supports war in Iraq.

A CBS Early Show team was trailing us that day, and wasn't inconspicuous. The Secret Service approached us in the audience and warned us that they were watching. Firefighters with huge yellow signs were planted in front of us right before the event began.

We held up our signs, and when a woman grabbed my sign and I tried to tug it back, I found myself in a chokehold. My fellow vanmate Emily grabbed onto me, and we were both dragged out.

The man who dragged me out by my neck and pinned my arms behind me before he shoved me to the sidewalk never identified himself. CBS, who was trailing us and taping everything, mysteriously doesn't have this footage.

We spent hours in a holding facility and were interrogated by a Secret Service agent. We were then taken to the Fort Lauderdale jail. There, we were met by dozens of people--almost all of them Black, all nonviolent offenders--waiting in the holding cells for the 12-hour booking process to begin. We weren't read our rights for four hours, got our phone call 10 hours after our arrest and were finally given a slab of baloney at 4 a.m. Needless to say, we didn't eat it.

Our fellow inmates were mostly worried about getting to work in the morning or picking up their kids, but they did find a little humor in the charges we faced--especially disorderly conduct for holding up a sign. Everyone was resigned to the fact that we were being ignored and mistreated and denied all the rights that we're supposed to have.

Witnessing that firsthand, and then listening to Michael Moore endorse a candidate who wants to continue the war on drugs and add more law enforcement to our streets, was next to impossible.

For so many people who we have met in Florida--in parking lots, in schools, in neighborhoods--it is so clear that neither major-party candidate will improve the conditions of their daily lives. So many have already been disenfranchised by this system. Many are felons who can't even vote, and the Democrats have done nothing to defend their rights.

These experiences have made me realize how divided this country is--and how meaningful it was that Ralph Nader ran an uncompromising campaign in this election.

How they kept Ralph Nader off the ballot

WHEN OPPOSITION candidates in "rogue states" are banned from elections and their supporters harassed, Washington comes down hard with warnings, threats or worse. But when the candidates are Ralph Nader and Peter Camejo and the country is the U.S., heavy-handed tactics are standard fare--backed by the muscle of powerhouse law firms who worked all out to keep Nader off the ballot. And all this was tolerated--even openly embraced--by liberals.

Rather than allow voters to make up their own minds about the anti-corporate, antiwar Nader-Camejo candidacy, Democratic National Committee chair Terry McAuliffe orchestrated a multi-state effort to keep the independents off the ballot.

In Oregon, for example, Democrats tried to disrupt a Nader-Camejo nominating meeting--then challenged thousands of signatures on the campaign's petitions for reasons such as pages being misnumbered. In Arizona, the Nader campaign was forced to withdraw its bid to get on the ballot after Democrats filed a lawsuit claiming that Nader's petitions were invalid--because some of the more than 22,000 signatures had been gathered by convicted felons, a violation of the state's undemocratic ballot laws.

As a result of these and other shenanigans, Nader was on the ballot in only 35 states.

Sadly, many Nader supporters from the 2000 race this time backed Democrat John Kerry on an Anybody-But-Bush basis. Worse still, all but few kept silent about the Democrats' strong-arm tactics.

The biggest blow to Nader-Camejo came from the Green Party, which nominated Nader in the 2000 race. This time, the Greens spurned an endorsement of Nader in favor of David Cobb, whose safe-states strategy was calculated to support Kerry--effectively surrendering the Greens' hard-won independence from the Democrats.

The Nader candidacy had serious flaws--including his acceptance of ballot lines of the right-wing Reform Party and the cultish Independence Party in New York. Yet there's no question that the main thrust of the campaign was a left-wing challenge to the two corporate parties. It's shameful that so much of the left joined Democrats in heaping abuse on the only real alternative to the two-party system in Election 2004.

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