" A nation that continues year after year to spend more money
on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching
spiritual death."-- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.(1967).
A paid holiday celebrating the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.
is something we bargained for and won in our Local 250 Union contract.
How should one spend this day of freedom? Would an extra day of
skiing or attendance at a Target Houseware Sale inspire suitable
contemplation of MLK's life?
As it happens this year, a war against Iraq is being planned by
our country's President and any other event must be seen in the
light of this eventuality. Mindful of this, a coalition of groups
wishing to celebrate Martin Luther King and protest impending war
united to demonstrate their opinion in cities across the country,
most notably in San Francisco, CA and Washington, D.C.
How does a celebration of MLK interface with an anti-war protest?
And how does the Labor movement fit into it all? Well, as in all
things, there is a "personal" and a "universal"
truth, and one embarks on the first to find the second. That is
what Woods and I did on our trip to SF on January 18th, documented
in the following pages.
The "personal": This is our former neighbor, Salvatore
Victor. He is the first of many people we were to see on the S.F.
trip that was not "who we would expect to be there." A
formerly apolitical artist, Sal was assisting Sacramento-Yolo
Peace Action in its committment to transport 17 busloads of
interested persons from Sacramento to the S.F. demonstration.
Everyone has their "flashpoint" -- the moment when they
can no longer sit idly by as personal, local, or national events
accelerate to intolerable levels, and Sal had reached his as war
seemed increasingly imminent. The "universal": There were
many people at the S.F. demonstration who had reached this "flashpoint".
Some were "those you would expect" but a large number
were stepping into this mode of protest for the first time.
Rules of the Road": Joan Quinn of Sacramento-Yolo Peace Action
gave us our "boarding passes" and explained the logistics
of the march we were about to attend. The 17 buses in our group would
drop us off at the Embarcadero Plaza, then proceed to the end point,
the S.F. Civic Center. James, our bus driver, performed this heroic
driving feat admirably, and, as it turned out, got to the Civic Center
four hours before the marchers did. The large crowd (estimated variously
at from 50,000 to 200,000, depending on the slant of the counter)
filled the streets for miles, the end of the march not arriving at
its destination until mid afternoon.
Bus "8" held the Sacramento Local 250 contingent: Sharon,
Sherri, Ellen (me), and Mary flashing the peace sign as we roll
on to S.F. Though not an "official" Union contingent,
our concern about impending war and diminishing civil rights inspired
us to attend. The Union idea that employees have a right to participate
in work place decisions translates here to "the citizens of
a country have a right to participate in national decisions"
and we are exercising this right.
"So what civil rights are diminishing?" some might ask.
As always, that depends on who you are. If you hail from the wrong
country, you may already be detained for "an indefinite period"
if there are problems with your immigrant visa. If as an "ordinary
citizen" you want to take out a loan, the newly legislated
"Patriot Act" will require more personal documentation
than previously required If "Homeland Security" decides
that demonstrators fall into the "potential terrorist"
category, protestors could be detained until the President declares
that the "War on Terrorism" is over. We on the bus #8
do not wish to see this happen.
would a protest be without protest songs? This is John, playing guitar
and leading us in song.
The Sacramento Local 250 Three (with the fourth taking the photo)
at the bus drop-off at Embarcadero Plaza. The day was sunny but
the brisk Bay Area weather required jackets and inspired the immediate
procurement of coffee. Thus the opening moments of the demonstration
were spent looking for Starbuck's, then waiting in endless lines
while people ordered elaborate drinks. One had to measure their
need for caffeine against the knowledge that restrooms would be
minimal and the lines for them endless during the ensuing hours-long
How the mundane requirements of the body conspire to undo the elevated
aspirations of the heart and mind! Still, after these prosaic needs
were satisfied, we were free to join the many thousands in demonstrating
our hope for Peace and Justice.