(en) Angelinos Protest Clinton visit/ NAFTA

Lyn and Shawn (linjin@tao.ca)
Thu, 26 Jun 1997 05:09:10 pst


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Angelinos Protest Clinton visit/ NAFTA

By Shawn Ewald (for the Direct Action Media Network)

Los Angeles, June 23

Approximately 200 people gathered to protest the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) outside the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Ca. -- where President Clinton was attending a $1,500 a plate fundraiser.

Among the protesters were representatives from the L.A. and Southern California chapters of the I.W.W., Food Not Bombs, Jobs with Justice, UNITE (a garment workers union), the Green Party, and the Peace and Freedom Party. But what constituted the majority of protesters was ordinary working people (some union members, some not) who were not officially connected with any of the above organizations.

One person, Laura, had noticed the protest on her way home from work and decided to participate. "NAFTA is making slaves of the [Latino people]...it is taking away the democratic autonomy of the Latino People... I hate it. I hate it!" She said.

A union organizer from UNITE attending the protest said, "I think that there's an awareness of the dynamics [of NAFTA among working people], certainly a far greater awareness than among middle-class people because these people have lived it."

"They know what it's like to be threatened with a factory closing if they demand a fair wage. They experience that [sort of thing] everyday. They probably have a better understanding [of NAFTA] than 99% of the economists tenured in the universities in this country." He said.

The protesters shouted chants of "Union yes! NAFTA no!" from the street corner as the rush-hour traffic passed by. Many drivers honked in solidarity. There was a general feeling of gregariousness among the protesters. The police largely kept their distance with the exception of the occasional pair of cops coming up close to observe the crowd.

The only signs of Clinton's presence were the Secret Service agents toting automatic rifles on the roof of the hotel.

NAFTA has already runined the standard of living for countless working people in the United Staes, Canada, and Mexico. President Clinton is currently advocating NAFTA Fast Track. A plan that would, among other things, expand the NAFTA agreement to include countries in South America. If he is successful, it will serve to increase the already staggering gap between rich and poor.

Michael Reinsborough, an I.W.W. organizer in Los Angeles, was asked for his thoughts on the demonstration. He said, "[It's about]... employment. The structure of employment is immoral. And were not really going to move forward [so long as] there's someone who has the power to hire and fire. Until we have a rank and file democracy, not only in our workplaces, but in our unions, as well, were not going to see a movement forward."

"Right here, were seeing the ultimate in terms of the power to hire and fire. Bill Clinton has the power to hire and fire States... Nations, whole peoples."

"He's in there at a $1,500 a plate dinner, and we're out here sucking up carbon monoxide from the BMW's on their way to their places in Beverly Hills."

When asked what they thought the solution is to the current trend of economic globalization, the consensus among many that were interviewed at the demostration was that the people must take matters into their own hands because those who have traditionally represented their interests have proven useless against the juggernaught of global capitalism.

A representative from the Peace and Freedom Party said, "People need to get active. You can't just sit at home and watch T.V. or listen to the radio and expect things to change. You have to get out there in the streets, you have to talk to your neighbors and your co-workers, and you have to decide that a few people can make a change...

"...I think if people realize that it takes activity the counter-act the negative influence of corporations...maybe they'll take charge of their own lives. It's up to all of us to take charge of our own lives, and to do it together. We're not just individuals we're part of a society." -------------------------------------- Direct Action Media Network direct@tao.ca http://www.tao.ca/ http://www.tao.ca/earth/direct.html

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