On Monday, a major rally and march kicked off the first day of the Democratic Convention in downtown LA, with 2000 citizens joining musician Bonnie Raitt, Doors drummer John Densmore, poet John Trudell, actor Floyd Westerman, and redwoods protector Julia Butterfly at the Pershing Square demonstration site. Gathering to advocate the National Forest Protection Day (organized by the American Lands Alliance), the rally also combined forces with a march for the U'wa tribe of Columbia, a tribe of 5000 who have threatened mass suicide if U.S.-based oil company, Occidental Petroleum, begins drilling for oil on their ancestral land. The tribe's chief, Roberto Cobaria, who won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Award, was to appear to speak on behalf of his people, but was denied an entrance visa by the U.S.
A "21 Chainsaw Salute" was part of the agenda to bring attention to the ancient forests in the U.S. that are still being logged, a plea to end the destruction of the world's last remaining ancient forests.
Bonnie Raitt, joined by John Densmore, performed a Jackson Browne song, Soldier of Plenty. She encouraged a "moratorium on all logging in Mendocino County, and to open all the books on sustainable logging, to look at our forest policies sanely." Speaking of the ongoing destruction of such forests as the Headwaters Redwoods forest in Northern California, she noted, "I'm tired of corporations killing our forests. Gore is talking like a Green and acting like a Bush! In the last eight years we have not gotten a real energy program. I don't believe in the two-party system anymore, and I'm moving outside of the system to take back our forests.
Indian leader, actor Floyd Westerman, stated, "The Earth should be a strong environmental agenda on the Gore platform, and is really everyone's responsibility, not just the Democrats or the Green Party. It should really be a crime if one destroys the remaining oldgrowth forests of the Earth."
Randy Hayes, President of the Rainforest Action Network, stated, "You can cut off your hand and survive. But you can't cut out the vital organs of Earth, the old growth forests of the world, and survive. The world cannot exist is we lose the rainforests, the four great forests on the planet that we have left. These are in Siberia, the Amazon, Africa, and in the redwoods of California and British Colombia. We need to halt the industrial madness. Floyd Westerman points out that if we would live like native peoples, we'd still be drinking from clean rivers. The Home Depot boycott stopped the sales of all old growth lumber, and they have pledged to abide by this environmental standard. "
Julia Butterfly, Headwaters activist who lived in a redwood tree, stated, "Al Gore, please read your own book. There's so many good things in there but why are they not happening as improvement in our world." She further advocated help for the Dineh (Navajo) elders of Big Mountain, who are facing a relocation threat by the U.S. government this month.
John Densmore, drummer for the Doors, performed an African-American poet's poem, Ethridge knight who wrote the poem, The Bones of My Father, from prison in the 1960s. He noted that there is a "global internet connection" aiding the consciousness for the Earth that is wider and larger than the 60s. Densmore also performed with Bonnie Raitt and poet John Trudell.
John Trudell, poet with a band, Baddog, brought cheers from the environmentalists, by stating, "The more evil the empire, the more paranoid the society." He performed poetry but also addressed the issue of power, "We are told more money equals power but it really only means moer authority. Authority is not power, it's the absence of power really. We will never understand who we are as a people if we all distort our perception of reality. They lie. We are conditioned how to react and be how they want, all to perpetuate the lie.
"Our power is our relationship to Earth, and our intelligence.Our Spirit is connected to the universe and the Earth. We need to not emotionally over-react. Instead, use our intelligence to protect the Earth. Creator gave us this intelligence so we would."
Ten activists were arrested during the rally for staging a sitin in the streets one block away, bringing attention to the ongoing harrassment of the U'wa tribe of Columbia by the military there.
Randy Spivak, president of the American Lands Alliance noted, "Our forests in the U.S., in California, the Sierra Nevad and all along the coast, are the last of our old growth redwoods, and we're losing them. Major corporation Home Depot has now recognized their responsibility and pledged to end logging of endangered and ancient forests . We want Al Gore to show leadership to protect forests by no logging on roadless areas and to fully end logging of ancient forests like Home Depot is doing, following the will of the people, the customers."