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by Joe Rigney
Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2000 at 5:10 AM
Over 200 protestors gathered in California's Capitol today to demonstrate against the casting of electoral votes by the state's electors. Charging that the system has become utterly corrupt, demonstrators raised issues from abolishing the Electoral College to racist election policies. Police remained peaceful, and there were no arrests.
As California's 54 electors met upstairs to cast their ballots for Al Gore, the voices of democracy activists filled the chambers of the Capitol Building. Over 200 demonstrators chanting "Our democracy is under attack, what do we do, Rise up, fight back!" marched through the building where California's legislature meets.
Demonstrators, representing groups like the Green Party and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), raised more than just the issue of an election stolen by or from a particular candidate. The unifying issue for these demonstrators was a corrupt U.S. electoral system that they say keeps their voices from being heard. Signs such as "Abolish the Electoral College" and "Demand Real Democracy Now," were a common sight during the rally.
Demonstrators seemed particularly concerned about racial issues raised in Election 2000. The NAACP has documented accounts of the disenfranchisement of black and Hispanic voters across the country. Chanting, "Stop racists at the polls, the system is full of holes" and "Jim Crow has got to go," activists stayed in the rotunda for about ten minutes.
The situation became momentarily tense when officers from the California Highway Patrol blocked off the stairs leading to the second story of the building. Demonstrators had spent the first few minutes marching around the rotunda and through a designated area of the building. When the peaceful marchers returned to the rotunda, they attempted to climb the stairs to the second story.
Officers immediately blocked the demonstrator's passage, first on one set of stairs, then on the other. Citing a fear that the peaceful demonstrators were too rowdy, officers blocked the stairway, thereby disallowing the people the right to peaceably assemble and to petition their government for redress of their grievances.
Medea Benjamin led the rally and demonstration. Medea is no stranger to controversy surrounding elections. As co-founder of Global Exchange, she has acted as an independent election observer in several Central American elections. She had just recently returned from Florida, where she had assisted in recounts in the contested presidential election. Her recent bid for the U.S. Senate as a Green Party candidate in California saw her closed from debates, ignored by the corporate media, and arrested.
The crowd cheered when Media told them that, "I think that even though we didn't get all the way upstairs, the electors heard us."
If the electors were listening, the final chant let them know that this was only the beginning of the new democracy movement in the United States. "We'll be back" filled the rotunda as the demonstrators marched back to the stairs on the West Side of the Capitol building.
The demonstration was winding down when an activist who identified herself as Marla emerged from the building. She stated that she had seen the Governor upstairs and had asked him to come out and talk to the people. He refused and brushed past her. A few minutes later she was accosted by security, which asked for her ID. She told them that, since she does not have the millions of dollars needed to make an appointment with the governor, this was her only chance to speak to him. She was released, and so no arrests were made.
The rally was followed by an electoral reform strategy session held in the Capitol Building.
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