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Text of Medea Benjamin's speech for Energy Independence, July 4th Long Beach

by theIMCinLongBeach Saturday, Jul. 07, 2001 at 9:30 PM

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Global Exchange and 2000 Green Party candidate for the US Senate, calls for Energy Independence, & freedom from global corporate tyranny, at a rally on July 4th in Long Beach, CA.

Well, I wanted to introduce the face of today's tyrants because I see him right behind me here. Let me grap him for a second....

(Medea retrieves a poster of Enron CEO Ken Ley and returns to the front of the stage. Above the large photo on the poster, it reads "Ken Ley / Chairman, Enron / 2000 pay: million." Below the photo, it says "Enron sells power to California. Will he tell his six grandchildren that their Christmas gifts were paid for with money stolen from California families.")

Does everybody know who this guy is? Everybody should know who this guy is because he's probably more powerful than George Bush, maybe even Dick Cheney, this is the face of today's corporate global rulers. This is the face of a guy -- how much did he make here -- 73 million dollars and that probably doesn't count his stock options because I know the CEO of Enron, Jeffrey Skilling (sp?), with the stock options, made last year 143 million dollars.

Now this is obscene. This is the guy, Kenneth Ley, who said in ten years time there will be ten energy conglomerates worldwide...worldwide. We are not fighting corporations that are [just] screwing us here in California, these are corporations that have a global reach. These are corporations that want to see the same agenda around the world. They want to see deregulation, they want to see privatization, they want to see corporate rule everywhere around the world. These companies are working in India, in Mozambique, in China, in some of the poorest places in the world to make it actually harder for people to get access to energy because they come in, and what happens? They take control and they jack the prices up. These are today's corporate tyrants that we must overthrow. (Applause).

When we have these corporate tyrants ruling the world what do we see? We see our clothing made in sweatshops, we see that the food that we eat is contaminated, genetically modified, and we don't even get a say as to whether we want that or not. We see politicians who only can only get to power, certainly in the highest offices of this land, if they take money from these corporations -- and George Bush took a helluva lot of money from this guy right here, in fact his company, Enron, gave over a million dollars to the Republican Party, flew George Bush around in his private jet, threw in another 0,000 for [his] inauguration -- who do you think George Bush represents? (audible response from the audience: "The rich bastards.") This guy and his cronies. Who do you think Gray Davis represents? Hate to say it, the rich guy(s) and his cronies.

We have a real problem on our hands. We have a democracy that has been stolen by the coroporations. And when you see whats been done to us in California, it is tragic. Who knows what we're going to pay in energy this year? (Crowd murmers, "Alot") The total bill for the state? (more murmers) Can't hear you? (again, "Alot.) Alot, yeah, 50 billions dollars is what we're going to pay this year, 50 billion dollars. That is money that should be going to our schools, that is money that should be going to health care, that is money that should be going to public transportation, that is money that should be going to social services, and not to the pockets of these, today's tyrants.

What is happening to our state is tragic.

The ones who are hurt the most are, of course, the same that are always hurt the most. It is the poor, it is people of color, it is immigrant communities. People are seeing their bills doubling. We just had the most massive increase that we have ever seen in this state in people who live under the tyranny of the private utility companies. We're going to see prices go up in the state for everything from food, to every commodity that we buy because they're going to pass on their inceases to us the consumers.

What is happening to our state is a tragedy.

Why haven't the people risen up? Because today's tyrants know how to mask it. They know they don't want to put all of the increases on our monthly bills, so they mask it by taking billions of dollars out of our state treasury. So people don't know that when the school size for their kids increases, or there aren't enough books, or the library cuts down on the hours, or another emergency room in another hospital shuts down -- they don't know one and one makes two, that that money went to these energy companies.

But we have to get out there and Educate, Educate, Educate! -- people know we're being ripped off, people know that this is a manipulated power crisis by the companies. But they are not yet convinced of the answer. And the answer is public control. We are going all around the state: today in symbolic takeovers, tomorrow in not-so-symbolic takeovers. Because we are saying to Grey Davis: "We don't want to hear the words 'eminent domain,' we want you to do it. (applause) You have the right, you have the obligation. (continued, building applause) And we the people are demanding that you do it."

So when we get out there, we have to talk to people that the only way we are going to move into a next century energy policy, that gets us out of the yolk of fossill fuels, that puts the issue of global warming front and center, that says, "yes, there are all sorts of alternatives of clean renewable energy, that, yes, conservation is not just a moral value but a moral imperative," that the only way we're going to get real conservation and real programs of renewable energies is if we free ourselves from these tyrants. And the only way to free ourselves of these tyrants is to kick them the hell out of our state. (applause)

So we say to AES, we are sick of you, you are Virginia based, get out of California. We don't want you here, we don't need you here, you have dirty energy, you have dirty politics. Your plant is being distributed by another company called Williams. We say to Williams, get out of California. According to this state, we have been overcharged by Williams, just from the months of Febuary to May, by 860 million dollars. We want that money back, and we want you out of our state. (aplause)

Because what we're doing here is making history; we're not doing it just for the people of California, we're not doing it just for the people of the United States, we are doing it as part of solidarity with people around the world who are suffering from corporate abuse. Whether it's peasants in India who are finding their traditional seeds taken over by Monsanto, or whether it's the people in the Niger Delta in Nigeria who are finding their lands destroyed by Shell, or whether it's ourselves here in California that are finding ourselves under the yolk of these companies that are bleeding us dry -- it is part of the same historic struggle, and this is a moment in history where people all over the world are rising up saying no to corporate greed, saying no to corporate politicians, and saying yes to real independence.

So today is an independence day. We are putting warning on the energy companies. No more of your dirty business. Get out of our state. We will have clean, renewable, affordable power because we will organize and work for it. And we, the people, will triumph! Thank you. (loud applause.)

(To see a photo taken during this speech, of Medea with a poster of Enron's CEO Ken Ley, click on link below)

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