Bay Area activism, near and far

There’s plenty of liberal activism a-brewin’, as usual.

El Cerrito piano tuner and longtime pro-Palestinian activist Paul Larudee, a cofounder of the Free Gaza Movement, and his cohorts are about to set sail from Cyprus en route to the Gaza Strip in an effort to “raise international awareness about the prison-like closure of the Gaza Strip and pressure the international community to review its sanctions policy and end its support for continued Israeli occupation.” It won’t be a cakewalk for this international band of activists; Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported Sunday that Israeli defense officials “favor forcefully blocking” the boats’ arrival, as “allowing the ships to reach the Gaza coastline could create a dangerous precedent.”

Closer to home, CODEPINK is gearing up for the Democratic National Convention in Denver next week. Bay Area doyenne of dissent Medea Benjamin and her group will be holding a “Peace Room” pre-convention party “to make art, friends, plans, and a peace platform” from 7 to 9 p.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, Aug. 19, in the CODEPINK/Global Exchange office on the second floor of 2017 Mission St. in San Francisco. Later this week, they’ll have an “All Aboard for Peace” send-off for six Bay Area activists getting on Amtrak to Denver; that’ll be at 8:15 a.m. Friday, Aug. 22, at the Emeryville Amtrak station, 5885 Horton St. According to their news release, they’re headed to Denver and later to the RNC convention in St. Paul, Minn., to “demand, in full creative force, that an end to the occupation of Iraq, no war with Iran and a commitment to peace be at the top the political agenda… CODEPINK will also be speaking out against the financing of the conventions by oil, telecom and pharmaceutical companies, exposing how corporate money corrupts the political system.” They’ve even put their schedule of actions at the conventions online.

And, speaking of the conventions, some prominent Bay Area activists — including Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg of Berkeley and “peace mom” Cindy Sheehan, who’s now running an independent Congressional campaign to unseat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco — are among those who’ve issued an open, online letter calling on people to go to Denver “to protest war, torture, and repression.” Other signatories include Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney; historian and activist Howard Zinn; and Vietnam veteran and activist Ron Kovic (“Born on the Fourth of July“).


Your roundup of roundups

So much news, so little time.

Same-sex marriage: The new Field Poll finds 51 percent of Californians favor allowing same-sex marriage; a Los Angeles court research attorney opines that the constitutional amendment proposed for November’s ballot might have fatal legal flaws; same-sex marriages might begin as soon as June 17; and the San Francisco City Attorney files a motion opposing a conservative group’s request that the state Supreme Court stay its ruling until after November’s election.

Marijuana: The Assembly passes a bill which would prevent California employers from firing a worker solely because he or she uses medical marijauna, in compliance with the state’s law, outside the workplace. Meanwhile, the DEA raids at least one marijuana-growing operation in the East Bay, maybe more.

The Legislature in action: The Assembly says no to gun shows at the Cow Palace and yes to paid sick leave for California workers. On the state Senate side, President Pro Tem Don Perata is glad to be alive.

Coming up on Thursday: The Commonwealth Club hosts U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in San Francisco, and antiwar icon Cindy Sheehan debates a military recruiter in Berkeley.


Cindy Sheehan speaks in Berkeley tomorrow

From Kristin Bender, our eye on Berkeley:

cindy_sheehan.jpgAntiwar activist Cindy Sheehan, now running against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, will return to her old stomping grounds Tuesday.

The former Berkeley resident will speak from noon to 2 p.m. Tuesday in the auditorium at Berkeley City College (formerly Vista Community College) at 2050 Center St., between Shattuck Avenue and Milvia Street, about half a block from the Downtown Berkeley BART station.

Not surprisingly, Sheehan’s talk will focus on how to end the war in Iraq. That’s been her mission since her son, Casey, was killed in April 2004 in Baghdad; her August 2005 vigil outside President George Bush’s Crawford, Texas ranch made international headlines. Last July, in the wake of President Bush’s reduction of Scooter Libby’s sentence, Sheehan vowed to challenge Pelosi if the congresswoman failed to introduce articles of impeachment against Bush.

Sheehan will take questions from the audience after her speech Tuesday; the event is free and open to the public but first-priority seating is for Berkeley City College students, as this is being sponsored by the college’s Global Studies Program and the Global Studies Club.


The Greens are coming to SF

It promises to be a left-wing bonanza at 2 p.m. this Sunday, Jan. 13 as the Green Party hosts “Campaign 2008: A Presidential Debate that Matters” in the Herbst Theater/Veterans Memorial Building, 401 Van Ness Ave. in San Francisco.

mckinney.jpgThis will be the first and only live debate between the Green Party’s presidential candidates, including former Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga.; Maryland independent journalist and university assistant professor Jared Ball; West Virginia activist Jesse Johnson; San Diego air-quality inspector Kent Mesplay; and the big kahuna himself, consumer rights icon Ralph Nader (who isn’t actually a candidate, although some have tried to draft him).

nader.jpgAnd as if that’s not enough to guarantee a lively debate, antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan — now running as an independent against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — will co-moderate, along with 2006 Oakland City Council candidate Aimee Allison; former San Francisco Supervisor Matt Gonzalez; and San Francisco Board of Education President Mark Sanchez, now a candidate for city/county supervisor.

The event is open to the public with a suggested donation of $10-25. Click here for more information. It’s sponsored by the Green Party of Alameda County, the San Francisco Green Party and the Sacramento County Green Party, and it’s endorsed by the Green Party of San Mateo County.


Kucinich to launch whistlestop tour in Bay Area

kucinich.jpgDemocratic presidential candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, will be in the Bay Area late next week to launch a whistlestop railroad tour taking him from Oakland to San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles and Oceanside.

First, he’ll hold a kickoff rally from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21 in the First Unitarian Universalist Church, at 1187 Franklin St. in San Francisco, for a free evening of commentary by noted progressive activists, authors, scholars and artists including John Nichols of The Nation; author Michael Parenti; human-rights activist Medea Benjamin; antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan; and musical guests Zoe Keating and Paul Kamm & Eleanore MacDonald.

Then, the public can join Kucinich and other activists as they board an Amtrak train departing Oakland’s Jack London Square station at 8:50am Saturday, Dec. 22.


Gettin’ down to Gitmo

A pair of well-known Bay Area activists will take part in a delegation visiting Cuba next week to protest the U.S. prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay.

Global Exchange and CODEPINK activist Medea Benjamin of San Francisco and Berkeley “Peace Mom” Cindy Sheehan will be part of the crowd holding a conference on prison abuses and marching to the Cuban security gate facing the U.S. Navy base at which the prison is located. The trip, from Jan. 9 through 13, surrounds the Jan. 11 “International Day to Shut Down Guantanamo,” marking the fifth anniversary of the first prisoners’ arrival.

Other delegation members include Zohra Zewawi of Dubai, who says her son has been tortured and blinded in one eye but never charged or tried during his detention since September 2002; Asif Iqbal, a former detainee freed without charges; retired U.S. Army Col. Ann Wright; Adele Welty, a New Yorker whose firefighter son was killed on 9/11 and who now is a member of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows; and Bill Goodman, the U.S. Center for Constitutional Rights‘ legal director who has taken the cases of Guantanamo detainees to the US Supreme Court.

After Cuba, a smaller group will return to the U.S. to lobby Congress to shut the prison, restore habeas corpus rights, repeal the Military Commissions Act, and give all detainees fair trials or release them.

Meanwhile, the FBI released documents yesterday that say agents saw possible mistreatment of the Quran at the Guantanamo Bay prison, including at least one case in which a U.S. Marine Corps interrogator squatted over Islam’s holy text in an apparent attempt to offend a captive.