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When America’s leading anti-war activist, Cindy Sheehan, got a phone call last week from Jan Brown, wife of Democratic Congressional candidate, Charles D. ("Charlie") Brown, the last thing in the world Cindy expected was a plea from Ms. Brown, "mother-to-mother," that Cindy stay away from a Sacramento anti-war protest. But that’s exactly what she got.
Fortunately for the hundreds of peace activists who showed up at the protest at 16th & Broadway in Sacramento to meet with Cindy, she rejected Ms. Brown’s request, and the event went wonderfully.
But imagine how strange it must have sounded to Cindy to have someone whom she had previously considered an anti-war enthusiast, and friend, tell her that it could hurt Charlie’s chances if Cindy attended the anti-war event.
Nearly two weeks ago, for the 22nd time since summer 2005, my wife and I organized an anti-war protest at 16th & Broadway, in Sacramento. On this particular occasion, we picked the date (October 27th) because Cindy said that she could come if it were held that day. Once she agreed to attend, we prepared fliers, sent out email announcements, and posted advertisements online.
We also passed out over 300 announcements to students in front of C.K. McClatchy High School, and we delivered them door-to-door to many homes in the Land Park neighborhood of Sacramento. We even paid a high school student $100 to deliver more fliers other places.
All of the announcements stated that Cindy Sheehan would be there. The day before the event, I stood on the corner of 16th & Broadway for 2 hours with a 4-foot by 8-foot sign that said Cindy would be there the next day.
I had no idea that Jan Brown was working behind the scenes attempting to frustrate our plans.
When Cindy arrived at 16th & Broadway on Friday, there were already about 200 people there who were very excited to see her. The event was held in the midst of rush-hour traffic. Horns were honking, drivers were cheering as they passed, people gave thumbs-up, and there were lots of smiles and nods of approval in response to anti-war statements on the signs.
Needless to say, I’m sure glad that I didn’t have to stand there explaining to people why Cindy didn’t show up
After Cindy waded through the crowd a bit and met with several people, she walked over to the area where I was standing and we spoke. She told me that Jan Brown had called her earlier to try to talk her out of coming to the demonstration. At the time, I was so pleased to see Cindy at the event, and so happy to see all the positive reactions from those passing by, that what Cindy told me didn’t sink in completely. Now it has.
Later that evening, Cindy and I discussed Charlie Brown’s recent attempts to disassociate himself from the anti-war movement and how cowardly that is.
Recently, the race between Brown and Doolittle has become close. In fact, it has become so close that Doolittle even participated in a debate with Brown a few weeks ago, although Doolittle had previously rejected the idea thinking Brown had no chance.
In the debate, Doolittle criticized Brown for attending an anti-war event that Cindy Sheehan also attended. But instead of proudly thanking Doolittle for mentioning something favorable about Brown’s activities, Brown chose to respond by criticizing Doolittle for his own associations. Since that debate, Brown has been quoted as saying that he’s neither associated with Cindy Sheehan nor has he ever taken any campaign contributions from her.
But why would Brown want to boast about that? That is, wouldn’t it be much better if he could say that Cindy is (or was) a good friend of his or that he’s so committed to ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq that even Cindy Sheehan has contributed to his campaign? Instead, Brown is boasting about his non-association with Cindy. What gives?
Sean Penn was a surprise guest at an anti-war rally that Brown and Cindy attended in Sacramento several months ago, but apparently Brown is now referring to Cindy as the "surprise guest" at that event. Actually, Cindy was booked 4 days before it was held, and that was widely publicized immediately after the booking.
Until I heard about Brown’s new strategy of disassociating himself with the anti-war crowd, I was rooting for him. I really thought that he was a new and different kind of Democrat: one with a spine.
I also appreciated the fact that Brown came to my home wearing his full military uniform and stood outside with many anti-war folks to defend my free speech. Several right-wingers had gathered across the street after I placed a display on my home of a uniformed soldier with the sign, "Bush Lied, I Died." When Brown, his wife, and about two hundred others, including Cindy and Pat Sheehan, showed up to stand in solidarity with my wife and me, we really felt like there was hope for ending the criminally orchestrated U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Today, however, it’s no longer clear to us whether Brown supports an immediate end to the occupation. Ironically, now that most people are opposed to it, Brown seems more opposed to associating with the anti-war crowd.
The kind of political transformation that Brown has recently exhibited is precisely what’s gotten us into the mess in Iraq. From the perspective of someone who already lacks hope in the Democratic Party, Brown’s new unwillingness to be identified with Cindy and the anti-war crowd only reaffirms my belief that we can’t expect any meaningful change without a viable new party. It’s really sad.
STEPHEN S. PEARCY is an attorney and peace activist in Berkeley, California. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org