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From Total Frustration to Action (It Feels So Good!):

How I Started the South Florida Impeachment Coalition

Diane Lawrence


Editors' Note: Activism is hard, slogging work, and not always successful. We thought our readers might like to read one huge success story, the formation of one of the nation's leading impeachment groups. Here is one activist's recipe for how to set up a successful anti-CheneyBush pressure coalition.


I have been engaged in Bush-bashing since 1999. I first got on the impeachment page in 2004 when I read my Senator Bob Graham's book Intelligence Matters. Graham was Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and was one of a small number of Senators who voted against giving Bush the authority to invade Iraq. In his book, Graham listed eleven grounds for Bush's removal of office.

Last spring I received an email from Jacob Park. Jacob started a website called A28.org. April 28th had been designated as a National Day of Impeachment by Jacob and others. But, if you are not a devotee of the internet or constantly listening to progressive talk radio, you would not have known about April 28th. I became the Miami area contact for the event and I contacted a few of my activist friends about participating in some way on that day. A few weeks before the 28th, we learned that George W. Bush had been invited to speak at commencement at Miami Dade College Kendall campus, located a hop, skip and a jump from my house. Miami then became Ground Zero for April 28th. I began receiving emails from all over the state from impeachment enthusiasts who wanted to express their disgust with Bush when he came to Miami.

A THOUSAND PEOPLE IN THE STREET

On April 28th at 3 p.m., I walked out to 107th Ave., the street just east of the college. My husband and I have lived in this neighborhood for 40 years. I got goose bumps. There were protesters on both sides of this busy street, holding up signs and chanting. The cars going by went crazy with shouts of support and honking horns. The signs were about impeachment and Iraq. Close to 1,000 formerly closeted patriots came out that day, mainly from South Florida, but some traveling from as far as Tampa....

In July, the Shrub commuted Scooter Libby's sentence. That was the tipping point for me. I listen to Ed Schultz on our progressive talk radio station. Maybe eight months prior, Ed was blowing off callers who talked about impeachment. Suddenly Ed was onboard. On July 13th, I watched Bill Moyers' Journal on PBS. His guests were two Constitutional experts, conservative Bruce Fein and liberal John Nichols. I was convinced after listening that if the Constitution is not enforced by the Democratically controlled Congress against members of the Bush Crime Family in 2007-2008, Bush was right when he referred to the Constitution as a "goddamn piece of paper."

In late July, two things happened. A mutual friend and activist wrote an email to me and to a Green Party member. The email said, "Diane, meet Alan; Alan meet Diane." The second thing that got me started was something my son, a Silicon Valley guy with a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Stanford, said to me. I often ask him if we can help out financially so that my daughter-in-law can be a stay-at-home mom with our soon-to-be two granddaughters. My son, a very independent man, said, "Mom, why don't you spend your money on something you enjoy?" So, I decided that I would enjoy nothing better than to help get the two evildoers impeached!

Alan turned out to be a talented graphic and website designer, who is passionate about the Constitution and scared about the future of our country. Fronting the money for the Coalition has been minimally expensive. Had I needed to hire a website designer and webmaster, that would have been a lot more expensive, but I would have spent it gladly. However, having someone involved in the cause is so much better!

I learned that in order to open a checking account for any organization, I would have to form a non-profit through the State of Florida's Secretary of State's office. That is done easily on the internet at a charge of $75.

THE COALITION GROWS

Because I had kept the email addresses of many of the people who came down here to protest in April, I emailed those people as well as every activist and politically active organization with whom I had contact. I called a meeting of about six impeachment enthusiasts at our home in late July and the South Florida Impeachment Coalition was formed by what we refer to as the "Organizers." This core group consists of three Green Party members, two or three disgruntled Democrats and one veteran of the anti-Viet Nam movement, Rucy, who demonstrated back then with Dr. Spock. Rucy was disgusted and discouraged and about to give up and drop out of activism, but is rejuvenated with SFIC activities. We brainstormed and set goals. Our main goal was to take the "I" word out of the closet and make it a household word in South Florida. Our contact list grows with people signing up at every event.

We have since concentrated much effort on lobbying the district offices of eight members of Congress, including three Rethugs. Each lobbying appointment was made by a constituent of that particular legislator and I came along with a package of documents that should convince anyone but Cheney and Bush that that member of Congress should co-sponsor H. Res. 333, Articles of Impeachment against Richard B. Cheney. We ask for a yes or no on co-sponsorship to be provided in writing within a few weeks.

So far, we have received written nays from two Rethugs and one form letter with pitiful excuses for not impeaching, i.e., more important legislation to be passed, impeachment is divisive, costly, blah, blah blah (excuse me while I gag). This sorry reply came from Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who represents a predominantly liberal Democratic district. This lady doesn't know what she's talking about. Debbie, a very new Congresswoman, is a favorite of Nancy Pelosi, who put her on the House Judiciary Committee immediately.

PRESSURING YOUR MEMBER OF CONGRESS

Debbie maxed out when she boldly berated Congress for interfering in the Terry Schiavo matter. She then voted to support Bush's un-family-friendly travel ban that says that Cubans can only visit their relatives on the island once every three years, even if the relative is dying. There was no good reason for her to vote this way because her district can't possibly include the fanatical anti-Fidel Cuban exiles and, even if it did, they would never vote for a Democrat, even for dog catcher. She then voted for war funding last May. Shortly after that vote, she held a Town Hall meeting. Approximately 300 anti-war protesters attended, there was a lot of shouting and sign carrying and she was pretty shook up by the lack of acceptance of this formerly golden girl who represents parts of Broward and Miami-Dade Counties.

We are planning a demonstration against Debbie on October 25th. If I could put her over my grandmotherly knee and spank her (like we used to do in the '60s), I would. Instead of representing her constituents, she is pandering to Pelosi and hoping for a future climb to power in the House. Might I add that the Democrats are doing as much to shred the Constitution as are Cheney and Bush?

We will also be demonstrating against Democratic Congressman Kendrick Meek, who never bothered to respond to his constituent's lobbying effort with an answer on co-sponsoring H. Res. 333. Meek represents a lot of Haitians and other poor people. If they had the time or knowledge to pay attention to how their Congressman votes, he would be in big trouble, but they are too busy trying to put food on the table.

If there is time, we'll demonstrate against the Republicans as well. Better yet for them, there are now actual viable opponents for the three Republicans who represent the lower part of our state and I think they may all go down come November '08. This will be justly deserved as they have supported Bush for many years and their recent refusal to override his SCHIP veto was the final straw for many voters, including Republicans.

We will continue to pursue several Democratic members of Congress and try to convince them to fulfill their oaths of office (to defend the Constitution against all enemies, both foreign and domestic) instead of listening to the Democratic leadership, who apparently can't connect the dots between bringing our troops home and using the tools provided in our beautifully written Constitution to get rid of the war criminals in the White House.

ACTIVIST DAVID SWANSON ON THE SCENE

In addition to lobbying, SFIC had a kickoff rally in conjunction with the Unitarian Universalist Congregation. Two hundred patriots showed up in response to emails, flyers, and our wonderful 940 AM morning talk show hostess Nicole Sandler. Nicole has pledged to talk about impeachment on her 3-hour show whenever possible and she introduced our guest speaker at the Rally. We flew David Swanson (www.afterdowningstreet.org) to Miami for the day on 9/15 and he delivered a very strong message on why we must impeach and included all the arguments the nay-sayers use with intelligent comebacks from impeachment enthusiasts.

We co-sponsored, with a local bookstore, a speech by John Nichols, Constitutional expert and journalist with The Nation Magazine. About 100 believers came out in rush hour traffic on a rainy night in Coral Gables to hear John. They came away with hope that we can get this thing done despite our pathetic national Democratic "leaders." There is a link to the Bill Moyers piece and videos of the Swanson and Nichols speeches on our website www.FloridaImpeach.org . And let me put in a plug for Nichols' excellent book, The Genius of Impeachment. Some other tactics we have already used and have planned:

*An impromptu "Honk to Impeach Cheney" demonstration in O.J. Simpson's driveway while all of tabloid media were camped out in 90-degree weather just waiting for the criminal to appear even though we all know that the real killers reside in the White House.

* "Visibility" events where we have seven people carrying placards spelling out the word IMPEACH and one for good measure holding up a sign with our website name.

* Leafleting outside all presidential candidate fundraisers.

* Selling Impeach Bush and Cheney tee-shirts.

* Protesting a speech by John Conyers at the U. of Miami on November 4th.

* A table at the Miami Book Fair selling tee-shirts and the Nichols book.

* Participation in national impeachment strategy phone conference with Progressive Democrats of America.

* Meetings with various groups, including the ACLU and NAACP, and, yes, the Florida Democratic Party (we already have the local Dems onboard) to convince them to endorse impeachment.

* A motorcade with cars decorated with impeachment signs fanning out to the various media outlets; parking there and going in to ask for a cameraman (if the media won't come to us, we'll go to them approach).

Additionally, most of us, when contacted by phone to donate to any presidential candidate, the DCCC, the SCCC, Emily's List, and others, simply say that we are not donating anymore until that person or organization comes out for impeachment. Ditto when we receive mail solicitations -- scrawl "No money until you impeach" on the insert and return it in their postage paid envelopes.

In addition to a website designer, it would be very helpful to anyone contemplating the formation of a group to promote impeachment, to have leaders with ideas, energy and no day job. Proficiency on the computer is equally important. I would be very glad, time permitting, to forward via email our model for an impeachment lobbying packet and answer questions via email from anyone endeavoring to form an impeachment coalition. Email me at info@FloridaImpeach.org .

Every 10 minutes an Iraqi civilian is killed in a war that George Bush says will not end until he leaves office.

Every 10 hours an American soldier is killed in a war that George Bush says will not end until he leaves office.

Every 10 days $2 billion is removed from the U.S. Treasury and placed in the accounts of Halliburton, Blackwater and all other war profiteers that are getting rich off the misery of Iraqis and Americans by a government that will continue to remove those amounts or more every ten days as long as George Bush is President of the United States.

In summary, as you can see from the above, the point is that anyone can put together an effective activist group. Just use the energy and talents of dedicated people -- and there are plenty of angry, frustrated citizens anxious to work to restore our government to its positive potential.

Draw your group together, from your various contacts and mailing lists, and learn how to create media events, how to pressure your elected representatives, how to build your organization.

Just do it! America will be grateful and you will feel good about your efforts.

 


Crisis Papers editors, Partridge & Weiner, are available for public speaking appearances