Thursday, January 04, 2007

110th Congress Greeted With Calls for Impeachment

As the 110th Congress was sworn in this afternoon, about a hundred demonstrators gathered outside in a rally calling for the impeachment of George W. Bush and an end to the war in Iraq. With the Capitol Dome in the background, speakers denounced U.S. policies in Iraq and Guantanamo, and also highlighted domestic issues such as warrantless electronic surveillance and the abandonment of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Flanking the stage were a dozen demonstrators dressed up in orange jumpsuits and black hoods to represent the thousands of detainees being held in secret CIA prisons around the world, and at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern was among the speakers as was "peace mom" Cindy Sheehan, who yesterday disrupted a press conference by House Democratic leaders touting their proposed ethics reforms.

At one point, 12 protesters broke away from the rally and dropped a banner inside the Hart Senate Office Building denouncing war and torture. Inside the building, protesters chanted "De-escalate, investigate, troops home now," and "We will not be silent.”

Restoring the rule of law, ending the war in Iraq, and reining in the Executive Branch were the overriding themes of today's demonstration, but implicit in all of these goals was the necessity for George Bush's impeachment. One speaker, Sunsara Taylor of World Can't Wait, addressed the common refrain from anti-impeachment Democrats that impeaching Bush would distract Congress from enacting progressive policy, pointing out that progress will only be possible once Bush is removed from office.

In particular, when it comes to Iraq, she argued that because the president is unwilling to entertain proposals for a "graceful exit," and instead wants to escalate the war by sending a "surge" of 20,000 or more troops, only by removing Bush would peace be possible.

The crowd then erupted in a chant of "Impeach for peace! Impeach for peace!"

While the numbers at today's demonstration were not huge, what the rally made clear was that there will be no honeymoon for the new Democratic majority, and that although House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has asserted that "impeachment is off the table," there are many Americans who will continue to insist that it is placed back on the table.

More demonstrations in the nation's capital are planned for the coming weeks, including one tomorrow at the American Enterprise Institute, where Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT) will publicly call for the U.S. to send tens of thousands more troops to Iraq. Next week, on the fifth anniversary of the first prisoners arriving at Guantanamo Bay, a demonstration is planned against arbitrary detention and torture, during which more than a hundred activists will risk arrest by committing civil disobedience.

And on January 27, a mass march on Washington will call on Congress to heed the voters' demands and end the war in Iraq.

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