April 30, 2007

Local Activists Demand Pres. Bush’s Impeachment

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“Fear has run our lives since this administration came to power. To me, that’s not a way to live,” said Fay Gougakis at the impeachment rally she organized on the Commons on Saturday.
Gougakis, a local activist for many years, has a history of protesting policies of President George W. Bush’s Administration. Prior to organizing Saturday’s rally, she participated in two inauguration day protests and has supported both anti-nuclear and women’s rights movements.
The rally was part of a nationwide event known as A28, which called for the impeachment of the Bush administration because Bush and Cheney “have lied the nation into a war of aggression, are spying in open violation of the law, and have sanctioned the use of torture. These are high crimes and misdemeanors that demand accountability through the Constitutional mechanism of impeachment,” according to the event’s website.
The Ithaca rally featured several musical acts, a theatrical performance and a variety of speakers.
Former Ithaca mayor Ben Nichols spoke of the need for change and stressed the importance of American rights as dictated by the Constitution. Prof. Fred Wilcox, writing, Ithaca College, emphasized the excess money and effort being spent on the war.
Linda Finlay, retired Ithaca College philosophy professor and local activist, spoke of the public’s role in making a change: “We don’t have a free country if we don’t act like free people … It’s up to us to restore our institutions by the way we act.”
Prof. Bob Howarth, ecology, discussed environmental pollution and climate change, as well as the administration’s role in distorting public awareness of such issues. Prof. Terence Turner, anthropology, called Bush the “real terrorist,” deeming him responsible for subverting elections and suppressing American rights.
Activist Mike O’Brian talked about the “imperial presidency” while Joe Chicone, with a son currently fighting in Afghanistan, spoke about the national war effort.
Several musical acts performed between speakers, involving audience members in sing-a-longs despite rainy conditions. Acoustic guitarist John Simon, cellist Hank Roberts, the husband-and-wife duo the Katherine Aelias Band, singer Marina Garcia and Blue Sky’s Mission Club all played thematic songs and ballads throughout the day. A satiric dramatization of the president’s political actions and beliefs took place as well.
Gougakis devoted her time and effort into organizing an interactive and highly energized protest because of her strong beliefs about the current administration’s negative actions. According to Gougakis, the Bush administration has “trashed the environment, trashed human rights, trashed the constitution … and stolen our democracy.”
The goal of the rally was to raise awareness and camaraderie among Americans seeking a common goal. “I enjoyed bringing people together to do this rally,” Gougakis said. “That, to me, is a wonderful thing: to see people come together, calling for accountability of this administration.”
Alexis Alexander, a representative and organizer for the Tompkins County Marches for Peace Coalition, obtained signatures for impeachment at the rally. By the end of the weekend, the petition had over 1,100 signatures. By letting local officials know how supporters feel about local and national issues and by holding Bush accountable, Alexander hopes to “hear much more talk about impeachment” after the national day of protest.
The movement seems to have sparked some attention. One Binghamton teen traveled to Ithaca after hearing about the protest via the group’s website which highlights rallies, resources and members of the organization, provides an open forum and offers involvement opportunities.
Gougakis and other activists hope to spark local democrats to push for change after A28’s high-spirited events.
“After all,” said Gougakis, “you do this because you want to and you believe in it. It doesn’t make it easy.”