Where ever President Obama goes, cries of dissent are sure to follow. The last five years of Obama’s two terms have given us plenty of reasons to hoot and holler. In the well kept, upscale area of Palo Alto, protests are probably not a common site. On the corner of Middlefield street a friendly crowd slowly forms along the sidewalk. It steadily grows and is fairly mixed. There are grey beards, walkers and strollers, and women of all ages. At one point a photographer comments,
“you are the most interesting people here” as he takes a picture of us. We do stand out a bit I guess, kind of like a radical sore thumb on the manicured hand of suburbia.
Yesterday’s demonstration was a collaborative effort between the trifecta of environmentalist NGO’s. ( 350.org, the Sierra Club, and Credo) Code Pink and the west coast faction of the Raging Grannies were also there. We marched to our destination; a quiet, tree-lined block congested with shades of police and security. A line of valets in tuxedos await Obama’s arrival, “they look like penguins, maybe CNN Turkey is here,” Jak comments. The house being guarded is the McCluere’s residence; the host for the fancy fundraiser on Obama’s behalf. Their house is out of view and unfortunately so is the President as he slips in through another side street. The standoff continued though, with the hope of catching him on his way out.
The crowd that has gathered behind (and in front) of the barricades is a sea of blue and red, pressed against a homemade pipeline, carried by volunteers in white hazmat suits. There is plenty of time to stand around (especially since the president was late to begin with) so the crowd entertains itself. The Raging Grannies sing, a marching band plays, and the enthusiastic chants I first heard in D.C erupt. “Hey Obama we don’t need no pipeline drama!” is a crowd favorite. Echoing over us as a few “friendly” cops pass out sticker badges to children. It feels more like a block party at times than a protest.
I am reminded of that climate rally where the same premature celebratory energy made me uneasy. We have serious issues, urgent issues affecting all of us. At this point I find it hard to cheer and chant, while waiting for a glimpse of a man who has already decided our environmental fate. When it comes to the Keystone XL, which is still waiting for final review of studies conducted on its’ environmental impact, Obama can decide whenever he wants. He will probably wait until late fall to make it public though. At least that is the update from a Sierra Club volunteer, a well educated older man who speaks of our fifteen-year end game scenario. By 2028 the global carbon footprint is expected to reach 450 ppm, a point of no return for the planet. This is the kind of statistic that makes it hard for me to celebrate.
My favorite part of the day was the Turkish solidarity. We meet Earehen Kirimli, originally from Istanbul, who has lived with his family in the US for six years. He, along with at least a dozen others, bring the story of Turkey to the forefront and to life. The images, glossy, blown up photos of the violence, say it all. There is one of a young women, arms outstretched, while a water cannon blasts down on her. Another shows a bloodied-faced reporter, possibly the photographer of the now famous “Women In The Red Dress” photo. If the pictures don’t do it for you, Earehen and the others are more than eager to show, in detail all of the news they know. It is better than keeping up with the twitter feed, and now we have faces and voice to connect us to this story of brutality and resilience of a people just beginning to wake and rise up.
In Solidarity Forever,
People of Turkey are fighting for their freedom of speech. Please give them a hand by visiting this URL and sharing it with your friends. International awareness is the only way to pressure the Turkish government to stop the police violence.