OB be proud! It was your little blog that was the small pebble that got the boulder rolling.

by on February 25, 2011 · 3 comments

in Civil Rights, Labor, Organizing, San Diego

The Genesis of the Saturday Rally in San Diego In Support of the Working People of Wisconsin

OBcians – you should be very proud – for it was your little blog that got the big boulder rolling.  Your little blog – the OB Rag – was the first organization (if you can call us that) that initiated the call for a rally in San Diego on this Saturday in solidarity with the working people of Wisconsin.

We were the little pebble that got the big boulder – the San Diego County Labor Council – rolling. And now, the Labor Council, with all its members, experience, and resources, have taken over the bulk of the organizing for the noon time demonstration in front of the San Diego County Administration Building for tomorrow, Feb. 26th.

We’re not trying to take undue credit here, but I wanted to show you how something as big as the rally will be tomorrow got rolling.

Tuesday night, we were sitting in the OB Rag office, inspired and frustrated at the same time.  We had been closely watching what had been occurring in Madison (and in fact we did some live blogging the other day in support) and had heard of a “50 State Emergency Mobilization” called mainly by MoveOn.org, to stage rallies at every state capital on Saturday, in support of what was going down in Wisconsin.  This was great, we thought.  Other national progressive groups were starting to join the effort.

The original call came from the group MoveOn, and they had been joined by Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), Color of Change, CREDO Action, Democracy for America, Campaign for Community Change, National People’s Action, TrueMajority, US Action, Progressive Majority, the Courage Campaign, and “green jobs visionary Van Jones.”

But we checked around. Nothing was happening in San Diego on Saturday.  The local MoveOn was having its own protest outside a couple of Congressional offices on Thursday, Feb. 24th – which it did -, but had not joined the national call for an action on Saturday.  Our state capital in Sacramento was 500 miles away. I knew instinctively that most progressive San Diegans would not be traveling that far for a rally.

I turned to Patty and said something like, ‘we’ve got to do something here in San Diego.’  She agreed. So, I polled our OB Rag staff via email to see if they were down for doing something for Saturday.  I sent out an internal email that read:

OB RAgsters – How about we endorse the idea of having an emergency rally here in San Diego in support of the folks in Wisconsin? There’s a call out for a 50 State for Action this Saturday AT ALL THE STATE CAPITALS – well, hey, we ain’t going 500 miles, are you? So let’s have one here at NOON at the COUNTY Admin Building.

Ragsters get back to us quickly.

(Notice how I threw in all caps for emphasis – and got a certain satisfaction capping the word “capitals”.) We started receiving responses within minutes, and they were all  supportive:

  • Sounds good, but I won’t be able to attend.
  • Let’s do it!
  • I endorse this idea, but I will be unable to participate myself……..something about some basketball game at 11 am between the #4/6 ranked team in the country vs. the #7 ranked team in the country that the entire sporting world is talking about……..
  • Sounds good to me.
  • I vote yes to endorse the idea of having an emergency rally here in San Diego. I’ll be there.
  • Both of us are down for it.
  • Down!
  • I absolutely think we should endorse a rally here in SD. I am going to try very hard to be able to attend myself.

Those angels on the Rag. They are so supportive and inspirational themselves. We did not receive one negative or hesitant response. That was it! We had reached critical mass among our staff.

We had to do it this Saturday and we had to do it at noon. But where should we rally? Horton Plaza – nah.  The Federal Building – nah. San Diego City Hall – nah. How about the County Admin Building with all its grass and built-in stage? Yes! That was the place.

The next step was to throw together a general call and send it out to my email list of “San Diego Activists,” so I pieced together MoveOn’s original ‘call text’ with and blasted cyberspace with this:

San Diego activist:

A whole lot of progressive organizations have called for a 50-state series of emergency rallies at all the state capitals around the country for this Saturday. We at the OB Rag support this Call but we are not able to travel to Sacramento.

So, we are joining others who call for a rally here in San Diego at the same time – Noon on Saturday Feb 26th in front of the County Admin Building.

Can and will you join us? And will you endorse this idea? Please respond to me here.

And here I inserted the “general call to action” for the 50-State Mobilization to Save the American Dream” which ends with – We are all Wisconsin. We are all Americans.

As we began to receive responses, I sent out another batch of emails targeting specific individuals I knew who were involved in the leadership of their respective organizations, asking them for group endorsements and to arrange a speaker from their group for the rally.

We targeted the Democrats, the Greens, people active in their union locals, peaceniks, and other progressive groups, like Progressive Democrats of America – Metro San Diego, Progressive Thinkers (formerly the San Diego Community Coalition), the local Democratic Socialists of America, the Movement for a Democratic Society.  We also targeted former San Diego Coffee Party folks, as well as the base of activists that had been mobilized almost exactly a year ago to “witness” the local tea parties gathering at the San Diego Harbor, plus the folks organizing a community labor conference in early March at City College.

So, by the end of Tuesday night, we had received numerous positive responses and a couple of other groups were on board, including a couple of County union locals.

Of course, we wanted to get labor on board.  So, early Wednesday – the 23rd – I called Rag staffer Doug Porter, knowing that he has close ties to the teachers’ union and some other labor groups. He told me that he was meeting with Lorena Gonzalez, the head of the San Diego Labor Council, that day at noon and would bring it up. We also asked him to set up a facebook page for the event, as he is our OB Rag facebook guy. He agreed and would get to work on it.

In the meantime, I had posted an article with “the call” for the rally on our blog. I began sending out hundreds of emails with a link to the article.

Good responses from individuals and a few endorsements started coming in, and we started making a list of speakers for the event. I was thinking that a couple hundred folks would mobilize for Saturday in downtown San Diego. Then around 9:30 a.m. I get the best call of the day.

It was from Evan McLaughlin, the political and legislative director of the Labor Council (known formally as the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO).  His words were music to my ears.

Even thought the Labor Council had thrown together a rally in support of Wisconsin the previous Friday afternoon – where it had rained – they were willing to take on Saturday’s demonstration.  They wanted to take on the bulk of the organizing, get speakers, a sound system, get a rally permit – the whole shebang! This was wonderful, as the Labor Council obviously has thousands of contacts, a paid staff, and mucho resources.

More group endorsements poured in – and we’ve listed them in the original article of “the call.” Doug sent an email informing us that not only was “our” facebook page for the event was up, but the Labor Council had also set a facebook page up.  Shane told us he would take a video of the rally for the OB Rag.

At this point, the Labor Council was calling the rally “We Are One” – which sounded great.

Thursday morning I heard from Anthony Saavedra, the member services coordinator for the Labor Council. He said:

At this point we have pulled facility use permits, we’ve paid the $1,000 security deposit, a mandatory minimum of $1 million in liability insurance has been provided, signs are being printed and the staging and professional sound is arranged. We’re currently finalizing the program and list of speakers and wanted to know if there was anyone you hoped to have included. Please let me know as soon as possible.

Wow! Can you believe the resources that have to go into something like this rally. Democracy and free assembly is not cheap. Who else but a labor council could pull this off so quickly? It’s so clear why we need labor unions, even for those of us who are not currently in a union.

Things were definitely looking up.

Then a couple of friends emailed me and asked, ‘do you realize that thunderstorms and rain are expected for this Saturday?’ Oh, great, is mother nature on the side of the union-busting radical Republicans?

But, I thought, and Patty agreed, if the working people of Wisconsin can stand for us in the freezing ice, cold and snow for more than a week, we can stand up for them in the rain here in San Diego. So, bring your umbrellas.  This fight is for and about all of us.

This could be our “Tahrir Square”! This is the beginning of the “February 26th Movement”. We are one.  See you Saturday at noon! Join the OB Rag contingent and while you celebrate the little pebble that got the boulder rolling, celebrate our rights and what our people in Wisconsin are doing.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Frank Gormlie February 25, 2011 at 8:08 pm

I’ve heard a concern from at least one part of the progressive community that since the Labor Council is pretty much running the show, any non-Democratic Party allied group will not be allowed to speak. I have reassured them that will not be the case. Any one or any group that has joined this event will be able to give a brief solidarity statement.

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avatar Frank Gormlie February 25, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Doug sent me this:

Sometimes, it’s good to leave detached, cerebral meta-analyses of politics aside and just get a taste of public opinion being expressed the old-fashioned way.

Wisconsin blogger Naomi Hauser reports tonight (viaHowie Klein on Twitter):

The Merchant [a restaurant] in Madison, WI confirms that on Friday night, Patrick Sweeney (one of the owners) politely asked Scott Walker to leave the establishment when other customers began booing him. A bartender at The Merchant said that ‘his presence was causing a disturbance to the other customers and management asked him to leave.’

Maybe he should have stayed home and ordered pizza instead? Okay, maybe not; there might be a long wait.

Hauser adds regarding The Merchant that readers might want to “give your patronage and thanks in person the next time you are in Madison.

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avatar editordude February 25, 2011 at 9:36 pm

This just in: More than 270 state legislators from 44 states and two territories have signed a letter standing with the Democratic state senators in Wisconsin, who left the state to prevent their Republican colleagues from pushing through a controversial budget repair bill.

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