by Steve Desroches
It’s the second day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and journalist Amy Goodman is about to cover a protest by the organization Code Pink: Women for Peace. The anti-war group delivered 500 tennis balls just outside the Quicken Loans Arena where Chris Cox, the chief lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, was addressing the convention inside. Why tennis balls? As a security measure, the City of Cleveland banned about 70 items from the convention “event zone,” including metal tipped umbrellas, thermoses, canned goods, and tennis balls, as all could be used as weapons. What is not banned, however, are assault rifles or handguns, which have been on display this week outside the Republican National Convention. Ohio is a so-called “open carry” state. Even squirt guns are on the prohibited list, but real guns are okay.
Despite concerns from the Cleveland Police Department and a request from the city’s police officer’s union, Ohio Governor John Kasich said he was unable to suspend the state’s open carry law for the week of the convention. So, according to Goodman’s coverage, the Cleveland police began to confiscate the tennis balls, then received assistance from riot police, followed by Indiana state troopers in town to assist with security, and lastly by police on horseback. All this over tennis balls. If Code Pink had been holding AR-15 rifles, they’d be fine. It’s just one of the aspects of both the Republican and Democratic national conventions Goodman is covering for Democracy Now!, the independent news program. Goodman, along with her colleague Denis Moynihan, will be at Provincetown Town Hall on Friday, July 29, just a day after the Democratic convention ends in Philadelphia, to talk about their experiences over the past two weeks as well as the past 20 years of covering political movements in America.
“For sure, this is a tipping point year,” says Goodman from Cleveland on July 19. “It’s a time when grassroots movements hold enormous sway.”
Founded in 1996 by Goodman and fellow journalists Juan Gonzalez, Larry Bensky, Salim Muwakkil, and Julie Drizin, Democracy Now! focuses on covering social movements as well as American foreign policy with their show broadcast on the Internet, television, and radio, including here on Provincetown Community Television (PTV) and WOMR/WFMR, the two local independent media outlets that are sponsoring the event at Town Hall. And with about four months to go until November’s election Goodman has been covering a variety of aspects in this monumental time in our country’s history where from the Left to the Right Americans are standing up and speaking out. However, so many of these social movements go uncovered by corporate media, which is another reason Goodman says independent media is vital to democracy. “I think it’s always true that the grassroots response to what is happening in the world is rarely covered until it reaches a point where the corporate media can’t deny it anymore,” says Goodman.
Goodman points to two movements in particular – Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter – as examples of people organizing and having a great impact on our political process, effecting real change who are often shut out of the larger conversation by corporate media. While many think Occupy Wall Street has largely evaporated as a movement since their well-publicized protests in 2011, Goodman says we’re sorely mistaken.
Quite the contrary says Goodman. Occupy Wall Street has changed the language we use in regards to economic inequality, and that goes beyond the use of the term “99 percent.”
And Black Lives Matter, which gained attention after the murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, is playing a vital role not only in addressing police killings of black people, but also the level of racist vitriol that is going hand in hand with the right-wing rhetoric this election cycle.
Asked what she is noticing as she does her reporting, Goodman says, “The level of fear in communities right now… It is absolutely critical that this violence be taken on. Black Lives Matter is not just about police violence, but all violence. It’s very important they not be delegitimized. It’s important to us all.”
There are so many issues protesters and movements are addressing that often get overshadowed by, on this particular day, Melania Trump’s plagiarized speech and former Happy Days star Scott Baio’s sharing of an Internet meme calling Hillary Clinton a hateful misogynistic slur. Instead, Goodman says the real headline stories are about racial equality, economic inequality, the LGBT rights movement, police brutality, war reporting and giving voice to returning veterans, and climate change, something she adds is one area that the United States lags far behind, as the rest of the world has acknowledged that it is happening and is largely because of human causes.
“It’s as if every time we talk about the Earth being round we heard from someone from the Flat Earth Society,” says Goodman about how the U.S. media covers climate change. “The science is settled.”
Perhaps where Americans—be they Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative—have common ground is on the hijacking of our democracy by special interests and big money, says Goodman. Americans no longer feel they are in control of their own futures and are responding to the variety of solutions and ideas offered, with some supporting the scapegoating of Muslims and Latinos as well as others pushing for a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizen’s United. “I think there is a great deal of fear and anger as to who has grabbed control of the democratic process in this country,” says Goodman. “It’s a very critical issue that people across the political spectrum feel that money is drowning the political process.”
WOMR/WFMR and PTV present Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan: Democracy Now! 20 Years Covering the Movements Changing America on Friday, July 29 at Provincetown Town Hall, 260 Commercial St. at 7 p.m. For tickets ($15 general/$25 preferred seating) and information call 508.487.0648 or 508.487.2619, visit womr.org and provincetowntv.org. Tickets are also available at the door.