A Brad Blog Exlusive Interview with David Swanson, National Coordinator for Camp Democracy
Swanson: 'This is put up or shut up time, for American citizens with awareness and conscience.'
By Joy Williams on 8/30/2006, 5:52pm PT  

Guest blogged by Joy Williams

Hello folks, here's the next in my series of Democracy in Crisis... I hope you can attend this!

I emailed David Swanson after hearing him describe Camp Democracy on a few different shows on Air America, and asked him for a few minutes of his time to explain to me the plans for this event in our nation’s capital. He happily agreed, so here’s the interview. Let’s spread the news about this far and wide so as many people can attend as possible.

From David Swanson’s website...

David Swanson is the Washington Director of Democrats.com and of ImpeachPAC.org. He is co-founder of the AfterDowningStreet.org coalition, creator of Progressive Democrats of America. He serves on the steering committee of the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice and on a working group of United for Peace and Justice.

He has worked as a newspaper reporter and as a communications director, with jobs including Press Secretary for Dennis Kucinich's 2004 presidential campaign, Media Coordinator for the International Labor Communications Association, and three years as Communications Coordinator for ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Swanson serves on the Executive Council of the Washington Baltimore Newspaper Guild. He obtained a Master's degree in philosophy from the University of Virginia in 1997.

His website is www.davidswanson.org.

Stay tuned following the interview below for more information and specific details on Camp Democracy for those who'd like to come on out...

BRAD BLOG: Hi David, you’re organizing Camp Democracy, can you tell me what that’s about?

DAVID SWANSON: This is an effort to bring together a number of movements, and that’s something that in some people’s minds might have a bad connotation. You have a march, and then you have a speaker about every issue under the sun before the people are allowed to march, and it’s boring and it’s not coherent and so forth. On the other hand, in this country we have a peace movement that is almost entirely white and middle aged; we have a Katrina recovery movement that’s almost entirely African American; we have an immigrants rights movement that’s made up almost exclusively of immigrants. We’re attempting to bring these movements together to draw the policy connection that all of the money that is going to the war, we need for everything else, and to bring people together to support each other's campaigns, because we think it can be stronger, and we think that as a joint effort, we can bring a bigger crowd and a more powerful force to our nation’s capital to try to affect change.

BB: I can understand why you’re doing that, I’ve been saying myself, nothing can be done until we stop this war, because all of the money is going to the war!

DS: Exactly, so we’ll be lobbying for Congressman Jim McGovern’s bill (HR-4232) to cut off funding for the war, and activists from all of these areas, from Katrina, to immigration, to labor, to women's rights, to environmental issues, to electoral reform issues, everyone is behind this, because the money is needed for these important projects. We have over half of every tax dollar going to the military and war.

BB: Over half? Wow!

DS. Over half of every dollar of your income tax goes to two wars and military projects.

BB: That’s stunning… and awful. When is Camp Democracy and where is it?

DS: Cindy Sheehan’s camp, Camp Casey, is currently in Crawford, Texas, and will run through early September. Then we will move it to Washington DC, which will involve moving trucks, stages, sounds systems, generators, water coolers etc. Once there, we’ll rent big tents in Washington and set up. On September 5th we will open the camp and it will run through Sept 21st, which is the International Day of Peace. A group called the Declaration of Peace has planned massive civil disobedience on Capitol Hill, and so throughout Camp Democracy, from the 5th to the 20th, among the many activities will be non-violence training in preparation for the Declaration of Peace action. If you go to campdemocracy.org you’ll find photos and maps of the location. The length of the camp will be set up on a city block of grass that’s between the National Mall, Constitution Avenue, 14th Street, and 15th Street. But on the big weekend of Sept. 9th, 10th, and 11th, we will be on the National Mall itself, right in front of the Capitol from 3rd to 7th Streets.

BB: Are you going to do anything special in terms of memorializing 9/11?

DS: On the 11th, we will have a number of panel discussions, workshops, concerts, performances, and we’ll be showing a new film “100 Years of Non-Violence” which is related to the work of Mahatma Gandhi who began a major non-violence campaign 100 years ago that day. And in fact, some of his grandchildren will be speaking in a separate event that day down at the Lincoln Memorial. We’ll also be showing the lengthy Hollywood movie Gandhi. We’ll be showing films or having concerts most evenings, during the camp.

BB: I asked because I thought it would be good to remember 9/11 to gear it towards a peace idea rather than a war idea.

DS: Well this is the idea, and there’s a group in New York, New Yorkers for a Department of Peace who are promoting this new short film, “100 Years of Non-Violence” all over the country. So there are going to be events and rallies for peace, on 9/11 all over the place, including here in my hometown in Charlottesville, VA, but I’ll be in DC.

BB: So you are doing this on the Mall, and you are going to try and get as many people as possible to attend! Other than Cindy Sheehan and yourself, who are some of your primary speakers?

DS: Well, there will be a lot of Congress members speaking, I was just in touch with Jim McDermott’s office, and he’ll be speaking. Primarily, we’ll have Congress members speaking on Sept 6th, but we will have all sorts of former Congress members as well, like Liz Holtzman who has a new book about impeachment. We’ll have academics, including Howard Zinn, teaching workshops about history and activism. And we’ll have all sorts of authors because aside from the Internet and progressive radio, it’s books these days where we actually get the news. So for example on Sept 17th, which is “Accountability and Impeachment Day” – many of these days have themes during the camp – we’ll have a panel with John Nichols, whose new book is The Genius of Impeachment, Marcus Raskin, who was on the National Security Council in the Kennedy Administration, was involved with the Nixon impeachment, and who has a number of books out; Elizabeth de la Vega, whose a former federal prosecutor; Dave Lindorff, who is the co-author of The Case for Impeachment; Liz Holtzman, the former Congress woman, co-author of The Impeachment of George W. Bush; Ray McGovern, former CIA Analyst; Jennifer van Bergen, who’s an author and professor; and Michael Avery, who’s the President of the National Lawyers Guild. That’s one day. And each day, we’ll have a line up of speakers with a particular theme to it.

On the 9th, 10th and 11th, it will be a mixture of issues and activities, and creative workshops, we’re trying to make it a big three-day festival on the Mall, but many of the other days will have a particular theme. The 7th is “Immigrants Rights Day”, we’ll have panels and parades and performances, and debates within the immigrants rights movement, as well creative activities and dramatic performances. The 8th is “Labor Speaks Out Day”, so we’ll have members of the labor movement and the peace movement, coming together and speaking.

BB: Senator Dorgan wrote Take This Job and Ship It, and it’s an incredible book, and it would be nice to have him there.

DS: We may have invited him already, but I will make sure that we do. We would love to have him, and there are many Congressmen and Senators who are bravely leading many fights, with whom much of our crowd will agree and applaud…

BB: John Conyers, Dennis Kucinich, people like that…

DS: Exactly, but we will be also pressing our Congress members to do better, in particular in the areas of accountability where John Conyers is leading, but no one is far enough along. We’ll be pushing in particular to cut off the money for the war, which is Jim McGovern’s bill to End the War in Iraq Act (HR-4232). And there is no bill like that in the Senate.

In fact we are encouraging everyone to lobby their Congress members to co-sponsor that bill if they have not already, and to make appointments with their Congress members or their staff, on Sept. 19th. So on Sept 18th, we will have training in how to lobby, and how to meet with your Congress member, or their staff, from the best trainers there are, from USPJ, and from Peace Action. And then on the 19th, we will be asking everybody, appointments or not, to go up to the Hill, and talk to their representatives. HR-4232 says quite simply “no more money for the war, money only to bring our troops safely home” and it says nothing against money for reconstruction, were we actually to do such a thing in Iraq, but it says “no more money to continue the war.”

You know, Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) from out your way has a bill in now to repeal the authorization for the use of force, which would be a nice legislative approach as well.

BB: I take it that she’s going to be there?

DS: We certainly hope and expect so, but until I hear a confirmation of a definite time I shouldn’t say that. But she is certainly invited, and has been invited, and we are very hopeful that she will come. She is the co-chair of the Progressive Caucus with Barbara Lee, and is the leading member of Congress on ending the war. So we definitely want her there. And because we will be on the Mall, from the 5th to the 20th, if not longer, we should have time to have a number of Congress members to come down and talk to us briefly and meet with us.

BB: Which entertainers are you going to have? I know there are some outspoken musicians now, thankfully, and you have one of them on your website, Neil Young….

DS: Well, we may possibly have Neil Young, or some other very big name musicians, but it remains to be confirmed, so I can’t say that yet, but we will have a great many musicians a little bit lesser known, and we will have concerts on several days. I would love to give you a list, but it’s not on hand now, however, we will be posting it as soon as possible on the website. Many of them are great. I’ve asked Willie Nelson, and his wife, who is a great peace activist herself, and it’s a question of scheduling. Willie does have a wonderful song called “Whatever Happened to Peace on Earth?” and he’s been doing it in his concerts around the country in recent weeks. He wrote it while I was Press Secretary for Kucinich for President, and he did a concert for Dennis, and Willie’s going to release that song around September or October.

BB: It would be ideal for him to go then…

DS: Clearly it would be ideal. And he’s helped give bio fuel generators to Camp Casey that we hope to bring up to Camp Democracy. He’s a real supporter, but he’s also got a real busy schedule. We would love to have Willie come and be part of a concert for peace in front of the home of the war-makers. But he has to work out his schedule to do it.

BB: How do people get involved, and how do they donate if they can’t make it?

DS: We would love it if they would donate. If you go to campdemocracy.org, and click on “sponsor” on the top, you will see you can contribute money with Paypal, credit card or check, and unless you request otherwise, your name will be posted giving you credit. You can see the list of generous people who have given already to Camp Democracy, and of organizations that have given to Camp Democracy. Velvet Revolution, which The BRAD BLOG is very much a part of, is our primary sponsor, because they have contributed $25,000 to Camp Democracy, more than anyone else, so you’ll see the big Velvet Revolution banner with a link as one the primary sponsors on the home page.

We also have a list of about 10 lead sponsors, groups who have given $1000 and are doing the work of organizing the main activities on a day of Camp Democracy. There is room for one or two more lead sponsors. We have a number of groups talking about it, but until they confirm and put in the $1000, there are a couple of days open. There’s also a list of 15 national sponsors, and one international sponsor, a few state sponsors, and a bunch of local sponsors. These are groups that have given money, in addition to helping out in promoting Camp Democracy, and in many cases putting on workshops and speakers. National sponsors put in $200; state sponsors $50; and local sponsors $20. A local organization can put in $20 and be linked and credited as a local sponsor, and when these groups sponsor, they have the right, if they want, to have a table of materials at Camp Democracy to promote workshops, speakers or performances. We will try to fit them in the schedule.

As far as how people can get involved, other than giving money, they can sign up to stay informed and volunteer to help either with promoting Camp Democracy and planning around the country, (and there’s a whole kit for doing a local event) or by coming and helping at the camp. People can sign up for free rooms and rides. There’s a rooms and rides board you can sign up to stay in someone’s room who’s offering, and to share a car, train or a plane, with other people to get here. Or if you are in the DC area you can offer a room, or if you are coming and you have two more seats in your car, offer those seats.

BB: And you say there are going to be local events elsewhere?

DS: One thing that’s kind of connected in terms of the impeachment issue, is that a lot of groups are holding impeachment events on Sept. 1st, and in many cases combining that with a meeting, to plan or to raise money for Camp Democracy. If you go to After Downing Street, the story in the top middle of that website is all about the Sept. 1st effort. Also if you go to Camp Democracy, and you click on the top where it says “Spread the Word” among the things there is a guide to holding a local event, to plan on coming to Camp Democracy or to raise money to pay for your trip to get to Camp Democracy. There’s a whole guide to how to do a local event; there’s a sample local press release; there’s a page about making appointments with your Congress member on the 19th; there’s email announcements; there’s flyers to print out; banners to put on your website; a public service announcement (an audio file) to send to radio stations; and there are Camp Democracy shirts, and in fact, you or your organization can sponsor Camp Democracy by purchasing a bunch of shirts, if you prefer to do it that way.

BB: It’s a really good idea to have these audio files, we can at least send them to our local Air America, Progressive or Pacifica affiliate and ask them to please play this announcement.

DS: I guess you heard me on Air America last night..

BB: I heard you twice or three times in the last few days…

DS: Peter Werbe was good enough to have me on briefly on the Majority Report, and then Mike Malloy asked me to just call into his show, and I did that last night, and some of their shows are playing the PSA as well. Pacifica stations are playing it too. We all need local people to call or email and say “Hey, play this PSA for us.”

BB: Speaking of Air America, would you like people to contact Air America and ask them to please sponsor Camp Democracy?

DS: If people can do it politely, yes, we don’t want to harass anyone, If Air America would like to put in $200 or more, we would love to and be honored to link to them as a sponsor, and in fact every host at Air America I speak to, I invite them to speak if they can, and if they can swing it, to broadcast live from the Camp. By all means encourage all such people to come and speak, to come and broadcast, to sponsor, to have a table of literature. Just do it politely, because these are our friends, who are doing the work to promote the movement. It would be very, very appropriate if they would sponsor us, and we would love it, but please use your own words and be polite, because when people get a mass of emails and they are identical words, are demanding or hostile it isn’t effective.

BB: I’m glad this is happening, I’ve been thinking we needed something like this gathering to send the message to say: “Until we stop this war, none of the really important things are going to happen in this country”. Having said that, do you want to wrap this up and cover anything you have yet to say about the whole event?

DS: I should say, while we are having tents and scheduling speakers, and performers and workshops, and training sessions, all of that is simply to make it a little bit easier and try to kick start what this country needs, which is a massive, non-violent, occupation of our Nation’s Capitol. This is why we started this project, people were demanding, on United for Peace and Justice listserves, and listserves on other peace groups and justice groups, “when can we come to DC? We’re fed up! Enough is enough, when can we come and refuse to leave??” So we are looking to the example of other nations around the world, most recently Mexico, where major injustices result in the people non-violently occupying their capitol. On most days of the camp, we will have some of the best non-violence trainers in this country to train people in civil disobedience and non-violence. We are planning a major act of civil disobedience, together with the Declaration of Peace, to try to force fundamental change. So come to DC. This is the time. This is 1930’s Germany. This is put up or shut up time, for American citizens with awareness and conscience. So come to DC and bring everybody you know.

And now, here's the additional information we promised you:

Camp Democracy is less than one week away.
It opens on Tuesday, September 5th.

We held a press conference Tuesday (August 29th) at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to announce Camp Democracy. It aired on C-Span and C-Span2. The Associated Press wrote an article.

PoliticsTV.com filmed the event, and has posted a one-hour video. It loads quickly! The advisory that we sent to the media prior to the event has more information.

We still need volunteers. Please ask everyone you know to sign up.

We still need money. We knew from the start we'd need at least $50,000. We've only raised $46,000. We need at least $4,000 more, and we need it fast! Every dime we've raised or spent is listed publicly on the website, modeling transparent governance in case anyone in Washington is watching.

Tabling only costs $25 per day. Why not set up a table with your information?

Here are free rooms and rides. If you can send a bus and need help paying for it, ask us. If you need help filling it, post it on the board.

You can help spread the word about Camp Democracy with the tools found on this page, including a local event guide, a sample press release, Email announcements, flyers, posters, web banners, audio of a public service announcement, a student activism kit, and a short blurb for newsletters.

Dress for success. You cannot buy shirts at Camp Democracy, but you can buy them beforehand.

Please make an appointment with your Congress Member in Washington on September 19th and join us for a day of lobbying, preceded by a day of training on September 18th.