Protest at Republican Candidate's Fundraiser Featuring Laura Bush

Protest at Republican Candidate's Fundraiser Featuring Laura Bush

On May 19th, protesters gathered outside a $500 a plate fundraiser dinner being held at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Providence, RI. The fundraiser was for Lincoln Chafee, the incumbent Senator, who was the only member of the GOP to vote against the war on Iraq.  Chafee is not running primarily as an anti-war candidate, but rather as a "moderate" imperialist, with the aim of finishing up one adventure before embarking on another: "We still have our hands full in Afghanistan."  His opposition notwithstanding, Chafee refuses to call for the withdrawal of the troops from Iraq. In addition to supporting the continuation of the war Chafee voted for anti-choice, anti-civil rights judge John Roberts and took great pains to prevent a filibuster against the equally reactionary judge Samuel Alito, both of whom are now unelected and unaccountable Supreme Court judges for life.

The featured speaker at the fundraiser was the wife of the President, Laura Bush, who talked mainly about non-controversial topics, such as literacy and historic preservation. At a time when GW Bush's approval ratings are anything but positive, sinking as low as 23 percent in the states of New York and Rhode Island, Laura Bush is being invited by "Blue-state Republicans" to help campaigns in districts where GW Bush is unpopular (at this rate it would seem the first lady will become an increasingly busy woman!).

At the peak of the protest, some 50 people, including supporters of the WIL, gathered outside the Biltmore Hotel. At the very outset of the demonstration, Providence Police Lieutenant Lee (badge #26) made an attempt to dissuade, intimidate, and openly lie to the demonstrators about their right to picket in front of the hotel on public property. Several protestors, including a member of the WIL, explained to the other demonstrators that the police had no legal ground to force a demonstration off of public property for the "safety" of a private event being held several stories above the pavement.

In 2002, members of the WIL stood on the same sidewalk day after day for many months in solidarity with Local 217, the union that represents the workers of the Biltmore Hotel. Back during the union pickets, the police and hotel ownership tried the same tactics, trying to keep the union workers hedged in.  The only real solution for this type of rodeo caging on the part of the police is a massive, rock-solid picket line, whether for labor or for political protest.

It took some time for the crystallization of tactical unity at the demonstration, since the police had at first been able to split the relatively small protest. After spending some time across the street in a "safe zone" picked out by the police, the demonstration grew more resolved.  As a solid group, the demonstrators marched back to the sidewalk adjacent to the hotel and began to not only protest but to defend their political right to protest in a most direct manner, by protesting on the spot declared "unsafe" (read: too close to the Republican Party's private "din din").

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The protest was a good mix of working people and students, which contrasted sharply with the attendants of the dinner, who were mainly gray haired men in tuxedos and women in fancy dress.  Even the local corporate newspaper, The Providence Journal, reported the class schism that existed there: "as a black Bentley pulled up to the hotel, Shane Jones…held a sign reading '$500 a plate? I don't make $500 a week! www.marxist.com'  Jones, who works in retail said neither Republicans nor Democrats (can) honestly represent working people."

At one point, a hotel worker, who was cleaning windows, peeked out to whisper to the protestors: "We are all with you!"  He was greeted with cheers led off by a WIL comrade saying, "Power to 217!"  This little anecdotal remark contains an important truth: only working people can provide a solution to the madness of capitalism and its imperialist wars of plunder, organized at $500 plate fundraisers in ritzy hotels: without the hotel workers there would be no fundraiser for the two corporate parties. 

This is the power of working people, and once we realize it in our millions, nothing will be able to stop us – we are, after all, the vast majority of society. To begin, we need a party by and for working people. Both corporate parties are funded by donors with big bank accounts and can't possibly represent working people. Let us turn the whispers of "We are all with you" into broad class unity and the building of a mass workers' party.


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