Hundreds joined Alice Walker and other speakers in Oakland Sunday at a community gathering to support Congress member Barbara Lee.
The gathering in downtown’s Frank H. Ogawa Plaza was organized by numerous local groups that support Lee (D-Oakland), the only member of Congress to vote against a bill giving President George W. Bush the right to wage war without reporting to the congress. Lee’s controversial vote has brought both praise and criticism in the past month.
Junior Rhea Taylor, who was among the hundreds of Lee supporters, said she attended the rally to she to show her support for Lee’s vote of dissent in Congress.
“It was a courageous thing to do,” Taylor said. “I’m very proud that she’s an alumna of Mills and that she’s from Oakland.”
Critically acclaimed author and poet Alice Walker said when she heard Lee’s speech in Congree regarding her vote against war, she was deeply touched and saddened. Lee stood alone on the floor of Congress when she made her speech which implored Congress to proceed with caution in the days following the terror attacks, she said.
“I wanted very much for her brothers and sisters [in Congress] to be standing with her,” Walker said. “Now here we are, and we are truly her brothers and sisters.”
Walker called on the crowd to examine the government’s actions in this time of crisis, and said there is a lot of work to be done in the coming days.
She also thanked Lee for her courage to stand up for truth and said that the ancestors are proud of her.
“When I called Barbara to tell her how much I loved her, I told her, ‘you are the vision in our ancestor’s eyes. You are it,'” said Walker. “This is what freedom is.”
Although Lee was not scheduled to speak at the rally, she surprised the crowd by appearing on stage midway through the demonstration. As she made her way to the microphone, Lee was flanked on both sides by Walker and actor Danny Glover and received a long standing ovation from the crowd.
“I just wanted to stop by for one reason,” Lee said as the crowd chanted her name, “to say, thank you, thank you, thank you.”
As the U.S. responds to the attacks of Sept. 11, she said she wants to be sure that no more innocent lives are lost. She thanked the crowd and the many local politicians in attendance for supporting her.
“Let me thank you for being great patriots and great Americans; great Americans who insist that democracy and civil liberty must prevail, even in a time of national security crisis,” she said. “Thank you for being the greatest and most progressive congressional district in the country.”
Lee’s district of Oakland among the Bay Area cities involved with the growing anti-war movement. Last week, the city council of Berkeley approved an anti-war resolution which called for a stop to the U.S. bombing in Afghanistan. The resolution was the first of its kind in the nation. Several Berkeley City Council members including Kris Worthington and Dona Spring were among Lee supporters at the rally.