Following Obama out of La La Land

Rita and her GRANDMOTHERS FOR PEACE found and gave them an earful. ( is the President-Elect’s


I was afraid. The 2/26/08 e-mail from Bob Nemanich, Obama El Paso County Co-Coordinator, had come in minutes earlier. It read in part:

“Now this is important. Jay Ferguson, the vice chair of the El Paso County Democratic Party and I have been receiving numerous reports of curious and even worse descriptions of attempts, by some volunteers managing the entrance doors last Saturday morning, attempting to turn rightfully elected delegates away from the convention. This is serious stuff. If any of you witnessed or experienced an attempt by someone telling delegates who were in line Saturday morning and told to go home because: “the crowds were too big,” “no more room inside,” “they had enough delegates,” “the fire marshal was going to close us down,” or were told “their name was not on their lists” or other intimidations…You need to contact us immediately! We will need the description of th e person who was at the door making these or other statements or intimidating anyone, which line you were in, the time, and other circumstances which might further identify this person and activity of attempting to suppress the vote.”

I’d read the words and shuddered. What should I do?

I stood and walked away from the computer, passing the side-by-side pictures of my brother and son – both very precious to me and both very disabled. What could happen to them if I spoke out and told what I knew and had seen?

More than a decade ago, my “Rainman” duplicate son was working at his part-time job in the laundry of a local hotel. Suddenly a C.S.P.D. cop appeared and began roughing my boy up as he arrested him. The hotel maid who witnessed the arrest later told me she had begged the cop not to scare or hurt him, that he was autistic and retarded and didn’t understand what was happening. The cop ignored her as he threw my son against the wall, handcuffed him, and roughly led him to the waiting squad car and onto jail.

My boy’s “crime” was a false accusation beyond the belief of all who know my son and understand his limitations. Eventually the deputy district attorney dismissed all charges against him, but only after the nearly unsurmountable fear and suffering of my son and all who love him. His “crime” could have possibly have been based on his coming from a well-to-do family, thereby designating him and us as a target for monetary awards from fraudulent civil actions. And just as likely was the possibility that his being so brutalized, charged and arrested was a result of my political activism and stands against discrimination and intimidation. I’ll most likely go to my grave not knowing which was the case. One thing for certain – from now on I’ll be on guard against dirty political retaliation, particularly against those I love.

Months before my son’s false arrest, I had taken on an infamous Colorado Republican state senator who had publicly and to the press referred to all women of color as ‘promiscuous.” Following her nationally publicized remark, at a Colorado Springs “Cure Rally,” I had jokingly awarded her the “Jackass of the Year Award.” A few months later, at the urging of a retired judge and former colleague of mine, I had filed a criminal charge of harassment against the senator’s son, who had spear-headed the anti-gay Colorado Amendment Two, an amendment approved by the voters and later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Representing the Colorado Springs Minority Coalition, I had appeared on a local t.v. talk show with the senator’s son and responded to phone calls from viewers regarding the Minority Coalition’s stands on Amendment Two and other issues. Following the show, the senator’s son had invited me, along with a man from the N.A.A.C.P., into a studio back room where he had attempted to intimidate me by stating that it looked like we were going to fight. He then knuckle punched me in the arm. I followed the advice of my judicial friend, and reported the incident. Shortly thereafter, others came forward, citing similar attempts at intimidation by the senator’s son.

The same week my son was brutalized and falsely arrested, it was announced that the senator’s son was being removed from his job as head of “Colorado for Family Values,” the organization behind Amendment Two. A longtime observer of partisan politics in this one-party town of Colorado Springs observed that the senator’s son’s political career had been nipped the bud due to what had happened following the t.v. show.

I will always wonder if my son’s being charged and arrested for a crime he could never have committed was in reality an attack on me for standing up to blatant bigotry and an attempt at intimidation. And now I was being asked by an official of the Obama campaign to come forward once again, and stand up to undemocratic manipulation and outrageous intimidation. What should I do?

Torn by indecision, my view switched from the photo of my beautiful, autistic son, to the photo taken years earlier of my beloved brother, a mentally ill, fully disabled vet. And I was jolted into the present. Weeks earlier, my brother had gone into a local fast food restaurant, and had been questioned by the police for his part in a fist fight that had occurred in the restaurant.

My brother had watched and listened to a man in the restaurant as the man loudly and angrily berated the “stupid nigger” Barack Obama. My brother, a gently and caring person, had gone up to the man and told him he disagreed with him about Sen. Obama, and was offended at what the man was saying, and how he was saying it.

The man then swung at my brother twice, causing my brother to punch the man in defense, knocking the man to the floor and bloodying the man’s nose. The man ceased his hate filled outrage, and the police were called in. A restaurant employee explained to the police that it was not brother who had instigated the attack, but rather it was my brother who was defending himself. The man was arrested, and my brother, feeling very guilty for having struck someone, returned home to tell me the story. I consoled him, and complimented him for his bravery in speaking out against such hatred and bigotry.

And now, remembering my brother’s courage and glancing at my deceased uncle and god father’s purple heart from World War II, I made my decision. Courage is vital if heaven is to be gained and democracy is to be maintained. Scared as I was, I returned to the computer and began typing my affidavit, the soon to be sworn to statement of what I had witnessed at the El Paso County Democratic Assembly days earlier.

The story was not a pretty one. Elected Obama delegates and alternates had stood outside for hours in the frigid cold, only to be kept from entering the high school where the assembly was held. They were turned away in number at the door by none other than the then head of the Colorado Springs ACLU, a former NSA man. This former NSAer reportedly later stated he was merely following the directions of the local Democratic party chairman.

Within days of my submitting my signed and sworn to affidavit to the Obama and party official who had requested information, with copies to state and national party officials and ACLU officials, my house and grounds and the neighbor’s house was broken into in the middle of the night. According to both my neighbor and my brother who resides with me, the intruder appeared to be eager to be both heard and seen, and did not attempt to run and hide when spotted. This is the first break-in we have experienced since living here.

I went to the police station and added my brother’s citing of the intruder onto the neighbor’s report to the police the neighbor had made at the time of the incident. The police officer asked me if, to the best of my knowledge, anyone was attempting to intimidate me, my brother, or my neighbor. I gave the officer a copy of my affidavit, and told him an attempt to intimidate me had been made by the ACLU chairman immediately prior to my submission of my affidavit.

The officer then advised me to go as public as possible with the information I had. The officer state that his grandmother had been among those at the the Democratic assembly and, along with so many others, had wondered just what was going on.

Shortly thereafter, a representative from the local Democratic party notified me that the platform committee, to which I had been elected at the recent assembly, had been disbanded. It was hardly a surprise when three months later, two peace demonstrators were arrested at the Democratic state convention, which was held in Colorado Springs. The demonstrators were standing outside an area which was taped off by police, and were being cheered on and waved at by Obama delegates and alternates who were entering the World Arena building where the convention was being held.

The demonstrators were arrested, handcuffed, and transported first to a nearby station, then transported and left miles away from where the convention was being held. The support poles of the banner they displayed (“Dems – please stop funding the war in Iraq”) were destroyed by police. Significant rooftop audio surveillance occurred prior to and during the arrest, but was denied and not produced during the motions for discovery at time of preliminary hearings. Prior to going to trial, charges were dropped by the city, just as charges were eventually dropped by the city after the first trial against peace demonstrators (google Colorado Springs St. Patrick’s Day Parade 2007, n.b. “Police Brutality”) resulted in a hung jury.

This is not one person’s story – this is a city’s story, a state’s story, an entire country’s story. The coup d’etat of which President Eisenhower warned us during a radio address on his last day in office is well established and is going to be extremely difficult to undo. The undoing of the military/industrial/corporate coup will require courage and persistence of the highest order.

Forty fusion centers nationwide, and super fusion centers such as Colorado Springs, will continue to strip away basic civil rights by means of surveillance, and infiltration of peace, justice, and political organizations. These centers will not go away easily. The return of a free and non-spin press will not just happen. Improvement in education nationwide is essential if democracy is to return and survive. We must discontinue simply educating to enable every child to eventually get a bigger and better paying job so as to produce a bigger and better consumer, but rather we must provide truly meaningful education that turns out perpetually self-educating, critical thinkers who are impervious to spin and manipulation.

The need for change list goes on and one, and as long as President elect Obama hangs tough and maintains the heart, brains, and courage that are so necessary to oversee the change, hope we indeed survive. Then he can and will indeed lead us our of La La Land, and forward to the top of the mountain of all our dreams.

God bless and protect Barack Obama and his oh so wonderful and brave and bright family. And, please God, bless and protect not just America, but the entire world and all our sisters and brothers in it. Peace and love be with you and with us all.

Rita Walpole Ague

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