Thursday, January 8, 2009

Inauguration Day Plans

By Ben Trott

Barack Obama’s January 20
inauguration day draws closer. At exactly 12:00 noon, he will accept the Presidency, taking the following oath,
'I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.'
Record numbers are expected to attend, including supporters, well-wishers and critics. The inauguration of George W. Bush at the beginning of both his first and second terms drew large numbers of protesters.

At least two calls have been issued by radicals (specifically: radicals generally opposed to or sceptical of the potential for change via the route of representative or electoral politics) for different kinds of activity around the event. The first has mostly been signed by individuals. Signatories include a number of prominent leftists such as Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn and calls for ‘presence rather than protest at the inauguration’. It is titled, An open letter to those seeking to build a world from below, in which many worlds are possible, and is addressed to ‘all anarchists, horizontals, autonomists, anti-capitalists, anti-authoritarians and others organizing a world from below’. The letter reads,
‘As people striving toward a nonhierarchical society, yes, we can - and should - be rigorously critical of Barack Obama. It goes without saying that we want a world without presidents; we want worlds of our own constituting via directly democratic structures, not states. But not all heads of state are alike, and if we fail to recognize both the historical meaning and power of this particular moment, we will ensure our own irrelevance.

‘We can - and should - also be in critical solidarity with people who have been violently marginalized, who see in the Obama campaign the possibility of their own agency. The inauguration affords a unique space for us to stand with a diverse group of activists inspired by Obama, many new to political organizing, even as we maintain our views on the limits of change from above.’
The proposal which the call issues is to make visible movements, struggles and forms of collective organization which aspire towards ‘better approximations of freedom’.

The entire text, along with the full list of signatories can be found

The second comes from a coalition primarily composed of anarchist organizations. It focuses less on the inauguration as a moment symbolic of successful (albeit ongoing) struggles against racism, and more on the Office of the President as a symbol of oppression. Several of Obama’s specific policies are singled out for criticism – including his plans to intensify the war in Afghanistan and invest in ‘clean’ coal – before stating,
‘With the press declaring Obama the most beloved president in recent history, the strategic move is to expose the root of our problems - not in any one president, but in the system that produces presidents.’
This second call, which can also be read in full here, states,
‘Rather than converging on the inaugural route, we’ll bring resistance to the doorsteps of the banks, trade ministers, and corporate elite. Come dressed in festive attire, ready to party.’
I would imagine that the various activities planned for the day will be reported on at Indymedia.

Obama’s decision to invite controversial pastor Rick Warren, a strong supporter of Proposition 8 which overturned the right of same-sex couples to marry in California, to deliver the invocation at the ceremony drew
heavy criticism in December. Whether or not protests will take place at the inauguration itself, beyond a small number of albeit prominent boycotts by individuals, is still unclear.

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