August 8, 2002
Anti-Jeb "Cause of Concern" Organizer, Suni Haught
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
Suni Haught is organizing the Caravan of Cause rally in Orlando on August 11th. She was one of three persons who were unlawfully arrested in Tampa, Florida, on June 4, 2001, for holding up 8 1/2 x 11 inch signs protesting Bush's policies. Suni is a social worker who is "fighting back."
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the news story on the arrest of Suni and Bush protesters last year, go
St. Petersburg newspaper editorial about the violation of our First Amendment
rights by the Bush Administration is at:
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BUZZFLASH: On August 11th, the Caravan of Cause will travel from several different locations in Florida and ultimately convene in Orlando for a democratic political rally. Tell me how the Caravan of Cause came to fruition.
SUNI HAUGHT: It all started when two friends and I were arrested on June 4th, 2001 at the New York Yankees spring training field in Tampa Bay. We were arrested because we held up signs that said "Investigate Florida Votergate." This was at a George Bush rally where the public was invited. It was a public event at a publicly paid-for stadium. And we were allowed in without incident.
I'm a grandmother. And most of my friends who were there that day are also grandparents -- certainly old enough to be, anyway. We were shackled by the police right there and carted off of the field. And the police actually knocked over our 81-year-old friend, Walter, while arresting us, knocking him down to the ground, unconscious. So when that happened, we were very angry. We had news coverage all over down here in Florida. And we decided to get together and fight back. We asked, "what can we do that would be peaceful, that would answer the frustrations of all those people who came out to the field that day, who were not allowed to hold up the signs on June 4th, 2001?" Remember, this is well before 9/11.
We can protest and protest, but we don't want to be shackled anymore. We don't want to be knocked down anymore. And we're hearing people from all across the country whose rights, whose liberties, are just being eroded daily by the Bush administration. So we decided that we should put ourselves in a car, covering our bodies with metal, if you will, and doing a protest of what we are against down here in Florida. Because many people down here are mighty frustrated. And that's how we all started.
BUZZFLASH: The day you were arrested, were you doing anything besides holding up signs and practicing your 1st Amendment rights.
SUNI HAUGHT: Not at all. As a matter of fact, the Tampa Police dropped all of the charges, and we also now have a lawsuit going on against them.
When you mention "Floridagate," are you referring to the erasure
of 57,000 voters, the story that Greg Palast broke (See
SUNI HAUGHT: Yes, that's exactly what we're talking about.
BUZZFLASH: The voters were mostly African-Americans, and significantly Democrats who were legally allowed to vote, but the State of Florida removed their names from the voter rolls.
SUNI HAUGHT: The people of Florida continue to be very frustrated by what happened in the 2000 election. And now we are coming up onto the next election cycle. And the whole goal of the Caravan of Cause is to give hope back to the voters of Florida. We are going to decorate our RV's and cars with orange signage to demonstrate respect for the disenfranchised voters.
BUZZFLASH: Those who hear about the Caravan of Cause, what should they do, and what they can they expect from the event?
SUNI HAUGHT: Well, they can expect a neat, orderly event where people come together to say enough is enough. We're fed up with Jeb Bush, and we want to come out to display our dissatisfaction with this governor. And we're coming from all over Florida. We have six start-up sites, one in Tallahassee, Gainesville, Melbourne, Palm Beach, Sebring, and Tampa, as well as four starting points in Orlando. The startup points are where people will line up their cars and decorate them with signs to tell Jeb Bush what is most important to them. And then we will proceed down our major roads in Florida, which are I-95, I-75, I-27 and I-4. We're all converging on I-4 from the North-South roads. And we'll meet in Orlando for a grand picnic and speakers. And we'll be sitting by a lake. We're asking people to give their children a civics lesson -- to take a ride for democracy.
BUZZFLASH: Are you targeting Jeb Bush as the focus of the rally?
SUNI HAUGHT: Absolutely yes. We're saying: "Help Florida, dump Jeb, and we won't get over it."
BUZZFLASH: How can people find out more?
SUNI HAUGHT: They can visit our web site at http://www.caravanofcause.com/.
BUZZFLASH: Are there other states interested in replicating this kind of rally?
SUNI HAUGHT: One gal called me and said she's coming down from Nebraska with a caravan of people. She's going through Georgia and she'll be coming into Orlando to meet with me. She said that she's there to support us, because our cause does not end with Jeb Bush. But, we first need to dump Jeb. Then we'll dump Dubya. We have also invited all the candidates from all the localities all over Florida to lead their constituents in the caravan.
BUZZFLASH: Why does it appear, at least in the news that we read in the mainstream press, that the Democrats are not making more of an issue of the Florida Votergate, and how the recount transpired in Florida? Why isn't this the battlecry for Democrats? Or is it, and we're just not hearing it in the mainstream press?
SUNI HAUGHT: You're not hearing it in the mainstream press. We're not even hearing it in our press here in Florida. And that was one of the major reasons why we decided on this caravan -- because the press won't cover anything that we ask them to cover.
BUZZFLASH: And you say that there is a drumbeat of resentment against the Bush family because of what happened in Florida in 2000?
SUNI HAUGHT: Yes, but it's not just that. Jeb is making promises that he's given extra funding for education. Well the sad news is that his big funding amounts to $1 per student per year, and doesn't even allow for inflation. Jeb doesn't talk about the fact that Florida teachers are $8,000 more underpaid than all of our surrounding states for beginning teachers. He doesn't live up to his campaign promises.
He said he was going to clean up the Department of Children and Families. I'm a social worker. I used to work with sexually-abused children. And the Department of Children and Families is extremely overburdened. But meanwhile, Jeb Bush is traipsing all over Florida with his brother to get his $10 million in campaign funds.
BUZZFLASH: Why aren't the Democrats focusing their energy on winning Florida in the way that the Republicans focused on Tennessee -- to insult and embarrass Al Gore in the fall election by winning his home state? It seems to me that if the Democrats could beat the brother of the President, and take back the state that ultimately decided and stole the election with the help of the conservatives on the Supreme Court, there would be momentum to kick Dubya out in 2004. Why aren't Democrats making this a wedge issue in terms of really going after Jeb?
SUNI HAUGHT: Well, you're going to hear a psychological perspective -- that's what I'm best at. Put simply, Democrats tend to be the intellectuals. They love writing long papers. They love saying that this is unfair, and we should think of the right solution. Democrats often fall short when it comes to the little, short clichés, and getting that into the media the way Republicans do. Now we have three wonderful Democratic candidates for governor -- Janet Reno, Bill McBride, and Daryl Jones -- one of which needs to replace Jeb Bush.
I often look to the fact that the Democrats don't do the same kind of name-calling. They don't have the same kind of financial control over the media. But we're doing the best that we can with what we have. I make the claim, through the Caravan of Cause, that we may not have financial power, but we have the numbers. We have the people power.
BUZZFLASH: Do you have to remind Floridians why they should be angry with the Bush family? Or are they already angry?
SUNI HAUGHT: They are angry, but don't see a way to vent that anger. It's a very scary thing. Look at what they did to us grandparents in Tampa. If they can do that to the elderly, if they can do that to an 81-year-old white man, what will they do to an African-American or Hispanic? I mean, it's very scary for some people to come out and say what they think.
BUZZFLASH: Suni, thank you very much for your time.
HAUGHT: Thank you, Buzz.
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For more information on the Caravan of Cause, visit their web site: http://www.caravanofcause.com/.
Also check out Suni's article, "How to Manage Stress Through Protesting": http://www.caravanofcause.com/stress.html.
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