California Chronicle

Tuesday, October 10, 2006 

Peter Camejo Excluded from Debate - Prisons not even mentioned
Dr. B. Cayenne Bird

Dr. B. Cayenne Bird is an ordained minister and a 37-year veteran op-ed journalist and publisher. She volunteers her time as founder and director of United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect UNION. The UNION is active in prison reform and criminal justice issues. She is a mother and grandmother and focuses on human rights and restorative justice. She is also the host of television series "Cayenne Common Sense" and publishes a daily online newsletter to subscribers. 

I attended the Gubernatorial debate at CSUS, Sacramento last night for the same reason that hundreds of other people did, to back up my favorite candidate and listen to the sound bites of what the other two had to say.

There were kids of all ages there up to the age of about 94, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching today’s youth in political action for themselves. I have three grandsons in college so I am attuned to the 22% rise in college costs that took place under Schwarzenegger. I know that spending billions on the human bondage industry and prison building has been a much higher priority to politicians since Peter Wilson than education.

Neither candidate breathed the “P” word (Prison) even though the main topic the students wanted to hear discussed was the cost of education. I stood alongside Peter Camejo who would have made criminal justice and youth incarceration a focus of the debate, which is probably one of the main reasons why he was excluded.

But out on the field where the best man for the job was seated in a folding chair with a balloon tied to it, the only way we could honor him in that outdoor setting, the view of the debate was quite different, as well as uplifting.

The students were outraged that Peter Camejo was not allowed to debate. Five television stations took some good footage of his elegant response to this slap in the face of democracy. There is no way that the students are casting votes for Schwarzenegger. They are working 50 hours a week trying to survive the costs of college and with the price of gasoline and increased tuition costs, no matter how hard they work, it isn’t enough. 

Students of all races openly jeered Schwarzenegger on almost every point he had to say.

Out on the field, there wasn’t that much police presence, so they were more relaxed and expressive. When Schwarzenegger talked about fuel they made comments such as “why do you drive a Hummer.” When he said that his father was a policeman the students really jeered “Yeah, a Nazi Policeman!” That is a verifiable fact if anyone wants to look it up at Except for a few young girls, the youth were all jeering and laughing at, not with, Schwarzenegger.

That was a relief because he IS the person who has made it almost impossible for the poor in California to get an education. This hardship that today’s youth is suffering deserved much more focus than it actually received during the debate. Schwarzenegger tried to sidestep the fact that he did cause the increase in costs and when he vowed to do better, the students didn’t believe him.

The most vociferous of the student groups were the Latinos marching around holding up “Angelides” signs behind a young man wearing a Brown beret. I wondered why they don’t know that Angelides has expressed just as much interest in building more prisons as Schwarzenegger. In fact, a large portion of Angelides’ statements were focused on his undying support for law enforcement. The Latino students are a bit misguided here on what Angelides has said in terms of his loyalties. Some work needs to be done with them to make it clear that he is not going to be smart on crime, which is why he has the backing of the CCPOA, Prison Guard’s Union. Angelides is practically a carbon copy of Gray Davis who always voted with the Republicans on criminal justice issues. 

But the disturbing thing witnessing all these strong emotions and activity is that neither candidate even mentioned youth incarceration. This is one the key reasons that money for education was cut and the candidates insulted the intelligence of the students by not even mentioning it. I met with some of the student leaders after the debate and we had a rousing discussion on this topic.

Scores of students approached Peter Camejo to offer their respect and support, I reminded as many of them as I could to register 20 people to vote Green which they vowed they would do. I can only pray they follow through on it, the people who are oppressed wear those chains only because they can’t be bothered to organize and elect people to office who are really going to represent them.

One sign I particularly enjoyed was carried by a young lady which said “Vote or Shut Up.” But for practical purposes, when law enforcement labor unions are all over the college campuses, we must go one step further and get out the vote, which means that we not only vote ourselves but bring 20 others not previously participating to the polls on the election day.

Reform comes from electing the right people in the first place. Those legislators who are purchased and put into office by law enforcement labor unions, which includes all the Republicans and at least nine of the Democrats, are never going to do the right thing for the poor. They have been sent to write and pass legislation for law enforcement labor unions. And that is precisely what can you expect from candidates who announce this is their agenda, which includes Phil Angelides.

The debate itself was a contrived mish-mash of sound bites which would have been very boring to watch from home. But there on the field, in the presence of someone whom I deeply respect and admire, Peter Camejo, and those beautiful young people sneering and jeering over everything Schwarzenegger said, it was a very entertaining and worthwhile activity.

As he sat on the field in a folding chair with a balloon tied to it, the students approaching him constantly, and me standing there with my sign “Say No to Cartoon Characters – Peter Camejo 4 Governor”, I must have been showing some pain.

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