by Philip Valenti
a Turning Point
PHILADELPHIA, Nov. 5, 2003 (EIRNS)The Hitlerian gestapo apparatus of Attorney General John Ashcroft went down to a smashing defeat in the Mayoral election yesterday, as incumbent Democratic Mayor John Street won a landslide victory against Republican Sam Katz. Street garnered 58% of the vote to 41% for Katz, after a month of massively publicized FBI raids and other publicity stunts orchestrated by Ashcroft, targetting the Mayor and his closest supporters, including his wife and son.
The intervention by Democratic Presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche, spearheaded by the LaRouche Youth Movement, was decisive in redefining the election as a referendum on Ashcroft and the whole Dick Cheney-led neo-conservative war party in Washington. The Philadelphia results, combined with the successes of the LaRouche Youth Movement organizing against the recall of California Gov. Gray Davis in Los Angeles County and the Bay Area, represent a total vindication of LaRouche's methods.
"The victory in Philadelphia will change the international climate," LaRouche said in a statement released today. "This is a major victory for our forces, a turning point in history."
Ashcroft Gestapo Tactics
The Philadelphia election started out as a re-match between Street and Katz, who had run against each other in the Mayoral election of 1999. Street, a "fiscally conservative" City Council President, with a reputation for aloofness, had managed to win by a mere 8,000 votes out of 442,000 cast, despite a 4-1 ratio of registered Democrats to Republicans in the city. Polls taken as recently as this past September showed Street with a mere six-point lead over Katz, who had made major inroads into Democratic constituencies, with endorsements by unions such as the carpenters, firefighters, teamsters and the blue collar municipal workers.
What appeared to be the coup de grace was delivered to Street on Oct. 7, when a sophisticated listening device was discovered hidden in his office, after a routine sweep conducted by the Philadelphia police department. The news rocked the city, as it soon emerged that the bug had been planted by the FBI, supposedly as part of a long-term investigation of corruption in the awarding of city contracts. Leaks to the media came pouring out of Justice Department sources, as well-publicized FBI raids targetted the homes and office of Street supporters, as well as several departments of city government. Rumors that the Democratic Party would replace Street on the ballot were repeatedly denied by party leaders, while reports of grand jury subpoenas demanding the personal bank records of Street's wife and son were splashed all over the press. The stakes were raised dramatically during the week of Oct. 19, when Ashcroft personally visited Philadelphia at least three times.
Vote for Street: Defeat Ashcroft
As polls began to reflect a backlash in favor of the Mayor, and some Democratic Party officials were pressuring people to "play it safe," and avoid further "controversy." State Rep. Harold James (D-Phila.) invited the Democratic Presidential candidates to participate in an Oct. 29 City Hall press conference, called to denounce the Justice Department for targetting African-American elected officials, and demand Congressional action against Ashcroft. LaRouche was the only Presidential candidate represented there, along with six Philadelphia legislators, leaders of the black clergy, and other community activists. (Carol Moseley-Braun sent a short message.)
In response to requests by James and other Democratic leaders to intervene in the election, LaRouche released a powerful statement: "Vote for Street: Defeat Ashcroft," and his campaign organization launched an all-out mobilization to distribute 250,000 leaflets headlined, "Philadelphia Voters Must Say 'No' to Ashcroft's Fascism."
The East Coast LaRouche Youth Movement hit subway stops and street corners all over the city on Oct. 30, and blanketed City Hall and the center city area in a noon-time demonstration complete with bullhorns, speeches, chants, and songs. Meanwhile, phone calls were mobilized to dozens of churches, labor unions, and Democratic committee people, who responded with enthusiasm to LaRouche's initiative, and demanded thousands of leaflets for distribution to their constituencies.
Excited Street supporters began calling Street campaign headquarters with reports on the LaRouche Youth mobilization, while most of the top 1,000 city Democratic elected officials and activists, who were gathered to hear Bill Clinton endorse Street on Oct. 31, were thrilled to hear about LaRouche's attack on Ashcroft, and grabbed extra copies of the LaRouche leaflet as they exited the event.
Later that day, the LaRouche campaign was invited to join Street rallies at churches, including one featuring Gov. Ed Rendell and Democratic National Committee chairman Terry MacAuliffe, the latter finding himself confronted by LYM rally. By this point, Street's stump speeches were hitting at Ashcroft directly, as well as Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Bush. By Sunday afternoon, all but a couple of bundles of the 250,000 leaflets had been distributed in this city of 1.5 million! - LaRouche Youth Take City by Storm -
But that was just a warm-up. After a weekend cadre school with LaRouche (see p. 12), the youth movement prepared to distribute an additional 100,000 leafletsa statement from LaRoucheon Nov. 3, the day before the election.
With dozens of posters, banners, and songs at the ready, the youth gathered at the office at 6:00 a.m. Monday, and fanned out quickly to traffic islands and subway stops around the city. There was a mass campus rally at Temple University, and a motorcade, with a power sound system going throughout the city.
Everyone converged on City Hall for a noon-time rally, with 70-plus youth rallying, marching and singing, while the motorcade, complemented by several more cars decked with signs, circled around City Hall with briefings, songs, and recordings from LaRouche speeches. Passing cars honked their horns in support, including vans full of Street campaign workers. People joined the rally right off the street, with some stopping to join in singing "O, Freedom" and other spirituals, or to listen to the youth chorus sing a famous Bach chorale. By the end of the day, all the leaflets were taken.
On election day, radio and television pundits expressed astonishment at the level of mobilization in strong Democratic areas, especially among the poorest of the African-American precincts. Some were overheard explaining that the election had become a referendum on the Justice Department, and people think that a vote for Katz is a vote for Ashcroft. Street campaign workers were spotted carrying signs reading, "Ashcroft + Katz = Bush in 2004."
Although the total voter turnout was similar to 1999, Street had gained over 36,000 votes, mainly by increasing his percentage among white working-class voters in strong Democratic wards. One right-wing radio talk show host complained that "whites who were out there campaigning for Street were mostly LaRouche supporters who were just against Ashcroft."
"I am appreciative of the courage and initiative of Mr. LaRouche and the LaRouche Youth Movement," Representative James said on election night. "This was a major turning point in the campaign that motivated voters to come out and support the Mayor.... This should be a lesson to the Department of Justice."
And, one more reason why Ashcroft must resign.