Copyright 2000 / Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times


July 10, 2000, Monday, Home Edition

SECTION: Part A; Part 1; Page 1; Metro Desk

LENGTH: 1939 words

HEADLINE: 7 POLITICAL CONVENTIONS TO MAKE L.A. PARTY CENTRAL;
ACTIVISM: DEMOCRATIC, REFORM, SHADOW, MOTHERS' AND PEOPLE'S GATHERINGS ARE
JUST PART OF THE AUGUST SLATE.

BYLINE: NICHOLAS RICCARDI, TIMES STAFF WRITER


The people behind the People's Convention--veteran leftists who hope to
build something like a third-party movement in Los Angeles in August--are
concerned about being overshadowed by the Shadow Convention's
celebrity-studded roster.

The folks organizing the Homeless Convention are scrambling to house the
1,000 homeless people scheduled to attend their affair.

Reform Party planners are wary that Pat Buchanan supporters, who chanted
"lock and load" at the last party meeting, might get rowdy during their
party's convention in Long Beach.

And let's not even get into the traffic problems that other convention is
going to cause as thousands of delegates and reporters pile into Staples
Center on the edge of downtown Los Angeles.

So many conventions, so little time. There will be seven conventions--as
well as an anarchists' conference--in the space of one week in Los Angeles
County this summer, as all manner of groups try to snatch their share of
the Democratic National Convention's spotlight. That event, the sun in the
solar system that is this summer's convention season here, is expected to
draw 15,000 members of the world media to Los Angeles Aug. 14-17.

"The fact that there are so many conventions going on shows that people
are waking up," said Frank Tamborello, who is helping organize the
Homeless Convention.

There may be another explanation, less heartening for the organizers of
many of the events intended to highlight progressive causes.

"The left is just not a solidified mass the way the right is," said Denise
Robb of the L.A. Greens, a local group of Green Party members that has
endorsed both the People's and Homeless conventions. "It seems like
there's an awful lot of activity going on, and it would be easier if there
was just one thing we could go to."

Rich Convention, Poor Convention

Not all the conventions are created equally. While the Democrats were
raising $ 1 million for their effort at Mayor Richard Riordan's house last
month, People's Convention organizers were begging for money from a sparse
audience at the Freedom Socialist Party meeting.

And though the city will cordon off several blocks around the DNC site,
the organizers of the Homeless Convention are struggling to find lots to
use for their event. One prospect fell through when a local business had
second thoughts about donating its parking lot after getting a look at the
Laker championship melee.

Certain conventions have more cachet. Speakers at the Shadow
Convention--which will address campaign finance reform, the growing divide
between rich and poor and the drug war and is organized by author and
commentator Arianna Huffington--include comedian Bill Maher and Warren
Beatty.

"Warren Beatty's going to be at the Shadow Convention?" asked Reform Party
member Judy Duffy of Westminster, who is coordinating logistics for her
party's convention. "Hmm, maybe I should go to that one."

That sort of talk, however tongue-in-cheek, steams the organizers of the
People's Convention, who say their event will address issues affecting
common people, not just millionaires and celebrities.

Indeed, People's Convention organizers take an almost perverse pride in
their scant funding, savoring a $ 50 contribution from a man who receives
Social Security and arguing that they will be the only representatives of
working people this August.

The event is scheduled for Aug. 10-12, a time picked so that participants
can join the massive DNC demonstrations slated to begin Aug. 13.
Organizers are hoping for a debate among third-party candidates running on
such tickets as the Socialist and Workers World parties, among other
events. The schedule is still being worked out, but organizer Dele Ailemen
said the first day will highlight local issues, the next will focus on the
two main political parties in the U.S. and the third will be centered on
global issues.

Casey Peters of the Peace and Freedom Party said the People's Convention
is expected to draw up to 1,000 people and is intended to create a
unified, progressive agenda for the Southern California region,
catapulting third-party candidates onto municipal ballots.

"We are also planning a convention for next year as well, which won't be
in the shadow of another major convention," Peters said.

From Aug. 10 to 13, the Reform Party will gather in Long Beach to nominate
its president and vice president.

Reform Party organizers say they too scheduled their affair to draw media
who come to Los Angeles for the Democratic National Convention. They hope
to outdo the main event at least in terms of suspense: Though Al Gore
already has locked up his party's nomination, the Reform Party will not
reveal the results of its national primary until the convention is
underway.

Previous Reform Party gatherings have attracted some rowdy participants,
and planners have increased security for the event, expected to draw 5,000
to 6,000 people.

"Somebody said maybe we should rent Kevlar jackets at the door,"
spokeswoman Donna Donovan quipped. Then, naturally, she put the best spin
on the event. "The idea that there's a convention that isn't scripted for
TV--ours certainly isn't--should be intriguing."

Meanwhile, somewhere in Southern California--the site hasn't been
selected--another convention that isn't planned for prime time will take
place. Technically, it's a conference rather than a convention, but the
annual North American Anarchists Conference has generated a lot of talk.

That's because the Los Angeles Police Department has flagged it as a
possible trouble spot after a handful of self-proclaimed anarchists
smashed windows during protests against the World Trade Organization in
Seattle.

"We don't see any policing requirements for any of those alternative
conventions except for the alleged anarchists' convention," LAPD Cmdr.
Dave Kalish said. "That's because of their publicly stated beliefs and
tactics."

Coordinators of the conference bristle at what they are calling a police
misinformation campaign about anarchist ideology. In fact, said Matt Hart,
an anarchist who is coordinating the conference and ensuing demonstrations
during the DNC, the gathering will give anarchists from around the country
a chance to discuss their ideas instead of tactics.

Though the conference, which is expected to draw up to 1,000 anarchists
and runs Aug. 11-17, usually takes place in Eugene, Ore., Los Angeles
anarchists thought the city would be a logical place for this year's
event. According to the conference's Web page, most of the discussion will
occur through Aug. 13, giving participants time to take to the streets
during the Democratic convention.

"We figured it'd be a good time to have a conference," Hart said, "since
there are a lot of people coming down" for the expected DNC protests.

That's what the Coalition to End Hunger and Homelessness thought when it
began organizing its Mothers' Convention for the morning of Aug. 12, the
Saturday before the DNC begins.

The comparably brief convention, said organizer Suzy Harrington, will
ratify a platform on how to reform welfare reform. "Right now the policies
and programs are not effective," she said. "The clock needs to stop on
time limits" for receiving aid.

Once the DNC officially begins on Aug. 14, three other conventions will
swing into high gear.

The Shadow Convention, which will also assemble in Philadelphia during the
Republican National Convention two weeks earlier, will feature speakers on
its major themes during the day and satirical commentary on the DNC's
doings in the evenings by such comics as Maher and Al Franken.

Its organizers say they are not surprised that backers of other events are
sending barbs in their direction.

"One of the marks of doing something that works is that people are taking
potshots at you," said co-founder and Internet entrepreneur Peter
Hirschberg.

He and Huffington said that many grass-roots groups such as Common Cause
are working on the convention. Their convention in Patriotic Hall--also
the site of the Mothers' Convention and only a few blocks south of Staples
Center--will feature displays, workshops and an auditorium where 800
people can cram in to watch the main events.

Housing Homeless Delegates

Ted Hayes is also thinking about crowds. The veteran homeless activist is
hosting his Homeless Convention on the other side of the 110 Freeway from
Staples Center, in the tiny homeless enclave of Dome Village.

The event is designed to highlight the gap between rich and poor and
formulate a national agenda to combat homelessness. It is quite a
logistical headache, though; Hayes is trying to arrange food, shelter and
medical care for the 1,000 homeless people from around the nation he
expects to assemble.

The city has forced Hayes to alter the route of his planned nightly
marches, but Hayes said officials have been cooperative and he expects it
all to work out--and possibly become a model for future political
conventions.

"Whatever sort of convention is going to be in town," he said, "there
needs to be a convention right next to them for the poorest of the
poorest."

Last but not least in the convention plans--among the poor and the rich;
the wry and the earnest; the conservative, the liberal and the
anarchistic--are the young. The Youth Convention has experience at being a
counterpoint to mainstream political affairs. It began during the
conventions in 1996 as an effort to create a platform for youths' needs.

Organizers poll youth leaders on their Web site (www.youthlink.org) to
determine the issues and canvass young people nationwide. This year the
platform will be hammered out in Philadelphia and approved in Los Angeles.

The New York-based organization coordinating the convention, Youth in
Action, says it has not finalized its speakers list, though it hopes to
get the presidential candidates to address the 500 or so youth delegates.
Its schedule isn't set, but the event will run the same days as the DNC
and one session will be held at Patriotic Hall, courtesy of the Shadow
Convention.

And like the others setting a course for Los Angeles this summer, the
Youth Convention organizers say this is their chance to be heard.

"Our convention," said organizer Akilah Watkins, "is the vehicle we're
using to give young people an opportunity to get their voices out."



A Week of the Conventional and Unconventional

Political conventions to be held in Los Angeles County during the week of
Aug. 11-17:



*

People's Convention

Description: A gathering of progressive groups

Location: Unannounced

Date: Aug. 10-12



*

Reform Party Convention

Description: National meeting of the U.S. Reform Party

Location: Long Beach Convention Center

Date: Aug. 10-13



*

Mothers' Convention

Description: Meeting of activists on welfare reform

Location: Patriotic Hall

Date: Aug. 12



*

North American Anarchist Convention

Description: Annual gathering of anarchists

Location: Unannounced

Date: Aug. 11-17 *

Homeless Convention

Description: National summit on homeless issues

Location: Dome Village, downtown L.A.

Date: Aug. 14-17



*

Shadow Convention

Description: Satire, policy discussion on issues critics say establishment
ignores

Location: Patriotic Hall

Date: Aug, 14-17



*

Youth Convention

Description: Gathering of delegates representing youth issues

Location: Occidental College and Patriotic Hall

Date: Aug. 14-17



*

Democratic National Convention

Description: Quadrennial meeting of Democratic Party

Location: Staples Center

Date: Aug. 14-17

GRAPHIC: GRAPHIC-CHART: Week of the Conventional and Unconventional, Los
Angeles Times