As a prelude to today's scheduled Poor People's March from Mears Park to the arena site of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, the 2008 National Truth Commission took testimony on economic human rights violations in the U.S.
Hosted by the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, the Sept. 1 event held at Christ Lutheran Church, just a few blocks from the RNC, was a multi-ethnic gathering of people not wearing outlandish convention-style costumes, or holding state placards.
There were cheers Monday night but not for a presidential nominee, but for the many speakers who came forward and testify not about the virtue of a political party using Madison Avenue slogans, but about the injustices they have faced in the greatest country on Earth.
"I can not afford health care," Annette Toney of Cleveland, Ohio told the audience. "I do not want to depend on others."
Ann Patterson, who has worked as a nurse for 17 years in Minneapolis, says she has seen her monthly health insurance premiums leaped from zero to now $500. "My husband recently lost his job," explains Patterson. "We've used our credit cards, savings and our children's savings. We are not able to make it. It is stressful."
Also a mother of five children, two of which are dealing with regular health concerns, Patterson adds that despite almost two-decades experience on her job, she has seen her job lay off others with even more seniority than hers. "I have no comfort that I will have a job tomorrow," she notes.
Rev. Gregory Lockett of Tampa, Florida is dealing with high blood pressure but publicly admitted Monday night that he had on many occasions become "dishonest" in getting his medications "because if I told the truth, they (officials) would told me to go someplace else," he points out.
"The (federal) government can spend millions on a war but can't take care of its people," says Carol Sawall-Smith of Chicago. "We need to do something about the health care in our country."
Not only health care, but housing concerns also was testified about.
Donte Davis of Louisville, Kentucky and his two children live in a crowded one-bedroom apartment. "They don't understand any of this," says the single father of his children's constant bewilderment of their current living conditions.
William "J.R." Flemming of Chicago says, "(It) is a fact" that the U.S. is in violation of human rights. "I am human. I deserve human rights. If you won't do it for me, do it for my (ten) children."
These violations have been ongoing and "is being largely ignored," says Peter Brown, a Minneapolis attorney who specializes on human rights complaints. "The right to housing, health care and education is the right of everybody, everywhere," he surmises, adding that not only the U.S. is responsible but "we also bear some responsibility, especially in holding (elected) officials accountable."
After its first day, in which activities either were curtailed or postponed because of Hurricane Gustav, the GOP convention is back on track today.
But Monday's night "truth" hearing went on as scheduled. Too bad the GOP faithful, the ones with the funny hats, couldn't had boarded their bus and rolled down a few blocks and heard these folk talk.
Then again, hearing the truth is not what most conventioneers want to hear.