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POSTED ON JULY 23, 2008:

McKinney blazes N.C. trail with incendiary speech

By Matt Saldaña

Presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney has moved from blue to green, and similarly, she demonstrated her move to the left side of the political spectrum in a speech she gave in Durham: “It’s time to move from protest to resistance.”

McKinney, a former six-term Democratic congresswoman turned newly minted Green Party candidate for president, spoke at two events Tuesday, laying out her policy stances on more than a half-dozen issues.

Before a receptive audience of 25 at The Know Bookstore & Restaurant on Fayetteville Street, McKinney, who represented Georgia’s 4th District but who now lives in California, spoke for nearly two hours about ballot access, voter fraud, a George W. Bush impeachment, wartime spending, college debt, corporate lobbyists, Hurricane Katrina, and the racial gap in home ownership.

The speech appeared to be more of a policy talk than a presidential speech, and Green Party officials set McKinney’s aspirations low: besting Nader’s 2,000-odd votes that he received in the 2000 election in North Carolina. N.C. Green Party co-chair Jan Martell said she was “hoping” the party had collected 500 signatures by Tuesday, the deadline for McKinney to qualify as a write-in candidate. Meanwhile, McKinney raised $600 in contributions, according to party officials, and checks, collected in a Tupperware bin, were made payable to Power to the People, her election committee.

McKinney was eager to discuss electoral politics in general. She pointed to Mexican presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s establishment of a secondary government in Mexico City, following his narrow defeat in 2006, as a model action compared to Al Gore’s and John Kerry’s concessions in 2000 and 2004.

She also cited the ascendancy of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez and other leftist leaders in Latin America as evidence of the “power of the people” being heard at the voting booth.

“What’s the difference between us and that?” she asked. “The blue pill we’ve been asked to swallow.”

She blamed the mainstream media, in part, for distributing the pill, and for allegedly distorting events ranging from Martin Luther King Jr.’s life to the genocide in Darfur. She called the latter a “cover story of atrocity that no one can disagree with” that media outlets focused on in order to justify U.S. occupation of Sudan. (While some foreign aid and humanitarian organizations urged the U.S. to intervene the humanitarian crisis, detractors, including the Canada-based Global Centre for Research on Globalization, have taken a stand similar to McKinney’s.)

“Did you ever stop to think that every one of those corporate entities has as bottom line?” she asked. “We’ve got to figure out another way to get our information, so we can think outside the box.”

At several points in her speech, McKinney hesitated to complete her thoughts because of the presence of a video camera and reporters. She pointed out that 9/11 happened shortly after the World Conference against Racism in South Africa, in which a proposal on slavery reparations had been considered. While McKinney said she was not “suggesting any linkages,” she added that black interests were “taken off the table” following the terrorist attacks. “If in fact there is a program to deny black people in this country from selecting their own leaders, then there not only should be reparations, but we are dealing with genocide.”

McKinney drew national attention following 9/11 when she said that President Bush deliberately ignored warnings of the attack because his allies would stand to profit from the War on Terror. Following those comments, she lost her House seat in 2002, though she was elected again in 2004 and went on to organize hearings on 9/11 and the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina.

Earlier in the day, she spoke to a half-dozen supporters and members of the media, in front of the downtown post office in Durham. There, she said that Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain had offered war as the only solution to the foreclosure crisis.

In an interview after the two speeches, McKinney said that, despite Obama’s plan to remove troops from Iraq, the presumptive Democratic nominee would continue combat missions in Afghanistan, and look to Iran and Pakistan as potential future theaters of operation.

“The push toward war is still very real, and people need not to accept the—what do you call it?—bait-and-switch,” she said.

Willie Muhammand, who attended both speeches, said in an interview that he would vote for McKinney, though he hadn’t voted for anyone since Richard Nixon in 1960.

“Anybody who stands up against our government, in the open, I’m behind them. I stand up for her, because of her outspokenness years ago,” he said.

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