Twenty-Five Arrested, Thousands Converge on Koch Brothers Billionaire's Caucus in the California Desert
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Note: The article below reprinted from FireDogLakeby David Dayen recounts the events of Sunday's protest against the Koch brothers in Rancho Mirage, CA. The demonstration signals a series of promising developments for progressive groups and activists. Notably, the event was marked by an impressive coalition effort by the participating organizations, positive energy and activism by the attendants, and the wide-held understanding that it is the Kochs' ill-gotten, obscene wealth that has made the Tea Party and hundreds of right-wing abuses of our democratic system possible. Author Jim Hightower said it well in the kick-off event in a packed large movie theater before the protest; the problem the Kochs represent is what the 19th-century populists used to call "the money power," and our right to speak out against it is rooted in our "democratic authority" as citizens concerned with the general welfare of the country.
Twenty-five protesters were arrested in Rancho Mirage, California on Sunday, at a protest in front of the Rancho Las Palmas resort, site of the “Billionaire’s Caucus,” an annual meeting put on by the Koch brothers and other corporate entities and conservative movement operators.
Riverside Sheriff’s deputy Melissa Nieburger said that the sheriff’s department did have contacts with protest organizers, which included the California Courage Campaign, CREDO, MoveOn.org, 350.org, the California Nurses Association, United Domestic Workers of America and the main sponsor, the good-government group Common Cause, prior to the event, and that they were aware that some protesters would seek to be arrested for trespassing. She would not guarantee that all 25 who were arrested were part of that coordinated operation. The police, who wore riot gear, batons and helmets, did put the arrested into plastic handcuffs. Nieburger described them as “passive restraints.” They were being processed at press time, and Nieburger would not say whether they would be released or would spend the night at the jail in Indio.
Nieburger estimated between 800 and 1,000 activists at the “Uncloak the Kochs” event. Event organizers chartered buses from several locations around Southern California and claimed 1,500 people signed up for those buses, on top of any local activists who attended. It appeared from the ground that well over 1,000 protesters were there.
While the sheriff’s deputy claimed no knowledge of who called out the Riverside County sheriffs and the Palm Springs police department to the proceedings, Common Cause was contacted by the sheriff to see what they were planning and coordinate appropriate resources. The city of Rancho Mirage contracts with the Riverside County sheriff’s department for their law enforcement needs.
Van Jones, the former green jobs deputy in the Obama administration and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, described the anti-Koch rally as “the beginning of our fight back.” The leadership of Common Cause, generally a far more congenial organization, was a bit unusual, part of a new aggressiveness and penchant for direct action from the group. “I think you’re going to see a new Common Cause.”
The Koch brothers, billionaires who have generously funded conservative and libertarian causes for over a generation – including the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, and tea party groups like Americans for Prosperity – put together an annual meeting, typically held in the California desert, with fellow corporate CEOs and conservative operatives, to plan the year ahead. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and 2012 Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain were reputed to attend the gathering at the sprawling Rancho Las Palmas resort. The Kochs bought out the entire resort for Saturday and Sunday. Some activists who stayed at the resort Friday night and booked dinners at their restaurants on Saturday had their reservations canceled by the resort, and were given $150 each for their trouble.