Shadow conventions hope to spotlight campaigns, issues

Peter Johnson

PHILADELPHIA — Sunday marked the beginning of the Shadow Conventions 2000 — a counterconvention formed to discuss issues like campaign finance reform, drug-policy reform, the wealth gap and media responsibility.
The five-day conference, meant to shadow the Republican National Convention, has been described by some organizers as an effort to chide the GOP. The group will hold a similar convention next month in Los Angeles for the Democratic National Convention.
Panel members and speakers include Arizona Sen. John McCain, columnist Ariana Huffington, journalist William Greider, comedian Al Franken, DJ Spooky and musician Chuck D from Public Enemy.
Huffington, who opened the convention, said activists aim “to generate a national convention about three issues that are not discussed in our political system except as a political platitude.”
She added that organizers want “to end the destructive addiction of our campaigns to millions of dollars.”
McCain, the keynote speaker, was peppered with boos during his address.
Citing his belief in “American exceptionalism and the global progress of American values,” the former presidential hopeful spoke of his support for George W. Bush, despite the third-party nature of the convention.
“The (GOP) is my home, and I believe that the Republican Party offers the best chance for us to see changes,” McCain said.
The comments triggered a loud round of hecklers, with activists denouncing McCain’s partisan appeal.
His speech was later interrupted by activists who shouted “save Black Mesa” — a reference to an Arizona Indian Reservation.
The group alleges that McCain is responsible for the forced relocation of a Navajo tribe on the behalf of the Peabody Coal Company, which operates a plant in northeastern Arizona.
Activist Tina Smith, 20, of Oregon said, “He’s been asked to visit (the tribe), see how people live, and he’s refused.”
McCain finished his speech and cancelled a question-and-answer session planned immediately afterward.
“It’s too complicated,” the senator said of the issue. “People have come from outside to try and cause problems there. That’s their right to do so.”