WCW Home Take Action Videos & Reports of Demonstrations 5-26-09 Rove Denounced at Radio City Music Hall
5-26-09 Rove Denounced at Radio City Music Hall PDF Print E-mail

By a NYC World Can’t Wait activist

Several protestors heckled Karl Rove Tuesday evening, May 26th, during his appearance at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

Rove, the longtime former political strategist infamously known as “Bush’s Brain,” and the architect of Dubya’s two election “victories” in 2000 and 2004, appeared alongside James Carville, the former Clinton strategist and alleged liberal. Rove and Carville joined moderator Charlie Rose on stage for a debate that marked the finale of “The Radio City Music Hall Speaker Series: The Minds That Move The World.”

A “Mind That Moves the World”? I guess that’s one way to describe a man who engineered two election thefts based largely on suppressing and intimidating voters of color, paving the way for the most fascist president in the history of the United States to assume and consolidate power. I suppose it’s one phrase that could be used to evaluate a key visionary behind, and unrepentant apologist for, one Bush crime after another. It’s certainly not the phrase I would use. And, clearly, I wasn’t the only one in the auditorium who felt that way.

“Rove is a War Criminal!” a woman in the audience shouted repeatedly, roughly an hour into the debate. She was able to yell for about a minute or two before security ushered her out of the building. She also screamed: “Arrest Bush!” “We Will Not Be Silent!” and “Torture is a War Crime”.

I was in the mezzanine, excitedly watching events unfold. While my eyes were fixed on the heckler, a voice from the stage said, “Put a sock in it—shut up!” According to a conservative, college-aged man sitting next to me, it was Carville, not Rove, who reprimanded the woman.

“Let’s keep moving here,” Rose said nervously, as the protestor continued to yell at Rove.

Many in the audience, which clearly included a significant number of overt reactionaries, booed the woman. (At the beginning of the event, Rose asked the audience to indicate, by applause, how many people mainly agreed with Rove and how many primarily agreed with Carville. I would register Rove’s applause level at a “6” out of 10, and Carville’s at a 9 out of 10.)

Shortly after the woman began screaming, two other demonstrators managed to get on stage. One of them appeared to get within about 5 yards of the speakers before being restrained by security. Things were happening fast, the auditorium was pretty dark, and I was far away from the stage, so it was difficult to see exactly what went down. But the Huffington Post would later report that one of the women on stage was carrying handcuffs, in an attempt to arrest Rove.

After the event, I found out more details about the disruptions. As it turns out, the woman yelling from the audience had been inspired by three World Can’t Wait (WCW) activists who had spoken out a few minutes earlier; the three WCW resisters stood up and began chanting as Rose, Rove, and Carville rambled on about Bush’s economic legacy. The resisters then unfurled a banner, though it was very difficult to read in the dimly-lit auditorium. At the time, I was too far away to decipher what the three protestors were yelling.

Later, one of the them told me that their chant—which matched the text of the banner—was: “Indict Rove/Master Thief/ 2 elections!/ Media Chief/Iraq lies!”

The WCW activist reported that, initially, nearby spectators were booing, and yelling at them to sit down and be quiet. However, he said that as they continued to yell, the booing stopped. After shouting for about a minute, the three were escorted out; the WCW protestor said that , as he was being led out by security, he switched to shouting, “Indict the Bush Regime War Criminals!” which generated applause from a significant number of people in the audience.

One fellow demonstrator would tell him afterwords that he hadn’t taken part in an action of this sort since the Civil Rights Era. And he wasn’t the only one who was inspired: The woman who, a short time later, began yelling, “Karl Rove is a War Criminal!” told the WCW activist after the event that the three demonstrators had provided her with the courage to speak out.

“When I saw you guys do it,” he recalled her telling him, “I knew I had to do it.”

Before the debate, a crowd of about 40 demonstrators gathered across the street from Radio City’s ticket-holder entrance, responding to the call put out by The World Can’t Wait’s New York City chapter to “Spread the Unwelcome Mat” for Rove. This protest, together with the action of the three WCW demonstrators inside the auditorium, was part of the National Week of Resistance to torture centered on the demands to prosecute Bush Regime war criminals; release the torture photos; and bring an immediate end to torture in our names.

Demonstrators outside the theater displayed two large, bright orange banners that read:

“Torture is a war crime-Prosecute!” and “War Criminal Free Zone!” along with posters of war criminals including, of course, Karl Rove.

The demonstrators included activists from World Can't Wait, Code Pink, Raging Grannies.

It appears the mainstream media has overwhelmingly been silent about the debate disruptions, and about the protest outside Radio City, although Washington Post blogger Dan Froomkin did link to the Huffington Post account of the event.

However, it is significant that a war criminal on the magnitude of Karl Rove was not simply able to come to New York City, spew his murderous lies, and leave without disruption. Everyone who entered the auditorium to witness the debate was confronted with visible, audible opposition to Rove’s presence, both before and during the event.

Rose, Carville, and significant sections of the audience tried with all their might to place a shield of respectability around Rove: Although a large portion of the crowd booed Rove heavily when he tried to defend the Iraq War and the Bush administration’s response to Katrina, Rove also received laughter and applause on several occasions throughout the night. Earlier, the speaker who introduced Rose said Carville and Rove had both “dedicated their lives to serving our nation,” and asked the audience to display an “open and respectful attitude.” By publicly condemning this war criminal, the demonstrators dented Rove’s shield of respectability. And, as the comments of the female heckler after the event indicate, boldly speaking out and challenging war criminals—and the terms they are setting—can inspire others to do the same.

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