July 31, 2014

Thousands Protest Koch Brothers Political Summit in Rancho Mirage

 

Twenty-five demonstrators were arrested in Rancho Mirage on Sunday, Jan. 30, as more than 1,000 citizens from Southern California staged a protest in front of the Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa, the site of the so-called “Billionaire’s Caucus,” an annual meeting by the Koch brothers, other corporate entities and conservative political operatives.

The protest was organized by Common Cause, the Ruckus Society, The Courage Campaign and other groups concerned that Charles and David Koch, the billionaire owners of Koch Industries, are attempting to influence American politics through generous donations to conservative causes.

Other groups participating in the protest included Code Pink, People’s Center for Disease Control, Greenpeace and members of the California Nurses Association and National Nurses United.

Thousands Protest Koch Brothers Political Summit in Rancho Mirage

More than 1,000 people rallied to march on the Las Palmas Resort in Rancho Mirage and protest the increasing influence by the billionaire Koch brothers and private corporations in politics. The January 30 rally included members of Common Cause, The Courage Campaign, Code Pink, California Nurses Association, People's Center for Disease Control, students, seniors, working people and union members.



Additionally, senior citizens, students, hourly workers, union members and environmentalists traveled in by bus from all over Southern California to join with the organized groups.

The rally began at 1 p.m. at the River mall across from the Las Palmas Resort and Spa.

About two-dozen police officers in riot gear lined up across the street to keep the protesters away from the gated entrance of the upscale resort.

After a rally that featured many speakers denouncing the Kochs, about a thousand chanting demonstrators holding colorful signs stormed across Bob Hope Drive in the direction of the resort.

One group, the People’s Center for Disease Control, dressed in hazardous material suits, tried to encircle the resort with yellow caution tape in a symbolic effort to “quarantine” the meeting.

PHOTOS BY ANNEMARIE DONKIN

Thousands Protest Koch Brothers Political Summit in Rancho Mirage

Demonstrators advocating for a government free of corporate influence prepare for the march on the Koch brothers’ “Billionaires Caucus” meeting at the Las Palmas Resort.



Other activists chanted “Dirty Money, Dirty Money,” as a Greenpeace blimp sailed overhead with the slogan emblazoned on its side. Others chanted“Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, corporate greed has got to go,” and carried signs with such slogans as “Power to the People” and “Tea Party Founded and Funded by the Kochs.”

Russell Greene and Jean and Archie Gillet from the Progressive Democrats of the San Fernando Valley organized the Valley coalition and were joined by a large group of PDA supporters who carried signs saying “Healthcare, not Warfare,” as they advocated for single payer health care.

Thousands Protest Koch Brothers Political Summit in Rancho Mirage

Members of the People's Center for Disease Control, Common Cause, The Courage Campaign, California Nurses Association, AFSCME, Code Pink and hundreds of health professionals, working families, students, seniors and environmentalists demonstrate against the Koch Brothers secret political agenda in Rancho Mirage on Jan. 30.



After activists blocked the street in front of the resort for nearly an hour, Sheriff’s deputies and Riverside Police arrested 25 activists, including members of Code Pink and People’s Center for Disease Control, who were led away and cited for trespassing.

Prior to the march, Bob Edgar, the president of Common Cause and a former Democratic congressman, spoke to rally participants. “The Kochs are at the center of a hard-core conservative political network that wants to roll back consumer protections and undercut fair elections,” he told the crowd. “This is a fight for nothing short of the heart and soul of America.”

Edgar also had the protesters take an oath “To return our great nation to government of, by and for the people, not government of, bought and paid for by powerful corporate interests.”

John Sellars, co-founder of The Other 98% and president of the Ruckus Society, convened the protest in collaboration with Common Cause and Greenpeace.

Thousands Protest Koch Brothers Political Summit in Rancho Mirage

A member of the People's Center for Disease Control was one of 25 activists arrested at the Las Palmas resort in Rancho Mirage by Sheriff's deputies and held overnight at the Indio jail.



“Americans already know that our democracy has been corrupted by too much cash,” he wrote on his website (www.theother98percent.com). “Now we are all learning that the cash is corporate and that corruption has a face — David and Charles Koch.”

The protest by and large was a form of peaceful disobedience, a cheerful atmosphere, of citizens interested in promoting justice for the middle class and workers. Earlier in the day, a panel discussion was held at the Hilton Garden Inn in Rancho Mirage, “Uncloaking the Kochs: The Billionaires Caucus and its Threat to our Democracy,” featuring Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary; Van Jones, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress; Erwin Chemerinsky, UC Irvine Law Dean; Lee Fang, Center for American Progress investigative journalist and Koch Brothers expert DeAnn McEwen, Co-President of the California Nurses Association.

Thousands Protest Koch Brothers Political Summit in Rancho Mirage

Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause and a former Democratic congressman, exhorted the crowd at the rally to “fight for the very heart of America.”



Who are The Koch Brothers?

The Wichita-based Koch Industries are involved in refining and chemicals; process and pollution control equipment and technologies; minerals; fertilizers; polymers and fibers; commodity trading and services; forest and consumer products and ranching.

According to a 2010 article in The New Yorker, only Bill Gates and Warren Buffett exceed the Koch brothers’ combined fortune of $35 billion.

The company recently acquired Georgia-Pacific wood products and roofing materials, and own Stainmaster carpeting, Brawny and Sparkle paper towels, Dixie brand table products and Northern bath products.

“We have long been committed to creating real, sustainable value for all of society,” the Koch website states (www.kochindustries.com). “For decades, Koch companies and Koch foundations have supported education and social progress. These philanthropic efforts include support for educational institutions, foundations and programs that study and promote market-based solutions to societal challenges; protect, conserve and enhance natural resources; improve quality of life; and support human services and at-risk youth.”

Thousands Protest Koch Brothers Political Summit in Rancho Mirage

Sheriff's deputies in riot gear guarded the Las Palmas resort in Rancho Mirage during the Koch Brothers political summit on Jan. 30 and kept protesters away from the gated entrance of the upscale resort.



In 2004, David Koch founded the ultra-conservative Americans for Prosperity, a 501(c)(4), and Freedom Works PAC, a political action committee, organizations considered to be the foundation of the Tea Party movement.

Yet many demonstrators were just regular folks who felt moved to finally take a stand against corporate influence on American politics.

“We were called by our conscience,” said Jim Nicoson of Castaic, a former employee of the Daily News in Valencia. “If you don’t do it, no one else will.”