Obama Served Protest Song for Breakfast

Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking

From editor Joey Skaggs:

Naomi Pitcairn and a group of her friends staged a protest, singing a song to President Obama at his fundraising breakfast today in San Francisco to bring attention to the incarceration and unjust treatment of U.S. Army soldier Bradley Manning. Manning was arrested in Iraq in May 2010 on suspicion of having passed confidential and embarrassing government communications to WikiLeaks.

Watch the video of the protest on SF Gate, read some of the media coverage and see the song lyrics below, submitted by Mike Lehr.

Obama, Preaching to the Choir, Is Met by a Rude Chorus
by Jackie Calmes
TheCaucus.blogs at The New York Times
April 21, 2011

It was hardly a surprise that President Obama got an earful in San Francisco about frustration in his party”™s left over the pace of his promised change. But it was a bit unexpected when the protest came at a high-dollar fund-raising breakfast Thursday morning.

Soon after Mr. Obama began speaking to about 150 people who had contributed up to $35,800 each, a woman at a rear table stood and announced that her group wanted to sing him a song it had written. And they did, despite Mr. Obama”™s request that they wait until after his remarks.

The full lyrics were written on a menu for the event. The chorus: “We paid our dues, where”™s our change?”

The singers held up 8-inch-by-11-inch papers printed with “Free Bradley Manning,” the Army private who has been held in near-solitary confinement in a military brig on suspicion of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks. The lead songster doffed her white jacket to reveal a T-shirt with a picture of Mr. Manning and the same message, and a man next to her did the same.

Mr. Obama seemed to take the incident in stride, and so did many of the donors, some of whom recorded the act with cameras and video recorders. Among the attendees were the House Democratic leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, and Senator Dianne Feinstein, a former mayor. Several aides approached the table and gently urged them to cease.

“That was a nice song,” the president told them as the woman walked away to the door.

“We worked hard on it,” said the singer as she left, followed separately by two others.

The audience applauded Mr. Obama for his aplomb. He had been speaking of the need to rekindle the spirit of his 2008 election campaign to win again in 2012. So he resumed by alluding to the protesters. “Now there”™s an example of creativity,” he said. “It wasn”™t always convenient, but it”™s part of what made 2008 special.”

“Change turned out to be harder than a lot of people expected,” he acknowledged. And, he added, “We understand that we”™ve got a lot more to do.”

But, he continued, “I could not be prouder of our track record over the past couple years.”

Update: At that, a man wearing a suit at the protesters”™ table shook his head in disagreement and gave a thumbs-down sign. But he and the remaining seven at the table applauded moments later when Mr. Obama cited some achievements, among them the repeal of the “don”™t ask, don”™t tell” law banning openly gay people in the military and his appointment of two women to the Supreme Court, including the first Latino-American.

And those at the table stood with everyone else for a standing ovation when Mr. Obama finished. Then he was off to fly to Reno and later Los Angeles for a speech and three more fundraisers.
As reporters were ushered out, the man in the suit rushed over to give them the menu with the lyrics.

And here they are:

“Dear Mr. President, we honor you today, sir
Each of us brought you $5,000
It takes a lot of Benjamins to run a campaign
I paid my dues, where”™s our change?

We”™ll vote for you in 2012. Yes, that”™s true
Look at the Republicans – what else can we do?
Even though we don”™t know if we”™ll retain our liberties
In what you seem content to call a free society
Yes, it”™s true that Terry Jones is legally free
To burn a people”™s holy book in shameful effigy
But at another location in this country
Alone in a 6à—12 cell sits Bradley
23 hours a day is night
The 5th and 8th Amendments say this kind of thing ain”™t right
We paid our dues, where”™s our change?

image: DeathAndTaxes.com

Additional Links:

  • Obama fundraiser interrupted by protesters seeking release of Bradley Manning, CBSnews.com, April 21, 2011
  • Activists Are Heckling Obama About Bradley Manning Right Now
    Death and Taxes, April 21, 2011