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Fishermen and Labor Leaders Confront Fresno Right Wingers in Concord

by Dan Bacher
The rally in support of Congressman George Miller's environmental and water policies became heated with some toe to toe shouting as approximately 80 fishermen, conservationists and labor leaders held off a crowd of about a thousand demonstrators from crashing Miller's Concord office. The "farm demonstration" group was led by about three or four professional right wing operatives and 60 vocal farmers with the majority of the farm workers silent except when led in chants by their organizers.

Here is the article on the event from Jerry Neuburger of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance: http://www.calsport.org/8-14-09.htm.
Direct from the Congressman Miller Rally, "Fair and Balanced!"

Robert Johnson to Sean Hannity: "Man Up!"

CSPA was a co-sponsor of this event however, except for myself, our people were in Sacramento, speaking to various members of the legislature about the Delta Bill package. The water wars have many fronts.

by Jerry Neuburger

August 14, 2009 -- The rally for George Miller became heated with some toe to toe shouting as approximately 80 fishermen, conservationists and labor leaders held off a crowd of about a thousand demonstrators from crashing Miller's Concord office. The "farm demonstration" group was led by about three or four professional right wing operatives and 60 vocal farmers with the majority of the farm workers silent except when led in chants by their organizers.

The Miller support rally was organized when the Miller people learned that farm labor contractor Piedad Ayala, the Central Valley Tea Party, Families Protecting the Valley, and the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta were renting busses and hiring farm workers to demonstrate in front of Miller's office. The group targeted Miller because he has championed sustainable food production, including the protection of the nation’s fish and the jobs, along with fair wages for labor working in fish processing plants in the U.S. and its territories.

Congressman Miller has been stalwart standing up for the nation’s environmental laws that are essential to the protection of the nation’s waters, its fish and farmlands, including the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation & Management Act. Those natural resource laws in turn protect fishing and farming jobs and the food production, economies and enjoyment they represent.

Robert Johnson Jr., the webmaster for Californians Against the Canal and a CSPA member, did most of the organizing for the rally including securing a brand new bass boat to be used as a speaker's platform. The boat, supplied by Inland Marine of Antioch (925-757-1714) was parked in the parking area in front of Miller's office complex, a location that was soon to be the focus of the confrontation between the two groups.

Johnson, a tireless worker for the health of the delta and its fisheries, had assembled a series of speakers including Mark Ross of the Martinez City Council; Roger Mammon of Restore the Delta; Gary Adams of the California Striped Bass Association; Dick Poole, Water4Fish; Zeke Grader, Executive Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and Mike Hudson, President of the Small Boat Commercial Salmon Fishermen's Association.

Just as the Miller support rally was getting underway, a line of farmers and farm workers could be seen approaching the block where Miller's office is located. Those attending the Miller rally went to the curb and faced off with the marchers. The Miller supporters held up their hand made signs and the farm workers waved a variety of preprinted signs as they marched along the sidewalk across the street from the Miller people, with three or four Concord PD officers in the center on motorcycles making sure the groups stayed apart.

Once the farm demonstrators had turned back, the Miller people returned to hear presentations by Johnson and other speakers. However, just as the rally was starting, the farm group reappeared, this time coming into the lot and surrounding the Miller group. While the majority of the farm crowd appeared to be farm workers, those facing and attempting to engage the Miller people were farmers and a few professional agitators with megaphones challenging the Miller speakers to allow them to speak as well.

Johnson, unflapped by the commotion, rose to the occasion and delivered an inspiring speech, defending Miller, the Obama administration's support of the Endangered Species Act and the communities of the delta and challenged Sean Hannity and Paul Rodriguez to "Man Up" and come to the bay area to learn the truth.

Following Johnson, Mike Hudson spoke briefly about the need for water for both farms and fish but the farm crowd attempted to shout down anything said.

The police were informed that the property owner had not given the farm group permission to be on his property and that they had no assembly permit and asked that they be escorted off the property. While the five officers present made an effort, their main concern was keeping the peace since demonstrators from both sides were in each other's face, some of the conversations loud and others more controlled.

The confrontations lasted for over an hour with Martinez city councilman Mark Ross moving deep into the farmer crowd and engaging a large number of people. Finally police on scene asked that Miller people have their supporters disengage speaking with the agribusiness operatives. Those carrying on the conversations were asked to move to the rear of the bass boat and several policemen inserted themselves between the farm crowd and the boat, asking repeatedly for the group to move on their way.

A small cadre of farmers remained and wanted to deliver a petition and some produce to Congressman Miller's office. The Miller supporters cleared the way, allowing the farmers to carry out their wishes.

The event ended at about 2:30 with the Miller group cleaning up the parking lot from the day's activities.

When Congressman Miller, who was in Southern California heard about the demonstrations, he issued a statement saying, "Special interests are trying to use stunts like this to restart the state's water wars for political and financial gain, but solving California's water problems will take more than talk radio slogans and name-calling."

It's estimated that the Ayala group, the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, and The Central Valley TeaParty groups spent almost $50,000 in bus rental, professionally made signs and cash handouts to the roughly 900 farm workers. In contrast the Miller organizers and all volunteer personnel spent almost nothing.

Of course, when taken in context, the $50,000 is nothing when Westlands alone still owes half a billion dollars for the canal's construction, a debt that has been on the books for forty years. In addition, should the farmers succeed in pressuring the feds into a 50 year guaranteed water contract they will have successfully moved their position of the most junior water rights holders in the state to the most senior, and all the while receiving heavily subsidized water to reap huge private profits on the taxpayer's back.

Gary Adams, Vice President of the California Striped Bass Association State Board, summed up much of the Miller group's feeling when he said, “How soon we forget the true meaning of Public Trust doctrine found in our constitution. It is George Miller that has epitomized the very essence that all of our fisheries and citizens must have adequate clean water to survive and thrive. It is he that understands that when a fishermen fishes for fish, that it is much more than the fish he seeks. It is a piece of heritage that extends beyond the first time that man broke the soil with a plough.”
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