Progressives don’t die easy. In fact, in a response to the Republican festivities in D.C., local progressives are holding a party of their own tonight.
The “People’s Inaugural Ball,” organized by the Columbia Peace Coalition, will feature live music and speakers. The event, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled from 7 to 10:30 p.m. at Missouri United Methodist Church, 204 S. Ninth St.
Mark Haim, an event organizer who is director of the Mid-Missouri Peaceworks, said the gathering is not a protest or an organizing event, but rather “for solidarity and to strengthen the sense of community which is at the core of social change and empowerment.”
To that end, speakers will discuss everything from the environment and the war in Iraq to health care, education and jobs. And though it’s not officially a part of the agenda, attendees can expect to hear some not-so-kind words about President George W. Bush.
Ken Midkiff, a local environmentalist and author, said he plans to discuss what he calls Bush’s tendency to put pro-environment labels on programs that actually harm the environment, such as the Healthy Forests initiative.
“These are mostly issues that have flown under the radar, and it’s difficult for those opposed to realize what they mean,” Midkiff said. “We’re alerting the public to issues where the Bush administration has worked in favor of corporations and against the environment.”
Kim Dill, another event organizer and an invited speaker, said she intends to encourage citizens to challenge their government to “better use money to make a commitment to put people first.”
Other scheduled speakers include City Councilwoman Almeta Crayton and the Rev. Maureen Dickmann of Rockbridge Christian Church.
“Moral values and issues are not limited to homosexuality and abortion — they’re about taking care of the poor and opposing war,” said Dickmann, who plans to discuss how morality is used by conservatives for political purposes.
“Christian morality really is about people taking care of each other,” she said. “There’s nowhere in the Bible where it says to serve the rich over the poor.”
As for supporters of the president, it’s not clear if they will be gathering en masse to celebrate another four years of Bush in the White House. Members of the Boone County Republican Party and local GOP leaders could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
In addition to the speakers, Mere Mortals and the Joel Anderson Jazz Ensemble will provide musical entertainment at the event. Participants are asked to bring a canned food donation and snacks to share at the ball.
The Columbia Peace Coalition is also holding a half-hour silent vigil at noon on Lowry Mall on the MU campus.
But for tonight, the tone will stay positive, said Midkiff.
“I see the gathering as an encouragement, a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “Bush’s re-election was definitely a setback, but a temporary one.”