Call for Candlelight Vigils --
Statement by Pennsylvania State Representative Harold James


Rep. Harold James

Printed in the American Almanac, March 9, 2001 here


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As a Pennsylvania State Representative, recently re-elected to my seventh term in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, as the former Chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus and former President of the National Black Police Association, as Chairman of Region II of the national Black Caucus of State Legislators covering Pennsylvania and New York, and as a Special Assistant to the President of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, I pledge my utmost efforts to make the struggle to save D.C. General Hospital into a nationwide struggle, involving elected officials and community leaders all over the country. From my discussions with leaders of other nations, and my visits to Africa and Europe, I know that people all over the world are also counting on our success in the struggle to restore the soul of America. We all know that the real power over the affairs of the District of Columbia lies in the U.S. Congress. No Congressman can claim that what is happening here is out of his or her control, since they all vote on all matters concerning Washington, D.C. The mean-spirited Confederate racists in the U.S. Congress seem to want to send a message to the nation and the world, that they are once again in charge of America. In the same way, our victory in keeping the hospital open and restoring it to its full capability, will be a national victory, giving us momentum to reverse genocidal policies and economic depression conditions spreading around the nation and the world.

I understand that on any given year, approximately 70,000 people visit DC General. Over 100,000 Washington residents have no medical insurance.

Where will these people go? Even the Washington Post yesterday was forced to admit that there is no answer to this question.

Last year, 10,000 people were admitted to DC General - where will these people go now? Last year, 50,000 people visited the emergency room at DC General -- where will these people go? Last year, over 100,000 people visited the clinics connected to DC General - where will these people go? 55% of the care at DC General is uncompensated care - meaning people have not medical insurance. This compares to 15% uncompensated care at the other area hospitals. Again, the question to ask - who will care for the poor and uninsured - where will these people go? I believe that elected officials, including myself, must be held accountable for the consequences of their actions. In 1996, when Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge rammed a bill through the legislature, cutting off tens of thousands of poor and disabled people from state medical assistance, I, and many of my colleagues, denounced it as a criminal act, on the floor of the State House. Around the same time, Lyndon LaRouche raised the standard established at the Nuremberg Tribunals of the Nazi war criminals after World War II,and called for Ridge to be impeached. That standard says that any public official who "knew, or should have known" that his official acts would lead to the death or injury of innocent people, is guilty of a crime against humanity.

The Schiller Institute assisted me in compiling case studies of about 60 deaths, injuries and threats to life that resulted from Ridge's budget cuts. The point is, there is little difference between premeditated killing with a gun or knife, and foreseeable deaths that result if people have no place to go when they are sick. Both qualify morally as a form of murder. This is the standard that we have to apply to every Congressman, as well as to the Mayor and City Council of the District of Columbia, who are responsible for the policies being imposed on this city. If we rally around this moral standard, we will win.

The question is, how do we give you the confidence to realize that you are the government, and that you have the power? I learned an important lesson about this during my visit to Germany in 1998, as a guest of the Schiller Institute, where I addressed public meetings and met with legislators and civic leaders. I learned that the power that brought down the Berlin Wall, was this (hold up candle), a simple candle. In 1989, the economic conditions had become intolerable in eastern Europe, including East Germany. People were getting desperate, but felt helpless in the face of a communist regime that was heavily armed, and known as one of the most ruthless dictatorships in the world. But the people began gathering every Friday night at a church in the city of Leipzig, where they could discuss the crisis they were facing. One day, in August 1989, a few of them decided to hold a silent vigil for freedom, by standing outside the church holding candles. They did this every Monday night, and it became a rallying-point for the people, who saw no other way to assert their humanity, and defiance of the regime. By October of 1989, there were 150,000 people gathered outside the church in Leipzig. The army and police were called up, and told to suppress the people -- even shoot them -- but they refused to do so. The regime decided that its only chance to maintain credibility, was to allow free passage of the people to the West. Within weeks, the Berlin Wall, and the East German communist government, were all swept away, without bloodshed. The power of the candlelight vigil -- in a period of profound social and economic crisis -- helped bring down the infamous Berlin Wall of communist tyranny. Let us use the power of the candlelight vigil, here in Washington, DC, our nation's capital, to bring down the Wall of Confederate racism and hate, that stands behind the murderous effort to close DC General Hospital. Let us give the people of Washington, DC, a way to rally to defend their lives and the lives of their loved ones, and to promote the General Welfare of all U.S. citizens, by holding candlelight vigils every week, to save DC General Hospital.

Thank you.


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The preceding article is a rough version of the article that appeared in The American Almanac. It is made available here with the permission of The New Federalist Newspaper. Any use of, or quotations from, this article must attribute them to The New Federalist, and The American Almanac


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