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Analysis

Anti-TPP protest planned for president’s IUCN appearance reflects party differences

The protest, planned by Sanders delegates--many of whom are Democratic Party newcomers--will take place tomorrow outside the East-West Center

in World Conservation Congress in Trans-Pacific Partnership in Pacific Pivot in Hawaii Politics
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President Obama will make two public appearances on Wednesday, August 31, and anti-TPP activists from within his own party intend to protest outside both. The president will appear first at the Lake Tahoe Summit in California and next at the World Conservation Congress at the East West Center in Honolulu from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. HST.

The protests are being organized by Bernie Sanders delegates who first met at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia last month. There they protested platform committee co-chair Elijah Cummings appearance on the first day of the convention and President Obama’s on the third day over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) issue. The East-West Center protests will also reflect opposition to U.S. military buildups throughout the Pacific as part of the Obama Administration’s Pacific Pivot.

“The TPP will be devastating for Hawaii’s people and our economy,” said embattled member of the Democratic Party of Hawaii Chelsea Lyons-Kent, an organizer for the protests, “We’re all very aware how destructive these so called trade deals can be. NAFTA has cost the U.S. millions of good paying jobs that were sent overseas. It has also been a major factor in the shrinking of our middle class. The TPP is NAFTA on steroids. The people of Hawaii cannot afford to have anymore good paying jobs being sent overseas.”

Lyons-Kent is under fire from the conservative, established members of the Democratic Party of Hawaii after she photobombed an image taken at the DNC that included party bigwigs Sen. Brian Schatz, who opposes the TPP, Sen. Mazie Hirono and former governor John Waihee. Lyons-Kent flipped her middle finger as the photo was taken. She defended the gesture as a legitimate, if ill-advised, protest over the establishment’s support of policies like the TPP and Pacific Pivot in the party platform committee debates, and out of frustration at the establishment’s stonewalling of the newer, more progressive members of the party.

Hawaii democratic officials are now using the photo in an attempt to remove her from the party altogether, and are attempting to remove a longtime progressive leader within the Democratic Party as well, simply because he defended her action, which begs the question, Are party officials simply using the “she has no aloha spirit” excuse as cover to try and remove progressives who intend to “cause trouble” over issues like the TPP?

During his primary campaign, Senator Sanders opposed the TPP, saying it represents an evolution in lopsided trade deals that benefit major corporate interests and hurt workers, consumers and the environment since the NAFTA deal of the mid-‘90s. Sanders selected platform committee members were outspoken opponents of the TPP during platform debates and attempted to include opposition to the deal in the Democratic party platform. The attempt was thwarted by Clinton and DNC committee appointees who said they didn’t want to embarrass President Obama. Sanders delegates decided to stay together after the convention, forming the TPP Action Network to organize actions against the TPP.

Both major presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump purport to be against the TPP, but Clinton’s chief strategist has said she would not drop the deal, but would rather renegotiate it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel has indicated that he is amenable to passing the TPP with changes in the next administration.

The Hawaii action is being cosponsored by: Our Revolution Hawai’i, 350.org Hawai’i, DeOccupy Honolulu, Idle No More Hawai’i and The World Can’t Wait.

The Tahoe event will also include a protest against Jerry Brown, who has steadfastly refused to ban fracking since activists began petitioning and protesting him four years ago. Fracking has quadrupled under President Obama, causing the U.S. to surpass Saudi Arabia as the world’s number one producer of oil. This is despite the desire by both Brown and Obama to be known as climate leaders.

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