George Galloway in Boston on Tuesday at Faneuil Hall
Todd Chretien – 9/12/05
Galloway Tour Blog
Faneuil Hall has had its fair share of excitement. Built in 1742 by Peter Faneuil, a rich local merchant, it was gutted by fire in 1761, only to be repaired in the nick of time to kindle the revolutionary flames that burnt the colonial strings tying America to Britain. In 1764, Samuel Adams defied the empire’s local hacks and organized the Sons of Liberty to harass the occupying Redcoats and intimidate the tax collectors. No Taxation Without Representation became the rallying cry that galvanized the people to oppose the Stamp Act and the Sugar Act, which were more or less schemes to offload the price of decades of war for empire onto the locals. While his cousin John Adams led the respectable elements in the boycott of all British goods, Samuel’s shock troops collected the sailors, the apprentices, the ruined farmers, the unemployed, and the laborers to tar-and-feather the King’s men. It was all perfectly illegal, and Faneuil Hall was the hub.
In 1770, British troops shot dead six Bostonians who had spent the afternoon taunting them and pelting them with snowballs, no doubt fortified with rocks. The Boston Massacre polarized the debate within the movement against British oppression between those who counseled moderation and constraint and those who argued for rebellion. Within the Adams’ family, John served as the successful defense lawyer for the troops who carried out the killings, while Samuel organized to strike back. In 1773, liberals in the British government stumbled upon the idea of unloading unsold tea from the Indian sub-continent imperial holdings onto the American colonies. In Boston, Samuel made sure that Tea ended up in the harbor. King George demanded the rebels be hanged by the neck and imposed a blockade on Boston aiming to starve the city into surrender. He proclaimed to the rest of the colonies (to paraphrase a different dynasty of Georges), “you’re either with us, or you’re with the terrorists.” The majority of the American people took the side of the terrorists, the Sons of Liberty transformed themselves into armed militias, and the revolution was on. If the American Revolution had a church, it was Faneuil Hall.
Making a mockery of the Declaration of Independence’s assertion that “all men are created equal,” John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton conspired to oppose Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine’s demands that “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” be applied to Black slaves. This unforgivable moral failure condemned tens of millions of African Americans to decades of tyranny much worse than anything ever suffered by the Sons of Liberty. But once again, Faneuil Hall became a center of rebellion, sedition and illegal action, all aimed at overturning the slave power and making American Revolution live up to its own self-satisfying image.
In 1849, an escaped slave named Fredrick Douglass spoke in Faneuil Hall to demand freedom for his people. For the next decade and a half, abolitionist Bostonians, both white and free Black, smuggled escaped slaves to freedom, broke captured slaves free from prisons and defied the federal government to do anything about it. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, thousands of Bostonians volunteered to join the war to free the slaves and the 54th Massachusetts regiment went down in history as a testament to the bravery, discipline and humanity of the Black soldiers who fought for their own freedom.
Today, Faneuil Hall is surrounded on all sides by a tourist-centered, upscale, outdoor mall. The ground floor of the hall is stuffed with trinket shops where you can buy everything from t-shirts with Johnny Damon looking like Jesus Christ to Paul Revere refrigerator magnates to American Flag throw rugs. It is as if the soul of American Revolution and the Abolitionist movement is drowning in a sea of knickknacks. Tipsy businessmen talk too loudly over their three martini lunches and politicians in slick suits, no doubt partly financed by the disaster of the Big Dig, don’t seem to notice the homeless man picking through the garbage or they just don’t care. Just two blocks away, the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans stands as a monument to the betrayal of the ideals that came to life in Faneuil Hall. But, if you walk up one flight of stairs, then you enter a different world. The hall still smells of defiance. If the walls could talk they would complain that they are lonely, they crave inspiration and stand ready and willing to give it. The hall deserves reverence and it needs a work out.
And we’ve got just the man for the job. British MP, George Galloway will be speaking here tomorrow night, September 13 at 6:30pm. In the best Boston tradition, he was expelled from the British Labor Party for taking the side of the colonists against those who rule his motherland. He helped found the RESPECT political party in Britain and sought revenge on Tony Blair by running for and willing a seat in parliament in East London. Like Thomas Paine, he carried his protest against empire from London to America, testifying on May 17 before the US Senate, in no uncertain terms, that they had blood on their hands for the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
I know it’s September and the Sox are only a few games up on the Yankees, but some things are more important than baseball, even in Boston (and, yes, I grew up in Maine as a Sox fan during the era of Jim Rice, Yaz, and Bill Buckner so I know what I’m talking about). Justice, peace, equality and solidarity are more important. Come out and get involved. Galloway will be joined by Palestinian rights leader Prof. Naseer Aruri, revolutionary literature chronicler Prof. William Keach, civil rights fighter Boston City Councilman Chuck Turner and students from the Campus Anti-War Network who will be accepting donations to send to those in New Orleans victimized by Mother Nature and the Bush Administration in equal measure. Manny will take care of the Yankees. You should be at Faneuil Hall.
Tickets still available at www.ticketweb.com until Noon on Tuesday, 9/13 or for $10 at the door.
Todd Chretien is the Galloway National Tour Coordinator and a frequent contributor to the International Socialist Review, www.isreview.org