Dear Friends,
The Gandhimobile has returned from the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia and here’s the story as told by Janis Mara, of the “Marin Independent Journal”:

Marin peace activists deploy fabled Gandhi effigy to Democratic convention
http://www.marinij.com/article/NO/20160724/NEWS/160729895
By Janis Mara, Marin Independent Journal

Posted: 07/24/16, 12:30 PM PDT | Updated: 2 weeks, 4 days ago

Marin peace activist Jes Richardson prepares his float before the 2016 Fairfax Festival Parade last month. His Gandhi head is part of a 10-foot effigy he displays at public events.
Marin peace activist Jes Richardson prepares his float before the 2016 Fairfax Festival Parade last month. His Gandhi head is part of a 10-foot effigy he displays at public events.

Mohandas Gandhi traveled to many places advocating for peace, and now he’s making an appearance at the Democratic National Convention.

A 10-foot-tall Gandhi puppet created by San Rafael peace activist Jes Richardson is at the convention in Philadelphia “to support the Bernie movement,” Richardson said.

Speaking from what he calls “the Gandhimobile” in Kansas on Thursday en route to the convention, Richardson said, “We are not trying to get (Sanders) nominated. We are showing support for his platform.”

Richardson, founder of the Bridge of Hearts world peace organization, created the giant Gandhi in 2003 with the help of students at San Marin High School. Richardson initially used the mammoth Mahatma to protest the war in Iraq, but since then he has taken the figure to peace events across the country.

In 2004, he took the puppet to the Democratic National Convention in Boston to support John Kerry. On Wednesday, Richardson and a caravan of about 30 like-minded individuals took off from California for Philadelphia, Mahatma in tow.

“We want to change the Democratic Party,” Richardson said. In keeping with his lifelong mission, he said, “we want to encourage the party not to go to war, to end this constant war after war after war.”

“We want universal health care, expanded Medicare and a jobs program repairing American infrastructure. We want reform of the law enforcement system that unfairly targets African Americans and the criminal justice system that imprisons them in greater numbers,” Richardson said.

Richardson was awarded a Martin Luther King Jr. community service award from the Marin Human Rights Commission in January 2015 for his peace advocacy.

Gandhi is in a sitting position within the vehicle and his head is visible from the road through portholes, Richardson said.

“Every time we stop for gas, people come up and take pictures and ask, ‘What is this?’” Richardson said. “We explain that this is Gandhi and we’re going to the convention to support the Bernie movement.”

He said reactions have been positive, with people “feeling inspired that there are three older gentlemen in a vehicle traveling 3,000 miles to make a difference in the world.”
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Traveling in the Gandhimobile with Richardson are Gene Kelley, an 88-year-old tap dancer from Novato, and Walter Rhoads, 62, of Sacramento. There are nine other vehicles in the caravan, “mostly young people, because it’s a young people’s movement,” he said.

“We’ve been picking up people as we travel” by prearrangement, he said.

How much influence the group and their puppet can exert is a bit unclear, Richardson admitted.

“We are not delegates. We don’t get to be inside (the convention hall). We will be among the many thousands of people at Roosevelt Park across the street,” he said.

“The reality is that unless they have a ticket to the dance, they will not get in. Unless delegates walk past the park, people will not even know they are there,” said Joe Tuman, a professor of communication studies at San Francisco State University who specializes in political rhetoric.

On the other hand, Tuman said, “If the statue is that big, they will probably get noticed by people walking within eyesight of them. Having a statue will attract cameras and certainly people in the park will take pictures and post them on social media,” so the group will not go unnoticed, he said.

“I think it’s part of your obligation as a citizen of this country to express your dissent and your views. It’s a sign of a democracy to tolerate and encourage opposite points of view,” Tuman said. “I’m sure they will have a good time doing this.”