Veteran activist promises pressure, seeks Florida-vote probe.


"All cameras are on the one with the ball, and I'm about to score a touchdown on them!"

That was Jesse Jackson's gleeful explanation Thursday for the attacks directed his way by various commentators and by partisans of the now victorious Bush-Cheney campaign.

"They keep worrying, 'Jesse Jackson's gonna riot! Jesse Jackson's gonna riot'" the veteran activist said, mimicking his critics' imagined mantra to the delight of a turnaway crowd in the auditorium of the Civil Rights Museum.

Jackson's noon-hour appearance was under the auspices of an ad hoc movement called The Fairness and Democracy Viligance, and he left little doubt that, on what could be a zig-zag path way to his ultimate end zone, he intended picking up some first downs.

For one thing, he wants to be one of the agents forcing exposure of the actual presidential-vote situation in Florida. "We need to know the history. We need to set it straight," Jackson said, and to that end he called for an investigation of the matter by a presidential commission, to be named and activated during the last weeks of the current Clinton-Gore administration.

Jackson also promised that he will lead a series of "massive, non-violent voter registration drives" in the seven days beginning January 15th, a period which incorporatess both a commemorative birthday week for the late Dr. Martin Luther King and the scheduled presidential inauguration of George W. Bush.

Repeating previous charges that as many as 50,000 votes had been suppressed in Florida, either by leaving them uncounted or by turning away minority voters, Jackson asked his listeners to imagine "the humiliation of having your vote thrown out by the thousands."

Jackson praised Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore, who withdrew from the race after the U.S. Supreme Court ended manual recounts in Florida, as one who stood for "pay equity. . ., public education. . ., workers' rights. . ., and women's right to self-determination." To extended applause, he said, "Tennessee should be proud of its native son."

Referring only indirectly to a telephone conversation he had late the previous evening with Gore's now victorious rival Bush, Jackson said the Republican candidate did "not yet have a grasp, but I think he wants to reach out." Jackson said Bush's Wednesday night acceptance address was "very democratic" but that Bush "can not run American the way his campaign was run in Florida."

Beyond "the keyhole," said Jackson, one could detect the influence on Bush of such un-Democratic (and, by implication, undemocratic) types as Tom Delay, the GOP House of Representatives whip, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, and Senators Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond.

"To be successful," Jackson said, the new president would have to reach out beyond such men "across the lines of party, religion, region, and race."

While noting that "black America's interests are in America's interests," Jackson said, "The biggest divide in America is not between blacks and whites but between haves and have-nots."

Once again, Jackson compared the controversy over alleged voter intimidation and vote suppression to the battle for voters' rights that he, Dr. King, and others had participated in at Selma, Alabama in 1965. "This is an issue that isn't going to go away," he promised.

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