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Standing The Line


On Presidents' Day, members of a grassroots group will line up along Poplar Avenue to protest the Bush administration's plan to privatize Social Security.

Traffic Patterns: Members of Democracy for Memphis will stand in small groups at 17 major intersections along Poplar Avenue from Danny Thomas to Kirby Parkway February 21st. The groups will be drawing a symbolic "line in the sand" to show motorists "that the quality of life for American seniors is not for sale," according to organizer Brad Watkins.

"Poplar is a street that runs through various neighborhoods that range from affluent to not-so-affluent, and we figured that a rally about an issue that affects us all should be on a street that connects us all," said Watkins.

Buying Stocks and Making Bonds: President George W. Bush recently wrapped up a tour of major cities promoting private Social Security accounts. His plan would have younger workers placing some of their Social Security earnings into stocks and bonds.

Democracy for Memphis says that there's no immediate crisis for Social Security and that Bush hasn't explained how the new changes would be financed. They also say that while the mutual funds that Bush is touting as safe may have some protection from market fluctuations, they also have very low returns.

"There is a reason why the first rule of investing is the same as the first rule of walking into a casino, and that is: Never invest more than you can afford to lose," said Watkins.

This will be the group's first rally since its formation in December, and they're hoping to combine their efforts with those of other local groups. Individuals or teams can sign up for their preferred intersection on the group's Web site,

Watkins says he hopes to make this protest as racially diverse as possible.

"One thing that really disturbs me ... in this city is the racial divide," said Watkins. "I don't want to go to any more [demonstrations] where I'm the only African American. Since the civil rights movement, progressives have begun drifting to their own corners."

Bringing It Back: Democracy for America was formed by Democratic national chairman Howard Dean shortly after he dropped out of the 2004 presidential race. The organization focuses on shifting the Democratic Party back to issues that affect people's daily lives, rather than issues that extend too far to the left.

Said Watkins. "Presidential politics is very sexy. It makes people feel like they're part of a larger-than-life struggle, but between elections is when the most work needs to be done."

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