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Annual gathering draws annual protest
Critics of encampment of rich and powerful in Monte Rio joined this year by UFW

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | July 23, 2006

Protesters marched to the gates of the exclusive men-only Bohemian Grove retreat Saturday to question the right of the rich and powerful to meet in private to discuss public policy.

On a hot and dusty road lined by towering redwoods, about 150 people stared down the police officers who blocked the entrance to the 2,700 acres of private property in Monte Rio. They chanted, "Bohemian Grove, go away! Racist, sexist, anti-gay!"

Founded in San Francisco in 1872, the Bohemian Club has attracted presidents, chief executives and business leaders to its annual two-week gathering, where members relax, put on pageants, network and listen to speeches by leading policy-makers.

Protesters say those leaders make policy decisions and "backroom deals" without public scrutiny or input.

Club member and former Secretary of State Colin Powell is scheduled to give a speech titled "From Battlefields to Playing Fields - Economics, Energy and Education" on Saturday, according to a list of speakers leaked to protesters.

"This is an elite gathering of men to discuss policy that affects us all," said Mary Moore, who founded the Bohemian Grove Action Network in 1980 to protest the gathering. "We have to expose who they are and let the public decide."

The Bohemian Grove organization said it respects the protesters' right to demonstrate, but would not respond to their allegations.

"We're not a secret club, but we respect the rights of our members and their privacy," said Bohemian Grove General Manager Matt Oggero.

In addition to the ANSWER Coalition, the Green Party and other anti-war groups, the United Farm Workers joined the rally to draw attention to their contract dispute with Charles Krug and C.K. Mondavi wineries.

"They should share their wealth with all of us, the people who do the work," said Jorge Dehara Segura, a UFW member who lost his job in the recent contract dispute with Krug, speaking in Spanish.

Faced with at least 25 stone-faced law enforcement officers, the protesters chanted and marched in a circle.

"I came all the way from Berkeley to drink a beer with Henry Kissinger," Mike Orr said. "Can't I come in?"

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