Protesters to Karl Rove: You’re ‘not welcome here’

Decrying the former deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush as a “war criminal” who defends torture, protesters are planning to gather in front of a Concord hotel Thursday night where Karl Rove is scheduled to speak.

The event, sponsored by the East Bay Leadership Council, is part of the public policy advocacy organization’s 29th annual East Bay USA dinner, council spokeswoman Molly Walker said.

Activists from Code Pink and the Mount Diablo Peace and Justice Center are planning to stake out the event and send a message to Rove, the council and the public, according to Rick Sterling, a spokesman for the Mount Diablo center:

“Karl Rove doesn’t get to this area very often, so we need to send a message that he’s not welcome here.”

Code Pink member Dr. Susan Harman said in a statement the organization is targeting Rove for his defense of torture on national television:

“As activists and citizens, we condemn torture as barbaric, and we denounce Karl Rove’s recent defense of torture techniques and the torture program on national television programs.”

The activists also plan to deliver a letter to the East Bay Leadership Council, Sterling said:

“(It) will question why they are inviting people like this. … There’re lots of good people they can invite. We’re asking, ‘Why are you inviting people like Karl Rove?'”

Walker said the organization invites speakers each year for a “thoughtful policy discussion.” The talk is expected to focus on international security and its implications on upcoming elections in California, she said.

It’s the first of three talks scheduled this year. Walker said Christopher Thornberg of Beacon Economics is scheduled to present an East Bay economic forecast in April and the group is planning a September event focused on workforce innovations and health care trends.

Tonight’s talk is formatted as a conversation between Rove and former Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, D-Walnut Creek, who served in the House of Representatives from 1997 until 2009 before taking a post in the Obama Administration.

Walker said:

“The council always looks for thoughtful speakers. … It doesn’t have anything to do with whether we agree or disagree. The thought was that he would be a draw and would help in raising the council’s profile.”

Past speakers invited to the East Bay USA event include Geoff Colvin of Fortune Magazine, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg and investigative reporter Bob Woodward, among others, Walker said.

Although Sterling said the aim of the protests would primarily be targeted at Rove, he said his organization, along with Code Pink, are not happy with Tauscher, either.

Andy Lichterman, an attorney and board member with Western States Legal Foundation, said in a statement that Tauscher was a leading advocate for nuclear weapons laboratories:

“As Under Secretary of State for Arms Control, she was a leading apologist for U.S. nuclear weapons policies that pose profound obstacles for disarmament.”

Walker said the demonstrations were “not entirely unexpected” and there are security measures in place to keep guests safe. Tickets for the event are $200 for council members and elected officials and $300 for non-members.

The event will be held at the Hilton Concord hotel, located at 1970 Diamond Boulevard in Concord. Protests are planning on arriving at 5 p.m. The event starts at 5:30 p.m.