Kevin Zeese at a Protest Action in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Bill Hughes)
Members of Baltimore’s social justice community were stunned to learn on Sunday, September 6th, of the sudden death of activist par excellence, Kevin Zeese. He was only 64-years old. Speculation is that it was a heart attack.
According to Zeese’s life partner and fellow activist, Margaret Flowers, “He was not ill, not in the sense we knew anything was wrong.” She further said that earlier that day they had gone “for a bike ride and had a picnic in the park.”
Zeese hailed from New York City. He went to college at SUNY Buffalo and later graduated from the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C. He had two sons, Alex and Daniel, from an earlier marriage. In 2004, Zeese had served as Ralph Nader’s press secretary when Nader was running for president.
At the time of his death, Zeese was the co-editor of the publication, “Popular Resistance” and worked as the co-director of “It’s Our Economy.” He also served as the press secretary for the Green Party’s Howie Hawkins/Angela Walker presidential campaign. Check out Zeese’s Facebook page.
Recently, Zeese was involved in protecting the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C. It had been under attack by forces associating with the disputed presidency of Juan Guaido. He and others were arrested for their actions by federal authorities, but the charges were later dropped.
Zeese let everybody know, who wanted to listen, that he didn’t give a good hoot for the presidential Democratic Party candidacy of the Iraq War Hawk – Joe Biden. He had also labeled sleepy Joe, “as the architect of mass incarceration and the modern drug war.”
One thing I know about Zeese is that he did not entertain fools lightly. At a Donald Trump protest action in our nation’s capital four years ago, (on Inauguration Day), Ms. Flowers was sharing her views on the issues with a fellow antiwar demonstrator. A dork head came along and got right into her face. Zeese was nearby and quickly gave the interloper a piece of his mind. The Trump zealot soon backed off and fled the scene.
On June 26, 2013, I caught up with Zeese at a protest action in front of the White House. The focus of the demonstration was closing that hell hole of a prison – Guantanamo, aka, “GITMO,” located on the island of Cuba. CODE PINK activists and Veterans for Peace members had co-sponsored the pro-Human Rights event.
Zeese spoke strongly in support of their actions. He labeled the then-President, Barack Obama, as a “torturer-in-chief” for keeping GITMO open. Currently, there are about 40 prisoners being held there.
When Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning had earlier received a 35-year sentence for supposed computer fraud and theft, Zeese was there, too, at Fort Meade, MD, on August 21, 2013, to protest the government’s draconian conduct. He was then a member of the “Bradley Manning Support Team.” Manning eventually had his sentence reduced by President Obama. On March 12, 2020, a Federal Judge ordered Manning to be released from custody.
Back in late 2005, Zeese ran for the U.S. Senate from Maryland as a member of the Green Party. (He also received endorsements from both the Populist and Libertarian Parties in that campaign.) The horrific Iraq War was still raging. For many, his candidacy was like a breath of fresh air. He was then fifty years old. He lost the election, but contributed greatly to the discussions of the prime topics.
At a meeting held on December 14, 2005, in Charles Village, Baltimore, candidate Zeese hit the bloody Iraq War issue straight on. He said: “We’ve got to get out of Iraq. We’re not doing any good there. We’re ineffective and we have become a target. It is time for us to leave.”
(Sadly, the war, which began in 2003, lasted until December 15, 2011, with hundreds of thousands of Iraqi casualties, combatants and civilians. The U.S. armed forces sustained close to 4,500 casualties. The cost to the U.S. taxpayers was roughly $2.6 trillion.)
Zeese then turned his attention on that evening to the Military-Industrial Complex. This is the deep state institution that President Dwight D. Eisenhower had warned the nation about in his “Farewell Address” in 1961.
With respect to the Military-Industrial Complex, Zeese said: “It is the greatest threat that we have to our country as far as funding what we need for necessities for the people and for our basic infrastructure needs. It takes half of our basic infrastructure needs. Worldwide, the U.S. spends as much as the whole world combined on its military.”
Zeese continued: “Yet, we have politicians out there, saying ‘We need to spend more. We’re not safe.’ If we’re not ‘safe’ when we’re spending as much as the whole world combined, we obviously taking the wrong approach.”
With regard to the controversial U.S. Patriot Act, Zeese saw it as being “unconstitutional,” “un-American,” and a serious threat to “free speech.”
Zeese wound up his over two-hour talk that night by championing the cause of a “Single-Payer Health Care System.” He underscored how “46 million people” in the country don’t have health care coverage. Zeese said it was time for the people to come together and to challenge the powerful “health care industry.” He ended underscoring that “political power” had to be returned to the people.
Over the years, there were few social justice causes that Zeese didn’t contribute to in some significant way. He was in the forefront of the antiwar movement; the “Medicare for All” campaign; the 2011 “Occupy Encampment” in Washington, D.C.; and the Coalition against US/NATO Military Bases.
I could go on and on about Zeese’s activism by citing one movement and cause after another. He was literally – everywhere – when it came to fighting for social justice.
For example, over the years, I recorded Zeese twelve separate times on Youtube expounding on different political, human rights, and social justice matters. Go to: https://www.youtube.com/
Some of Zeese’s comrades in the fight for social justice have shared their thoughts on his passing.
Green Party Presidential candidate, Howie Hawkins, said: “Zeese’s death leaves an enormous hole in his wake. We need to fill it by multiplying our efforts to bring about a better world.”
Social justice activist, Barbara Larcom, referred to Zeese, “as a friend and a great activist for peace, justice and true democracy.” She added, he was also “an anti-imperialist, who stood up for the peoples of Nicaragua.”
Jorge Arreaza, Venezuela’s foreign minister, labeled Zeese, “A brave activist for peace and a human rights defender – one of America’s heroes.”
A Baltimore-based activist, Max Obuszewski, on hearing of Zeese’s untimely death, said: “It was a body blow for me today to hear of his passing. We must step up our activism in honor of his major contributions in the movement.”
One of Zeese’s most ardent supporters spoke for many who knew and admired him when she remarked: “He stood for a better world and a better USA.”
Finally, a virtual event is planned to honor Zeese’s memory on September 19th, at 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. According to Ms. Flowers, it is entitled: “Rest in Power, Kevin Zeese.” The ZOOM styled-visit will also be live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube.
Bill Hughes is an attorney, author, actor and photographer. His latest book is “Byline Baltimore.” It can be found at: https://www.amazon.com/William-Hughes/e/B00N7MGPXO/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1