e-mail from Michael Moore describing his recent San Diego booksigning
and the events that occurred.
It's a few minutes before midnight, on Friday night on 3/8/2002.
I'm in San Diego, and I have just escaped being arrested by the
San Diego police. This book tour keeps getting more surreal, but
the last hour has been unlike anything I have yet seen.
I have come to San Diego to speak at an event organized for my
book ("Stupid White Men"). The event is being held at a middle
school in an auditorium that seats about 800 people. I have spent
the week in California, pretty much at my own expense. Weeks ago,
the publisher informed me that they would not be sending me to
this state if they had to pay to get me there.
So I called up my friends at "Politically Incorrect" and asked
if they could book me on the show and bring me out there. They
were more than happy to help out. I can't believe the crap this
show has had to endure because its host one night, early on in
"America's NEW War" had the guts to state the truth as he saw
it. Now advertisers have dropped like flies, affiliates in DC,
Columbus, and other cities have canceled the program, and ABC
seems eager to deep-six the whole hour it shares with "Nightline."
But, for now, they have come to my aid, and I am grateful.
In the past six days, I have spoken to 15 separate mobs of people.
I don't know what other word to use because, quite simply, wherever
I go, there is this unbelievable pandemonium. Every day, every
night, hundreds -- or thousands -- jam themselves into halls,
arenas, churches, auditoriums to listen to me talk about my book
and whatever else is struggling to make its way through my brain.
Forget about standing room only -- these venues look more like
breathing room only. A clever fire marshal could have made a small
fortune tailing me across this state. As I look out at the crowds
of humans doing their best to impersonate sardines, I worry not
that some deranged person may shout "Fire!" but rather that someone
may belt out, "There's an extra six inches over here by the radiator!"
I have visited the most out-of-the-way places in California and,
no matter where I go or how right-wing the congressman is that
represents their district, all sorts of people are desperate to
get inside to be with the thousands of others who want to be part
of "United We Stand Against the Thief-in-Chief." Grass Valley,
Hayward, San Francisco, Santa Rosa, Ukiah, Arcata, Berkeley, Westwood,
East L.A., Koreatown (L.A.) -- I wish all of you could see what
I have seen. In every town, at every stop, huge throngs of Americans
who are sick and tired of the silence that has been demanded of
them, lest they be thought of as "unpatriotic" should they dare
to question the actions of George W. Bush and company. That's
what this tour is all about. It's time to come out and start acting
like Americans again.
And then there was San Diego.
Over a thousand people are packed inside the 800-seat auditorium.
Outside, another thousand people are on the lawn trying to get
in. The traffic on the street is tied up and the stream of San
Diegoans keeps filing up the sidewalk. I tell the organizers that
I am going to spend a half-hour outside here speaking to the people
who cannot get in. They are, after all, like me -- slackers who
are habitually late. The crowd outdoors is wired and jazzed that
they are being honored for being tardy.
Then I go inside, give my usual talk, and begin to sign books.
There's a 90-year-old lady whose granddaughter has driven her
down from Orange County. There's a union organizer from the antiunion
San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper who announces that his grandfather
was a sit-down striker with my uncle back in 1937 in Flint. Some
punk-poet kid tries to finish me off for good by offering me two
Krispy Kreme donuts. Hundreds line up to have their books, their
"Awful Truth" DVDs and, in one case, an Iron Maiden jean jacket,
signed. I am told that we are getting close to the time when we
will have to leave the school, as it has only been rented until
11pm. That is not good. Hundreds are still in line. I don't think
any of these signings this week have been over before midnight.
Somewhere around 11:30pm, I hear a commotion at the back of the
auditorium. I see people start to scatter. The San Diego police
are coming down the aisle, their large flashlights out (the auditorium
lights are still on, so we all understand the implied "other"
use of these instruments). The police are telling everyone to
"VACATE THESE PREMISES IMMEDIATELY OR YOU WILL ALL BE ARRESTED!"
I cannot believe what I am hearing. "YOU WILL NOT RECEIVE ANOTHER
WARNING. LEAVE NOW -- OR FACE ARREST!"
The cops approach the stage where I am signing the books. People
are visibly frightened -- and about half the book-line bolts toward
the doors. I stand up and speak to the officers. "I am the author
of this book," I tell them politely. "These people are only here
to get a book and all I am doing is signing them. We will be done
"I don't care who you are," they reply. "We have received a call
from the school district and we have been told to remove you.
You were supposed to be out of here at 11:00pm." We had apparently
violated our curfew.
"C'mon guys, you can't be serious," I said. "Are you saying that
you are going to arrest me for signing people's books, and arrest
the people who are here because they want to read this book?"
"I don't care what you are doing -- this is your last warning.
I am ready to arrest you and everyone else."
"Who is your superior?" I ask.
"I'm it. Only the Chief is above me at night, and I am not going
to wake him up. This has already gone through many channels. We
are here because this has already gone through many people in
the last half-hour, people in authority, and the decision has
been made to clear you out of here or arrest you."
I have never been arrested, strange as that may seem. I could
not believe that, of all I have done, all I have stood for over
the years, that it has come down to this -- and I was about to
be hauled away for autographing books!
"OK," I said. "We'll leave." I then mumbled something about the
last time I checked, this was still the United States of America
-- even if we were just five miles away from where it ends. They
escorted me and the few remaining souls out of the building. The
brave lady who was the owner of the independent bookstore and
who was there selling my book, leaned over and whispered to me,
"I am willing to go to jail for this if you want me to." Ya gotta
hand it to the independent bookstores -- they've been through
hell lately, so much so that they are now ready to be led away
I walked outside and about 40 people ask me if I would still sign
their books in the dark of the parking lot. A girl gets out her
pocket flashlight. A guy runs over and turns on his headlights.
I remark that it feels like we're in some sort of banana republic
or East Berlin, secretly meeting so we can have our little book
gathering. "Sign quick, Mike, here come the police!"
I finish the last book and hop in my sister's car. She remembers
to give me a plaque that had been presented to me in abstentia
(while I was outside talking to the people who couldn't get in).
It was from the city councilwoman from the area of San Diego we
were in. It read "Official Proclamation: City of San Diego Declares
-- March 9, 2002, 'Michael Moore Day.'"
"Maybe we should have shown this to the cops, " she says. We drive
to her house where I catch four hours sleep before I get up and
head for Denver.
PS. I have heard from so many of you about how hard it is to find
my book in the bookstores. It's true -- the book does not exist
in most stores. Yet it is #1 in most cities across the country
on the bestseller lists. I don't get it. HarperCollins has been
very slow to print books and get them out there. Why this is,
I do not know. No doubt they have been caught by surprise with
the overwhelming response to the book. You can't really blame
them -- they thought the "president" had an 80% approval rating.
Bookstore owners have been desperately pleading with me to help
them get books shipped to their stores. I called HarperCollins,
and their official line is that "There are plenty of books out
there and the book has never been out of stock." Everything that
I and others have personally seen says the exact opposite.
So, I need your help. If you go to a bookstore and they don't
have the book, please send an email to HarperCollins at ...
... and be sure to c.c. me at ...
Hopefully, this will help.
You can also call the Customer Service Hotline at ...
(Punch in 1,1,0 to get to message center.)
PPS. This week, you can catch my Stupid Tour in Ann Arbor and
Detroit on Tuesday, Flint on Wednesday, Chicago on Thursday, and
Minneapolis/St. Paul on Friday.
Check my website, www/michaelmoore.com, for further details.