by Nancy Scola, Sat Jan 27, 2007 at 10:37:23 AM EST
by Nancy Scola, Sat Jan 27, 2007 at 10:37:23 AM EST
I was at the protest, and thought it was great, though I believe that it should have been limited to Iraq, without getting into the "Israeli Occupation of Palestine."
That's my biggest problem with these things (aside from limited effectiveness at swinging public opinion or even garnering media attention).
They become an occassion for every ultra liberal sideshow to trot out their pet cause. Tactically and strategically its a huge waste of time and energy.
Actually they didn't hijack the message like they did last time... I was at the rally and I beleive there was only one person who spoke about Israel.
Ugh - the awful International ANSWER folk got their day in the sun, yet again. Figures - they like to dilute the message of any anti-war rally in DC.
And that's the main reason I didn't go today. Living in DC, you see the detrimental effect that groups like ANSWER have at these things. And these groups are the ones that often get the media attention, to the detriment of the rally's original intent.
So I'm glad I did other things, outside of DC. Namely: I went on a long bike ride to enjoy the day. It's a route that many do in a car: backroads from Bowie, MD, to the Chesapeake Bay. But on a bike, you see more and pollute less.
I was at a New Year's Day party in San Francisco. Somebody brought up a funny line in relation to SF being the new bio-tech hub. He said that the reason there were no stem cell rallies in San Francisco was because ANSWER would say there was already a cure for everything but Israel wouldn't tell the world because they enjoyed seeing Palestinians die. Meanwhile the Green Party would claim that we would have found the cure for cancer if only Nader would have been included in the debates while Gay Shame would ridicule the entire idea of research in SF as a plot for corporations to exploit gay culture.
The nutjobs don't show up trying to dilute the message, they show up trying to hijack the crowd for the cameras. Exploiting people trying to stop a war for pet causes is disgusting.
I wound up not going, but will get info from a friend who did.
I, too, am of mixed minds about protests. They're easy for politicians to dismiss; lawmakers aren't in town to see it on a Saturday, and opinion polls tell you more about the overall electorate anyway. But there is an upside: this is a visible symbol to the rest of the world that not all the people of our country stand behind George W. Bush and his policies. Knowing this might make it easier for other countries to respect and listen to us again once we've had a change in leadership. This sort of protest can also give new life and energy and to activists, and could be the last sign a fence-sitter is waiting for.
Well the rally drew a nice size turnout and it was a good cross-section of middle America. I can only compare it to the last one I went to a couple of years ago, which was sponsored by International ANSWER, which I decided was the last ever ANSWER protest I will ever attend.
Today's was sponsored by United for Peace and Justice, which I think is more of a mainstream coalition. There was a much better lineup of speakers this time around: well known actors and actresses, Democratic congress members, labor leaders...who kept on topic of opposing the war. By comparison the ANSWER rally a couple of years ago also drew a huge turnout with a good cross section of middle America, but their speakers lineup was an abomination: harangue after harangue on Free Mumia, Free the Cuban Five, Israel out of Palestine, Unconditional Amnesty for Everyone, Smash Racism and Sexism Here At Home...every pet leftist cause but stopping the war. So today's protest was much better focused and thankfully oriented around Democratic representatives and other mainstream people.
The leftist sects and other annoyances were still there in abundance but without being able to hog the speaker's lineup were reduced to setting up tables and shoving copies of "The Militant" and "Peoples Weekly World" in the faces of passers by. The two leftist-led coalitions, ANSWER and World Can't Wait, are each holding their own competing national protests on two separate dates soon, and were trying to compete with each other getting word out about their own protests as well as getting people to take "their" signs at this one. I don't plan on going to either one - the antiwar movement needs to ditch the extreme left sects, like, yesterday.
Besides the Stalinist far left, the other peripheral-cause people in most abundance were the 9/11 Truthers. Hard to tell if they were actually significant in number or merely copying the tactics of the leftist sects to make themselves more prominent than their actual numbers. But with them passing out free DVDs and books like candy - who knows, maybe I'll find "Terrorstorm" and "Loose Change" interesting, maybe nut (er..not). Oh, and a few animal rightsies and a few Jesus nuts trying to convince everyone there that the key to world peace is to go vegetarian and/or to accept Jesus as their savior.
What wasn't there for the first time in memory, was counterprotesters. Whats'a matter Protest Warrior, too "chicken"hawk to show up and brave the 100,000 + crowd?
As with the last big protest the march part of the protest didn't come off near as smoothly as it should have. This time the problem seems to be the DC police trying to corral the entire march into a narrow fenced-off route around the Capitol Building. This didn't hold - there were just too many of us and marchers wound up taking several routes.
Forgot to mention, some good things seen there:
* Large contingent of Veterans
I think that United for Peace and Justice has a much better feel for media relations than most other groups. And their folk are much more savvy in terms of earned media: keeping the focus on message without sounding militant.
Good to know - thanks for the update!
The Washington Post had a long article on their web site (three pages of text), About half a page was spent talking about a counter protest by Free Republic. No numbers were given but I suspect they had, at best, a few hundred people. They were definitely smaller than Code Pink's 3,000 protesters.
The once mighty Free Republic has the same nasty attitude and stupid snark but while it once rivaled or even surpassed Kos in size, it is now clearly outstripped not only by Kos but by MyDD (check Alexa ratings). Only the "balance" of the "liberal" press keeps these finge groups going.
The good news is that BushCo seems to have bought the lies and seems intent on launching an ugly and stupid partisan attack on the Democrats in Congress. If anything, that will stir up some of our fight and really cause the fools some hurt.
I wuz there. Being generous, 20 people, not 100. Being accurate, maybe twelve.
So this is balance in reporting. Both sides, twelve freepers to gods know how many peacefolk.
I saw maybe 20, on the road to the left of the Capital. There were more security people there to keep us apart than there were war supporters. They seemed pretty sullen. Too bad for them!
I never saw any counterprotesters and I walked all around the Mall several times, so wherever they were it was either someplace not visible from the Mall or could have been somewhere along the march route.
CNN is reporting about 40 counterprotesters. Which is getting small and quite pathetic, not sure why they even rate a mention in the media anymore.
Mumia did it. Just saying, is all.
Did what? The murder he was prosecuted for? I'm not convinced either way. Not completely convinced he's guilty or got a fair trial, but also not convinced he isn't, and suspicious that the left may be being taken for a ride by somebody who knows how to manipulate activists using all the right identity politics symbology (i.e. changing his name, writing poetry, and sporting dreadlocks and clenched fist posts).
Or was this some kind of sarcastic reference to my remarks about the 9/11 Truthies? In which case, what's yer point eh?
The closer you live to Philadelphia, the more likely it is that you've looked at the evidence. He killed Danny Faulkner.
Thanks for clarifying - sometimes on the Internet without the benefit of noverbal communication it's hard to tell if a post is ironic or serious.
I've never had the time or inclination to give all the evidence a close look so honestly can't state an opinion either way - but as I said, I do have a suspicion the left is being used and manupulated, among others by Mumia himself, because true believers (of any kind) tend to respond to symbolism. Maybe someday I'll have the time to look at this case in detail. I will say I have no sympathy for those who think cop-killers are heroes, so if he is guilty... Most cops are decent working class guys trying to do one of the harder jobs out there.
I completley agree about ANSWER. they are horrible. I watched some of the rally on C-SPAN and I must admit I became sick to my stomach watching Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins speak so sanctimonoiusly against Bush and the war.
Where were they in 2000? They were doing all they could to elect Bush by supporting Ralph Nader and repeating over and over again that it didn't matter who won. 3,000 American and 100,000 Iraqi deaths later and it mattered. Now they rail against a war and an administration they helped put into power. Sarandon even said at a Nader rally "We survived Nixon and we'll survive Bush". Maybe she will. She's a millionaire.
Sorry to rant. But the hipocricy is breath taking.
I missed this one but went to NYC for the convention and DC from Michigan before "mistakes" were made. And yah sure, every cause shows up, trys to add their message to the coalition and get more support by burning dragons in one case or using free speech in others. You can call it a distraction, but what part of coalition don't people understand.
But the huge, outstanding difference at all three of these has been the large turn out of all ages. These just haven't been large marches of 20-30 year olds, but a slice of the country that is hard to refute. All night rides for 70 year olds isn't easy, but they've been there every time!
And look on the bright side, every Free Mumia t-shirt just gives mainstream Dems who have been slowed from getting their latte on one Saturday anther chance to have a Sista Soldja moment.
Just got back from the rally about an hour ago - here are some of my thoughts:
1. It was a huge success. I think organizers put the number somewhere around 600,000. Of course, I turn on CNN a minute ago, and they report that "tens of thousands" attended the rally. Ugh.
2. It was well organized and included prominent speakers. Conyers, Kucinich, and especially Waters were fantastic. Jesse Jackson was also there along with a bunch of Hollywood stars like Tim Robbins and Susan Seranden. Oh, and someone named Jane Fonda spoke too.
3. As one commenter noted above, there were quite a lot of vets in attendance, which was fantastic to see.
4. In what was, I think, a terrific gesture on their part, a number of of senators' staffers stood outside one of the Senate office buildings holding a banner "Senators Against the War." I didn't get a glimpse of all of their name tags, but there were representatives from Senators Harkin, Leahy, Murray, and Feingold there.
5. Lastly, there were very, very few counter-protesters...I would say about 30 or so in total. To give you a sample of their general IQ, one proudly held up a sign saying "Hippies Smell." Genius. Nonetheless, they managed to rile up us protesters, getting us to shout appropriate phrases like "Go fight [in Iraq]," and "We want peace."
I was there too. I thought the numbers were somewhere around 100,000-150,000 -- if it was 600,000 I'll eat my hat (I actually wore a hat, so this is not an empty threat), but 'tens of thousands' understates it, unless you're being very literal-minded.
I couldn't hear the speeches, so no comment on that. I was struck by how very, um, white the crowd seemed, at least where I was.
Averaging out reports on attendance, as well as a few aerial shots I've seen, I'd say 100,000 to 140,000 is not out of the question.
600,000 is a big stretch, methinks.
Also: the traffic in and around DC didn't make it seem like 600K - it wasn't gridlocked enough to support such claims.
But it sounds nice to folks in the crowd, and boots their morale.
Great synopsis. By observation, the turnout surpassed my most liberal expectations. It was huge! And, on balance, the speakers kept the focus one the main issue: Iraq.
Unlike the protests in the past, I like that the organizers of today's event arranged to have a two-pronged approach, beginning with today's awesome rally followed by one or two days of lobbying Congress and the Senate. Even the media are commenting about this new approach.
Also, one of the speakers said something very memorable and inspiring. To loosely paraphrase, "The vote did not bring women the right to vote; the vote did not bring civil rights to oppressed African Americans; the vote did not end the Vietnam war. It was the struggle, not the vote, that brought about change."
Today's evolution of traditional protest marches into protest marches and lobbying efforts demonstrates that the tools of the past can be adapted to work in tandem with new age tools to achieve political change more effectively than relying one any single approach.
The folks holding a "Senators Against the War" banner were actually protesting the fact that the senators were not there. I talked to one with a Senator Feingold stick, thinking he was a staffer, and he relied "no, I'm Senator Feingold."
Ahem: those "stale old '60s tactics" helped stop a tragic, immoral war. I know that's hard to take coming from an über-boomer like myself, but it's the truth. For the last few years, folks have been bombarding the government with their awesome attack blogs, and the result is....???
Email campaigns are trés cool and keep one at a safe distance, but safety is an illusion. We sold our soul as a nation and now we have Bush. Thousands of people getting arrested protesting the war would legitimize lots more open dissent. That's what we did in the "stale old '60s." Now we have piss-ant DEMOCRATIC MAJORITY senators afraid to take on a dictator. This is progressive politics? This is an improvement??
The fabulous protests died off the minute the draft did.
The "evil immoral war" lasted another couple years, but when the boomers lost the risk of a draft, they took off to start up the path to 80's yuppie.
Now we have piss-ant DEMOCRATIC MAJORITY senators afraid to take on a dictator.
Uh, no. We have 49 Democrats plus Bernie Sanders. Then there's Joe Liarman, who supports the W-ar.
Hey now, don't annoy the protest crowd with reality! Just repeat after me, "there were 600K people there!"
On a serious note, I think that Rallies often send very powerful messages. There are instances where things will get off track and everyone will promote their pet causes, but more often than not I think a well organized rally serves a useful purpose.
Rallies are a powerful communications tool, and a great way to catch the attention of the media and elected officials. A good rally sends a strong signal that there are many people that care passionately about a particular issue.
I have grown to hate rallies, but I still have a soft spot for marches. The problem with rallies is who controls the mic and more often than not it seems to be given to whomever is the worst spokesperson.
I went to these from the start, but was increasingly turned off by the ANSWER/Green Party/Socialist Workers hijacking of the crowd.
But this one was much better, especially from a message standpoint. There were still a slim minority of counter-productive hijackers, but for the most part the message was conveyed that there are a lot of people who want to get our troops out of harms way.
Of course, there was the old leftist who keeps a bull horn next to the bong and recycled the old LBJ from 40 years ago as:
Hey Bush, what'd you say
how many kids did you kill today?
The recent events have been in stark contrast to the dark days of rallies instead of marches with the speakers determined by ANSWER.
Beyond the message, I think the most noticeable difference from four years ago was the police. Instead of breaking out the riot gear and breaking skulls, the cops were in regular uniform walking with smiles along side the marchers. I remember seeing some really awful scenes with the police and their shift in posture and attitude seemed to represent the shift in America.
Similar experience with the cops. As recently as 2005, I got pepper sprayed (January) and motorcycle-rammed (September). Nothing comparable today.
I remember when the war first broke out, I was at a protest and saw a cop who was a friend of a friend who I had been at many great parties with over the years. I had a messenger's bag that I had filled with a half dozen bottles of water. He was visibly sweating a lot under the riot gear. I offered him an unopened bottle of water. He looked longingly at it but said he couldn't (then his sergeant ordered me to step back). The relationship between cops and protesters was so antagonistic that two people who had known each other for years couldn't even share some water in the hot sun.
I'm glad it has progressed to the point where today he wouldn't have been in riot gear but would be able to accept some water. I didn't see him today, but I wouldn't be surprised if he had shown up even if it was his day off.
It is a crude yardstick, but I think it represents an important change.
Yeah, correct, another big contrast even to the 2005 protest in DC - noticable lack of riot cops this time. There were a few on standby over by the Capitol but well out of the way of the protest. Whereas in 2005 they were lining much of the march route, and I remember seeing protests in smaller cities in 2002-03 that had 100 riot cops at a 300-person protest.
It's probably a very good sign that the public mood has changed considerably. My own guess is the policy of going overkill with riot cops at protests started because of the Seattle '99 WTO protests and made even worse by the for-us-or-against-us paranoia after 9/11. But in a way it's also too bad - those big, burly, sweaty, bulked-up riot cops make for some good scenery and may even be hotter than ninjas and lumberjac...never mind :)
The SDS called for a radical youth contingent starting from Dupont Circle. The planning got screwed up by two of the web sites being down for the past week-and-a-half.
The RYC started with 170 people and gathered more along the way. An improvised snake march went from Dupont Circle to Maryland Avenue; it kept moving, both calm and bold, without fighting. There was a loud confrontation on 3rd street, but the police didn't attack, and other people from the mall joined in, and the police fell back while several hundred protesters reached the Capitol steps between 1:00 and 1:30.
I don't think the big rally/march setup helps groups take these kinds of opportunities.
Here are our photos from the rally and march.
It was a beautiful day to be out on the national mall and encouraging to see so many people turn out.
You had front row seats! Great pics. Robbins is waaaaay taller than his wife.
What a snide post. As a native Washingtonian and marcher in every major protest since 1967, I think Nancy is forgetting what those protests accomplished. We got at least a start on the civil rights we marched for and ended the war we marched against. Perhaps Nancy wasn't born for those, but having been there, I have to say they were unforgettably moving. Everyone around me for I Have A Dream was in tears, as was I. And we faced riot police unlike anything put out for today's marches. At the biggest anti-Vietnam war march, tanks and armed soldiers surrounded Dupont Circle, facing out towards us protesters. If people like Nancy cared enough about suspension of habeas corpus, government-sponsored torture, and the like to get out and march against them, maybe we wouldn't have those things today. But it's much easier to sneer at the 60s and the Mumia folks.
The point of protest at that time was moral persuasion. MLK vividly demonstrated his moral superiority. The question you have to ask of people like Bush and Cheney is do they even care about protests. We had some of the largest protests in the history of this nation, and massive protests around the world prior to Iraq and it all achieved nothing, and in some ways reinforced the Right wing on their path to war. I think the people on the right are immune to moral persuasion, they believe they have the unassailable moral high ground and will always refuse to concede that the left also has a moral position. So in their case, protests don't work, they won't work because they don't care what we do. The only people who will respond to protests are Dems, so in a sense protest will only work if we attack ourselves, which to me seems counter productive.
There are more cost effective ways to organize people than mass protests, if thats the goal. If persuasion is the goal, protests are for the most part ineffective. If getting media exposure and connecting with the American people and "being heard" is the goal, it is ineffective. Effective protests makes people stop and think, it compels them to consider what you say. We haven't had those kinds of protests in a long time. Protest is useless in my opinion unless it is goal oriented, has a useful and focused strategy behind it and a vehicle for making it into the media.
You want a real protest, call a general strike. Stop all activity in America for a day. People will listen to you if you do something like that.
Yes, I agree ... we had some tough times, and times are hard now too. We accomplished a lot, but not as much as I'd hoped, and probably not as much as you hoped either.
I've got nothing against, and much for the others that come to these marches. People have all kinds of visions, and Mumia A-J's a real person with a real story to tell, not a joke or an icon.
My hope is that we can move beyond the past by building on it. If every generation tears down the work that was done before it'll go much slower.
Here's some photos of the day
Who needs Freepers when the folks at myDD are so eager to TRASH our allies, like Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Jane Fonda, etc.
Can't be bothered with a mass demonstration against the war because it's INCONVENIENT? Well, I hope you had a lovely bike ride. Don't like some of the stands of demo organizers, like the ANSWER folks who busted their butts putting together the massive rallies before the war? It's called coalition politics, you spoiled little shits. Think Free Mumia t-shirts are a sign of easily distracted liberals? HEY! How many innocent militants do you think are in prison? What do you think African-Americans think about the criminal justice system? Do you think capital punishment reinforces the "violence against our threatening enemies" theme?
I usually appreciate this blog but some of today's comments make me realize how much self-education the narrowly constructed anti-war movement really needs.
Oh, and it's spelled hypocrisy and does not apply in the furthest stretch of the word to Robbins and Sarandon.
Excepting that whole 2000 Nader Raider thing.
Oh, I forgot, much like GWB thinks we should forget him screwing up by invading to begin with, you think we should forget all about that.
Nope, no hypocrites here. No siree.
But hypocicy does seem to apply. You self-righteously (and what doesn't a protest type not do self-righteously?) claimed not. I simply corrected you.
Coalition politics is good and I do not share the views of those who would trash Robbins, Sarandon et al for supporting Nader in 2000.
I do share the views of those critical of ANSWER and their ilk. We need to be making coalitions with the broadest cross-section of the public, and sometimes this means cutting ties to tiny fringe groups which are offensive to 99.99% of the public. We need to be making coalitions with people like Ron Paul, Paul Craig Roberts and Antiwar.com, Andrew Sullivan and his supporters, Blue Dog and DLC Democrats who have come around to oppose the war, and Veterans, GIs, and their families. Not with tiny Stalinist and Maoist cults.
You can view ANSWER as busting their butt to organize the early protests, but what I see them as busting their butt to do was trying to exert the "hegemony" of the Workers World Party over the antiwar protest movement. Thankfully, they failed: far too many people from a broad cross-section of the public oppose this war and are coming out to protest it. The antiwar protest movement has succeeded, not because of ANSWER but in spite of it.
It wasn't because of inconvenience. Rather, it's because rallies don't really achieve much in the political landscape these days. Like ElitistJohn said: once the draft was gone, so was the efficacy of virtually all "stop the war" type marches and rallies.
And these mega-rallies just don't have the focus they should, nor to they effect actions of change among many of their attendees. Sure, a lot of people at the march/rally will talk the talk on rally day, but hoe many are lobbying on The Hill today? Possibly 1 percent - and I'm being generous in making that guess.
But there are a good number of people who came to the rally simply for the experience ("let's look at the 'things I've got to do before I die' list.... 'mega-rally in DC?' Check!"). And there are some who only feel safe stating their preference when they're surrounded by thousands of like-minded individuals.
And the thing is: the people in power know this, and thus discount the whole thing as a "massive release" for the activists who show up. So I feel sorry for the people who showed up in DC with true activist conviction, only to see the rally come and go with little to no actual change.
No, there are better ways to get the message through to the people who actually bring about change. Those who lobby on The Hill today may be able to do something, but it's tough to say. The most effective form of persuading MoC is to be persistent and firm, yet respectful as well. The old adage still applies: "you'll attract more flies with honey than with vinegar."
So I hope that the people who are working The Hill today are being cordial, yet firm, with a focused message. I hope that's how it's going, because I've seen far too many activists wear out their welcome through bad behavior.
Yes, civil disobedience is an effective tool, but it still takes tact.
And in riding my bike, I got to work political networks that have better access to power players than most people would've had at the rally or on The Hill today.
Like I said: we all have our own ways of working the system.
Has anybody else noticed that the Washington D.C. street cams, here:
...were not operating during the march? Not one of them.
They're fine now, of course.
What a shock.
It was a good day in DC yesterday, but a bit strange. At the rallies before the war we hoped hoped hoped hoped we could keep it from happening. Now, I had a sense that a lot of people at the rally were ambivalent about what the correct course should be, regardless of the signs and the chants. A young friend and I talked about that a lot, very complicated. The egg is broken, can't put it together again. Made for a more subdued crowd than prewar that was, on balance, much more focused on the issue of the day than the ANSWER events, both on the stage and in the crowd. But it was mighty good to be there with my family and friends and standing against BushCo. As the chant goes "Do you know what democracy looks like? This is what democracy looks like!" It is. You should never diminish what it means to have a thousand, or ten thousand, or a hundred thousand, . . . people step out of their comfortable lives and do this. And these aren't just a bunch of activists, as the Post article reported. It was a cross section of America, just like the prewar events which were startling in the general normality of the people in attendence.
We rode the Metro in with a young woman holding an anti-war sign who had lost her husband in Iraq 2 years ago, and with her daughter. We talked a bit, and she said her daughter has a terrible rage and hatred against one man, I would assume Bush. Her grandparents are republican stalwarts who keep trying to tell her that this was the right thing to do; she has finally told them to just stop.
Elitist John--well-named. But the poor fool is still confused about the meaning of hypocrisy. Does he think a vote for Nader was a vote for unprovoked invasions? Does he think voting for a third party candidate means one is forever forbidden from engaging in politics? How the hell is this hypocrisy?
Ah well, I guess we can tolerate some muddleheaded elitists in our ranks.