If you ever needed proof that the tea party "movement" is not really a movement but a few people newly interested in politics magnified one thousand times by a lazy, irresponsibly press, this is it. Two rallies in DC yesterday. One was for peace, one was for stopping the health care bill. One was put together by the ANSWER Coalition and other antiwar groups. One was put together by the tea party people and their friends in high places. One had as many as 2,000 people attend. One had as many as 10,000 people attend. Yet the smaller tea party protest had a much higher profile in the news than the march for peace!
The peace movement is a real grassroots movement that exists Without the wmagnifying glass of the corporate media to exaggerate the impact of it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t benefit the Washington Post to admit that the reason the march stopped in front of their building was not actually their "editorial board’s positions on the wars," but their reporting which – in its substance and topics which are covered – is completely biased in favor of a corporatist, echo chamber view of reality. Maybe that’s the reason why there was a speaker from Project Censored.
As for what happened at the protest, starting at about noon there were speakers on a platform that had been set up in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House. When I arrived, I spoke to Mike Gravel for a bit, although he did not give a speech. Famous personalities like Cindy Sheehan and Ralph Nader spoke, as well as prominent people in the antiwar movement like Kevin Zeese, along with some lesser known people, like a group of high school students.
At one point, the Raging Grannies got up and sang a song in honor of the late Granny D. I couldn’t find a video of it, but here’s an equally entertaining and poignant song about the Citizens United ruling:
Some speakers were veterans – one of Korea, a few of Afghanistan and Iraq, including one who burnt a flag while saying, "This is what I think of this country!" – and some were mothers who have had their children killed in the line of duty. One representative of labor spoke, and a few representatives of the Arab and Muslim communities spoke. There was a strong socialist presence at the rally (maybe it’s a good thing we didn’t run into the tea party protesters…), including speaker and 2009 candidate for mayor of New York City Frances Villar of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
The ages of protesters spanned from toddlers to people who have been on Medicare since before most of the people there were born. I’m seventeen on Monday and saw plenty of people my age there. The largest age group was probably those same people who have been showing up at these events since the ’60s. Some see that as a sign of desperation, that they still have to show up forty years later, but I think it’s admirable that they haven’t given up yet. An organizer from World Can’t Wait (they are actually having a fundraising drive right now, and I highly recommend you donate at least a few bucks!) said to me yesterday that he hopes I won’t be doing "this same shit" forty years from now. I hope so, too, but we can, if we need to, take comfort in the words of those great radicals Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn.
The Iraq War – there was massive protests before it officially started, and I stress "officially" because your candidate for president of the, presidency of the EU, and his colleague George Bush knew that they were already…start[ing] the war when they were putting on a show about wanting diplomacy and so on. But before it was officially started – March, 2003 – there was a massive international protest. I think that’s the first time in history that an imperialist war has been massively protested before it was officially begun… There was no saturation bombing by B-52s, there was no chemical warfare – horrible enough, but it could’ve been a lot worse.
And furthermore, the Bush Administration had to back down on its war aims. Step by step, it had to allow elections, which they didn’t want to do; mainly a victory for nonviolent Iraqi protest. They could kill insurgents, they couldn’t deal with hundreds of thousands of people in the streets, and their hands were tied by the domestic constraints…They had to back down…Iraq’s a horror story, but it could’ve been a lot worse. So, yes, citizen protest can do something…we know that from this and many other examples. When there’s no protest and no attention, the power just goes wild. Like in Cambodia, Northern Laos.
–Noam Chomsky, "Crises and the Unipolar Moment," October, 2009
You can never predict how something will take place… There’s no way of predicting how a movement develops. All you can do, really, you do your part, you do whatever you can, you organize with other people, you… You try to get some, some kind of change, and if enough people do enough things, even if they’re little things, they will add up. Because that’s what happens in movements…just millions of people doing small things which they cannot predict…its results.
–Howard Zinn on The Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show
After the speakers, we walked for maybe ten or fifteen blocks. I spent a lot of the time with my brother, who was filming a lot of what was going on. In the next few weeks, I’ll make a video or three out of the footage and post it here. We stopped at the Halliburton headquarters, the Washington Post building, and a few other places. In front of Halliburton, an effigy of Dick Cheney was torn apart, cursed at, and kicked.
Finally, we again reached the White House, where some protesters – including Cindy Sheehan – laid fake coffins down near the White House, and were arrested for it. As cops later tore apart the flag-draped coffins and threw the pieces on the ground, protesters yelled, "Don’t let those flags hit the ground."
After that it calmed down, with people quietly mulling in the street or in Lafayette Park. Some were sleeping and one man was rapping into a megaphone while a group that had been playing drums for the march played for him and the people dancing around them.
Less people showed up than in 2006 or 2007, but more showed up than in November of 2009, after Obama announced the escalation of forces in Afghanistan. I have faith in the people. I think we are starting to realize that these wars are wrong, no matter who is president.