On Native Ground
HATS OFF TO THE PROTESTERS IN NEW YORK
by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- For all the people that fretted about what would happen if hundreds of thousands of people came to New York to protest the Bush administration, Sunday's march through midtown Manhattan was a repudiation of those fears.
If those who marched past Madison Square Garden heeded the warnings of the multitude of lefty pundits who feared the worst, the world would have been deprived of what I think was Sunday's most powerful image - the sight of hundreds of flag-draped coffins being carried through the streets of New York.
There were many, myself included, that thought we'd see the reenactment of Chicago '68 on the streets of New York this week. The combination of angry protesters and angrier cops and the track record of police behavior in the post-Seattle era led many to fear the worst.
Thankfully, it didn't happen. There were a couple thousand people arrested, but few violent incidents. The policing was heavy-handed, as has been the case since for every protest since the WTO met in Seattle five years ago, but there the images of clouds of tear gas and bloodied cops and protesters never materialized.
I think that was because the protesters kept the focus on reminding the world that President George W. Bush is the worst president ever, and not on trying to provoke the police.
From the thousands of union protesters on Wednesday that stood waving "pink slips" in a symbolic unemployment line that stretched from Wall Street to midtown, to the Veterans for Peace gathering in Union Square on Thursday, to Code Pink's "shut-up-athon" in front of Fox News Channel headquarters on Tuesday, the many protest events in the city this week were creative and much needed antidotes to the lies spewed out in the Garden.
People needed to be out in the streets. It may sound cliched, but silence really does equal consent. For all the fear that the right-wing press would try to demonize the left if there were violent protest in New York, we all know that they would have still said the same things even if no one showed up.
Protest really does matter. The tens of millions that turned out around the world on Feb. 15, 2003, to protest on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq failed to stop the war. However, I believe that massive show of worldwide opposition made it possible for more Americans to oppose the war and sped up the process of truth-telling that blew apart all of the Bush administration's rationales for war within weeks of the fall of Baghdad.
Historian Harvey Wasserman dubbed what happened on Feb. 15, 2003 the birth of the "superpower of peace." Since that day, opposition to the Bush administration around the nation has intensified. It made the presidential campaign of Howard Dean possible and finally convinced the Democratic Party that it was safe to take on President Bush. Although the end result, the nomination of John Kerry, wasn't what many Democratic activists had hoped for, American liberals are more united than they've been in decades.
The door of change is now ajar. What seemed unlikely a couple of years ago - George W. Bush as a one-term president - now seems almost certain. And it all began with people raising their voices and ignoring the ridicule of right-wingers and saying, "enough!"
Far from enabling the conservatives, the protests in New York this week - a kaleidoscope of dissent put on by people from all over the nation - sent a message to the Republican Party. That message is clear. The GOP's lies are withering in the face of truth. Their lies cannot survive the ridicule they richly deserve. And the GOP stands firmly on the wrong side of public opinion, the wrong side of morality and the wrong side of history.
There are just two months left before the election. A lot of things can happen and not all them will be good. The gang of scheming men who now rule our nation will not go quietly. But the sight of those flag-draped coffins being carried through the streets of New York - a symbol of the flag-draped coffins of the dead soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan that the Bush administration doesn't want us to see - was a powerful one. It is an image that I hope people remember on Nov. 2.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 20 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.