I Protest

For the first time in my life, I attended an antiwar protest. I was sitting at home watching CNN, CBS, MSNBC, etc. pumping out war porn, when suddenly a short local news segment came on showing a protest forming in my town. The newscaster scoffed at the protesters, claiming there were only a dozen or so, and that the protest would be unlikely to grow since this is a college town and everyone is on spring break. I immediately decided to join the protest they needed support from everyone they could reach. I quickly took a large sheet of poster board, wrote NO WAR in sumi ink with a large brush, and then splattered it with droplets of red paint that looked like blood. I had to dry the paint with a hair dryer so I could get downtown in a hurry.

I arrived at the protest just as they started to march. As usual, the media lied, there were hundreds of people marching. We marched down the city’s main street, forming a line several blocks long. As we marched past the Fire House, I noticed firemen taking photos, so I shouted out “money for firefighters, not war!” and a rousing yell of agreement came from the crowd. The media was in attendance, and many cameras focused on my sign, one of the most graphic in the protest. We reached the main plaza and as we listened to some bad speeches, a crazy veteran in a tattered military jacket assaulted one of the protesters. He was arrested. The military teaches people that every problem has a violent solution. We must stop the military juggernaut, if only for that reason; it teaches people violence and then discharges them back into the populace.

I returned home, and turned on CNN. They were showing helicopter video of protests on Market Street in San Francisco. Aaron Brown was denouncing the protesters for violence, as he replayed the video repeat over and over. But the video clearly showed something else was happening, it was like Brown didn’t even look at the video. Protesters were standing in the intersection, shutting down the street. A car forced its way into the crowd, the protesters surrounded it and sat down in front of it. Suddenly, a redneck with a mullet haircut jumped out of the car and started beating on the protesters, they jumped back as he ran after them. Another protester jumped into the car and swiped the guy’s car keys. Other protesters did exactly what they are supposed to do, they tried to defuse the situation, they grabbed the protester and took the keys away and gave them back to the angry, violent guy. Then mullet-head started hitting the protesters again. It was sickening, but not as sickening as hearing Aaron Brown describing the protesters as violent. It was the bystanders that were violent, just like the protest I attended.

I read a few Direct Action manuals from militant SF protest groups, and I can immediately see what went wrong. Human bodies alone cannot shut down a major road if you’ve got nutcases prepared to drive right over the crowd, you need more. What they should have done is drive a car into the middle of the intersection, start a left turn across all lanes, then stop and turn off the key, get out, and raise the hood and fiddle with the engine like you’re having car trouble. A few stalled cars separated by a block each, and the whole city is gridlocked.

I could also give a few tips to our local protesters. First, dogs and dense crowds do not mix, leave your dog at home. I heard numerous yipes and yips from dogs as their paws were stepped on by marchers. Second, if you use a bullhorn or amplifier, you must keep the microphone well behind the speaker or you get feedback. Thirdly, nobody can read signs written in 1/4 inch magic markers, get some poster paint and a 2 inch brush, or a Biggie 50. And last of all, if it’s cold and damp, give the crowd some rousing speeches with opportunities to yell and clap and stomp, if for no other reason than to keep their bodies moving and warm. Otherwise, they’ll drift away.

I stayed to the end of the final speech, and then asked one of the protesters who was attacked what happened and if the guy was arrested. He said, “I hope not, he was just upset.” Hell, we’re all upset, I would not have been so magnanimous. But I was refilled with pride at the behavior of the peace activists, they were attacked in a most cowardly fashion, attacked from behind when they could not see the approaching blow nor defend against it, and they refused to retaliate. The violent ones are the true cowards.

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