Protests then and now

first_imgLast weekend, protesters gathered in downtown L.A. for an anti-war demonstration to mirror the larger concurrent event in Washington. Including perennial protester Martin Sheen and the requisite protest beat of pounding drums, the throng’s signs cried the modern anti-war equivalents of “Make love, not war”: “War is not the answer”; “No blood for oil” and, at this protest, “Who would Jesus bomb?” and “Eat Republicans/not animals.” No reports of signs decrying homicidal al-Qaida maniac Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s campaign for civil war in Iraq or active campaign of terror. No reports of protests against al-Zarqawi sawing off Nick Berg’s head. Also no reports of signs bearing pics of bloodied kids’ shirts being pulled out of Saddam’s mass graves in sites dotting the Iraqi landscape. But I digress. As protests get more outlandish and try to be bigger newsmakers – and become clearinghouses for any leftist cause – what exactly is the message they’re trying to send and how truly representative of the mainstream is that message? If a middle-of-the-road voter tells a pollster that they’re uncomfortable with the war, does that exactly ally them with Cindy Sheehan’s extremist ilk? And do those with the power to effect change even care about the elaborate costumes and vitriolic messages put forth in the protests? No electable administration – Republican or Democratic – will shape its foreign policy by these protests. Or are modern-day protests with the look and feel of showy productions – complete with a sprinkling of Hollywood elite – more about attempting to humiliate those in power than attempting to be a lasting influence driven by common sense rather than emotion? Every good production needs a stellar cast, and L.A.’s demonstration included a Grim Reaper, masked political characters and an inflatable Bush doll. The protest script included words that may not be true but make for high drama: “We are killing (Iraqis), enslaving them,” one L.A. protester told the AP. (A bevy of now-free bloggers writing from within Iraq would disagree.) Producers included the ANSWER coalition, which expresses support for human-rights-violating regimes in Venezuela, Cuba, Iran and North Korea. And do protesters even know what they’re talking about? New York-based documentary filmmaker Evan Coyne Maloney has made myriad shorts at anti-war protests armed with a microphone and a cameraman, getting to know the demonstrators. What he captures is alternatingly hilarious and frightening, from theories of intergalactic Bush administration conspiracies to rank anti-Semitism displayed in the guise of peace. Maloney calmly interviews at times hysterical protesters. When one makes her standard blood-for-oil argument, he asks if all we wanted was oil, how come we didn’t just take it all in the first Gulf War? She is stumped. In another short, Maloney plays a quiz game with protesters, reading a quote citing Iraqi possession of weapons of mass destruction and giving protesters a multiple-choice list from which to pick the source. Most jump on the Bush choice, and few pick who actually said the quote: Bill Clinton. In the 2004 documentary “Celsius 41.11,” an opening clip shows a protester hollering into a camera that if a dictator provides schools and health care, “I like that dictator!” The film cuts to footage of Saddam’s goons chopping off a person’s fingers. When you move from the noble MLK-era civil rights protester into modern-day nutty extremist protester mode, can you expect anyone serious to take you seriously? Some of my left-leaning friends have visited these anti-war demonstrations and returned just shaking their heads, having seen the protests devolve from impassioned activists to forums of insane hatred and rabid anti-Americanism. Hence my favorite protest participants are the Protest Warriors, a group of mostly young men and women who dare to introduce the opposing viewpoint on crisp signs here and there at anti-war and anti-Israel (often one and the same) demonstrations. When they calmly step into the scene, they’re usually ordered to leave by those who profess to value free speech; they’re usually met with screaming or violence from “peace” protesters. The group’s very first sign read: “Except for ending slavery, fascism, Nazism and communism … War has never solved anything!” Bridget Johnson writes for the Daily News. E-mail her at [email protected] AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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