Sunday, January 28, 2007

Who's Listening to the Sounds of the American Street? DC March Coverage Round Up

According to the folks at DC Indymedia, hundreds of thousands of people showed up in Washington yesterday to protest the war and called for the impeachment of President Bush.
After reading many different stories, I'd say that the protest again reflected a wide cross-section of Americans, but there were a few differences between this march and previous ones.

Most big DC demos don't include actions by any Black Bloc, but this one did:
Indymedia activists are the only ones to say much about the action at the capital, a rush of black-clad anarchists chanting "our congress," that sounds as if it was quite dramatic. These photos show what it looked like, and the comments feature the usual discussion of whether mass demonstrations put on by UFPJ or ANSWER do any good. One of the more interesting threads at the DC Indymedia page, (NY indymedia does not feature the anti-war protest in its coverage today) is about the overall decline of indymedia as evidenced by the lack of coverage of the demonstration. I for one, am disappointed in NY Indymedia, and not only because they removed me from their blogwire last year.

While it is often the case that the mainstream media will over-report anything resembling disorder at a demonstration, the capital action - damn unusual for a DC protest, especially because it did not result in arrests - got almost no coverage from the mainstream media. The lack of coverage suggests one of two possibilities: 1) the action was a huge success and reporting on it would have made the anti-war movement look stronger than the current coverage does 2) The reporters at major newspapers are more sympathetic to the anti-war movement than they used to be and chose to focus on the majority of people at the demonstration rather than the small "black bloc" contingent of 300.

Which do you think it is, readers, or is there another explanation?

The first news article I saw mentioning it came from the AP, which referred to it as an attempt to "rush the capital." and said:

The rally on the Mall unfolded peacefully, although about 300 protesters tried to rush the Capitol, running up the grassy lawn to the front of the building. Police on motorcycles tried to stop them, scuffling with some and barricading entrances. Protesters chanted "Our Congress" as their numbers grew and police faced off against them. Demonstrators later joined the masses marching from the Mall, around Capitol Hill and back.

* *
Another major element of this protest that deserves emphasis was the organized contingent of active duty military at the demonstration, described at Commondreams before the fact.
The AP story was also the main one to feature significant presence of active-duty members of the military in the anti-war march:

A small contingent of active-duty service members attended the rally, wearing civilian clothes because military rules forbid them from protesting in uniform.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Tassi McKee, 26, an intelligence specialist at Fort Meade, Md., said she joined the Air Force because of patriotism, travel and money for college. "After we went to Iraq, I began to see through the lies," she said.
In the crowd, signs recalled the November elections that defeated the Republican congressional majority in part because of
President Bush's Iraq policy. "I voted for peace," one said.
"I've just gotten tired of seeing widows, tired of seeing dead Marines," said Vincent DiMezza, 32, wearing a dress Marine uniform from his years as a sergeant. A Marine aircraft mechanic from 1997 to 2002, he did not serve in Iraq or
This growing group of "anti-war" GIs is probably the most significant element of the anti-war movement, begun by Iraq Veterans Against the War.

For more general march news....

Predictably, the New York Times reported - on page 21, though its front page blurb refers readers to p. 22, that "Tens of thousands of protesters" out to oppose the "troop surge" but also gives the UFPJ's estimate of 400,000 protesters toward's the article's end.
The Chicago Sun Times, gave the same number.
The Washington Post gave no numbers, but focused on the Hollywood presence.
The bloggers at The DailyKos had a contingent at the big march, and have a number of discussions going on about it - here and here and here and here, including personal photo diaries and with long comment threads addressing such points as "why Jane Fonda" and the ever-popular crowd counting problem.
Daniel Manattt has a "video blog" of the march at the Huffington Post.
The Middle East Online reported 1/2 a million Americans protested against Bush's escalation of the Iraq war.

In my search for YouTube march videos, I came across this video promotion of the march, which is quite moving. Its focus is American casualties.
I don't know what casualty counts were mentioned most at the protest, but given the number of protesters, if they were as high as UFPJ says (between 400,000 and 600,000) they would come into range of the current, and most reliable, estimates of Iraqi casualties. (you can read a shorter article about the latest Lancet study here)If you doubt this number, I strongly suggest that you listen to the report "What's in a Number?" from the radio show "This American Life" about the Lancet study's methodology, and the credentials of the leader of the research team, whose numbers on other humanitarian crises are accepted as valid. The only reason for the dispute about the Iraq casualty numbers is that they just sound too high. hmmmm.

and that's all for now. If you were at the march, please post comments about your experiences and links to any coverage I missed.


The Pagan Science Monitor said...

Thanks for the comprehensive links round-up. I think your analysis of the COMA (corporate media) coverage is correct (and i pick #2, reporters more sympathetic to the mainstream "stop the surge" message, therefore down-playing anything more militant).
The AP story mentioning the "rush" on the Capitol was EVERYWHERE. It was literally picked up by every dang English-language corporate media outlet on the web.
I did get word (posted on T.P.S.M.) that there were a lot more young people in D.C. than have been visibly self-organized anywhere else in a while, and that they were politically "ahead of" the organizers and speakers from the stage.
BTW, we also linked to your "politics & medicine" post the other day.

Anonymous said...

What's the purpose of these marches?

I'm asking as one who's done it many times.

The results are nearly always the same: a few seconds on the "newstainment" shows; debates over the numbers; hyping on the so-called anarchists (who are probably heavily infilitated with undercovers).

Solidarity? Sure, but how many other people are influenced, convinced, etc? Was a single GOP Congressional-warhead impressed into putting his/her country before their party? (Course not; he/she is already fighting for their country, the plutocratic imperialist fundamentalist one). Were the Democratic-enablers of the war? The zombies in television land? They saw a funny puppet or a sign, but it passed through them like the Maalox commercial that followed it.

These are serious questions regarding efficacy and participaritory democarcy, which most Americans have abandoned, if they ever knew they had it... and mostly, of course, they haven't had it.

The marches of yore were often components of movements that also included sit-ins, boycotts, teach-ins, and strikes. And sometimes worse things...

Let's face it, with holding pens, massive police presence, urban lockdowns, and the other parts of the Greenzoning of our major cities, the spectacle of these marches ain't what it used to be. Millions marched against the war to begin with, yes, but many, many more millions didn't. Until those numbers are a little more in balance, until the cities and the states/state is brought to a standstill (Northcom's ready for that, though); until we refuse to go to work, buy their shit, or watch it on TV; until we fill every hallway in Congress with bodies, fill every Congressional office with bodies (just try getting in to HRC's NYC offices on 3rd Avenue!); in short, until we have an actual democracy...