The Anti-War Demonstration in DC
It was here and I was here so I figured that I may as well go and see what the hubbub was about. There's an off chance that it'd make some history and I wanted to say that I was there. I went w/ a press pass, jacket and tie, so I stood out from much the crowd. If you've wandered the streets of DC you know that a jacket and tie rarely make one stand out. However, it was a rare day.

The Press 'Pressing'
Why they say "The Press"

The demonstration was primarily organized by two different groups, the United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) and Act Now to Stop War & End Racism (ANSWER). Apparently, these two groups have a history of antipathy toward one another. Take for example excerpts from this article in the SF Chronicle:

War protests make for strange bedfellows
... national anti-war leaders ... are trying to deal with one of the questions they've heard from both moderate suburbanites and conservative critics:
Is the movement too far left?
... the two main groups ... signed a three-page agreement covering everything from who will hold the lead parade banner to how big protesters' placards can be ...
... the pact ... also says, "Between now and the end of the demonstration on Sept. 24, each coalition agrees not to attack the other coalition."
... ANSWER insisted on ground rules for Saturday's demonstration allowing signage linking the Iraq war to "the colonial occupation of Palestine, the occupation of Haiti and other anti-imperialist positions."

[UFPJ] signage [focused] solely on the war.
"There's a feeling among some of our members that some of the more vocal people at these rallies are part of the far left and not representative of most Americans." "But this is such an important moment in history that we wanted to support the events."

[--Tom Matzzie, director of]
"Support for the anti-war message is so important that we are willing to participate in a demonstration with others whose views we find obnoxious."
[-- Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine and a scheduled speaker for the 09-25 interfaith service]

I need one of those cool boom mikes
Sheehan and Jackson being Pressed.

Reuters went so far as to refer to two separate demonstrations:
Anti-IMF, anti-war protests coincide in Washington
Anti-globalization protesters will again descend on the U.S. capital this week to demonstrate against the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, but this time they'll have to share the streets with anti-war activists.

Iran Already
One of the signs that caught my eye

The Rainbow Family's barefoot and angry spectrum was there of course. That's to be expected. But what I found more interesting were the numerous middle-America looking families- a mom and a dad replete w/ umbrella, water bottles and perhaps a couple of folding chairs with a kid in a stroller and a grade school tagalong- and the veterans from Korea and WWII and other folks of their age group for whom an all-day outdoor event was a commitment and a test of will and preparation. Surely, these folks weren't from the ANSWER crowd.

Then there was a plethora of journalists of various sorts from around the world. At various points, I stood next to a camera man from Japan, a South American TV crew, a Middle Eastern TV crew who held out some hope about a rumor that George Galloway spoke Arabic. [No sugar for that crotchety old bugger's porridge I'm sure.]

The event was everything I hate about bumpersticker logic combined with everything I ever hated about pep-rallies. I heard no informative speeches there. I saw no useful information being dispersed. I did hear lots and lots of sloganeering and saw a number of socialist/conspiracist tracts and rags. I left just before 1400 local time. The only newsworthy thing was that there were so many people there. That's it. There were no money quotes to be garnered, there were no groundbreaking actions to be covered all that there was was a whole hell of a lot of folks. Many more of them of suburbanite appearnce than I expected.

Last I heard, the estimate was 150,000 folks suffered (to various degrees) through that sea of hogwash to demonstrate that they held serious objections to our exceptionally expensive social-engineering experiment we've been conducting halfway 'round the world.

I learned a number of real-world lessons. I'll share a couple here.

Basicaly all that the demonstration was about was a show of power (of sorts). The rally wasn't a teach-in or some sort of informative event, it was purely a show of how much support the ant-war sentiment could draw. The rally took place on the elipse and the march was in and around the White House area of DC. The entire goal was to see how many folks could be persuaded to show up. Then there was an attempt to keep them entertained for the duration of the process. That was that for the demonstration. Pure politics crude and simple.

I also realized that I covered the event all wrong. I failed to cover the story "on its own terms." I've got to go back and re-examine the teachings of the irreverent master . The next outdoor event I'll cover geared out as a participant rather than as a spectator.

Cynthia Sheehan

[UPDATE 1003 Photos added]
[UPDATE 1008 Coding]
25 Sep 2005 by Simon W. Moon