BuzzFlash Reader Commentary
October 7, 2002
A Report on the Seattle Peace Demonstration
BuzzFlash Reader Commentary
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Sunday October 6th
Just before arriving at Volunteer Park, the organizing site for the coming Peace March, I had been listening to the largest of Seattle's radio stations. They reported the protesters as "numbering in the hundreds". So as I walked into the amphitheater, I wasn't prepared for incredible, heart-warming sight. The place was packed! There were well over 5000 peace advocates there already, with hundred more arriving by the minute. The crowd was so large that it spilled over the surrounding park for blocks, making it impossible to get any kind of accurate estimate. So much for media accuracy!
I was shocked by the size of the crowd. In the week prior to the event, there had been a complete media blackout of the planned protest. Not one word. How in the heck had all these folks found out about it? The turnout was incredible; surprising everyone who was there. It felt good to know that we were not alone in opposing the coming war.
After a few speeches and a couple of songs, the two-mile long march from Capital Hill down to Westlake Center began. Thousands carried signs showing insight and wisdom I thought no longer existed in America. The front end of the march left Volunteer Park a little after 3 pm. Protesters were still filing out of the park at a quarter to 4! The march extended for dozens of blocks with more folks joining the ranks as we walked. At the halfway point, a reporter for indymedia counted the crowd at about 8,000 with another 2000 waiting at the Westlake Park where the Peace March would end for the final rally. I was personally somewhere in the middle of the march and could not see either the front or the back. Fox news and all the local TV, Radio and Newspapers later reported the crowd to be "over 5000" citing estimates from the Seattle Police department. But given how little of the truth we are currently getting from the mainstream media, I trust the guys at indymedia.
During the Peace March, folks sang "All we are saying… is give peace a chance". Having participated in Vietnam War protests, hearing John's beautiful hymn again brought tears to my eyes. To this was added a new chant, "Drop Bush, Not Bombs!". In front of me, a group of young children were carrying a huge balloon, over 12 feet across. They had painted the balloon the color of the earth. There were families walking together, Vietnam war wets wearing their military fatigues, old people, young people, blacks, whites, hispanics… a remarkable cross-section of Americans.
Arriving at Westlake Center in downtown Seattle, I was dismayed to see the usually corporate media vans blocking access to the Speakers podium. This is clearly a violation of Seattle's Parking ordinance, but for obvious reasons the police turn a blind eye to it. Further protest space was taking up by huge freight trucks. One truck had the label of some cat food company. The police had the only street adjoining Westlake Center blocked off making it nearly impossible for the protesters to even file into the remaining space. Thousands were left just standing on Pine Street for 15 to 20 minutes as organizers tried to find a way to get folks past the various corporate, media and police obstructions.
Eventually (with folks still standing out in the street) the rally got started. I was lucky. I found a park bench a few hundred yards from the podium I could stand on. I couldn't really see the stage but at least I could hear what they were saying. One of the first speakers was Seattle congressman, Jim McDermott. He had gone to Baghdad the preceding week in a last-ditch effort to avoid the war. He also said during an interview that Bush wanted a war and might mislead the American people in order to get it. He compared the situation to Johnson's misleading of Congress to get his Gulf of Tonkin resolution passed. While the analogy was both fair and accurate, McDermott has been crucified by both the national and local press for his opposition to giving King Shrub a blank check to wage war. For days, the local newspapers, radio stations and TV stations have accused McDermott of being everything from a dupe of Saddam to an outright traitor. Finally, I was going to get to hear Jim's side of the story.
Jim, who had been a doctor in the military during the Vietnam war, said that we are still dealing with the consequences of that expensive and misguided war. He said the reason he could not support the coming war was that Bush had offered "not one shred of evidence" the Saddam was connected to the 911 attack. Nor had any evidence been given that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Nor was there any evidence that Saddam was an immediate threat to the US or to any other country. Jim said that Bush was blocking the return of UN inspectors and wouldn't take yes for an answer. He said that war could destabilize the region and other hot spots all over the world. He said that war should be an option of last resort, not one of first resort. He commended the protesters for showing up for the rally and he urged us not to believe media reports that the war was as good as started. He said peace protesters got us out of Nam and it can keep us out of Iraq. He urged us to let the Congress know how we feel. He said that peace is only possible if you believe it is possible. He urged us to keep protesting and to keep our hopes alive.
Reverend Jeffries was the next to speak. The Reverend is black and speaks with the heart, conviction and grace of Martin Luther King. He said that Bush had "Double Standards". He read of a list of Bush's past record where he said one thing but did the opposite. He said America had become a nation "of Corporations, by corporations and for corporations".
After a few other speakers, the rally wound down and we all walked back up Capital Hill to Volunteer Park where a Candle light vigil was to continue into the night. As I drove home, I turned on the Local Talk Radio Station. The guy was lambasting McDermott and saying that the Peace Protesters would accomplish nothing. Numerous callers disagreed with him but he was obviously a better speaker than the poor folks that called in. I finally turned the radio off in disgust.
When I got home, I listened to a local TV station's account of the protest. Not one of the thousands of creative protest signs was read. But the single person carrying a "pro-War" sign got his read on the air verbatim. Just a little while ago, I read an Internet account of the protest from Associated Press which will appear in newspapers tomorrow. There was a 4-line quote from one of the thousands of protesters. But this was immediately followed by a 12-line quote from one of the three pro-war supporters who were supposedly standing near the rally. I guess if you're for the war, you're opinion counts more than if you're against it.
So here are my conclusions from today's events:
Your friend in peace.
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