Protests Then and Now . . .

Protests in New York City

The tea party convention came and went this weekend. Sarah Palin, avatar of the American loopy right, gave a speech. 600 people paid a lot of money to attend, see Sarah speak.

The tea party people get a lot of press from the mainstream media they claim to hate, and all that press about grassroots rage has made me think back across the years, all the way back to the beginning of the Iraq War.
The MSM, including the ‘liberal’ New York Times, were bellicose in their support of the war. Certain lawmakers and many commentators from the above-mentioned loopy right, called anyone who dared to question the march to war foolish, naive, even treasonous. I’d come down that winter after a few months back in Canada (where Prime Minister Jean Chretien, that old fox, hemmed and hawed then, with obvious satisfaction, announced on national TV that Canada would not be among the Willing), and I was shocked by the war fever in the media and across the nation. I’d never seen anything like it.

Yet, on a brutally cold February day, 600,000 New Yorkers came out to march against the war. I went down with my girlfriend and we joined the crowd on the Upper East Side, since midtown was too crowded. The wind whipped off the East River, and the police were out in force, directing the crowd this way or that, making it difficult to reach the main body of the protesters. The cold got so bad, we ducked into an Irish bar on 3rd Ave. At the top of the hour, between ‘Money Matters’, some show about pets, and other irrelevances, both NY1 and CNN made by the way updates on the biggest protest since the 60’s.

Of course, the marches made no impact whatsoever. I can’t remember if Bush even acknowledged that they’d taken place.

A year and a half later, some half a million marched against the Republican convention held in Manhattan that year because it made for great optics. In the West Village, where the marches began, it was so packed traveling a single block took an hour. The cops were out in force, but the mood was relaxed, and some of the cops even seemed supportive. Security around the conference centre was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Choppers, riot cops with machine guns, secret service agents in aviator shades and earpieces, racing off off in black SUVs with reflective windows. I’d never seen anything like it, not even in 80’s London where terrorism was a real and daily threat.

That protest too made little to no impact. But both protests did redeem my faith in New York.

I wonder if any of these tea party people, devotees of Glen Beck and the Avatar, has ever made a connection between the parlous state of America’s finances and the long, long war that followed the invasion, an invasion that was against the wishes of so many in the city where 9/11 did the most damage?


Comments are closed.