Yesterday, I went to New London to participate in an anti-war protest as President Bush spoke at the Coast Guard Academy commencement. It was a worthwhile experience, and I took over 200 pictures (33 of which I put on Wikimedia Commons) and wrote my first Wikinews article (“Protesters demonstrate at US Coast Guard Academy“). Next time I go to something like this I’m going to take extensive notes, write down quotes, and do full-fledged original reporting.
There were about 500 spirited protesters (one news article put it at 1000, but I doubt that), and a much less formal (i.e., Democratic Party line) slate of speakers than the politician-led rally in Hartford on March 17. For most of the protesters, both speakers and the crowd, impeachment was emphatically not off the table, and the main organizing group, ANSWER Coalition, has a bunch of real-life socialists and other assorted radicals. There was also a sizable group (ca. 50-75) of counter-protesters, mostly combat vets and family members (of which there were also a fair number on the anti-war side). As one kid remarked, the counter-protesters (organized by Gathering of Eagles) were way more metal than anything the anti-war side could manage. This guy was the most interesting: he was hurling insults and provocative statements through his loudspeaker almost non-stop. Choice quotes:
“Don’t take the brown acid!”
“I like the women’s movement. Especially from behind.”
“Freedom. It’s not just for white people anymore.”
“War freed the slaves! War saved the Jews! Anti-war racists go home!”
He was the perfect example of that weird juxtaposition of conservative political ideology and intolerance in the name of American Christianity.
Overall, the event was pretty disappointing. One seventeen-year-old said something like “there has to an element of transgression, or it’s just more shit in the system.” This was an orderly gathering of fairly orderly citizens, separated by about five times the number of police officers necessary to keep the peace. No civil disobedience, and the designated protest area was well beyond the radius of the commencement activities. We caught a brief glimpse of the President’s motorcade, but mostly it was just reporters (I’d guess at least two dozen, maybe more, with several news vans) keeping us company. I did mentioned in a follow-up article this morning in the Norwich Bulletin:
Yale doctoral student Sage Ross was protesting the president and snapping photos of both sides for the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs the Internet-based, free encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
He said this protest was livelier than others, because it was next to the academy. Pro-troop protesters rebuffed him when he approached them to take photos.
“They didn’t quite buy it that I was one of the press,” he said with a smile.