Monday, December 04, 2006
On Saturday Rossana and I drove downtown and joined an anti-war march. It's my second protest ever (the first being in New Orleans when the city decided to tear down structurally sound public housing).
I found out about it through an email. I keep a gmail account that I use for signing on line petitions etc. The descision to go was somewhat impulsive. The event was sponsored by the local AFL-CIO. When we got to the outskirts of the city there were long lines of cars. There are never lines of cars on Saturdays and my heart swelled with pride in my native city. That is, until I saw that the vast majority of these people were going to some kind of sporting event. Par for the course really. Bread and Circuses is what keeps the citizens happy.
We met up in front of the Crown Plaza Hotel. There were, I don't know...maybe 5-600 people. We were handed a flyer with the chants we would be saying. Make shift drums made from plastic drums kept up a steady rhythem. There was a squad of young folk decked out in black and balaclavas or scarves to hide their faces. These were the agitators. Among them were several people with arm bands with a red cross to indicate they were 'medics' in the event of..well unpleasentness. The crowd was a mix of the college hippie types and long time peaceniks. There were a few 'Veterans for Peace' members from the Vietnam era most likely. But there were also high school aged kids. There were Moms. Faces you wouldn't expect. And of course the Union folks.
The march began on time and headed out down St Clair. We were flanked by several police cars that acted like sheep dogs, hearding us to the right whenever we took up too much of the road. A city ambulance followed behind. It was an upbeat crowd. These were not angry people, or at least they did not act hostile, except for the black clad agitators who occasionally rushed at SUV drivers just to scare them. Way to make yourselves look like assholes, guys. The march took two turns and ended up in front of the Federal building. Rossana and I carried a banner the length of the march whch was difficult because it was a) large and b) not well made. It was cold and despite the urging to the megaphone wearing chant leaders I never really screamed our chants. Its not that I disagreed with them, but I guess I was overcome by a bit of shyness. Plus there was the fact that there just weren't a lot of people in that part of Cleveland that day. Drivers would holk their horns and wave in support. People waved from office building windows. But the masses were near the stadium waiting to be entertained by our modern day gladiators. The local news showed up, which is something, but it was Fox news so I can only imaginbe how the march was portryed at 10pm "Filthy hippies run rampant in city! Terrorist sympathisers cause mayhem!".
When we arrived at the federal building there was a small stage and a woman was playing a guitar and singing what I imagine are traditional pro-union songs. There were several short speaches, most were not great or impassioned. Only three were of interest, one by a Union chapter leader from S Carolina who spoke clearly and with feeling and got the crowd worked up. The next was a union organizer from Argentina who talked about how America 'helping'countries has led to widespread problems in South America and elsewhere. The third was an Iraqi workers organizer. I can tell he was passionate about his work and had hope for his country, but his grasp of English was poor and thus it did not convey that passion very clearly. The only non-union type was the wife of a National Guardsmen who was there because her hurband had been called up to serve in Iraq again. She read a speech he had intended to give about how he is proud to serve his country and he is happy to help others in need, but he questioned the justification and logic that led the U.S. into this quagmire.
That says a lot really. He knows its a clusterfuck, he knows the danger, he knows it's based on (at best) faulty logic (or as I call them 'lies'). But he'd going back to do what he can.
The march broke up after that. There were several workshops planned at the hotel later that night and Cindy Shehan was scheduled to speak the next day, but my back was killing me and I had done what I set out to do. I was not too disapointed, this is Cleveland after all. The march was well organized and executed. It was peaceful and the police were calm and non-confrontational. When I got home I looked through the various other flyers we had been handed at the march. There's another protest in January, this time in D.C. That's where the action is. That's the big show. I'm thinking of going if we don't have any shows. Anyone interrested?