Sunday, September 25, 2005

Doth Methinks I Protest Too Little?

This weekend marked the first time in a number of months that there was a DC protest against the war in Iraq. Kathy and I went to a number of rallies in the months leading up to the war, and also attended one after the war had begun. That being said, even though I support the cause, and the protest took place in my hometown, I wasn't there. The reason is simple -- the organizers don't oppose the war in Iraq.

Ok, they do, but they also oppose about 38 other things, all of which were given a platform at the demonstration. To begin with, the date was chosen because it's the same weekend as the fall meetings of the IMF and World Bank, so there were actually two sets of protests taking place downtown. But the war and globalization weren't the only issues raised. The Reuters article noted that:
In addition to anti-war and anti-globalization groups, the demonstrations drew anarchists, communists and environmentalists. Others called for an end to the U.S. economic embargo on Cuba and expressed solidarity with leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the Palestinians.
If you've been to one of these rallies, you wouldn't be surprised by this -- as they have done in the past, one of the sponsoring groups promoted it as a collection of issues, rather than as a march against the war. ANSWER's flyer for the event identified the following issues:
  • The Iraq War
  • Palestinian Right of Return
  • Universal Healthcare
  • U.S out of Puerto Rico
  • U.S. Staying out of Cuba and Venezuela
  • Ending the Occupation of Haiti
  • U.S. out of the Philippines
  • Opposition to Racism
  • Military Recruiters out of Schools
And while safely identified the rally as being sponsored by a group called United for Peace & Justice, and the link MoveOn uses takes you to a single issue rallying point, ANSWER's list of speakers for the rally included individuals on behalf of all these issues and more. Furthermore, a closer look at UfPJ's website reveals that their past activities have been focused on many of the same issues identified in ANSWER's flyer.

It's fine for this group to see the war in Iraq as one of many elements of U.S. imperialism and as a direct result of capitalism, but that's not what it's about for me. And I've spoken with a number of friends in the area who also stayed away from this rally because they've been to similar ones in the past and felt out of place. I imagine there are others as well who don't want to be associated with causes they don't support. Instead of uniting millions behind one cause, these organizations divide us due to their attachment to many. Still, the protests attracted an estimated 150,000 people, so either fewer people were as bothered by the multi-focus, or the crowd could have been even larger if it'd been a single-issue program.

Interestingly enough, even though the Reuters article noted some of the various causes tied up with the protests, the Washington Post article made no mention of the other causes, and a couple of our friends who went said that the march attendees were overwhelmingly single-issue. When I asked about the speakers at the rally, they said they didn't stick around for the rally, instead leaving as soon as the march was over. Perhaps these friends had the right idea, and this is what we should have done.