August 30, 2004

The Shitstorm of ’04: Day Minus-One

Today’s “major protest” against President Bush, from what I saw of it, was much more Boston ’04 than Chicago ’68, with anarchists largely taking a backseat role and arrests few and far between. Spending the afternoon on the Central Park lawn, however, didn’t keep me from seeing more than my usual share of idiocy.

Longtime readers of this blog are perfectly aware by now that I’m not generally a fan of protesters, especially of the left-wing variety. During my time at Brandeis University I heard, at least once a day, the tiresome meme that “our generation is so apathetic/why can’t we be more like the ’60s?” Generational guilt and ‘60s fantasies drew many of my classmates out in support of several of the forgotten causes of the time- from Free Tibet to Free Mumia- yet self-righteousness forever remained Cause #1.

I took a walk this morning through Central Park and ended up at the Great Lawn, seeking to observe the day’s events. Activists had been fighting Mayor Bloomberg for months over whether they could hold a rally there and were denied a permit, although once protesters began showing up after the morning’s march cops seemingly took a laissez-faire attitude: there wasn’t a particularly large police presence, I saw no arrests, and if anyone was forcibly prevented from entering the park, I didn’t see it.

I should make clear that while the vast majority of the people I saw there were simply anti-Bush- and the amount of Kerry buttons I saw throughout the day could probably be counted on two hands- the place contained a smattering of out-and-out lunatics, from avowed Communists to anarchists to people in Maoist garb. The first people to show up, believe it or not, were a Libertarian group that included their party’s candidate for president, and the group tried leading the crowd in chants throughout the day, some (“Don’t Take Our Guns!”) less popular among crowd than others (“Bloomberg Sucks!”)

In the course of the afternoon I saw the following:

- A girl in a “Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade” t-shirt expressing relief that not very many “extremists” had shown up to the earlier march.

- A 60-ish guy in full American-flag paraphernalia who started arguments with everyone about Iraq; some heckled him, while others simply laughed, or made fun of his pants.

- A pair of older gentlemen yelling at each other about Israel and the Palestinians; when the pro-Israel guy shouted “never again! No more Holocausts!,” his opponent expressed solidarity in that his personal hero, Leon Trotsky, had been murdered by the Nazis. (He was actually killed by Stalin, but never mind; it’s never a true lefty protest unless old men are arguing about Trotsky).

- Numerous Nader-or-Kerry, Nader-or-Libertarian, and Nader-or-revolution fights.

- A girl, assigned to yell out of a makeshift megaphone for some socialist group I’d never heard of, called for a “Second Civil War” to free African-Americans from continuous slavery (their table was manned by about seven people, all white). In way over her head, she also called for “hands off China and Cuba,” and actually spoke the phrase “defend North Korea’s right to nuclear weapons.” No, I’m not kidding.

I don’t particularly like Bush and will not be voting for him this November, but this sort of “activism”- even the more tolerant, non-socialist kind- just rubs me the wrong way for some reason. Maybe it’s the self-righteousness, maybe it’s my complete lack of a counterculture sensibility, or maybe it’s that the primary issues that these people were hammering Bush on- the War on Terror and liberation of Iraq- are the two things I actually agree with him on. Anyway, much more on all this as the week goes on.

Ken Wheaton, meanwhile, has pictures, as do the Protest Warriors. Apparently, everyone was there, including Triumph.

Posted by Stephen Silver at August 30, 2004 01:55 AM

I'd I have to say, that while I respect the rights of protesters, it does bother me that a large number of them are genuine Far-Left loonies. I'm no real fan of Bush either, but I've never been much of an activist, and quite frankly, the idea of fighting an aggressive war on terror isn't a bad thing. Did that woman really say that about North Korea?

Posted by: Rafique Tucker at August 31, 2004 01:58 AM
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