News Is This Really “Something?”
posted by March 19 at 18:46 PMon
Photos by Ari Spool, text by Jason Simms.
About two dozen police officers gathered at Westlake Center and the downtown federal courthouse very close to the few hundred protesters at each location. The protesters were there to speak out against the Iraq war on the fourth anniversary of its inception.
The heavy police presence wasn’t in response to a very minor outbreak of violence at yesterday’s larger protest, police said; instead, it was the result of some confusion among today’s two groups of demonstrators about which route they would take to meet up at the Federal Building.
There was also confusion among many of the signholders and chanters when we asked them about the school walkout that was planned for today. Despite publicity on 1090 AM and extensive postering, there were very few high-school and college-age people at the demonstration. The Stranger spotted a single group of four teens at Westlake, who each asked to bum a cig before telling us that they’d expected more of their classmates at the Tacoma School of the Arts to have made an appearance. “It’s an art school, after all,” said Amanda Gower, 16. She and classmate Julia Lewis explained that it’s currently WASL week, which means that high school sophomores who wish to graduate on time are forced to hate Bush privately while wielding a number 2 pencil.
Three Northwest High School freshmen told us that they heard about the walkout at the last minute on the radio. They almost didn’t come because of the drizzly weather, but ultimately decided the cause was worth it. “We can’t look at just one protest and say it’s not doing any good,” said 15-year-old Francesca Sarpola.
According to Greg Beiter of Socialist Alternative, the “real” walkout is in a month. He and others promoting that event had heard little or nothing about today’s walkout, but they hope that theirs, which will convene at Westlake at 1:00 pm on April 18, will draw thousands. They plan to march to a Seattle school board meeting, where they will protest the decision to close seven Seattle schools while billions are spent annually on the war. Beiter says he hopes the group will be officially invited to have a say at the meeting by lefty board member Sally Soriano, who has been in contact with the organization.
Hopefully no extremely pissed-off ex-Marines with Bibles and American flag umbrellas under their arms will crash that walkout. One such counter protester accosted Navy veteran Ruben Bustamonte after he spoke at Westlake. “I’m tired of hearing the same stuff from people like that,” Bustamonte said.
With any luck, the walkout/school board demonstration will be more powerful than today’s relatively underwhelming demonstration, which seemed to be happening largely because people didn’t know what else to do. Layla Yamabe, 25, was at Westlake with her two children, age three and two. “I’m here,” she said, “so that when my son is old enough [to be drafted] I can tell him I did something.” The word “something”—as in, “We have to do something”—was thrown around a lot. But the questions remain: Is this something? Is there something more effective we could be doing? I’d love to think so, but beats me what it is.
For information on the April 18 walkout, visit the YAWR site.