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Monday, March 19, 2007

Is This Really “Something?”

posted by on March 19 at 18:46 PM

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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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For information on the April 18 walkout, visit the YAWR site.

RSS icon Comments

1

This is why I thought my classmates in junior year of high school were wasting their time on no-going-to-war protests.

Posted by The CHZA | March 19, 2007 7:28 PM
2

Lame LAME lame. Totally lame in every way.

Posted by Carter | March 19, 2007 7:52 PM
3

The picture of the kid with the "I don't want to go when I'm 18" sign is really cute AND really great.

Stranger cover?

Posted by monkey | March 19, 2007 8:02 PM
4

nah, Stranger covers are better when simply abstract poster art

Posted by vooodooo84 | March 19, 2007 8:06 PM
5

Ari/Jason: what would you estimate the total number of attendees to be at today's event?

Posted by Jonah S | March 19, 2007 8:06 PM
6

Yah, lets go harass the Seattle School Board about the Iraq War cuz you know they give billions to it and of course all education funding is federal so... Go back to poorly photocopying your newspapers that no one reads commies.

Protests just donít matter all that much in the age of opinion polls. So what if you turn out thousands of peoples, there are hundreds of thousands in this area, and millions in the Country. A big march does not tell anybody anything except that there is a small minority of people willing to protest. BFD.

If you want to end the war get involved in ways that matter i.e. electing progressive, building a strong progressive movement on the web and in communities, and educating people about progressive issues. Start a blog, be a PCO, etc. Fucking up peoples commutes so you can have a disjointed rally about whatever nonsense the speaker of the moment is rambling on about does none of those things. In fact it pisses off the people who might support you if not for the fact that you just ruined their Monday.

This is not 1960 this is 2007.

Posted by Giffy | March 19, 2007 8:20 PM
7

I was at the Westlake event today and there couldnt have been more than a 200 people that at most, and Im being generous. It seemed poorly planned, and the strange hip-hop performance almost caused a fight between two people at the rally

Posted by Blaire (with an e) | March 19, 2007 8:31 PM
8

Giffy -

I don't agree with that, protests can have an impact when they can demonstrate to the public that an unpopular position has more support than would be expected. But when the position at the protest isn't that much different than popular opinion, I agree, there isn't much point.

Posted by mrobvious | March 19, 2007 8:31 PM
9

Blaire (with an e)-
who performed? I see your blog refers to him as "DJ yo yo yo wassup" and I'm curious about who you might be referring to. I know Gabriel Teodros references Ethiopia in a number of his songs. Perhaps you'd care to clarify as I'm unaware of any DJYYYW in the Seattle area.

Posted by Jonah S | March 19, 2007 8:50 PM
10

Yawn. Same old shit. Call me when you activists try something useful.

Posted by Gomez | March 19, 2007 9:14 PM
11

I was inspired to see the youth turn out. They seemed really enthusiastic, even though it was raining and there were a ton of police bearing down on the rally.

I'm glad that at least the student activists haven't forgotten why protest and demonstrations are important.

I imagine that once the waterfront is freed from the concrete bondage of the viaduct, there will be ample space for fun public gatherings that won't get ridiculed for their efforts to 'do something' about an unjust war. Hopefully because the shit-talkers will step up and help do it right, with good music, food, vendors, and little booths for all the obscure political movements that come out of the woodwork.


Posted by r | March 19, 2007 9:20 PM
12

Johan, I didnt catch his actual name. He was a fine performer, but his place there seemed out of place. While he was performing, an middle aged man shouted "stop singing already." This lead to another person there to start shouting at him. There was nearly a physical altercation between the two.

Posted by Blaire (with an e) | March 19, 2007 9:33 PM
13

mrobvious,

The problem is that that never happens. Polls are a dime a dozen these days and while not perfect they are much much more accurate then gaging public opinion based on protests.

Plus protest happen so often and are so disorganized these days that no one aside from those inconvenienced and those participating care, and I doubt the inconvenienced care in the way the protesters want.

I highly doubt some politician or voter is sitting at home, watching news reports of a bunch of oddly dressed protesters chanting nonsensical slogans, is thinking, well know I guess I can oppose this war.

Doing something does not mean doing anything.

And what the hell does a hip-hop performance have to do with ending the Iraq war?

Posted by Giffy | March 19, 2007 9:41 PM
14

@5 - I'd say there were about 200 people at West Lake and about 600 at the courthouse.

Posted by Jason Simms | March 19, 2007 10:03 PM
15

gomez @10: "Yawn. Same old shit. Call me when you activists try something useful."

Then suggest something. Or, better yet, do it. Seriously. I'm not being snarky here.

I am profoundly disgusted with myself because I don't have a better idea and that I'm not doing anything about it other than bitching.

This war is evil. This administration is probably a bigger threat to our country than any we've ever faced. The last thing I'm going to do, is criticize those who are actually working to oppose it -- no matter how misguided or lame I think they are.

Posted by gnossos | March 20, 2007 1:12 AM
16

shit talkers is the perfect label

about the good works of others, sitting on their fetid asses, doing nothing except trying to pass as jaded experts on political activism

it is only evil neo colonial war after all, why bother

yawn, yawn, I am so cool tonight, time to abuse people on the internet, while I wonder what my life is good for

how about a personal statement for yourself against the evil of all mankind, war

you are a bunch of real simple sheeple - shit talkers indeed

remember George Bush loves you, passive, accepting and ready to be fleeced

Posted by earl | March 20, 2007 1:43 AM
17

OK, I debated whether or not I really wanted to respond to this, since both corresponding posts came close to putting me in a really foul mood.

Speaking as someone who was at both events, I feel compelled to ask those of you who are so strangely passionate in defending your generic, unapologetically boring apathy to tell the rest of us what YOUR genius clandestine plans are to, you know, change the course of human history!! I mean, since we seem to be so preposterous and astray and WITHOUT A FUCKING CLUE. Because picking the lice out of our assholes isn't quite literal enough. Oh yeah! I know! Public discourse! You know! Because people have been actually listening to everything we've been saying for the last four years! Yes?

Seriously, what exactly are you defending, if anything? The act of protest might be more along the lines of metaphor than many of you are comfortable with, but for the rest of us "Cattle in Seattle", to *see* people ostensibly take to the streets, leaving work in the afternoon to dissent something as paltry as the state of their state, was well, you know... call it progress for the sake of progress. But for those of us who were there, it was progress all the same.

The photos would have you believe as if there were like, twelve people who showed up this Monday. I took a couple of photos this afternoon that are a little more accurate. Truth be told, there could have been more.

http://kaputindustries.tripod.com/P1010095.JPG
http://kaputindustries.tripod.com/P1010088.JPG

So seriously. Stop being bastards. Put down something that matters enough to you. If that includes anything at all.

- Reverend Foot

Posted by Reverend Foot | March 20, 2007 3:07 AM
18

rev - above link does not not seem to work

Posted by earl | March 20, 2007 3:28 AM
19

Hmmm... try these:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v60/wrestlingelduce/P1010095.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v60/wrestlingelduce/P1010088.jpg

(It won't let me post anymore than two. Though I have plenty more, I am striving for at least 3 hours of sleep.)

-Reverend Foot

Posted by Reverend Foot | March 20, 2007 3:43 AM
20

If you want serious protests against the war, start drafting a bunch of middle class white kids. THEN everyone will get their panties in an uproar. Sad to say but true.

Posted by Andrew | March 20, 2007 7:01 AM
21

Rev and Earl,

just because people think a particular tactic is ineffective, counter-productive and silly does not mean that we are doing nothing or are apathetic about the war. Hell I think George Bush loves the protests as they feed the myth of the crazy anti-war left and piss people off more than anything. You could be republican operatives for all I know. j/k

By the way I did suggest alternatives. Here are some more:
Contact your elected
volunteer with an NGO
Publish a blog
Start a student group
Become a PCO
Run for office
Work on a campaign
Write an op-ed
Talk to people about the war
Give money to NGO
Help develop thought out an rational arguments against the war.
If you are going to protest keep it organized and focused on the particular issue. Make sure the speakers are effective at conveying there message to a wide audience.

Revolutionary aspirations that you may have aside, we live in the society of today, not the "wooooorld ooooof tommorooow". that means using the MSM to your advantage and convincing the majority of Americans who like Starbucks, getting home on time, and don't care about palastine, etc. So if you want to end the war focus on it using arguments and tactics with mass appeal and worry about the rest later.

Or just keep having your little rallies were everyone who already agrees with you gathers to hear a bunch of slogans, overused protest songs, and new age nonsense.

Posted by Giffy | March 20, 2007 7:27 AM
22

I agree with Andrew. I think the best thing to do would be to start a petition to bring back the draft. This would also have to include us women. You create a draft for everyone 18-30, men and women. Women can be (and currently are) in combat as medics, drivers, mechanics, etc so its not like they aren't in harms way. Have the middle class and upper class really start to shoulder the burden. That will end war faster than any stupid protest, dumb signs, or blathering on about the "illegal war".

Sure, some of the protestors would have to be drafted. That would be rough for you....but it would also give you better insight to how hard it is to be a soldier. It would also give you insight that soldiers (depsite how bad their image is) are generally really good guys, who are just doing their job to support their families.

So their you go. Start the "Bring Back the Draft" proposal. Maybe just have the draft for people in Washington State. Ft. Lewis needs more soldiers.

Posted by Monique | March 20, 2007 7:51 AM
23

"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."

How about making fun of powerless protesters on your blog? That will end the war.

@6: you express what seems to be a common belief among some sloggers: that blogging and electoral politics have made street protests obsolete. when did that happen? sometime after the wto?

Posted by wf | March 20, 2007 7:52 AM
24

wf,
Well for blogging yah. But please tell me what came out of the WTO protests. Last time I checked its still there and globalization is as powerful as ever.

Posted by Giffy | March 20, 2007 8:00 AM
25

I see "earl" posted the exact same comment here (16) and under the "Cattle in Seattle" thread (around 40).

The problem with trying to do anything to stop the war is that the White House is occupied by one George W. Bush, a man who clearly has no respect for the opinions of anyone but those with whom he agrees. It doesn't help that the newly elected Democratic majority is waffling on what to do, and it's not clear what's the best they can do.

But getting back to the protests, I notice that few of their defenders are responding with anything other than "you do something." Try to address the criticisms - that protests are unfocused, cover every far left topic like Mumia, animal liberation, the infitada, third world poverty, and everything else that mainstream America cares little for; that they seem designed for all the hippies, dirt punks, and other non-conformists to come out and have a good time freaking out the squares (little wonder that these are 99.9% white crowds); basically, the fact that protests are EXCLUSIVE - only the hard left need come by.

Maybe these protests would be effective if they focused on the war. Maybe then you'd get enormous crowds reflecting all of society (you know, the squares) out and give a face to all the poll numbers showing the war's unpopularity. Maybe. I won't hold my breath.

Note: I'm not dissing any of the concerns listed above, nor the passion and desire to do right of the protesters, and I'm pretty "hard left" myself. But I do think there's a legitimate discussion to be had about their effectiveness and defensive "you do something!" reactions aren't going to help anyone but the Bushies.

Posted by Matt from Denver | March 20, 2007 8:21 AM
26

23 -

Remind me again what the WTO protests accomplished. WTO is still around, stronger than ever. In the eyes of a lot of ordinary folks (you know, like your relatives that live in the midwest) it simply reinforces the idea that those against the WTO are crazed "anarchists" teens (if you fast-forward I bet half of them are finishing up their accounting degrees by now) that are just looking for an excuse to break windows.

Posted by mrobvious | March 20, 2007 8:33 AM
27

If you think the WTO is stronger than ever, then you're not paying attention. There were two lines of attack that were in rough but not exactly complete solidarity: global south reps on the inside, and civil society/ radical groups mainly from the G8 on the outside. The street heat that began in Seattle and then mushroomed up everywehere else put pressure on the G8 to cut a deal with the global south to move forward, but they've been unable to really give up all the privileges that they were trying to hide behind the rhetoric of "free trade." So the process that we were told was inevitable in the 1990s has completely bogged down.

Also I forgot to mention: if you think electoral politics are the ONLY way to stop the war, explain Maria Cantwell. Nough said.

Posted by wf | March 20, 2007 8:49 AM
28

WORD FROM THE EXPERTS - ABOUT 4,000 FOLKS MARCHED YESTERDAY -- IN THE RAIN -- VERY EVERY DAY LOOKING PEOPLE -- SEE PHOTO LINK ABOVE -- #19

ALL YOU SHIT TALKERS, EAT SHIT, ON YOUR WAY TO THE CAMPS

OH, NOT ME. I AM PROTECTED BY WEALTH, EDUCATION, AND COOL.

PLUS THE TV HAS ME MESMERIZED....

Posted by JESUS GOMEZ | March 20, 2007 10:01 AM
29


wf @ 27 - To the extent the WTO protests were effective, it was likely for a few reasons:

1) No one was paying much attention to globalization in the media until they happened.
2) The protesters were in a position to actually disrupt those they were opposed to.
3) They had very clear focus.

However, none of these things are the case here. The Iraq war is on the front page of the news every day. You think these recent protests are saying anything to anyone that they didn't already know and had already made up their mind about? Second, do you think that your march along the streets of downtown Seattle will affect the White House or Pentagon's operations in anyway? And, finally, the focus problem - what the fuck do Leonard Peltier and Chavez have to do with this war? (A few people in a crowd can be ignored, but when invited speakers are droning on about irrelevant side issues - totally inappropriate.)

Ultimately, if these protests have any effect, it is negative: These cartoonish, disorganized events are pretty much the only thing that keeps the right wing polarized these days, as they have nothing else to unite them other than a hatred of the small,

Posted by tsm | March 20, 2007 10:10 AM
30

[continue from 29 - got cut off]

as they have nothing else to unite them other than a hatred of the small, marginalized Ramsey Clark left cadre.

Posted by tsm | March 20, 2007 10:11 AM
31

Well, unless he volunteers, the young child won't have to join the military when he's 18. See, it's an all volunteer military, there is no draft. Someone should tell his mother.

Posted by chunkstyle | March 20, 2007 10:35 AM
32

But um... still, seriously, like, so CUTE!!!!!!

Posted by Trevor | March 20, 2007 10:37 AM
33

Speaking of cute, picture #2, girl on the right with the camera.

Posted by him | March 20, 2007 11:31 AM
34

Judging by that little kid's jacket, I think his sign refers to the University of Washington. Go Bruins!

Posted by DOUG. | March 20, 2007 11:44 AM
35

that yellow sign that small child is holding is fabulous! how did he know that yellow is in??

Posted by Maria | March 20, 2007 12:20 PM
36

I went to the rally on Sunday not expecting much, and it was worse than I expected. They had a woman talk about the Cuban five-- excuse me? What does that have to do with oppose the Iraq war? What will that do to win you sympathy with the mainstream? Look, Cuba is a fascinating issue-- it just did not belong at the rally.


At the rally on Sunday, speakers repeatedly insulted and denegrated Democrats and said we shouldn't work with them. Ignore the politicians. What a great idea! Alienate and reject all structures of power as a way to make change! That's so brilliant! Look, I worked my ASS off to get the Democrats get elected (seriously: I worked 80 hours a week), and to hear a bunch of unfocused, angry, joyless protesters repeatedly insult Democrats and reject the idea of working with ANY politican to get anything done was insulting, offensive, and extremely off putting.


Here's the "something" these protesters can do: be respectible, be reasonable, and build alliances not just with the disaffected, but with the powerful. Don't alienate people who support you. And for God's sake, don't talk about Cuba and Palestine at an anti-Iraq war rally.

Posted by exelizabeth | March 21, 2007 9:45 AM
37

Hello. I'm the boy's mother. His name is Elijah Christopher. I had not anticipated bringing my children to the march, but Daddy was working so I had to borrow warmer clothing from his cousin's house (yes, it is a UW jacket). My quotes weren't totally accurate. I said that if the draft is reinstated when he turns 18, and they FORCE him to go, I want to be able to say "I tried to do something to end this war." Thank you for the kind comments about his looks. He looks like his mother LOL.

Posted by Layla Yamabe | March 25, 2007 7:38 PM

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