Published on Monday, September 26, 2005 by the Columbus Free Press (Ohio)
Speaking Truth to Power in Washington, DC
by Bob Fitrakis
Rising at 4:30am to catch the 6:15 flight to Washington, DC, I was heartened by seeing Neil and Debbie, two freepress.org and Stephanie Miller Show fans seated just in front of me, also headed to the peace demonstration.
The blow-dried corporate media would have to cover this event. After all, I had just watched Anderson Cooper on CNN do the standard “I’m in the rain, I can barely talk, I can’t see, it’s like a white out” routine about Hurricane Rita in Texas. This meant, of course, that Lady Rita was no Katrina. Surely Cooper’s hairdresser could get out the blow-dryer and put him on a quick flight to Washington where the real action was on Saturday.
The hurricane that blew into the nation’s capital was historic: a turning point that marks the death of the Bush presidency. Nothing short of burning the Library of Congress can save W. Rove is probably secretly polling on that option as I write.
I knew the rally was going to be huge when the majority of the people on my transportation pod at Dulles were dressed in peace signs, with signs, talking about the protest. Three middle-aged women were saying that this was the first time they had ever flown to a protest.
But the third tell was the unbelievable crush on the Metro that I rode in from Bethesda. This was desperate Third World style standing-room-only as the door slammed on me twice before I barely wedged in. The protest signs made the destination a foregone conclusion.
The Washington Post reported that by 5pm on Saturday, Sept. 24, the Metro rail ridership was 292,771, contrasted to 173,572 on an average Saturday. The AP picked a nice round number of 100,000 demonstrators, the Columbus Dispatch put it at “thousands” in the headline. The fact that the mainstream corporate media has to lie so shamelessly about a rally where there were at least 250,000 people, is telling.
Even more telling that the rally marked the death knell of the Bush presidency was the composition of the crowd. It was not the usual activist leftie suspects: three generations of families were proudly marching together; the freshly scrubbed Iraqi Veterans Against the War wearing fatigues looked like they just stepped down from an Army “Be all you can be” military poster; and Republicans for Impeachment were indeed real Republicans and not a San Francisco Mime Troupe spoof.
W had done it. He was in fact the “great uniter.” No president in our lifetime, not even Nixon, has succeeded in putting so many normal middle-of-the-road Americans into the streets.
And there would have been more had not massive Metro system and Amtrak train failure not conveniently intervened to hold up tens of thousands of demonstrators from reaching Washington DC.
The Washington Post reported these incidents on page A14, a good place to hide an article. Still, the headline suggests the real story: “Weekend protesters hit travel snags.”
The Sunday, Sept. 25 Post reported: “When the 6a.m. Amtrak train pulled out of New York’s Pennsylvania station yesterday and then turned around and went back instead of going to Washington, one thought ran through the minds of many anti-war demonstrators aboard: It was Karl Rove’s fault.”
The Post, per usual, refuses to consider that just like Mussolini, who made the trains run on time, Karl Rove, a Machiavellian, would do anything to prop up his twitchy, glazed and embattled prince. The official explanation is that it was “caused by a beam that fell onto wires on a track in New Jersey.” In all, twelve Amtrak trains between New York and Washington were disrupted and one was canceled.
“Metro riders encountered delays as well because trains on the blue and yellow lines in northern Virginia were sharing a single track to allow to repair work on a switch at Braddock Road,” according to the Post. The paper duly noted that the repair had been planned “for several weeks.” They failed to report that the rally had been planned for several months.
Still, the people came in near record numbers. At one point, there was actual human gridlock with possibilities of suffocation from the tightly packed throng of marchers.
The speakers, alternately between the strident rhetoric of the ANSWER coalition and the less histrionic United for Peace and Justice members mattered little. While ANSWER was shouting about a Trotskyist-style “united front” of progressives, the people in the street represented a far more diverse popular front against the president. I’ve never seen so many veterans for peace at an anti-war rally.
The illegality of the war was captured on thousands of signs including mine, which simply read “Bush would be guilty at Nuremberg.” With the curtain drawn back after the catastrophe in New Orleans, the wizardry of the great and powerful Oz is no longer working. More than one sign and T-shirt bore the inscription: “Make levees, not war.”
A middle-aged woman, dressed rather stylishly, shocked me when she stopped and told me that she’d brought an oven mitt to use if she needed to toss back tear gas canisters. “I ain’t no cherry girl. I’m ready for action,” she told me.
But somebody had told the police to stand down and step back. Missing was the Darth Vader and jack-booted appearance of the DC police and federal government agency SWAT teams so visible at recent DC rallies.
The reason is obvious. Had the police gotten out of control and beat the peaceful marchers, the corporate mainstream media would have had to actually cover the event. Cooper would have had to report that he was about to be trampled by a wall of people, and that the power of the people, the superpower of peace, had finally arose.
As Milton Mayer wrote about the rise of Nazism in Germany, “Each act . . . is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join you in resisting somehow.”
In Mussolini’s Italy and in Nazi Germany, a quarter of a million people never took to the streets as Mayer laments: “But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join you, never comes. That’s the difficulty.”
Our problem is different. What if a quarter million people or more march in the street and demand that our leader be impeached or tried before an international tribunal or indicted, and the media refuses to cover it?
That’s what happened. A call from Debbie in the Finger Lakes of New York said that her local news claimed the 250 pro-Bush counter-demonstrators were the same size as the 250,000 anti-Bush protesters. Similar calls came in from New Jersey.
Yet, the superpower of peace has the internet, the blogs, streaming video and can document the corruption, complicity and moral cowardice of the infotainment conglomerates.
Our job is simple. To speak truth to power on the streets and on the internet. To engage in lobbying and civil disobedience. And to do everything in our power to drive W from office and stop the war in Iraq. The whole world is watching and the vast majority are with us.
Bob Fitrakis is co-editor with Harvey Wasserman of the new book "How the GOP Stole America's 2004 Election & Is Rigging 2008," and is editor of freepress.org. Co-marchers Suzanne, Emi and Phil contributed to this article.
© 2005 The Free Press