One year ago I stumbled into a major protest against the war in New
York City. Not much has changed. Protestors against the
war shove their "Bones of Dissent" into the faces of those fighting
for other people's rights to dissent. A look at the past
is a look at the present and future. With one twist.
What is the duty of a protest? Is it more than just
shouting? Find out.
Friday--November 21, 2003—Ground Zero Plus
Resurrecting The Bones Of Dissent
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZER0, New York, N.Y.--Nov. 21, 2003--
A year ago today, this reporter walked into a hornet's nest of
protestors. It was by accident, not intention. They
were college students, fired by the local communist party that often
organizes protest marches, rallying support against the war.
Below is that story from November 21, 2002.
I stumbled on the story by accident this morning. My modem has
been acting up, and I was unable to publish yesterday because I was
frantically searching the web for modem drivers, a horror story I need
not relate to amateur computer geeks like myself.
This morning, as I was making one last desperate
plea for the "gods of computer heaven" to send a "sentinel of modem
Vigilance" to help me, the supplication worked. I found a
solution. And, in the process, punched up the wrong page from my
It was the story below.
It is a current story even though a year
old. It's about the "right to protest." And,
the duty and responsibility of such protest.
Today, protestors still clang warnings and
shout invectives against the war. In London, England, the
protestors raged over the continued war in Iraq this week.
They forget often that the right to protest is part and parcel of the
freedom from tyranny and oppression--the ultimate goal of America's
and England's support of the Iraqi war.
I thought readers might enjoy
spinning back the clock a year ago, only to find that little has
changed in that year regarding the feelings of protestors.
I uphold the right of protest, for
without it, freedom would not exist. But, I also uphold
the right to protest the real message, the one that cuts through
politics. That's the protest that favors the Children's
Take a spin back through time to
review how the present, past and future are one.
Here's the story from November 21,
|War protestors march
through New York City. They wear masks and attack America.
Are they Terrorists? Do protestors feed the Beast of Terror and
promote War rather than defuse it? Find out in this
21, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 435
Bones Of Protest--A Dying Art
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York City, Nov. 21,
I washed myself upon the beach of ancient war protestors yesterday--my
bones were bleached by the dying sun of anti-war cries.
Cathedral in background
I stumbled into the head of the New York
University's Anti-War Protestors marching down Broadway from Union Square.
There were a thousand young people, salted
with some gray-haired antediluvian throwbacks from Vietnam, and some
communist and socialist protestors who leech themselves on any gathering
that rails against government.
Park, NYU Student War Protest Nov. 20
They were chanting the ancient
cries of "soon-to-die" youth on the ledge of war's precipice--"Hell No, We
Won't Go! Hey, Hey, Hey Mr. Bush, How Many Boys Did You Kill Today!"
I was at the front of the demonstration
with my Kodak 3400 digital whining as fast as it could recycle, walking
backwards with an adroitness a photographer quickly learns if he wishes to
get prime photos. The young people shoved their signs in the air and
their pimpled, unwrinkled, unworn faces beamed as they defied the
authority of the United States to launch war against Iraq. In the
background was the great spire of the Grace Cathedral shooting upwards
like a jousting lance toward the underbelly of Heaven. On the
flanks of the street were logos of modern civilization such as McDonalds
and Ricky's, a hip-hop store appealing to the college
Herding the protestors who were
taking a day off from classes to bark their resistance to the war were
hundreds of NYPD uniformed police and as many plain clothes officers
trying unsuccessfully to blend into the crowds. NYPD Technical
Assistance Response Unit (TARU) officers were taking photos of the crowd
to be used to help prosecute anyone who turned peaceful into violent
protest. Above, police helicopters swarmed and ambulances stood by
next to paddy wagons to rush the wounded and arrested away if the crowd
The youngest protestor was a
four-year-old sitting on his grandmother's shoulders. His name was
Gabriel. He held a sign in his left hand that read, "MAKE NICE NOT
WAR." He was well-trained to respond to a camera and would grin and
hold up the "V" sign with his left hand and hoist the sign erect whenever
a lens pointed his way. I asked him if he could play the
trumpet after his namesake the ancient Gabriel who crumbled the walls of
Jericho, but he just looked at me and smiled.
Peace, Not War"
There were protestors marching with
masks of death carrying cut out machine guns. I found them a little
disturbing, trying to figure out how weapons played to peace.
There was an ominous nature to the masks, as though perhaps the Terrorists
or Saddam's own henchmen had helped organize the protest, and were walking
along the flanks urging it forward in hopes the pressure from the
grassroots might ooze its way up into the war rooms and take President
Bush's finger off the trigger.
Ironically, just the other day a
federal judge struck down a New York State law banning masks at protest
rallies. The law was considered discriminatory by Harold Baer
Jr. of Federal District Court. He ruled the city had enforced the
law selectively against the Ku Klux Klansmen demonstrating in New York in
1999. In reinforcing constitutional rights in troubled times
he wrote in defense of his ruling: "While a commitment to
constitutional principles must not be a suicide pact, the rational and
measured exercise of jurisprudence must be zealously sustained, even in
time of war, including the war on terrorism."
Police argue masks make it difficult to identify
protestors. Protestors argue the right of anonymous expression
is protected under the First Amendment. Judge Baer agreed. He
cited a number of cases where protestors wore masks and weren't arrested,
including a rally after the funeral of Mr. Diallo who was killed in a
police shooting in 1999 and protestors who wore Mayor Giuliani rubber face
masks in a protest against the Klan march.
As a Vietnam Marine Corps war veteran who
was spat upon by anti-war protestors and urged to debate Tom Hayden on
campus during the height of Vietnam war protests, I have little affinity
to people who jeer in public parade against war, especially in a holiday
environment designed for cameras and sound bites. I also take
issue to parading children with anti-war signs, using them as tools to
espouse their elder's views.
Yet I also love the Constitutional Right Of
Dissent, and if America gave up 50,000 lives to preserve that alone in
Vietnam, or in all the deaths of all the young men and women who have
sacrificed themselves for Liberty, or the pursuit of it, such blood was
well worth spilling.
Frankly, public protests often become
rather than solutions.
The sum of the today's protest messages was the
tearing down of America.
The signs were all negative dissent, NO BLOOD FOR
OIL, F*** BUSH, BUSH IS AN ASSASSIN, A THIEF & LIAR, A WAR PROFITEER, A
CRIMINAL. I marveled there was not one protest poster of
I gravitated toward the "old protestors," the
ones I knew were from the Vietnam era--the kind who stuffed daisies down
the barrels of National Guardsmen rifles, the kind who spat in my face.
One lady, Mary, was holding up a sign: WAR WAR--WHAT FOR--OIL OIL
OIL. It had a picture of Bush in the lower right corner with the
words I--a heart--Oil.
I asked if she had protested other wars.
She said, yes, the Vietnam War. Then quickly added, "But the people
then were older." I smiled at her and said, "Maybe not. Maybe
you were just younger."
She blinked, as though suddenly aware of
time, and said, "Yes, I never thought of that."
The youngest protestor I spoke with was a
15-year-old Jeremy from the Bronx. He was with a number of
classmates expressing the right of protest.
Jeremy, Age 15
Later that evening, my wife and I were
babysitting our grandchildren, Matt 6 and Sarah, 4. When
their father came home I showed him my pictures of the protest.
Joe is a peace activist. I
respect him because he does it 365 days of the year, twenty-four hours a
day. He lives his beliefs, which are based on social justice
not just anti-war principles. Each weekend he serves his
beliefs at Union Square, holding up signs with other members of the
Catholic Worker against war. He had been to El Salvador to help
oppressed people, and last year traveled to war-torn Jerusalem to stand
for the elimination of violence.
I was telling him my belief that protesting
war was not a solution, but Vigilance was. I said that if one
maintains a constant state of Vigilance there is no need for peace
activism. He didn't agree. I tried to explain that
I believed that peace activism was not dissimilar to war activism.
One was the offshoot of the other, that peace advocacy was a reaction to
war, and that two--Peace and War--were bred from the same mother, one the
Cain the other the Able, one the plus the other the minus, equals and
opposites like Love and Hate, Right and Wrong, Good and Bad.
I suggested to him that Vigilance was a
stand-alone principle. That Vigilance was its own private
state of being, that did not recognize War or Peace, but rather was a
constant. And that to be an advocate for Vigilance--one who promoted
the defeat of Fear with Courage, the suppression of Intimidation by the
elevation of Conviction, and promoting Right Action rather than
Complacency, that War and Peace become secondary issues.
Vigilance, I proposed, was the tip of the triangle, its apex, smothering
war, eliminating Peace as a transition between war.
It was a healthy discussion.
I asked him to think about it.
But I also know that war protests aren't
FACES OF PROTEST
The Spartan women locked themselves in the
Acropolis to make their men stop fighting the Trojan Wars. I'm
sure at some point cavewomen rallied to keep their cavemen from going out
and clubbing their neighbors to death to get extra food or land.
When war looms, as it does today, it sparks
the protestors to life. Many, like the NYU students there
because of a Student-Walk-Out, marching
before my camera lens, had no idea what they were saying or chanting.
Their idea of making America wrong for waging war came out of their
youthful hubris, their sophomoric desire to express themselves as children
do--by retaliating against authority.
Surrounding them were the leeches of
protest--the older groups of communists and socialists more interested in
feeding off their frenzy to attack America than to support their beliefs.
That bothered me.
I didn't see one sign promoting Vigilance.
That was my fault. The message of Vigilance is the key to
eliminating war, for when people are Vigilant there is not need for war,
but always a need for Vigilance.
America and the world let Iraq happen. If there
should have been a protest target, it should have been the Beast of
Terror, the Beast of Complacency, the Beast of Fear, the Beast of
Intimidation--not America, not President Bush.
Protestations that target the appendages of war
and not its vital organs are faddic communions, only stirring fuel for the
Beast of Terror who loves to mask itself in hate and anger and sweep the
young into its arms under the guise they are protecting the innocent,
purifying the soil by chanting out their revolution against violence.
The Beast of Terror knows the children will sleep
until war awakens, and that it will be too late for them to stop it once
the fuse has been lighted. He doesn't want them to
cleave Vigilance as a tool against War, for by doing so, the innocent then
recognize that War is the result of Complacency, not the absence of Peace.
When the world ignores the Beast's presence and lets it grow, then War
The world should have acted to quash Saddam
Hussein's Terrorism long ago. But it feel Complacent,
non-Vigilant. Now that President Bush and the United States
have taken the bold stand against Terrorism, the young consider it a
violation of Peace, not a promotion of Vigilance.
Had they been brought up by Parents of
Vigilance, they would know that they should have been marching against the
Beast of Terror, not against Sentinels of Vigilance.
If the United States wants to change
the face of War, it needs to change its rhetoric. If
everything that comes out of Washington and the President's mouth talks
about Vigilance, and acting in behalf of the children's children's
children to remove the Beast of Terror from their lives, perhaps that
theme, and not the one for NO BLOOD FOR OIL will dominate protestors'
I vote for signs that say:
DESTROY THE BEAST OF TERROR! SIGN THE PLEDGE OF VIGILANCE!
We need to bleach the bones of protest.
We need to purify them with Vigilance and drive out the Beast of Terror.
You can start today. Download the Pledge of Vigilance and protest
War with Vigilance.