Report: Support Rally of Coalition for Peace, Washington, DC, 20 January 2009 ~ during Inauguration of the 44th President of the US
By marion d s dreyfus
My two days with the (Hindu and Sikh) Coalition for Peace group from NJ and NY and Washington, DC areas was inspirational and fruitful.
They are well organized and refreshingly well informed and pro-Israel. They produced an extraordinary profusion of professional and attractive posters and amazing banners, most pointing to our firm stance against nuclearization of Iran, against the increasing radicalization of Pakistan, the vast outrages of radical Islam against India as well as Iraq and Israel.
In addition, they have a strong sampling of posters and signs aimed at utilization of oil as leading inevitably to terror. I argued that people are not about to change their gas habit right now, and that the emphasis ought to be on avoiding use of foreign oil in favor of 1.) new energy sources 2.) hybrid cars and 3.) exploration and usage of local/US oil resources (ANWR, primarily).
The group had presciently elicited parade-ground permits three weeks ago, and used many if not all of the signs we employed today weeks ago in their protest rally outside the UN. They had pre-bought Metro day-passes for us all, and extras.
We were in a caravan of SUVs coming from the NY/NJ area. We are grateful for the remarkably gracious and generous hospitality of a number of Hindi families, in magnificent homes brimming with goodwill toward us (I brought a friend) and our goals for Israel and against radicalism in Islam. They provided exotic, tasty and ample traditional vegetarian food and drink, croissants, bagels, pizza and vitamin bars; we prepared bag lunches for our vigils on the parade grounds; and we were immersed in iconic sitar and oudh music for our journeys to and from Washington. We had a few voluble non-Indian friends coming who also protested Darfur and the ongoing rape and genocide/jihad against Christians, animists and black Muslims in the Sudan. Longtime friend and supporter Richard Hellman of CIPAC spent some time with us at the parade grounds, though it was frigid standing with our many signs. As he left, he donned a helmet and biked off in his business attire, despite the dropping temperature and the intemperate wind.
We used all-day Metro passes that served us well. We found no crowds at any of the four times we were in or at the Metro stations, by the way. We estimated the crowd–7/8 black, to see the thousands of visitors and passers-by walking by during the 4 hours or so that we were on the parade grounds–as far less than the official 2 mm given by the mainstream media. The streets were not packed, but had room for movement and maneuvering. There were barricades that looked out of place, because they held back no throngs when we walked by. There were hundreds of bicycles penned into an enclosure called a Bike Village, near the First church of Christ, Scientist, and across from the Episcopal Church where this morning the incoming 44th President and his wife attended services. There were strange, teddy-bear people waltzing around the streets in white fuzzy costumes and paws, on roller skates, in a show of anti-meat PETA consciousness. Or something. They provided the few laughs in a day of somberness and recognition of the crises we face.
Tchotchkes of all kinds and at all price-points were being showcased and sold everywhere you looked, including copies of the NY Times and NY Post special editions, as well as all the DC papers we all love so much. Blankets sold briskly. All the toe-warmers in all the CVS’es in the city were out of stock. Men hawked them for twice the price on the sidewalks. A huge banner hanging off a nearby building eave facing our route declared “Welcome, Sasha and Malia!” in jonquil yellow and black.
Secret service checked us thoroughly each time we entered the penned areas, although we were nowhere near anyone prominent, and the only ones who could have been injured by our dangerous tape dispenser was anyone who might have lost a mitten while repairing a banner or handheld.
The streets were awash with people who stared at us, took our pictures from behind the cage-like fencing we were confined by, and who were to some extent partially hostile when they read our signs, despite our wearing attractive masks of the incoming chief executive, and despite many of the 50 of us repeating “Yes, we can! …fight Islamism and radical Islam! Yes we can!”
The street theatre aspect of a few of our number wearing Uncle Sam get-ups and terrorist headgear and djellabiah costumery while holding up anti-radical Islam banners and signs, cut-outs of bags of US dollars and styrofoam Kalashnikovs aimed at the US from M.E. oil –caught a lot of observers and visitors by surprise. They stared in perplexity, agreeing, they thought, with our cries of “Yes we can!” but disagreeing with what they saw and heard after that, or being baffled by incomprehension.
We were able to go outside the perimeter of the permit area, to the street, where people could engage us, and distribute press releases we were forbidden to hand out from behind the fence enclosure. We spent about an hour outside, with a few of the most potent anti-radical, anti-terror, anti-Pakistan, anti-Achmadinajad signs, before the secret service corralled us back behind the fencing. And told us we could not rest our signs against the black metal chain or stanchions. We could not tie them to these conveniences. Tall, intimidating, long-coated, be-badged, no-monkey-business men.
Many of the media people interviewed us individually, and we spoke at length to some of them. In particular, the Sikh and Hindu faces and personae of our friends elicited a great deal of comment and attention. Some people argued with us–they seemed to me to be Muslim, and to be ferociously pro-terror, and anti-Israel, refusing to engage in dialogue if they found we knew our facts and they were losing. One blonde with an Arabic-printed green tote and a checkered Arafatian headscarf screamed at us about “Israeli massacres,” and would not engage in talk at all, as she bitterly stalked away, muttering “Shame!”
Some people quietly asked us questions and listened as we explained why the coalition was comprised of of Hindus, Sikhs, Jews and Christians, and some seemed impressed. One Jewish reporter from a Jewish Boston newspaper admitted she was “”not 100% behind Israel,” but she “had to be a reporter,” and was “sick to death” of all the usual anti-Israel protests, and was ”gratified to find this rally,” which she had at first supposed was anti-Israel, and pro-terror. I questioned her positioning, but she spent some time photographing and interviewing us, despite her wishy-washy stance. A few people posed with us, delighted in the costumes, signs and sentiments. Not many.
In sum, the support rally seemed extremely effective, in that we did elicit substantial media coverage, and got a great deal of exclusive, unrivalled attention as we occupied about 200 linear feet where we displayed signs and banners and role-playing for the myriads who passed by all afternoon. We expanded the visual vocabulary of many people who seemed new to our causes, and we stood firm in documenting truth to calumny with many of the ill-informed ‘vanilla’ observers who took on faith the CNN/MSNBC view of things until they spoke with us and read our signs. And we bonded strikingly with the remarkably staunch and intelligent and committed people in the coalition; they stated that they will be delighted to speak and stand with us in the future in rallies or colloquies.
marion ds dreyfus 20(c)09
And there is more from the fabulous Phyllis Chesler at the Chesler Chronicles “One by One: Standing Up to Terrorism”
To see all pictures from DC go here
Check http://www.CoalitionForPeace.org for more details.