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Instead of Protest January 8, 2006

Posted by Matt Hurst in Uncategorized.

I hadn’t been to an active demonstration against the war since right after it’s first anniversary, so when my friend told me the Instead of War coalition was having a peace vigil on Sunday night it sounded like a good opportunity to take a stand and make a statement. Their website described the event as something in the order of reverance and outreach, as we would share stories after a moment of silence, eventually handing out flyers to the theater goers in an uptown location adjacent to the university and church.
It was an unusually warm sunday in January, with brisk winds blowing out the candlelight vigil. When we arrived there was something in the order of 50 people, over half of whom were well over the age of 50, standing silently on the steps of the college Catholic church. A man of considerable gruff stepped up to a thin mic-stand on the sidewalk below, directly next to a single-pseaker PA. As we waited to begin we were handed lit candles held inside cut-open plastic juice bottles and sings designating which of the hundred+ thounsand people perished in the war we represented.
Standing silently to pay respect for victim number 90,482, the self-appointed speaker led us straight into the thirty minute structure of what was appearantly a weekly showing. He played a rather uninspired accoustic piece of music on his iPod through the PA, after which we would start the moment of silence. The 15 minute moment of silence. The crowd stood on the steps and held theis signs, perhaps silently staring into space and meditating on the meaning of protest, or maybe even reverantly praying with their creators. Otherwise we were left to be human bilboards of protest, giving hardy tumbs up to the passing vehicles that would honk their horn. At no point did anyone appear to realize the irony of accepting the support of those partners in the petrochemical coplex, the very one leading us towards this war, whop make their stand everytime they fill up their tank
Following the seemingly endless moment of silence, a few people stepped to the microphone stand to share stories of other protests, including the wrapping in crime scene tape of the headquarters of a company that supplies the CIA with planes to transfer suspects into rendition (where they will be tortured). We stood and observed the humble speakers, themselves appearing disinterested in it all, who announced actual protest actions that were upcoming. Then they read the Not in our Name Pledge, ringing the bell in equal turns, as if they were giving a sunday sermon to the creatures of protest habit.
It was all very passive in the protest, as though the people had come for their own self-gratifying show of resistance. There was no real attempt to converse until afterward, and then only with one another. Perhaps they were tired of futile efforts to win over dissent from the rest of the public against the war, no grand effort to educate and inform the public or the choir in unison. It gave me the sense of impotence, for we weren’t making any effort to be heard or our cause to gain ground, but rather we were there to reinforce each other without taking much risk.
An isolated ground standing on the side of the road wihout anything in the way of pedestrian traffic, the group came together to go through a mass as they would every other sunday. The speaker’s final note was that it really didn’t matter when the war would end, but hopefully that it would and soon. No sacrifice was necessary to end this war, except perhaps for the body count, itself counting for nothing. Nothing was urgent, nor action being made, other than to find a small group of like-minded people. Instead of Protest I found patience from those who rather wouldn’t speak up at all. Silence does not serve injustice, especially for the voiceless whose words they pay service.



1. eazymeat6969 - January 9, 2006

hear, hear. the protests for this war have been horrid. during vietnam the ONLY two things that cut through were the people striving for revolution (the weathermen did make a pretty good point, didn’t they?), and the people who brought the reality of the war into the mainstream, where the nightly news would broadcast it. a ‘silent vigil’ is perfect for isolating the protesters and making them a sight not unlike a tourist attraction: rather than being the majority, or attempting to become the majority, they become a wacky faction. (“…oh those protesters!”)

it’s much the same with that completely idiotic protest downtown the other year where people locked hands around, what was it, the capitol dome? what the HELL message was that? where’s the organization? there are those who believe, conspiracy-speaking, that all this is by design. you make protests a joke, you make those who oppose the war in general a joke. looks like the higher-ups, the FBI, CIA, et all, learned much from those days in ’68. what a crock of something-something this all is.

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