Protesting the Iraq War

Saturday’s anti-war protest in Federal Plaza wasn’t necessarily phenomenal by historic standards. The crowd, though impressive, didn’t reach the proportions of the traffic stoppers from the last two years that grabbed the nation’s attention. The upside to this is that there were only five arrests made (last I heard), although the city definitely made sure we knew there could have been more.

Protests don’t make me angry or inspire me into action anymore; they just make me depressed. Yes, we need to stand up and raise our voices against the cruelties and indecencies of this brave new world; as many of us as possible need to respond to and match the words and actions of our government. We can’t just sit back on our couches and let the powers that be do whatever they want. We seem to be the only checks and balances left and we have to exercise them. Yet this is what depressed me.

I stood on the outskirts of this demonstration, and on one side were angry, shouting citizens proclaiming their utter horror of an evil, overbearing, unjust government, and on my other side was that government, thousands of cops standing blocks deep in rank and file. The message I get from their presence is “go ahead, scream and whine and moan. Get it all out of your system. At the end of the day, we’re here to make sure you go on your way and carry on with your miserable lives, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. Yeah, you’re upset, and we don’t care. Move along.”

I heard the pleas of family members who just want to know what’s happened to their sons and daughters and brothers in Iraq, I heard the story of the high school students who are getting harassed daily by recruiters, and I listened to the speeches of politicians who’ve been pushed out of office for their anti-war positions. One person tells me she has to send toilet paper to her son in Iraq. Can you believe that? Our government won’t even give those fighting for its agendas toilet paper! Yet, with every heart-felt tear shed up on that stage, with every impassioned plea, I just get more and more depressed, because I never hear a solution. The only suggestion of any relevance I heard was that we must continue talking and raising awareness amongst our peers, and I fear even that is hardly worth mentioning. Even the money going into the bucket being passed would only be used to pay for this event.

Our government operates with impunity, and it doesn’t care what we think or know. It’s shown several times now that it doesn’t care about our soldiers, your jobs, your welfare, your retirement, your freedoms, or your rights. We can stand in the public squares and street corners and plazas and yell and scream and whine and moan about it all we want, but it will still continue to do what it’s doing.

One interesting moment of note was when a police officer smiled at me. In that moment I saw a part of this establishment open up and leave herself vulnerable, such a brave and unexpected act for someone in her position to do. She may truly have been there to protect rather than intimidate me. She must not have received the memo, because come on. I don’t believe the city needed that many troops (and yes, I call them “troops”) for our protection.

Yes, this government needs to be stopped. However, I don’t know how to do that, and it’s obvious no one else does either. I simultaneously hope and fear the time when that frustration will reach a boiling point and we’ll really take to the streets.

8 Comments so far

  1. nikkos (unregistered) on March 21st, 2005 @ 9:36 am

    Here, here! It defintely makes you wonder what kind of city and country we live in when the opposition in Lebanon is allowed to gather peacefully wherever they wish yet in Chicago Daley’s goon squad restricts where we can and cannot voice our opinions.

  2. nikkos (unregistered) on March 22nd, 2005 @ 9:03 am

    Tom, where is the outrage??!! I don’t wanna be the only commenter here, but c’mon, what do you/we have to do to spark some conversation up in this beeyotch?

    I can’t believe a post as factual, fair and eloquently written as yours, on such a topic of crucial imprtance not only to Chicagoans but to ALL Americans would garner such little dialogue and attention. But really, who cares about a faraway war when there’s some zombie lady in Florida that MUST BE SAVED!

    Still waiting for some White House reaction to the school shooting in MN- where’s your “culture of life” now, you fuckin Repugs? But Bush won’t cut short his vacation again for a bunch of brownish people in a Blue State. Besides, turning a school shooting into a political issue might give some folks the idea that guns can, you know, kill people occasionally.

  3. tom (unregistered) on March 22nd, 2005 @ 12:29 pm

    i’ve been asking that since november. it’s been well documented that the bush haters and “blue-staters” had pretty much crawled into a hole to cry since the defeat. like i said in this article, i pretty much want to again, after that ineffectual display of a “protest.”

    but no, as i said before, we don’t need outrage anymore. i’m past outrage. we need action.

    and here, i’ll spark some debate for you – that action needs to be revolutionary.

    without that, without something drastic, we will not only have bush remain in office for 4 more years, we may have someone just like him for the next 4, and the 4 after that. or even worse, bush will declare himself president for life. i wouldn’t put it past him.

  4. nikkos (unregistered) on March 22nd, 2005 @ 2:47 pm

    Armed revolution?

  5. tom (unregistered) on March 22nd, 2005 @ 3:13 pm

    you said it, not i.

    (the comments posted after this article MAY reflect the opinions of this author.)

    (i do not own a gun.)





  6. nikkos (unregistered) on March 22nd, 2005 @ 3:28 pm

    I don’t think we’re there quite yet. But it would be interesting to discuss how and when we’ll know, as a people, when we are “there.”

    I think I’ll save my “straw breaking the camel’s back” scenarios for another post and forum.

    Thanks for the back and forth Tom!

  7. elliot (unregistered) on March 23rd, 2005 @ 12:27 pm

    Whether or not you agree with the government’s stance on the Iraq war, how did the chicago Police’s show of force on the street deter your or anyone else’s freedom of speech. From what I could see Saturday, their only purpose was to ensure that the city’s property was protected, nobody got hurt, and the protester’s did not stop traffic. All of which I agree with. People showed up and expresed their opinion. What did I miss?

  8. tom (unregistered) on March 23rd, 2005 @ 12:53 pm

    i think you missed my point. my main point was that the protest was *ineffectual*, thus this article was intended to be just as critical of the protesters as the government.

    any gripes i have about the government’s tendency to limit our rights are more generalized. however, the city of chicago did dictate where the protesting would occur by arresting the ringleaders and keeping the crowd off the planned michigan ave. path. it’s similar to these “free speech zones” i see in dc. also, don’t undereswtimate the power of intimidation. how many would-be protesters may have stayed away because of the police presence saturday? what happened to our right to peaceably assemble on any public streetcorner?

    that being said, you’re right. opinions were expressed on saturday. i just wonder if the show of force pictured above is really necessary, and why michigan ave. is some special, non-american soil wherein we cannot express our opinions. and i mean why *other than* the fact that the city wants the shoppers to continue buying stuff there.

    we’ve come a long way from 1968, but i think we still have more to go.

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