Washington D.C.January 2,2009
SDBaxter: Overall it went very well – like a big church outing with lots of hail fellow well met, moms, kids and strollers. “A good time was had by all”. Clearly well controlled by the ANSWER people, IMO. There were a few agents provocateur in the crowd, but the ringleaders warned against them and all went fairly well. Large crowd, maybe 1000-1200, but I am sure they will claim more. Pre-canned protest – almost all signs came in by the truckload. Lots of keffiyehs present. Mostly persons of Arab decent but visible groupings of young wannabe activists who thing Thug Life and the Koran mix well (hmmm – wait a minute), and well-seasoned hippies looking for one last hurrah. Very sensitive to media. They practiced their chants, called out WaPo for no coverage, berated Obama to clarify his position and spent the most vocal part of their protest beating on the barrriers at the Egyptian Embassy. Hamas was never mentioned once, the West Bank and Gaza Strip were conflated and a solitary protester with a Hezbollah flag (complete with rifle) was angrily chided to put it away since ‘they did not need that kind of publicity’ (captured on video). Police and Secret Service were very present and professional, but generally at ease with the posture of the protesters. Near the end they tired of herding duties and threatened to declare the protest illegal if they didn’t get back up on the sidewalk. At least one helicopter circled (complete with “Cops” style spot light) almost the whole time. The most tense group moment came after a return to the Israeli embassy and the speaker announced that the Israeli ground invasion had begun, and then repeated it. The noise level increased preceptibly IMO, but then the announcer backtracked and moved on, which seemed to bring the crowd back into line. A beg for donations, some closing pontifications and a commitment to keep up the protesting closed out the proceedings, afterwhich the crowd broke up and the young, energetic types stood on the corner of Connecticut and Van Ness chanting loudly while their friends drove by with flags waving and honking wildly. The chanted message was mostly “Free free Palestine” but much of the signage accused Israel of everything from war crimes to mother/child holocausts. There was one Orthodox Jewish group present in the protest with an anti-Zionist sign, and a few “Not our taxes” messages. The Israeli embassy corner was untouched – all the action occurred across the street on the Chinese(?) embassy corner, whose staff looked out bewildered at the crowd. The area is awash in ME/Asian embassies and I do not doubt a substantial part of the crowd was Arab/Muslim sypathetic embassy staff. Two lone young men held signs supporting Israel (caught on video) – one possibly a security officer. I apparently missed a shouting match with the tougher of the two men, and witnessed a passionate but peaceful disagreement between a woman and the other pro-Israel supporter. Numerous comments were heard from the police/security that this was expected to turn into a weekly or even daily event for the time-being. IMO if it does, the antics will grow to keep the press coming out. The handful of showboats and the call to prayer will be boring very quickly to jaded MSM-types.I think the video will reflect the above well, with the added benefit of pretty blinking lights. This protest was well heeled, and will hopefully be moot before too terribly long.