After reading TocqueDeVille's complaints about the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition's presence and speakers at the DC anti-Iraq war rally, as well as Meteor Blades' well-written defense of A.N.S.W.E.R.'s activities, I have decided to throw my hat into this ring based on a very similar experience at the L.A. anti-inaugural rally this past January. While I normally support what Meteor Blades has to say, in this case I must disagree.
I attended the inaugural protest in Westwood in January, and was genuinely amazed--and quite pleased--at the number of people that were there (it must have numbered in the high thousands), as well as the diversity of anti-administration causes that were represented--we had anti-war, pro-choice, equality for gays, seniors for social security, anti-Gitmo...you name it, it was there at this rally. It wasn't an event with a single focus, like the recent anti-war march in Washington--it was open season against the Bush administration for whatever grievance mattered most to you. We also had quite a large youth presence there at the rally, which was inspiring to see--not just college kids, since UCLA was a stone's throw away, but even large groups of high-schoolers, and even a bunch of chanting middle-schoolers.
Then there was the soundstage--which, of course, is where a large number of people were gathered, including a good deal of media presence, until the march actually started. The stage speakers were sponsored by the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, which at the time I was not all that familiar with. I went to the soundstage expecting to hear speakers come out against the Bush administration and rallying people against the expected agenda for his second term--but that was not the case.
Instead, what I heard will sound familiar to anyone who was at the DC protest, or has read about what happened there. A parade of speakers, one right after the other, coming up to the stage and ranting--usually with an astounding lack of public speaking skills--about the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the valiant freedom fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, last but not least, constant expressions of solidarity with "our socialist working brothers in Cuba." I kid you not. And that's what the news cameras were focusing on. As a matter of fact, one of the speakers even made reference to how crowded the street area was getting and there was a lot more room at the soundstage--which wasn't really true. I didn't think about it at the time, but in reference to TocqueDeVille's entry, it in fact fits perfectly. I left the stage area quite soon, and didn't stick around to hear the end of the program, preferring instead to participate in the human chain of "prisoners" with Abu Ghraib hoods on their heads.
This is by way of exemplifying that what A.N.S.W.E.R. did in the DC rally is not an aberration--it is part of a systematic bait-and-switch strategy on their part to organize a large group of people for one purpose and then launch into their anti-Israeli, anti-American socialist agenda--and then lie to make sure that as many people as possible stick around to listen to them. I don't care whether A.N.S.W.E.R. played a vital role in organizing the protests. Imagine if you had a recent convert, or someone who is beginning to become unhappy about the way the war is going, and they attend an anti-war rally and see that the featured speakers on the stage are expressing solidarity with Fidel Castro and the terrorists in Iraq. Every single stereotype they ever heard out of Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh is instantly confirmed for them in that very instant.
I'm all for free speech. If A.N.S.W.E.R. wants to come out and say what they have to say, by all means, let them. But they should do it without creating the implication by their status as featured speakers on the soundstage that they are representative of the values and the opinions of the anti-war movement--because in so doing, they are promoting their pet causes at the expense of the interests of our values and our country.