Monday, March 21, 2011

Protesting against the war in Obama's America: Worse than Bush

There was another anti-war rally in Washington, DC on March 19. Unlike the protests during the Bush administration, the rally against Obama's wars in Afghanistan Iraq, Pakistan, and now, Libya, barely drew 500 people. Some of the anti-war rallies during the Bush administration drew over 300,000. However, this is a Democratic administration, so many pressure group provocateurs on the left feel that Obama, who is continuing two of Bush's wars, and who started two more in Pakistan and Libya, is justified in enforcing America's imperial military designs. 

However, in a security force action not seen in Washington during the Bush-era anti-war demonstrations, U.S. Park Police, working with Secret Service and other security forces, used a "bait-and-switch" tactic, coupled with a crowd herding procedure known as kettling, to disrupt the anti-war demonstration at Lafayette Park in front of the White House.

Kettling, the movement of large crowds of protesters into a confined area where, subsequently, only a limited number of people are allowed to leave or everyone is confined and arrested, has been a favorite tactic of police in the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, France, and Denmark.

On Saturday, police had indicated to protest organizers that no one would be arrested unless they chained themselves to the White House fence. However, as protesters continued to mass in front of the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, chanting "Free Bradley Manning" and "Who's street? Our street!," the security forces had other plans, perhaps not wanting to set a precedent for an American version of Cairo's Tahrir Square in front of the White House.

Rapidly, American security forces began to close in protesters, tourists, some 9/11 Truth demonstrators, anti-Qaddafi and Syrian regime protesters, and media within a barrier of interlocking metal fence sections. At the same time, a phalanx of horse-mounted Park Police began to kettle protesters within a smaller confined area while other security forces began to push back people on Pennsylvania toward Lafayette Park. It was clear that anyone who remained on Pennsylvania Avenue would be subject to arrest and a $500 fine.

Some protesters, including Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, removed to leave, and were arrested. The lesson learned is that if Americans even contemplate a Tahrir Square in front of the White House, they will need many more than 500 protesters and they will have to be prepared to take on some well-armed and equippped security forces, including the Park Police's newest "toy," one of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's portable parking lot towers.
Above: Anti-war demonstration in Lafayette Park began like many others. Bottom right: Daniel Ellsberg (third from left) and retired Army Col. Ann Wright (fourth from left) lock arms in a silent march past thge White House.

Upper left (Napolitano's new spy toy, the parking lot tower, at far end of Pennsylvania Avenue), Upper right (security forces set up processing tent for arrested protesters); lower left (protesters, tourists, and media being "kettled" behind fences on Pennsylvania Ave.: it was a signal to leave or risk arrest); lower right (security forces ring protesters with fences).
Left (mounted security forces begin kettling process); right (after kettling, arrests being made, including that of Daniel Ellsberg).