Sunday, March 18, 2007

Denouncing the Denouncers

Veterans, Others Denounce Marchers
Counter-Demonstrators Number in Thousands
As war protesters marched toward Arlington Memorial Bridge en route to the Pentagon yesterday, they were flanked by long lines of military veterans and others who stood in solidarity with U.S. troops and the Bush administration's cause in Iraq. Many booed loudly as the protesters passed, turned their backs to them or yelled, "If you don't like America, get out!"

The vets turned both sides of Constitution into a bitter, charged gantlet for the war protesters. "Jihadists!" some vets screamed. "You're brain-dead!" Others chanted, "Workers World traitors must hang!" -- a reference to the Communist newspaper. Some broke into "The Star-Spangled Banner" as war protesters sought to hand out pamphlets.

The large turnout surprised even some counter demonstrators. Polls show public opinion turning against the war in Iraq, and the November election was widely seen as a repudiation of the administration's policy.

Saturday’s march was organized by the Answer Coalition — named for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism — an organization that was initially associated with the Workers World Party and now affiliated with a breakaway faction of that party called the Party for Socialism and Liberation.

The turnout for the march was much smaller than the crowd that gathered two months ago on the National Mall for a demonstration opposing President Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq. That event featured speeches by a members of Congress who opposed the war as well as a handful of Hollywood stars.

Brian Becker, the national coordinator of the Answer Coalition and a member of the Party of Socialism and Liberation, said the group held out little hope of influencing either the president or Congress. “It is about radicalizing people,” Mr. Becker said in an interview. “You hook into a movement that exists — in this case the antiwar movement — and channel people who care about that movement and bring them into political life, the life of political activism.”

Many in the crowd said they were unfamiliar with the Answer Coalition and puzzled by the many signs about socialism. Several said they had come from across the country for a chance to voice their dismay at the war.

As they gathered before the march, the protesters met what several veterans of the antiwar movement described as an unusually large contingent of several hundred counterdemonstrators. Many were veterans in biker jackets who said they had come to protect the nearby Vietnam Memorial, citing rumors that had circulated among veterans groups that the demonstrators planned to deface it.

Michelle Malkin has excellent and lengthy coverage of the protest, and many pictures here.

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