Walter Reed Three Years After
The DC Chapter of the Free Republic, outraged at the insensitive and insulting choice of locations and sentiments for this obnoxious protest, decided in March 2005 to counter-protest the Code Pink protest. Tom the Redhunter has written a very good, brief history of the Walter Reed protest here in the Free Republic website, from which I have plucked the essentials. The bottom line is that three years later, protesters and counter-protestors are locked in a grim war of attrition which the Freepers are winning. There has been a dramatic change for the better since I visited first in August and September 2005.
The one thing protestors hate is being protested. The Free Republic, "Freeper," counter-protestors have now been out there 154 Friday nights, steadily gaining the advantage over protestors who suffered from disorganization, poor morale, and a bad cause. Code Pink tried the usual radical lefty tricks to counter the Freepers. They screamed in outrage at the dissenters, villified and demonized them, tried to infiltrate them, tried to get the police to suppress them, tried to get the neighborhood to call in complaints against them, et cetera. As usual, the lefties try to throttle the free speech of political opponents in their typical heavy-handed, un-American fashion. None of it worked.
The Code Pink protest suffered morale problems from the beginning. Being actively confronted by the Freepers made them uncomfortable, defensive, and edgy. They had expected a monopoly on their protest venue. Being protested for protesting didn't seem fair to them. Their moral authority was being challenged and undermined and they didn't know what to do about it, and still don't. Most protestors are in it for the fun of partying. Being counter-protested takes the fun away and strips a protest of most of its numbers.
The next morale problem came with the bus. Every Friday night, patriotic local businessmen treat a busload of wounded warriors to a night on the town. That bus returns about 9:30 PM at which time all the guys on board would flip the finger to Code Pink. That was a bitter blow to the morale of the Pinksters, who absurdly thought the troops would appreciate their protest at the hospital and all those "Maimed for Halliburton" signs. Once the guys had the bus driver stop halfway in the gate and turn on the interior lights so the Pink Ones could see their middle fingers more clearly. That's when Code Pink moved their protest from 8 to 10 PM to 7 to 9 PM, so they'd avoid seeing the soldiers.
The glory days of the Code Pink protest lasted about ten months, when the organizers fumbled the demonstration permits and forgot to renew them. The Freepers had been lurking at the permit office, waiting for exactly such a screw up. Code Pink had permits for both corners on either side of the main gate of Walter Reed, where Elder Street NW ran into the base. The Freepers had the corners across Georgia Avenue NW. When Code Pink let its permit lapse, the Freepers snapped them up.
The night of January 21, 2006 the Pinksters came to their corners at the main gate only to find the Freepers camped out on them, dangling the permit in front of their pink little faces. That was a bitter night for the Pinksters, who dragged their protest signs down in defeat to a little nook half a block away. From there, their protest has gone into a death spiral. Their numbers declined from a regular fifty folks down to half a dozen. Code Pink virtually abandoned the protest, a member or two only showing up sporadically after that, once to call the troops the terrorists. The Walter Reed Vigil Reports stopped at Number 16 in December, 2005. The thrill was gone.
From that time, the Freeper effort has been an exercise in managing and hastening the demise of the Walter Reed protest.
That's Kristinn Taylor, President of the DC Chapter of the Free Republic, the guy who got the counter-protest rolling three years ago. He's holding the three year anniversary sign.
I counted 41 counter-protestors at the gates of Walter Reed, like these fine patriotic ladies.
Another set of counter-protestors staked out the northwest corner of Georgia and Elder at the main gate to Walter Reed. That's the main hospital building in the background. The soldier patients on this side of the hospital said they could hear the protests back in their more boisterous days. It's close enough for wounded guys to walk out on warm nights to ask the protestors why they are protesting them, only to get the cold shoulder.
This is the same corner where a couple years ago I witnessed a protestor troubadour with guitar in hand leading a Code Pink chorus of protestors in protest songs accusing the troops of murdering babies. These are the same people who claim to support the troops.
This red-haired beauty manned the southeast corner with her dog, specially trained to bark in support of the troops and to pee on protest signs.
It goes without saying that our protest babes were way hotter than their protest babes. That means we won. Nuff said.
The Freeper counter-protest has slowly evolved into a flag-waving celebration of the wounded warriors.
The troops, the troops, the troops. It's all about the troops. This is what real support for the troops looks like.
These fine folks occupied the southwest corner, former home of the Code Pink protest, before they were dispossessed and sent packing half a block down the street to the left of the photo.
The Freepers have a little tailgate party to make the counter-protesting go easier. Roasting weenies and counter-protesting Code Pink are closely related skills.
The Freepers are considerably well-organized, pitching a tent and setting up tables full of food in what amounts to a counter-protesting machine.
Behind the newly refurbished Mother Of All Banners (MOAB), Freeper dogs are served.
Meanwhile, down the road at what's left of the sad little anti-war protest are three lonely protestors at 7 PM. What if they held a protest and nobody came? It makes you wonder what kind of excuses protestors give for giving up and staying home: The dog ate my protest sign? I was waiting for the cable guy? I took some bad acid? I ran over my cat on the way here and had to take her to the vet? I thought it was on Saturday night, not Friday? Hey, I'm sorry but I'm busy Friday but I'll be there next time?
It must be pretty discouraging to be running a protest nobody wants to attend, to get nothing but excuses from your old comrades who used to show up, and see others dodge you when they see you first. How are you gonna stop the oppressive Amerikkkan death machine when nobody mans the barricades, preferring to play couch potato at home with a cold beer in front of the TV?
Still, when the three of them spread out like that, I think they look like more of a crowd, don't you? That way it takes their mind off the fact there are a dozen counter-protestors for each protestor. The Freepers have as many folks standing around the grill waiting for their Freeper dog as the protestors have toting protest signs.
The floundering Walter Reed protest is the canary in the coal mine of the faltering national anti-war movement. The Stalinists at ANSWER cancelled their planned and announced giant anti-war demonstration two weeks before the event here in DC last month. That has been a radical springtime ritual since the invasion of Iraq. They just couldn't muster the numbers to march en masse.
There is a declining enthusiasm for protest which I attribute to the success in Iraq under the new Petraeus strategy. Americans only protest wars we appear to be losing and support wars we are winning. That's the way it worked in the Vietnam war, where the media turned real victories like the Tet Offensive into perceived defeats. That's the way it worked during the Civil War, too, where the Peace Democrats lobbied for recognition of the Confederacy with the argument that the war was unwinnable.
Counter-protesting has also contributed to defeating protests. Casual protestors will flee demonstrations that are substantially counter-protested, as the Freepers have done at Walter Reed and the Gathering of Eagles have done against ANSWER rallies in downtown DC. The bulk of protestors are there to party. Counter-protest the fun away and you drive away 90% of the protestors.
That's Bruce Wolf on the left, who is chair of the Social Justice Committee of the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 2, a union in the AFL-CIO. Bruce is the original organizer of this wrongheaded and wrongly-placed protest. Notice that he and his comrade are holding their signs over their faces to hide them from my camera. One of the odd quirks of these protests is that virtually all the casual protestors are delighted to have their photos taken, while the radicals who form the spine of these protests fear cameras. You can tell the wolves from the sheep in protest rallies by their positive or negative reaction to your camera. The radicals want to control your camera, order you to stop taking pix in public places, and even demand you delete photos you've taken. They're paranoid.
The first time I met Bruce he threatened to have me arrested if I took photos of the demonstration. He claimed it violated his right to free speech, among other absurd things. It was all BS, of course. The radical Left is all about free speech for themselves and all about shutting down free speech for others. The good thing about Bruce is that if you just talk to him for a while in a reasonable voice he'll eventually pose for you about fifteen minutes after he makes his objections and threats.
Bruce used to be happy to talk to me, arguing against the war, denying the awful songs and signs his group used to carry before they were shamed by the Freepers into sanitizing them into more mainstream-sounding slogans. Out with "Maimed for Halliburton," in with "Support the Troops, Bring Them Home." However, the last time I saw Bruce he was uncommunicative. This time he was downright sullen, refusing to even make eye contact.
It's a sad day when a conservative blogger like me can't even get threatened nor harangued at a peace rally. Where's the love? Where did the revolutionary passion go? When did the anti-war dream die?
Bruce told me, back when he was talking, that he had protested the Vietnam war. Shocker! Maybe he thought he could relive the whole '60s protest scene: Sex, Drugs, Rock 'n' Roll! And you can tell from this flyer he was handing out last December that he's into some silly Marxist claptrap with talk about "who truly benefits from the existence of a large military machine and expensive weapons of death" and "does it make sense to use American working people to fight working people in other nations?" It's classic Communist propaganda that posits war as a conspiracy to benefit the capitalists and calls to pit the working class against the capitalist class. Unfortunately, there are no worker and capitalist classes in America and the commies found that most people felt far more loyalty to their nation than any mythical working class.
In this Internet plea for people to join his protest, Bruce calls our troops "gun-toting scabs and thugs." Gosh, I wonder why the wounded warriors don't warm up to his protest which purports to support the troops?
I feel a little sorry for Bruce, who's pushing 61 now. He probably leapt into this protest without a second thought, counting on a quick and uncontested victory, a precipitous retreat and defeat in Iraq, just like Vietnam in the good ole days. His protestors would be home by Christmas.
But then the damned Freeper insurgents came out of the woodwork, bogging down his occupation of the main gate of Walter Reed with their guerrilla counter-protesting. Anything he tried, they countered it, undermined it, defeated it. He lost the initiative from the beginning, spending three years reacting to the Freepers, dancing to their tune. Then the Freepers pushed him out of his prime protest spot and formed a Freeper Quadrangle at the former corners of the intersection at the main gate that he couldn't crack. He can't win and he can't give in. There's no light at the end of the tunnel. He never imagined it would come to this: out-smarted, out-organized, out-numbered, out-protested. It's a quagmire.
It must be depressing to haul his butt all the way from Takoma Park every Friday to run this lame protest which is going nowhere. He had such big dreams at the beginning. He was going to get a clipboard to take down names. He was going to get a big banner, like the Freeper MOAB. But it never happenned. None of it happenned.
If you'd like to cheer Bruce up, you can email him at work at OPEIU2SJC@aol.com.
I'm not a professional protest analyst, I just play one on the Internet, but it seems to me the protest message would be more effective if it was in English. You can't help but wonder what they're thinking when the protestors make their protest unintelligible to most passersby. This woman, who might be Bruce's wife, says the sign says, "Enough to the war!" I recommend they hand out little Spanish dictionaries to the cars passing by so they can understand what they are protesting.
Here are some of the loneliest protest signs in town, just waiting, hoping for somebody, anybody, to hold them. Nothing shows the lack of enthusiasm for this protest more than these signs begging for protestors to tote them. However, to be fair, the demonstration gained some protestors about halfway through, swelling to thirteen people, which meant that the counter-protestors only outnumbered them by three to one now.
A look at some of the signs shows the usual fevered venom directed at Halliburton. However, Halliburton has done far more for the troops than Code Pink or these protestors will ever do, delivering the beans, bullets, and bandages to our guys at the pointy tip of the spear.
This is probably the most annoying sign they sport, diminishing the troops as children when they are more man than any protestor alive. It's the typical liberal arrogance where they see themselves as the wise parents talking down to their childish inferiors. They think the soldiers and marines fighting in Iraq, the Air Force pilots covering them from the air are children. I'm guessing our troops overseas can boast better parents than these protestors.
Freepers and protestors both agree on ending on the war, though not on the conditions. The protestors want to end the war with America defeated while the Freepers want the war ended with victory.
Another point of agreement between Freeper and protestor. The insanity will stop the day the protestors stop showing up. That day may be coming soon. The day Bruce gives up, the protest will collapse. He is near collapse now.
More protestors showed up to put in an hour. There was a Code Pink woman there who looked familiar, perhaps from their rally in downtown DC at the last big demonstration.
Perry was one of the few protestors willing to talk to me. He had a southern gentleman accent and manner about him which I kinda liked though he was fixed in his radical opinion. However, I'm pretty firm in my opinions, too. Perry was insistent that not only were we losing in Iraq, brother, we had already lost. Basra was proof of that. Yet, Basra was an Iraqi victory where Sadr ordered his gunmen to cease fire. We're winning in Iraq by most measures. I think most of the radicals get their info by word of mouth from other radicals.
Perry insisted that I mention that his father was a WWII vet, that he was taught to respect soldiers, and didn't want to see their lives wasted. He also wanted to make it clear that he wasn't flirting with this woman in the picture. He didn't want to get in trouble with his wife, I guess.
I pointed out that it undermined their assertion that they supported the soldiers when their protests had sung about the troops being baby-killers. Perry sharply denied that had ever happenned. He quizzed another protestor, who denied that any such thing had ever happenned. I told her that I was as close to the guitar player as I was to her and had written the lyrics down as they were sung. She scoffed at it. Evidently they expected me to trust their account rather than my own lying eyes and ears.
Even I was a bit surprised to read Bruce Wolf name Perry in his Code Pink Vigil Report No. 5 as the singer at that demonstration. Here's a photo above I took at the September 2005 protest. That's Perry on the guitar. He's the one who was singing the lyrics about the troops murdering babies:
"No more blood for oil;We shall not be moved.
No more killing children;We shall not be moved."
That's three years ago and maybe Perry didn't remember it. But really, can you believe anything these people say?
They don't call him "Big John" for nothing. I conservatively estimate Big John at eight feet tall and 500 pounds, a huge bear of a man. Big John Miska is the Commander of VFW Post 8208 in Ruckersville, VA. He also runs the AdoptASoldier program, which supports "wounded, injured, and ill troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Bethesda Naval Hospital." This night, he was playing flower child. When the protestors broke camp promptly at 9:00 PM he handed out poppies to them to honor the vets.
It was sort of an ironic reversal of the Vietnam protests where the flower children stuck flowers in the rifle muzzles of the National Guardsman who faced them. Now the vets give the protestors flowers when they leave. It's always good to see them leave.
The bus full of wounded warriors returning from their night on the town rolled in about 9:30, as usual, to the cheers of the Freepers. The guys inside were digging it. If you look close you can see a guy in front waving.
The Freepers are very close to making a precedent of counter-protesting a demonstration to death. The protestors are close to the tipping point of giving up. Feel free to come down and help them give it that last push to end it for once and all.
Labels: Walter Reed protest