Sunday, September 6, 2015

Military Sacred, Free Speech Be Damned

Jenny Gray at the Navy Blue Angels Air Show in Brunswick, Maine on Sep. 6, 2015
photo: Peter Woodruff
From Jenny Gray's post on facebook:
Observations after 3 hours of protesting blue angel's show.
They were legion stuck in traffic, and couldn't help but read signs of all 15 or so of us. Most were working class, and poor with a few driving BMW's thrown in, & a few vets.
A handful of Freedom riders ! showed up, one with a confederate plate on very nice Harleys and brand new American flags. They were angry as they came and stood beside us and got the drivers a little fired up. So we saw a few fingers and got the usual -- we have to fight for our freedom. I said what do you think I'm doing out here ? Sunbathing ? No I didn't say that -- about sunbathing.
I said: You can't have a war without a planet! Yeah. And a few people wanted to know what my sign meant : I drew some blue fighter planes and wrote Carbon Hook // # coolyourjets
Get it ?
It got hot pretty quick. I was under a huge pine. But most protested out in the rising high sun and only one of us was under 40, and one or two pushing 80, hard. The regulars. Hopefully Bruce will post photos. Like Lisa said, even if there are only 10 of us out there -- hundreds read signs ..
Oh yeah and Bruce said -- Good for people too think about what the people we bomb go through when they hear the jets coming over their homes and towns and villages and then bombs start hitting, exploding ...
From Bruce Gagnon's post to his blog Organizing Notes "Protesting at the Air Show": 

photo: Peter Woodruff
Several from the 'Patriot Riders' motorcycle club parked their bikes and jumped in front of us.  They stood in front of Veterans for Peace member Tom Whitney (white shirt) and threatened to beat him up when he held his sign up so it could be read.  After about 15 minutes the club whose motto is "Freedom isn't Free" got back on their motorbikes and roared off. The Brunswick police, just across the street, did nothing.  If a group of peaceniks jumped in front of a right-wing protest we'd be quickly made to move and likely would face some rough treatment by the cops.

We stood for just over three hours at the entrance to the former Navy base in Brunswick, Maine today while thousands of people limped their way toward the Blue Angels airshow in a major traffic jam.  It was an organizers dream - a captive audience.  People often complain that we are always 'preaching to the choir' but that wasn't the case today. 
We had a couple dozen positive responses from those driving into the airshow but the vast majority of people were sullen, angry, and even viciously nasty.  Since 2003 we've done these airshow protests here in Brunswick at least 7-8 times but this was the meanest crowd I can remember.  Several others in our group of 15 noticed the same thing and wondered what the difference was this time around. 
I think it is a complicated question with several possible answers.  First I'd suggest that those who are pro-military are tired of losing all the wars that the US keeps fighting.  (After all we have this huge high-tech military machine and can't lick those darn folks in dusty Afghanistan.) So pro-war people get surly when peaceniks dare appear at a 'patriotic show' like this one today.  Secondly there is the 'Trump factor' where 'The Donald' is promising a return to the glorious past of the USA.  He tells his supporters that we'll have the greatest military (undefeatable) once again, we will build a wall along the Mexican border, that he'll bring the jobs back that 'China took from us' and other such trash.  This opens the door for the latent racism and blood thirsty warmongering that is instilled in the core of many American hearts and gives license to the unleashing of this rabid dog.  An airshow, where there is a kind of worship of killing power on display, becomes a perfect festival of sacrifice.  But there standing at the entrance of the airshow is the crew of peaceniks spoiling the party.  It pisses alot of them off - big time. 
A half-dozen of the so-called 'Patriot Riders' zoomed up on their motorbikes, parked them, and grabbed their American flags and began to jump in front of some of our folks who were holding signs.  They tried to pick a fight with retired medical doctor Tom Whitney, who is a member of Veterans for Peace, but were unsuccessful in their bullying tactics.  One of them got in front of the banner I was helping to hold but I asked him to move and he did.  He began yelling to cars, "God bless the USA."  After a minute I asked him if God blessed other countries as well?  He was startled by the question but did generously agree that God likely did bless other nations as well. 
The 'Patriot Riders' were trying to hand out cards to airshow enthusiasts as their cars crept toward the former base.  The red-white-blue card read in part "Seeking new members....We believe in the Constitution of the USA and all of it's preambles." 
We heard a lot about freedom today from the passing motorists.  Things like:  "If it wasn't for these planes you wouldn't have a right to stand there protesting."  The funny thing though is that most of those spitting out the 'freedom' word at us really didn't like the fact that we were actually exercising such freedoms by protesting the airshow.  Many of them shot us the finger, thumbs down, cursed at us, gave us the evil stare and the like. 
I've been publicly protesting for more than 35 years but today felt like one of the most abusive events I have ever experienced.  We know that the American empire is in collapse and I believe that in their hearts people know this to be true.  [emphasis mine] Folks want to hang on to old glory but the tattered flag is fading fast in the dusty winds of time.  I fear that the corporate oligarchy that runs the USA is turning the rage of the people against the critics - a red-white-blue version of Hitler's fascist brown shirts.  We see this being done in other places like Ukraine.  What makes us think that they would not do the same here in the US as well? 
I was glad we were at the airshow today with our signs and banners.  If you want to reach the American people just go out onto the streets because they are in their cars.  The road has become the town square in the US of A.

I was not there myself though I helped publicize the event and had an op ed, "Air Shows Are A Crime Against The Climate" published in the local newspaper. Now that I hear how the protests went I feel especially badly that I wasn't there.

To hear that a "patriotic" motorcycle gang with confederate flags displaying showed up and threatened an elderly retired doctor who is one of the hardest working peace organizers I know is disturbing. 

To hear that the police -- public servants, paid by several of the taxpayers being harassed -- did nothing in response is frightening. 

As a white person, my privilege has given me the illusion that the police will protect my rights if I'm threatened with violence. When public servants don't protect everyone's rights equally -- for instance, when police shoot and kill unarmed black and brown people -- the rule of law is rendered null and void. And that includes "the Constitution of the USA and all of it's [sic] preambles." Freedom isn't free, indeed.

When this history major puts reports of harassment and threats of violence met by police indifference together with the enthusiasm for presidential candidate Donald Trump's popular promises to return America to its former military glory, I feel we are one giant step closer to fascism. 

And, I will not stop protesting until the day they gun me down.
photo: Peter Woodruff

No comments: