Trip report: protesting [no pics] – swampman – Mar 10

preface: this is long & kinda unreadable so skip it and tell me to get out if thats easier… for reference i got money from lungfish and almost all my posts are dumb puns, good starting places for ya flamer types. thanks

Yesterday I went to the protest against the Friends of the IDF dinner thing at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel here in new york city. While I initially intended to be involved in the protest I found it was much more fun to stand back and watch it. Is this because I’m a filthy cynic idiot who is afraid to stand up for his beliefs?? Am I a false-flag pseudo-progressive postmodernist noob schmuck schlemiel who wants to relocate Palestinians to Atlantis? Maybe I’m just a heroin addict who has trouble standing for long periods because of shooting pains from infected trackmarks in my thigh, balls and ass. Judge for yourself because I am going to basically just ramble about everything that happened:

When I arrive at 5:00 there are already about a hundred people along the sidewalk; they’re marching in a long line, down the block and back again. The first thing I notice is that they have matching placards / signs, white lettering on black, and several times someone offers me a sign to hold. This is problem number one: obviously they made the signs for unity of message, but the messages themselves aren’t exactly unified. Some are brief obits of an extremely old or young person murdered by the IDF, some are simple statements about war criminals dining in our faire citie / at the waldorf, some are calls for imprisonment of Israelis or the ending of American donations to Israel. Some give unverified facts / numbers (“Israeli forces killed 348 children in Gaza”). And one simply reads “Obama end your silence,” which seems like a non-sequiter. None of the signs confront the IDF specifically or speak substantively about what must be done. The overriding theme of the evening would be “organized” groups failing to deliver an organized, on-target message, and this failure directly resulted in an inability to corral the pet issues of their component members.

Many of the people who approached me at first, to offer me signs to carry or leaflets to read, were organizers wearing red arm bands. Of all the people I spoke to, these were the least helpful, most distrustful, and least “active” members of the protest (in that they didn’t directly participate in any chanting, signwaving, even walking). Apparently the laws in New York are such that you can either walk as a group without blocking the sidewalk, or keep your members in a designated protest area; the group I started out following was of the walking variety, and the organizers essentially behaved like schoolteachers, reminding people to stay in a single file line, keep moving, not block the sidewalk, and not engage counterprotestors at all. The end result was that the police on hand had very little personal interaction with protesters and were able to focus on the larger aspects of corralling the march.

I found I’d made the smarter decision to not directly join the march; not being in all black, waving one of their signs, or wearing a keffiyeh, I was completely ignored by cops and organizers and could speak freely with protesters and counterprotesters, loiter wherever I wanted to watch the event, go past (most) barricades unquestioned. If it reassures anyone that I am in fact on the side of right and fucking decency, I used this “civilian” status to have frank, one-on-one conversations with counterprotestors. Whenever a lecturing Jewish man would be interrupted from his rant about Hamas Nazis by the police telling him he needed to keep moving, I’d step in, ask him a question, and suggest we talk while walking. Our quiet conversation would carry us around the block, maybe across a street, and then I’d abandon him away from the main protest to harass a handful of stragglers instead of the whole group. Disarming opponents for the mother freaking success!!

The first man I did this to was an Australian-Israeli who told me that Hamas had launched seven thousand missiles into Israel (“what kind of missles?” “the kind that kill people!”), that they use hospitals as headquarters, that they want to reinstate the holocaust. He said that when America is attacked by Muslims we get to do whatever we want, but when the same happens to Israel the world looks the other way. I asked if he thought America had set a good example to follow and he said, “Frankly, neither I nor Israel gives a shit about America, you guys want to dictate our foreign policy but we are the one true nation with God on our side.” Many counterprotesters, however, would follow the theme of giant-ass Israeli flag adorned with smaller American flags. One such person told me that this is because the two nations are interlinked, that it’s un-American to not support Israel because they’re fighting the same fight we are.

(My unapproved tactic of talking to whoever I wanted left some of the scarier protesters a little suspicious of me. Getting back in line to follow the march, a man who looked like he was knitted from the body parts of Hell’s Angels corpses found in a death row dumpster turned to ask if I was following him and where was my sign. I said I was just marching and he stopped walking and stared me down until I scuttled away. I’m a scared baby!)

Okay, so the march is now at the Waldorf and I’m excited to see them take some real action, but they don’t do much – they circle the building, single-file, sticking to the sidewalks. At this point they have about two hundred people, maybe more, greatly outnumbering the handful of city cops and counterprotesters and Waldorf doormen and even their own organizers. If they’d walked into the building and sat down in the lobby they could easily have prevented the dinner from happening at all. Keep in mind that this event cost at least $1000 a plate and had 1200 ticketholders, so if you want to talk about dealing a financial blow to the IDF, that would have done the trick. Instead, protesters continued to circle the building until approximately 6:20, at which point police cordoned off the main entrance to the Waldorf to prevent protesters from interfering with Waldorf guests.

So now the march is completely removed from the event. At no point did I see any protester engage or be engaged by any person who looked like they might be attending that evening – counterprotesters were half average crazies, tea partiers mad about Palestine instead of Pelosi, waving inept drawings of crescent & star = swastika and so forth. Not that this rhetoric was limited to the counterprotestors. At any given time anyone shouting anything was about 50% likely to be calling the other side Nazis.

The other half were smug young men with yarmulkes who grinned at invectives as they handed out booklets explaining why the idea of a Palestinian Apartheid was a silly myth. I think it’s significant that the people meekly walking around the building received all the shouting lunatics, while the other protest group got the douchey young-republican zionist types. This other protest group was the boisterous, alt-rock faction, eschewing the solemn non-confrontational marching to do some disorganized cheers & chants. Waving big Palestinian flags and some corporate callouts (including what I consider the best sign of the evening for the amount of reaction it received, that Hilton Hotels is complicit in the murder of civilians – the man holding it had several screaming arguments with passing suits who I could only assume held Hilton stock), they chanted:

No justice, no peace, Israel out of the Middle East!
Hey Israel, what do you say, how many kids did you kill today?
Long live the intifada (long live the intifada) Intifada intifada (intifada intifada)
From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!

A very, very few variations on these themes would arise; someone would call out a line, the crowd would respond, they’d call out the rhyme, the crowd would repeat that one too. I wanted to try “If anyone wants absolution / We need to find a two-state solution” but every time one chant would peter out a new one would begin. These protesters would at no point leave their steel police barricade and were inaudible from a block off. At one point, one of the yarmulke’d smiling dipshits approached their barricade and a new chant began: Nazi go home! You could tell that some people in the crowd were uncomfortable about shouting this. One young white girl with a keffiyeh was smiling and dancing as she yelled it. The aggravator’s point about those unreasonable nincompoops made self-evident, he grinned even harder until being told to take a walk by the cops. Throughout this, the chanting continued, always the same kind, never about the IDF or about anything really. One small middle-aged woman, who to be fair looked physically incapable of raising her voice, used a little object to bang on the steel barricade, sometimes keeping to the rhythm of the chant, making a piercing, obnoxious clang that somehow fit the entire atmosphere perfectly.

After listening to a girl with an Israeli flag as a cape give a teary interview about the murder of Israeli citizens by waves of suicide bombers, I counted (seriously) the fiftieth white person wearing a keffiyeh of my night out, and left the protest at about eight, an hour after the official ending. Big props to the fact it was still going, but inside the Waldorf, over $1.2 million was being given by rich people to continue oppressing Palestine. In a sense the protest itself was an ineffectual counter-protest, unsubstantive, highly controlled by people who have more interest in things running smoothly than any sort of result. I sighed, stroked my hairy neck, and chewed a Pocky quietly as I walked to Grand Central Station to give free handjobs in the employee bathroom. At least I would make the world a nicer place that night…

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