Todd Purdum's account of the New York city atmosphere on the eve of the Republican convention includes this fascinating quote from David Gergen.
"I've been going to Republican conventions since 1972, and I've never seen a convention with as many protesters in the streets," said David Gergen, who has worked for several Republican presidents, and Bill Clinton. "The irony is that was a convention held here because of echoes of 9/11, but it opens with echoes of Chicago and the Vietnam war.
"The protests are anti-Bush, with heavy antiwar overtones, but this is Chicago without the fisticuffs, without the fight, without the bloodshed - so far," Mr. Gergen added. "To interpret this politically is hard, but my gut is that large, peaceful protests are not what the Republicans want. The protesters are stealing the story for the first day and drowning out the Republican message. If there's violence, that could all change."
His metaphor is nearly exact, but the difference is fundamental. Chicago 1968 was a radicalizing experience for young people caught up in the Leftist recruitment net. New York 2004 is more likely to be a radicalizing experience for "conservatives", I'm tempted to say, but "non-Leftists" is probably a more accurate term.
Police arrested up to 60 protesters who assembled in Times Square at dusk chanting anti-Bush slogans after hundreds of thousands had marched in Manhattan to decry the president's policies before the Republican convention begins on Monday. But individual protesters kept tensions high, some of them hissing or cursing at well-heeled couples heading to popular Broadway musicals like "Thoroughly Modern Millie" and "Fiddler on the Roof."
"Republican murderers go home and kill your babies!'' one young man yelled at theatergoers, a far cry from local public service messages urging New Yorkers to ``make nice'' to party delegates in the city for the four-day convention, where Bush will be nominated for another four-year term.
A second protester shoved a middle-aged woman in a black cocktail dress, shouting: "Bitch, go home! We don't want you here!'' At one point, police cordoned off a city block after several dozen demonstrators jeered and razzed the incoming audience.
The most telling caption in the whole series was "observers said the gathering in places resembled the demonstrations against the Vietnam war that rocked the US in the last century." If the violence David Gergen fears comes to New York, either courtesy of the Left or an Islamist attack, it will be a watershed moment for the conservative activists who are sheepishly, and still politely, waving their flags with a kind of residual provincial courtesy. Then the torch, and lyrics of this song, will have passed completely -- to the other side.
Though your brother's bound and gagged
And they've chained him to a chair
Won't you please come to Chicago
Just to sing
In a land that's known as freedom
How can such a thing be fair
Won't you please come to Chicago
For the help we can bring
We can change the world -
Re-arrange the world
It's dying - to get better
Graham Nash, Chicago
Aug. 13 - Among the 250,000 expected to head to New York City to demonstrate at the Republican National Convention, a small army of about 200 people plans to march alongside them—but on the other side of political spectrum. Calling themselves Protest Warriors, they are an ardently conservative group made up of recent college graduates, high-school students and right-wing ideologues who hope to “counterprogram” the message of the largely left-wing crowd. According to its Web site, the organization’s goal is to “help arm the liberty-loving Silent Majority with ammo--ammo that strikes at the intellectual solar plexus of the Left.” The protests scheduled for the weekend before the RNC begins on Aug. 30 provides one opportunity--a "mission" the group is calling Operation Liberty Rising. “We’re going to be out there in the trenches,” says Kfir Alfia, 30, cofounder of the organization ProtestWarrior.com.
... Alfia, who designed network chips for a Silicon Valley start-up before devoting himself full time to the group at its Austin, Texas, headquarters, founded it in March 2003 with his childhood friend Alan Lipton. According to Alfia, the organization is funded by merchandise sales from the Web site, the occasional $50 donation and out of “our own pocket.” So far, there are about 7,200 Protest Warriors across the United States.
What? No patchouli oil?
You've lost it when you don't even know you're being spoofed. Patrick Belton is in New York covering the RNC convention. He quotes the New Republic Online to describe the most "noteworthy" street theater, and it's not from the Left.
The day's most noteworthy street theater wasn't even the creation of leftists; it was the brainchild of a conservative group calling themselves Communists for Kerry. Dressed as Lenin, Castro, and Che Guevara, and speaking in appropriate Russian and Spanish accents, they marched up Seventh Avenue waving red flags and calling for revolution. (The fact that their display was satire wasn't immediately obvious to some of their fellow marchers.)