GRANNIES AND PALS PROTEST THE PROTEST
A protest against the Islamic Center had been planned for 10:00AM Sunday. We were asked to show up at Church and Warren Streets with signs of welcome.
The protesters gathered, some on motorcycles. The police kept the two groups separated – out of sight of each other.
Caroline wore her Granny Peace Brigade button; Jenny and Joan P. did too. Barbara H said, “I came as myself,” and Jerry said, “I came for the Constitution.” Pat wore her Constitution shirt and Barbara W was, like Barbara H, dressed as herself. Steve was in his priestly collar.
Neighborhood residents arrived saying they were glad to have found the rally…wondered how we knew about it.
We got curious about who the other guys actually were, and Joan P and Jenny went over to check them out. Joan P was pleasantly surprised at how few of them there actually were, considering that they had been bused in. She says they didn’t occupy a half a city block. Most sadly they sang, “We Shall Not Be Moved” (guess there are no Woody Guthries or Pete Seegers in that crowd) and tried to convince themselves that their Islamophobia springs from their desire to protect the hallowed Burlington Coat Factory (as Rachel Maddox called it) and not the unacknowledged wellspring of racism so evident when one listens to their words carefully.
Although Jenny agrees that the demo was not as large as one might have thought given the choreographed nature of the event, it was most chilling and horrifying that this is taking place anywhere in the country and awful that it is in our city. We need to be most vigilant. History shows that times like this when the economy is increasingly bad for people, politicians prey on fears and promote divisions among people. The Muslims are most vulnerable nowadays. As are we all. The media must be held accountable when they stoke the fires of fear and conflict and racism.
One of the good home-made signs “hate = terrorism” captured a problem with the activities of the “welcome to the center” group. Some of us were uncomfortable with the intensity of the negative message being generated in the chants by people marching alongside of us. What rankles is that what sells papers is conflict, and the reporters suggested, albeit politely at times, that we were one of two groups in a sporting match.
The protesters had organized far ahead of the date; they had about 500 people, or so the papers said. We were about 200, pulled together in a few days.
What if we could bring the whole city out into the streets on 9/11 this year to say “let us have our diversity; we’re used to it; give us freedom of religion and quality education and that will hallow our ground.”
- Caroline Chinlund with Joan Pleune and Jenny Heinz
for the Granny Peace Brigade
Photos: Bud Korotzer