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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Ridgefield Press failed to tell the true story of the peace rally

Oh, this is rich and a perfect example of a misleading article.

The Ridgefield Press came out today with a misleading story on the anti-war rally yesterday and lets just say they made the counter-protestors seem downright polite (which couldn't be further away from the truth).

Now for those not familiar with the area, Ridgefield is a rather conservative town (to say the least) so I wan't very surprised that the people at the Ridgefield Press wrote this article with a pro-war slant. Since I had the feeling that this event was going to be reported in this fashion, I made it a point to show up to the rally with my videotape and camera so I could give you a first hand account of what really happened.

Lets take this article piece by piece.
To the solemn cadence of a lone drum, peace marchers against the Iraq war made their way slowly down Main Street Saturday, to be confronted at the veterans memorial by the Community Center with a counter-protest of people with American flags and ‘Support the Troops’ signs.

"The proceedings remained peaceable, if a little tense, as the counter-protestors sang America the Beautiful while the leaders of the peace marchers read off the names of soldiers killed in the war.
Now, let me break this scene down and see if it matches the article but I need to make this point.

As the reporter correctly states later in the article, as the peace marcher was walking to the memorial, the peace group stopped and a person who seemed to be the organizer walked to the counter-protestors and wanted to make sure that there would be no problems.

Now, let's continue.

The counter-protestors were not singing "America the Beautiful" at the moment the fallen soldiers names were read off but rather when a peace marcher was reading a poem at the beginning of their ceremony. When the names of the fallen soldiers were being read, a counter-protestor who seemed to be a war veteran (who just had to make a point by standing next to the person who was reading the fallen solider names) tried to interrupt things by making some remark that thankfully was ignored by the peace marchers.

In the following photo, the person who yelled during the name of the fallen soliders is in the blue square.

(Click the image to enlarge)

Also, during the readings of the fallen soldier’s one particular outspoken female counter-protestor (who I'll talk about later) made it a point to make her opinions known with her pro-war statements. At one point, a peace marcher had to go directly to the person making the most noise and ask her to show a little respect while the names of the fallen soldiers were being read.

Now do you think the pro-war crowd would tolerate it if the peace marchers shouted remarks while they were reading the names of the fallen.

Well, let us get back to the article.
There were about 30 peace marchers, and about 20 counter-protestors.

“I was glad to see so much support in Ridgefield, especially on a cold and wintry day,” said Tammy Strom, one of the peace protesters, said after the march. “As far as the other side, they all had these ‘Support the troops’ signs. We don’t disagree with that. We believe in supporting the troops by bringing them home.”
Now, this isn't misleading...it's downright wrong. I have the video of the event (I'll have it posted later) by looking at these series of photographs, you can clearly see that the peace marchers outnumbered the counter-protestors. By my count, there were at least 40-45 peace marchers to about 10 counter-protestors (and I'm being generous with that figure).

Look, the photos of the peace marchers (I'm posting them at various angles so you can get a clear picture of the crowd).

...and here is a picture of all of the counter-protestors. A represenative of the peace marchers is talking to the group and making sure everything will be peaceful.

Why did the Ridgefield Press mislead the public? Thank goodness for blogs!

Lets get back to the story.
Both groups received what seemed to be supportive waves and beeps from people cars and trucks that drove by them — though the ‘Support the Troops’ people seemed to get more frequent support.

Again, this is misleading and let me explain why.

I arrived about ten minutes late to the rally, and had to catch up to the peace marchers. As I walked to catch up with the peace marchers, I had to stop by the counter-protestors and make sure that I had all of my photography equipment. After I checked to make sure I had everything, I stood by to see what type of support the counter-protestors were receiving and I heard maybe one or two cars pass by and honk. Now, I can tell you that when I was caught up to the peace marchers at the War Memorial in front of Jesse Lee Methodist Church, they received several beeps from passing cars and this was the first time I saw the reporter from the Ridgefield Press as he ran across the street and took photographs in the same area as myself.

As the peace marchers walked back to the Veterans Memorial at the Community Center, the reporter/photographer from the Ridgefield Press and myself set up a position to catch both groups cross each other. There were people holding signs for and against the war at this point so I ask you how can the reporter tell who was honking for who if both crowds were mingled together.

After the peace marchers did their presentation, they walked to the center of town. The reporter got a couple of quotes from a couple of pro-war demonstrators and was gone in a couple of minutes (I think he was getting the names of the people as he had time to get quotes earlier in the march). When I packed my things away (which took a few minutes because I had so much stuff) the counter-protestors basically packed up and went home. During this time, the pro-war group received maybe two or three honks but the reporter wouldn’t know this because by this time he was long gone (it was freezing outside). As I walked down the street to the center of town, I clearly saw more support for the peace marchers as several more cars honked at them.

Basically, I could care less about this except if you read the article, you get the impression that the so-called "Support the Troops" group received more support which is not correct (I didn't know that the peace marchers didn't support the troops?)

Let's continue...
Occasionally each group was yelled at out a car window by someone disagreeing with them. The harshest of these was an obscene rant from a passing car window as both groups stood with signs around the memorial at the community center. “Go [expletive] a Muslim’s [expletive]. That’s why we kill them!” he said.
Okay, this is the most misleading part of the story. Let me describe to you what actually happened.

For one, I did not here any people who drove by say anything negative to the counter-protestors or peace marchers except for the one asshole who made a obscene "Go [expletive] a Muslim" remark.

Now comes the misleading part and disgusting part.

The reporter failed to mention that when the idiot drove by and made the remark, a peace marcher who was right in front of me yelled back "I AM A MUSLIM!" at which point a counter-protestor (this is the outspoken woman a talked about earlier who also mentioned several times that her husband currently in the army. I made a point to take her picture and if you read the article, you’ll know the person I’m talking about) said, "well, then go back to Iraq." After she said this, she commented to another counter-protestor that the statement the asshole in the truck made was correct. Again, I know she said this because I was between her and the person who said "I AM A MUSLIM" and I was able to record a majority of that encounter on video (and I also have photos of the two people involved in this ugly incident).

Now I’ll say that maybe the reporter didn’t hear the entire encounter but I can’t see how he didn’t because like I said, this particular individual was the most outspoken of all the counter-protestors. This was the part of the march that disturbed me the most because what was said by the asshole who drove by and the woman who supported his remark was simply disgusting, disrespectful, and best symbolized how ugly those who support President Bush and the war are towards anyone who does not agree with their opinion.

Now to be fair, not all of the pro-war people were engaged in this spectacle of disrespect and I don’t want to give the impression that everything was that bad because things were mostly peaceful. Unfortunately, there were certain members of the pro-war crowd who made it their mission to disrespect the peace marchers and sadly, the rest of the group did not scold them. At no time did the peace marchers make a scene or try to engage the counter-protestors. Now can you imagine if the roles were reversed and the peace marchers disrespected the pro-war crowd?

“I’m not an activist, I’m an American,” said Gloria Stearns, one of the 20 or so people standing in front of the Community Center with ‘Support of the troops’ signs. “I will not see happen to these young men and women in uniform what happened to my brother when he got back from Vietnam. If I even see somebody spit at a soldier...”


“We’re not going to be silent any more, otherwise we’ll have Islamo-facism in the country,” said Maribel Ahaya, a Ridgefielder whose husband has been in the army special forces for 23 years, including service in Iraq and Afghanistan.


One of the peace marchers came down to the center ahead of the rest of the group, to make sure all would go well.

“We have no intent to spit on or dishonor anyone,” he said.

“We’re not out here beating anyone over the head,” said Ms. Stearns. “We’re peaceful. It’s a public street.”

Peaceful? If only she can say this about our of her colleagues.

FYI: I'll encoding the video of the event including the "I AM A MUSLIM" incident and will post it online later.