They were not so much a coalition of protesters as they were a coalition of the clueless. At least that was my impression after speaking with them.
There were two events in Philadelphia on Independence Day. One was the dedication of the first and only museum devoted to the United States Constitution-the National Constitution Center (NCC).
Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was the honored guest at the dedication ceremony for the NCC. Several thousand observed those ceremonies, which included speeches by O’Connor, Senator Rick Santorum, and Ray Charles among others.
The other event was a protest of the NCC. This event attracted - by my count - only a few hundred people by ten o’clock in the morning. (The official figure was 2,000 although the Philadelphia Inquirer reported an inflated 5,000).
Ignorance and vulgarity seemed to be the hallmark of the coalition protesters. The protesters' vulgarity was understandable. The protesters, like shock radio DJ's, needed something to attract attention. Their ignorance was inexplicable. One would expect them to know what they are protesting. This was not the case.
Their vacuity was quite apparent by their answers, or rather lack thereof, to questions, general and specific, about their issues.
The first protester I met was named Charles. He wore a mountain man beard and had an amiable personality. He was working for the Green Party USA. We spoke about different things for awhile. Charles seemed to be a fairly rational and articulate person. I asked what exactly it is the Green Party advocates. He responded that the Greens were for grassroots democracy, social justice, and the environment.
I then asked him what is social justice. After all, it is a nebulous term I said, many people, including Adolf Hitler and 1930s Nazi sympathizer Father Coughlin, have used that term. When asked to define it, Charles stammered and proffered universal healthcare as an example.
As I said, Charles was no rabid fanatic. He seemed like a nice guy and I am sure he is deeply committed to his cause; he's just not sure what it is.
I then wandered over to the International ANSWER booth. They had a petition calling for the impeachment of George Bush. I asked the young lady there why should Bush be impeached.
“Because he lied.” she replied earnestly.
“About what?” I asked.
“ The reason for war in Iraq. He lied about the WMD’s. There are none, “ she said fervidly.
“You mean that is a fact. There are no WMD's, “ I asked innocently.
“Well as far as I know there aren’t,” she said.
“So there may be WMD’s,” I replied.
“ Well it’s possible,” she concluded. But she's impeaching a Republican. Who cares? Sign the petition....
I walked across the street to a group of cops by a barricade to try to get some quotes from them. However, they were not anxious to talk. A guy approached the barricade and started complaining that this was an example of the lack of liberty in this country.
Returning to Franklin Square I passed a person holding a sign protesting genetically modified foods. His name was Martin and he said he was a computer programmer. When asked about his concern about genetically modified foods he went into this dissertation about how these foods would cause humans to become resistant to antibiotics and result in epidemics. He also mentioned that Monsanto Corporation knew about this yet did nothing to prevent it. He could not cite any source other than his website.
The next two people I spoke to were two legal observers from the ACLU. One was Sara Mullen who is the Director of the Philadelphia chapter and the other was an intern named Josh. They were the first and only people I spoke with who could both reply to my questions and do so with a sense of humor. In fact, they joked that the crowd was so small that there was about one legal observer for every fifteen protesters-and there were only fifteen legal observers.
I asked what it is exactly that a legal observer does. Sara said they were there to report if the cops did anything to violate the protesters right of free speech. This seemed reasonable. However, I did inquire as to what they would do if the protesters did anything to disrupt the right of free speech at the ceremonies. Sara said that was the protesters' right. So I asked hypothetically what would she do if a group opposed to the protesters tried to disrupt their rally. She replied that is why they have lawyers to determine whose rights are being violated.
The last person I spoke to was a woman in her mid-thirties named Jennifer. She said she was a former college English teacher, now a full time activist, from New Jersey. One of her concerns was John Ashcroft.
Jennifer said that Habeas Corpus has been eliminated because of Ashcroft. She went to say that there was a woman in NYC who was jailed and not allowed a lawyer. When I asked the name of the woman, why she was arrested, and when this occurred Jennifer could not say. She did say however that an aide to her congressman, Mike Ferguson, said that the Constitution does not apply any more.
Later that day the protesters marched past the Liberty Bell pavilion on Market Street between the NCC and Independence Hall. One of the banners carried by the marchers was that of the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade (RCYB). This is the youth affiliate of the Revolutionary Communist Party, which is an organization that idolizes Mao tse-Tung and would shred our Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Ironically, it makes perfect sense that the RCYB would be protesting the National Constitution Center. What the NCC represents and perpetuates is the antithesis of everything they believe.