Threatening to shut down the city, the People’s Strike of the Anti-Capitalist Convergence Alliance stormed into this capital city last week â€“ and went directly to jail without passing Go.
Perhaps a fifth of the promised 20,000 demonstrators turned up, and by Friday afternoon 649 were in the custody of Police Chief Ramsey, charged with failing to get off the street. Raged 42-year-old Eric Laursen of New York, “These streets are our streets. We don’t need permission to be in the street and send a message.”
Replied Ramsey, “They made it clear the last five months they were going to try to shut down this city down, they were going to try to cause property damage through some kind of point system. We’re not going to let them do that in our city.”
Mark Goldstone of the National Lawyers Guild whined that he was unable to talk to arrestees who, on release, griped about the food, water and bathroom facilities at Chez Ramsey.
Said the chief, “It’s jail. It’s not a resort, so people can’t expect to be treated the same way they would if they checked in at the Hilton.” If the chief keeps this up, he may soon be mayor.
Some 300 activists trooped to Georgetown with signs reading “Stop Gap’s Sweatshops,” then trivialized their cause by stripping to thongs, bras and underpants to protest Gap’s alleged exploitation of Third World workers.
Saturday, a cardboard Trojan Horse being moved to the World Bank building got snagged on a tree branch and lost its head. “Kind of symbolic of the protests,” said Chief Ramsey.
The strike was intended to shut down the city and disrupt the annual meeting of the IMF and World Bank. It was a total bust. Some workers simply stayed home, and others found traffic less congested than normal, as Ramsey’s cops outnumbered and swarmed the demonstrators everywhere they turned.
The People’s Strike may rank as the biggest flop in 40 years of mass demonstrations. Like their fathers before them, these infantile leftists seem never to learn how self-defeating their antics have become.
Many Americans might support a write-off of poor-country debts owed to the IMF and World Bank, in return for a shutdown of these socialist institutions that regularly loot Middle America to subsidize corrupt and even criminal Third World regimes and their foolish bankers.
But all the disrupters accomplished was to call attention to their smug, self-righteous, obnoxious selves. And if this is the caliber of the demonstrators coming here on Oct. 26 to protest a preemptive war on Iraq, President Bush can launch with impunity. As Reuters reports, bystanders who faced tangled commutes to their offices or had long-planned Washington sightseeing trips disrupted had little sympathy for the protesters.
“There’s a fine line between democracy and stupidity. Especially in this climate after 9-11,” said Carol Tyler of San Mateo, Calif. “You really have to err on the conservative side.”
Consider how the left has emasculated itself in recent years.
In December 1999, 50,000 folks, most of them union workers and family members, came to Seattle to protest NAFTA and GATT at the big meeting of the World Trade Organization. Backing them were populists of left and right. But as workers made their case with marches, speeches and interviews, 1,000 anarchists rioted for days. Eating up all the airtime, they left the nation and world with the impression that all anti-globalists are vandals and wackos. This weekend’s gathering on D.C. streets served to harden the impression.
For 40 years, the pattern has repeated itself. When the civil-rights marches of the 1960s gave way to Black Power rants and riots from Watts to Washington, the white backlash began. And when the antiwar marches of the Vietnam era degenerated into violence in Washington in 1969, 1970 and 1971, Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew channeled America’s disgust at the antics of the overprivileged, while working-class kids were fighting in rice paddies, into the greatest landslide in American history.
Nixon’s New Majority that gave Republicans five victories in six presidential elections between 1968 and 1988 (including three landslides) was grounded in the Silent Majority’s revulsion at Black Power and Ivy League militants who assumed their cause entitled them to trash other people’s property and break our laws.
President Bush may be at 70 percent today, but America is listening to the dissenters who oppose this coming war. Disorders on Oct. 26, however, will play into the War Party’s hand and may give GOP the Senate a week later.
If the Democrats don’t condemn the weekend antics of the infantile left, they may suffer the same fate they did in the Nixon-Reagan era.