1. From Hasan Zaidi in Karachi:
by Sara Pursley in New York -excerpt from her regular article...
The Incredible Shrinking Protest
The New York Times Sunday edition reported that attendance at the
march on Washington against an invasion of Iraq on Saturday, October
26, failed to live up to expectations. "Fewer people attended than
organizers had said they hoped for, even though after days of cold,
wet weather, the sun came out this morning."
Despite the article's emphasis on comparing numbers, it doesn't
actually give us any. We don't know how many people organizers "said
they hoped for" or even which organizers said they were hoping for
that mystery number. The article's claim that the small number who
did attend were in the "thousands" is almost as vague, and even more
These two statements together suggested in this reader's mind that
the number was fewer than 10,000. I did not attend the march myself,
but as someone with my own reasons to be suspicious of New York Times
coverage of demonstrations, I doubled that number and assumed there
were around 20,000 protestors.
A BBC article on its web site Saturday evening seemed to confirm the
Times description and to be based on the same sources, but it was
more specific, reporting that 10,000 people participated in the march
on Washington. The number was again deemed a failure: "The organisers
of the Washington march had been expecting many thousands more to
The BBC was also more specific about this expectation, claiming that
organizers had requested a permit for twice as many marchers
(20,000), and had "expected the rally to be the largest anti-war
demonstration since the Vietnam War era in the late 1960s and early
1970s." The poignantly anachronistic demonstrators, in
fact, "emulated the Vietnam protests" all day long. But as the sad
little caption under the article's main photo reiterates: "The crowd
fell short of organisers' expectations."
I've been looking for these crestfallen organizers to see what went
wrong, but I haven't been able to locate them. Maybe they went back
to the 1960s, where they seem to be from, because the only folks I've
found are present-day organizers at International ANSWER, who say
that 200,000 people just marched "in the biggest anti-war
demonstration since the Vietnam War."
The group points out that the march packed the city's wide boulevards
and sidewalks for a 2-mile stretch, and that the front of the march
finished its circle of the White House half an hour before the last
quarter of it had started. Little wonder that ANSWER's Mara Verheyden-
Hilliard says that "the huge outpouring on October 26 far exceeded
Well, organizers and police often report different numbers of
demonstrators, and the media usually go with the police estimate. But
the difference is usually within the realm of imagination, say
an "official" police estimate that is half the estimate of
organizers. A twenty-fold difference is strange indeed.
But was the official estimate really twenty times lower? Moving
farther afield, I saw that The Washington Post titled its own
article: "100,000 Rally, March Against War in Iraq." The Post writers
apparently arrived at this number by their own observation, and
because D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, while refraining from
giving an exact figure, said that attendance at the march exceeded
that of last April's march against the Israeli occupation, which the
police had estimated at 75,000.
So where did the BBC and the New York Times get their incredibly tiny
numbers, not to mention their assessment of failed expectations, if
not from the organizers and not from city officials?
Something seems to have made BBC and Times editors start asking that
very question. On Sunday afternoon, the estimate of 10,000 suddenly
vanished from the BBC article, as did those disappointed, overly
optimistic organizers. The modified article reports that "tens of
thousands" of people marched in D.C., and that "[i]n the US, the
protests are being hailed as some of the largest in the country since
US citizens took to the streets in the 1960s and 1970s to protest the
Vietnam war." This claim exactly reverses that of the original
The New York Times ran a follow-up article on Wednesday, five days
after the march. This article read: "The demonstration on Saturday in
Washington drew 100,000 by police estimates and 200,000 by
organizers', forming a two-mile wall of marchers around the White
House. The turnout startled even organizers, who had taken out
permits for 20,000 marchers. They expected 30 buses, and were
surprised by about 650, coming from as far as Nebraska and Florida."
The new article does not indicate why the New York Times had such a
hard time locating an actual march organizer, an official police
spokesperson, or even a single reliable eyewitness before publishing
its shameless anti-coverage of the march in the much more widely read
2. OPEN DEMOCRACY.NET POSTING - SUMMARY
When it comes to terrorism, Muscovites and Manhattanites may react
differently, observes Susan Richards in this issue of
www.openDemocracy.net, but will the gung-ho politics their
governments share reinforce rather than arrest a cycle of violence?
Robert Borosage pays tribute to the US senator Paul Wellstone as a
rare figure whose everyday politics built a ladder to the stars.
DEFENDING THE PALACE OF WESTERN CULTURE
Dialogue with Russian friends about the Chechen assault makes SUSAN
RICHARDS reassess the instinctively violent responses of governments
in east and west.
PAUL WELLSTONE: A LIFE FOR THE FUTURE
The fallen US senator has left a rich political legacy. ROBERT
BOROSAGE remembers a practical idealist for whom people were at the
centre of politics.
TRAVELLING BY SUN-BIRD: BALI IN INDIAN SIGHT
TANI BHARGAVA is enchanted by Hinduism in Bali, but asks how the
island will survive mass tourism and, now, terrorism.
ILLUSIONS OF CONTROL: THE DIG/BOMB RACE
The US's search for more powerful 'bunker-buster' bombs is part of a
weird, unwinnable, arms race, says PAUL ROGERS.
PROTEST, THE INTIFADA AND ANTI-SEMITISM
In assessing a mass demonstration, moral judgment must be used with
care and balanced by political understanding. OMAR AL-QATTAN responds
to Douglas Murray.
GAMBLING AND GOVERNANCE
There is abundant life and no government in Kabul. WENDELL STEAVENSON
bids restless, melancholy, loving farewell.
THE AMBASSADORS: CLOSE ENCOUNTERS WITH CHINA
Can America and China be friends? As Jiang Zemin visits George Bush
in Texas, LINDSAY WATERS recounts a more intimate journey across the
great cultural wall.
ANTHONY BARNETT trusts that the same democractic wind which elected
Lula in Brazil will fill openDemocracy's sails too.
GLOBOLOG: FRUGAL POPES AND MONGOLIAN GRASS
It starts with Adbusters and ends with grass in Mongolia; along the
way, oil and human rights in the southern Caucasus, weapons of mass
salvation, and a new diary of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. CASPAR
HENDERSON is indispensable.
From the Congo to Condomi, via Libya, Rome and a Caracas plaza.
Dominic Hilton is inimitable.
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