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Politics of protest: War protesters want debate and dissent, but only on their terms
[B]Carl Morgan: Politics of protest
War protesters say they want debate and dissent, but only if it's their debate and dissent[/B]
CRAWFORD – I guess we made a wrong turn.
This became obvious when a Secret Service agent approached the car and asked what we wanted. We were too close to President Bush's ranch.
According to radio station KLIF-AM (570), we were to park at Bubba's house (no joke) and meet with other Bush supporters to counter Cindy Sheehan's cooperation with increasingly distasteful anti-war groups. I was with six Protest Warriors, a conservative group that "protests the protesters."
When we explained this to the Secret Service agent, she became amicable – smiled even – and was extremely helpful. This was emblematic of every law-enforcement officer we encountered.
We passed through a carnival of anti-war tents and tables, protesters strutting fearlessly in front of us, before we could find parking and I could start doing what I'd set out to do: talk to people.
I asked a supporter of Cindy Sheehan whether I could talk to him. He refused – unless I could show him a press pass.
Unfortunately, student journalists don't get press passes, and he wouldn't accept my college ID.
In fact, no Sheehan supporter would give his or her name, let alone talk. I had arrived with the Protest Warriors, but I carried no sign and wasn't acting obnoxiously conservative, unless an unmarked shirt and jeans scream conservatism. I had wanted to hear both sides. Instead, I was faced with considerable hostility.
Finally, a girl started talking to me – and she made a lot of sense. "Everybody has a right to be here," she said.
But before she could go any further, a man whispered to her: "They're Freepers. You don't need to be talking to them." A "Freeper" is a member of the online conservative news site FreeRepublic.com.
Then I met Gary Qualls, whose son was killed in the battle for Fallujah. He wore his son's boot tags and handed out information regarding his death. He received little media attention and was visibly upset when relating his son's story.
He also had to bear witness to his son's name on a cross set out by war protesters along the road.
Ms. Sheehan and her supporters are asking the media and the country to probe Mr. Bush with challenging and adversarial questions. But how can they expect Mr. Bush to answer, when they will not?