My Very First Protest

RespectWhen I got the invitation from my friends Jeff and Cam to go to a protest at the Afghan Embassy on Wyoming Ave in Northwest, I didn’t quite know what to do. See, I’ve always had this dislike for protestors, dating back to the last round of really anarchic WTO/IMF/WorldBank protests which obstructed me from getting around downtown and nearly got me tear gassed as the protestors stormed the Citibank on McPherson square. Going to the protest would be a major change in posture for me, as I’ve felt that often times opposed the nature of protests at embassies in general.

But I went. And here’s what I learned.

I got there a little before noon to scope out the scene. The Embassy of Afghanistan sits at the corner of 24th & Wyoming in Northwest, just a few blocks off Embassy Row in this quiet DC neighborhood that probably doesn’t see many protests. Yet here they gathered. There were probably 60 people total at the event, but only a few bodies were there when I arrived. They held hard backed protest signed and bore the tools of the veterans: large sharpie markers and expert penmanship.

Standing across the street were some uniformed members of the Secret Service, around six in total. The Secret Service is responsible for the protection of embassies in the District and surrounding areas, so it was no surprise to see them there. They met with the leader of the protest and talked about what was and was not tolerable in terms of actions on the part of the protestors. It was vanilla stuff, mostly,

Protestors

There were also four news crews there, working in twos and threes, their shoulder-mounted BetaCams and ubiquitous microphone connections moving around the groups in tandem. There were slogans chanted, but none were catchy. Statements from various human rights groups were read, but Amnesty International was nowhere to be found, it was up to the Human Rights Counsel for the Family Research Council (Ed. – Really? Tom – Yeah, Really.) to carry the message and sadly, it wasn’t as loud as perhaps it should have been given the issue.

Oh. Right. Issue. The issue has to do with religious freedom in countries who consider Shari’a to come before other laws. There’s this guy, Abdul, he lives in Afghanistan. He decided that he wanted to be a Christian, and so he converted. However, Afghanistan forbids apostasy, and that crime carries the death sentence. Doesn’t matter it’s Christianity he’s converting to, just that he’s leaving Islam. And so they’re going to kill him. And I think that really, really sucks.

The whole thing felt odd and machined. 40 people, all with signs and slogans. Jaded media asking loaded questions of people who had no media training, so they couldn’t see through it. Even more jaded reporters remarking that the only way this story would lead anywhere would be if we turned over cars and lit things on fire. Disinterested Secret Service agents standing impassively by and watching.

But I can now say that I’ve protested in DC. Even if I found the whole experience to be a bizarre thing at best.

1 Comment so far

  1. Tom Mills (unregistered) on March 25th, 2006 @ 6:16 am

    Ah, practicing that good ‘ol “the right of the people peaceably to assemble” thing that some guys long time ago wrote down on a piece of paper as a crazy idea, eh? I’ve participated in a few now, welcome to the club.



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