The Washington Post highlighted Saturday’s anti-liberation of Iraq protest march to the Pentagon on the front page, splashing a large color photo of a crowd of leftist demonstrators over the headline "4 Years After Start of War, Anger Reigns: Demonstrators Brave Cold to Carry Message to the Pentagon, as Counter-Protesters Battle Back." Counter-demonstrators won an article and two photos of their own in the Post, but Post reporters repeatedly referred to jeering conservatives giving the leftists a battering of abusive comments. The Post used no ideological labels or explained the communist origins of the organizers of the ANSWER Coalition – unlike The New York Times, which did both in their Sunday coverage.
The lead sentence of the front-page Post article by Steve Vogel and Michael Alison Chandler mentioned that the "anti-war" protesters were "jeered along the way by large numbers of angry counter-demonstrators, but the rest of the front page was devoted to the left, especially the standard sympathetic rookie protester: 72-year-old Korean War veteran Paul Miller "making his first appearance at an anti-war rally" who felt "so bad for the young Marines who are getting their legs blown off and losing their lives."
The front-page portion of the article did mention that some speakers wanted Bush and Cheney impeached, and that attendance at the rally "was noticeably smaller" than a January leftist protest on Capitol Hill. Police estimated it at "10,000 to 20,000."
Inside, Vogel and Chandler noted that "Much of the passion yesterday was supplied by thousands of counter-protesters," and "Some counter-protesters yelled obscenities and mocked the marchers as traitors." The conservatives couldn’t say they were ignored, but they were portrayed with a thuggish appearance:
At one point before the march started, counter-demonstrators formed a gantlet along an asphalt walkway on Constitution Avenue and heaped verbal abuse at protesters who walked through on their way to the assembly area. One Vietnam veteran in a wheelchair yelled obscenities at demonstrators, including some with children.
Some demonstrators supporting the war effort engaged in good-natured banter with war protesters. But others blocked paths and prevented marchers from getting near the Wall, particularly anyone carrying a sign. District resident Eric Anderson, 47, had his sign ripped from his hands and thrown in the mud.
Bob Anders, 60, an Iowa banker who said he served with the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam and rode a bus from Iowa to protest the war, had his heart set on seeing the memorial but turned around after seeing the situation. "I've never seen the memorial, and I wanted to see it in a spirit of protest," he said.
A few paragraphs later, the Post reporters added that counter-protesters were something leftists were forced to "survive," an unwanted battering:
They had survived the 22-hour bus ride as well as the insults of the counter-protesters, only to be defeated by the bitter cold.
"We just couldn't take it anymore," said Christine Gaunt, 50, a hog farmer from Grinnell, Iowa. Now, with a voice fatigued from chanting litanies against the president and feet tired from marching on the military industrial complex, Gaunt just counted the hours to the group's scheduled bus pickup at 7 p.m.
Isn’t it interesting that the Post refers to the leftist lingo of the "military industrial complex" without any distance or irony or quotation marks, as if that’s simply what the Pentagon represents? The only quotation of a rally speaker came from "protest leader Mara Veheyden-Hilliard," with ANSWER, saying simply, "It’s strange to say, but welcome to the Pentagon," since there was no counter-protesting crowd there. The reporters noted "speeches from antiwar activists including Cindy Sheehan" in their piece, but included no quotations.
Above the front-page story’s continuation on page A-12 was an entire story on the counter-protesters by Brigid Schulte with the headline "Veterans, Others Denounce Marchers." Schulte called it "the largest gathering of pro-administration counter-demonstrators since the war began four years ago." Most counter-protesters probably do support the Bush surge policy, but it’s also possible that some were more passionate in opposing the "anti-war" crowd than with defending the administration. The oddest paragraph in Schulte’s article was this one, another description of bullying, bitter right-wingers:
The vets turned both sides of Constitution into a bitter, charged gantlet for the war protesters. "Jihadists!" some vets screamed. "You're brain-dead!" Others chanted, "Workers World traitors must hang!" -- a reference to the Communist newspaper. Some broke into "The Star-Spangled Banner" as war protesters sought to hand out pamphlets.
Earth to Schulte: the Workers World Party is a communist party with a newspaper, but they are also the force behind the ANSWER Coalition, the rally’s organizers. The counter-protesters were denouncing the protest organizers, not just literature. (For an account of how counter-protesters were counter-taunted by obscenity-spewing protesters, see here.)
It was a little amusing to see that paragraph followed by a war protester fussing about a "Bunch of hooligans in motorcycle jackets." It might be the first time a left-wing hooligan has denounced the other side as hooligans in the Post. At the very least, it's uncommon. Schulte’s article reported that the catalyst for the counter-protest was vandalism and disrespect shown at the January leftist protest, including the spray-painting of the Capitol steps and a crowning of the Lone Sailor statue at the Navy Memorial in Washington with a pink tiara with the words "Women for Peace" on it.
The most striking part of the Schulte article was the large photo that came with it. A "U.S. Marine who served in Iraq yells at passing war protesters," read the caption. The Marine clearly projected rage, and had his left-hand in a fist. The other photo of counter-demonstrators lower on page A-12 had men holding their hats and praying near the Vietnam veterans memorial.
Once again, the Post displayed their disdain for the anti-abortion march in January, which despite having larger numbers than the Pentagon protest, was buried inside the front section.