Washington Post reporter Petula Dvorak (controversial chronicler of supposed rookie protesters) wrote up the beginning of hard-left protests dubbed "Camp Democracy" on Page A-5 Wednesday, even though Dvorak estimated the crowd at only "about 100" military family members and "peace activists." Perhaps the hype comes from its affiliation with Cindy Sheehan’s "Camp Casey" protests against Bush, but Sheehan was not present yesterday. The headline was "Antiwar Message Travels From Texas to Washington." (The story and accompanying photo also topped the Post home page on Tuesday night.)
CNSNews.com reporter Nathan Burchfiel also observed the protests yesterday, and found nowhere near 100 protesters there: "A few dozen anti-war activists faced light rain in Washington, D.C., Tuesday as they gathered to kick off a 17-day protest of the war in Iraq and other Bush administration policies...The opening ceremonies drew fewer than 50 protesters, who gathered under one of five large tents erected to protect a crowd of hundreds from the rain, which is forecast to continue for the first three days of the event."
Burchfiel identified some of the liberal groups participating:
The Washington demonstration is sponsored by several anti-war organizations and liberal advocacy groups, including Democrats.com, Code Pink, the National Immigrant Solidarity Network and the National Organization for Women.
Dvorak typically avoided left-wing labels, except for the protesters' own list of events:
Camp Democracy will have similar themes every day for the next few weeks: Organizing the Progressive Agenda Day, which will feature several members of Congress; Immigrants' Rights Day; Labor Speaks Out Day; Climate Crisis Day; and others.
Typically, Dvorak's piece reads like a press release for the protesters, emphasizing the veterans for "peace" in Iraq:
The main voices heard yesterday were those of veterans.
Charlie Anderson, 29, spoke loudly through the rainstorm. "I was so optimistic," said the Toledo native, who joined the military when he was 19. Then he "rode into Iraq without body armor," he said. And "I had no idea what the mission was, because it was changing every day."
Dozens of other veterans nodded when Anderson said this. A Vietnam War veteran in a wheelchair clapped. A naval recruiter from the Vietnam era raised her fist in the air. A Gulf War veteran mouthed the word "yes."
They talked about shortfalls in veterans' benefits and medical care. They discussed ways to end the war and tactics to starve the war machine of its essential fuel -- young recruits like them.
"I've been to dozens and dozens of counter-recruitment actions," said Joe Hatcher, who served in Dawr, Iraq, from February 2004 until March 2005 with the 1st Infantry Division. Now, the 25-year-old California native tours the country and sets up camp outside schools, where he gives students his real-life version of the recruiters' pitch about military life. His group also advises families on ways to opt out of military recruiting.
Dvorak did not include details like the U.K. Guardian did in March, like Mr. Hatcher "always sporting a keffiyeh and punk chains" declaring his love for his membership in Iraq Veterans Against the War:
The IVAW, says Hatcher, "is becoming our religion, our fight - as in any religion we've confessed our wrongs, and now it's time to atone."
Just outside New Orleans, the sudden appearance of a reporter from al-Jazeera's Washington office electrifies the former soldiers. It is a chance for the vets to turn confessional and the reporter is deluged with young former soldiers keen to be interviewed.