Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Right Wing Counter Protest

Where Eagles Dare
The Counter-protest Group The Gathering Of Eagles Cause A Ruckus As Bush Comes To New London's Coast Guard Ceremonies.
By Adam Bulger
Hartford Advocate May 31 2007 (No longer online)

The first encounter I had with right wing protest group the Gathering of Eagles was watching an Eagle upbraid young, female demonstrators outside the New London Coast Guard Academy.

The demonstrators had come to protest President Bush’s visit as commencement speaker last Monday. The heavy-set man with a personal PA system challenged the “hippy girls’” loyalty to their “homo,” “girly-man” boyfriends. Later, he accused the anti-war protesters of getting paid to attend the May 22 protest. An anti-war protester yelled that he paid $20 for gas to get there. The Gathering of Eagles member suggested he “should have driven a hybrid vehicle.”

He ran out of steam, one-liner-wise, after that, but he and other less-light-on-their-feet Eagles with megaphones and speakers droned on for the next hour or so, including a long droning “swim to Cuba” chant during a Latino anti-war speaker’s speech.

Before the protest, the group’s Web site, gatheringofeagles.org, said the group planned to “welcome the families of the graduating Coast Guard academy” and “support … these families and graduating cadets.” The group, at least nominally, was worried the Coast Guard graduation would be unfairly disrupted by the anti-war rally planned by the ANSWER coalition and other anti-war groups, including Veterans for Peace and Connecticut Opposes the War.

“We believe that ANSWER’s protest was very ill-timed, and a very bad location. … For ANSWER to protest the President on what’s supposed to be the happiest day of these people’s lives so far, that was shameful and very disgraceful,” Connecticut Gathering of Eagles organizer Jim Bancroft said. (Turns out he shouldn’t have been so worried — the Presidential motorcade avoided the protest. Neither the demonstration nor the counter-demonstration impacted the ceremony.)

Bancroft claimed an early remark by an anti-war speaker changed the Eagle’s gathering’s purpose from a celebration of the cadets to a hectoring of the anti-war demonstration.

“We were there to welcome the President. When we got there, the first thing that happened was someone called us baby killers,” Bancroft said, adding that the slur was stated sometime between 7:30 and 7:45 a.m.

His claim seems extremely unlikely, in light of an ANSWER’s spokesperson’s version of the timeline.

“Our sound permit didn’t start until eight. We might have done a sound check, but they would have just heard ‘Check, check,’” ANSWER organizer Tahnee Stair said.

Elliot Adams, a Vietnam veteran and the president of Veterans for Peace, attended the rally, and said he viewed the Eagles with resigned sadness.

“I feel sorry for them. A number of them are vets, and I understand the misplaced anger associated with [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder],” Adams said. “With PTSD, you have what’s called misplaced anger that goes off in all directions. It’s a real common thing.”

He added, “Also, they believe in the American dream, and they don’t just see that we’re losing it.”