Saturday, April 05, 2003

The specter of violence

Now come the death threats. From just up the road in Bellingham:

Unidentified caller warned he would shoot 2 protesters
The man first called the business line of the 911 dispatch office at 7:03 a.m. Friday. A dispatcher asked the man if he wanted to leave a message; he replied that he planned to shoot one male and one female protester. The call couldn't be traced.

He next left a message, also untraceable, at the newsroom of The Bellingham Herald, saying he planned to make national headlines by shooting two protesters at close range.

Then, at 10:20 a.m., he called in a similar threat to the registrar's office at Western. Campus officials said the call came from a pay phone.

KGMI radio station broadcast a recording of the man's 911 call on its morning newscasts. If caught, the man could be charged with making felony threats.

Fortunately, it didn't succeed:

Students stage anti-war 'die-in'

Before the speakers began, students circulated Red Square and handed out slips of paper warning students of a threat phoned in anonymously this morning to Bellingham police, Western Washington University and The Bellingham Herald. The caller said he planned to shoot a male and female protester at the march.

Western officials spread the word of the threat via e-mail and the university’s Web site. Students also announced the threat before the rally.

It didn’t seem to scare anyone away.

'What a cowardly, insidious, un-American attempt to stop free speech," said Alberto Mejia, one of the speakers, as cheers and applause filled the red brick square.

Of course, this is what we've come to expect from the so-called "pro-war" crowd. Indeed, in case there was any doubt about which element was responsible for the threat:
During the silence, the two dozen or so support-the-troops ralliers across the street started chanting "U.S.A." and one told the protesters to "stay that way."

One week ago, this same bunch -- only in a much larger contingent -- invaded a peace vigil in Bellingham, in much the same way we've seen confrontational campaigns to disrupt peace protests in other places:

Hundreds of pro-military truckers roll downtown in show of support

Note the bizarre slant of this story. It isn't until you read midway through it that you realize that this was not merely a pro-war demonstration -- it was an overt attempt to disrupt a smallish antiwar protest.

Interestingly, this appears to be much of the same crowd of in-your-face disruptors who were called out by KVI radio host Kirby Wilbur last week in Duvall:
"We had no idea it was going to get this big," said Bosman, who said he was inspired by a pro-war rally in Duvall he drove his rig through last Monday.

"There are a lot of people that feel the way I do," he said. "Sometimes, it just takes a little snowball to get things going."

No kidding.

In case there was any question that the intent of the "pro-war" crowd is not so much to support the war, but rather to attack antiwar protesters, the well-buried details should make it clear:
They blasted their horns down the Guide and through the city, escorted by Bellingham Police officers who led them on a route that included Squalicum Parkway, Roeder Avenue and Chestnut Street, where they turned north on Cornwall Avenue. Between Holly and Magnolia streets, they passed the building where the Bellingham chapter of the anti-war group, Not in Our Name, held an Anti-War Fair Saturday morning.

Two men in camouflage fatigues stood on Cornwall near Magnolia saluting the convoy. Three women held their fingers in the shape of a "v." Nearby, three Sehome High School students -- Katie Hoyt, 18; Ken Hoyt, 15; and Josh Hatfield, 14 -- played snare drums in the center of a crowd of anti-war demonstrators, creating a contrasting rhythm to the truck horns' steady drone that was so loud sidewalk conversations had to be yelled.

And unsurprisingly, a tinge of violence made its appearance;
There were a few scuffles as protesters from both sides converged, said Olise Olufunke, founder of the local Not in Our Name chapter and the organizer of another peace rally at that intersection Saturday afternoon.

Olise said a man berated her for her anti-war views and slapped her, back-handed, on the arm. She hopes to press charges, she said. And Cassandra Malec, who helped organize the morning's event, saw police officers drag away people who were trying to cross the street during the truck convoy.

Mark Polin said he backed his car out of a Cornwall Avenue parking space to join the convoy while holding a sign that read, "Support our troops, bring them home," out the car window.

"Some guy stuck his torso in the driver side window," said Polin, "grabbed the steering wheel, told me to get off the road, and tried to grab the sign. But another pro-war guy told him to get out of my car."

It seems inevitable that this is going to get out of hand, and at some point Americans are going to start killing each other over this war.

One wonders where that uniter-not-a-divider stands on all this. Given the way this frenzy is being whipped up by his propagandists in talk radio, I guess it's really not hard to tell.

[Thanks to Paul deArmond for the heads-up.]

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