By Debra Sweet
Viewing all the news coverage today on yesterday’s 500-strong protest at the White House, I’m struck by how effective it was. Reporters on the way to the daily briefing were stepping around us, and couldn’t help but hear Cindy Sheehan, with World Can’t Wait, Code Pink and Veterans for Peace right outside the Rose Garden press area.
The first question to Robert Gibbs was about the protest. Of course, we planned October 5 months ago to mark the 8th anniversary of the occupation of Afghanistan, not knowing that the government would be in turmoil over how to proceed.
Democracy Now ran the following exchange:
During Monday’s White House press briefing, reporter Helen Thomas questioned Press Secretary Robert Gibbs about the President’s plans.
"The White House said Monday President Obama has no plans to walk away from the war in Afghanistan, which began eight years ago this week. Obama is expected to decide soon whether to send tens of thousands of more troops as requested by US commander General Stanley McChrystal.
Helen Thomas: "Is pulling out of Afghanistan part of the assessment?"
Robert Gibbs: "No. In fact, the President was-the President was exceedingly clear that no part of the conversation on-no part of the conversation involved was leaving Afghanistan. That’s not something that has ever been entertained, despite the fact that people still get asked what happens if we leave Afghanistan. That’s not a decision that’s on the table to make."
Thomas: "What does he think will happen?"
Gibbs: "What does he think will happen?"
Gibbs: "I don’t think we have the option to leave. I think that’s-that’s quite clear."
Hundreds of mainstream news stories were filed on the protest, many of them accurate in depicting the demands and demeanor, and many interesting details of the protest.
I was interviewed by media from all over the world. Dana Milbank noted the World Can’t Wait t-shirt and anti-torture protest: "The policies that earned Obama such a salute were printed on the back of the "Obomba" T-shirts, sold by the group World Can’t Wait: "Indefinite Detention." "CIA Rendition." "Escalation of War in Afghanistan." "Increase in Government Spying." "Unmanned Drones Bombing Pakistan." And those shirts didn’t mention Obama’s latest bomb dropped on civil libertarians: reversing his support for a law to protect anonymous sources who expose wrongdoing."
Elaine Brower organized the display of 870 pairs of boots and hundreds of shoes this weekend on the Ellipse, commemorating the deaths of US military and Afghani civilians, the first time such a display has been mounted on Afghanistan. Read her account:
Missy Beattie, whose nephew was killed in Iraq, was also with us, and writes in CounterPunch today.
OCTOBER 6: Day of Resistance to Recruiters. Today we were in high schools, and soon will report on what we learned. In Denver and San Francisco, the protests are focusing on recruiting offices. We learned that all military recruiting offices were closed today in Arkansas, specifically because World Can’t Wait organized this day. And the day was mentioned in the New York Times blog. http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/06/blogtalk-exclusive-or-man-on-the-street/
Tomorrow, here in New York, we’ll be in Grand Central Terminal with a dramatic new kind of protest, bringing the message to commuters of just what their government is doing in Afghanistan. Wedding photos soon!
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SAVE the DATE: Sat/Sun November 7/8
World Can’t Wait National Gathering in NYC
If you’re thinking "business meetings" or the usual panels and workshops: no. We are bringing together presenters at the center of critical issues with activists and thinkers to strategize and envision resistance to the crimes of our government in 2010.
Special feature: The US preview of Andy Worthington’s new film, "Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo."
All the details soon — but make plans to be in NYC for a 9am Saturday start time, through mid afternoon Sunday.