Okay, it was more like 50 of 60 of us than 300. But then again, there were only 8 or 9 thousand protesters, not the 50 to 75 thousand they had promised.
My day started with a Families United Rally at Triangle Park in St Paul. Merilee Carlson said a prayer for her son Shrek, Debbie Lee spoke about her son, the first Seal Team member killed in Iraq, and Hollywood actor Jon Voight stopped by to say thanks to the Blue Star and Gold Star Families.
We all grabbed one of Joe Repya's Victory over Terrorism signs, and we proceeded down to the Excel Center.
The police were well prepared, and had to be miserable in 90 degrees and humid wearing full battle rattle.
They kept smiles on their faces however, and were the epitome of professionalism. But they were in fact prepared for anything, evidenced by their gas masks and tear gas launchers. They even have a better weapon then the army gets, an 40 mm 6 shot grenade launcher.
One man showed his patriotism via his poodle, and I hope there weren't any PETA types nearby to see this-
The bulk of the protesters started to pass by and I was way too busy to get pictures. Basically we had the sidewalk lined with Victory over terrorism signs and a street full of protesters. Even though the numbers of the protesters was lower than expected, the different number of causes represented was impressive. I saw anti-war, anti-Bush, anti-big oil, and just plain anti-all authority. We saw signs for Dakota Indian treaty rights, and long black banners with white names that they claimed were innocent Iraqis killed by the US. I saw the requisite 9/11 truther squad, Code Pink, and dozens of folks wearing Che Guevara t-shirts. The only thing I saw that really made my blood boil was 2 men and one woman walking in full Army uniforms, and one guy in Marine cammies. It was a flagrant violation of military regulations, and rather than bringing honor to those wearing the uniforms, it just brought dishonor to all those who serve.
Most of the time those of us on the sidewalk just smiled in the face of the slurs and epithets hurled our way. I lost track of the number of people who called me a baby killer, a war-mongerer, a slave to the Bush/Cheney/Haliburton/insert your personal evil here/McCain military industrial complex. 9 out of 10 of those that passed us got our smiles in return, but on occaision I spoke out as well. When someone accused us of sending young kids to die to keep the price of oil low, we asked what kind of vehicles they drove. Not one person replied that they drove a Prius of some other hybrid. When they told us to go fight in Iraq if we loved war so much, I responded that I spent 465 days in Iraq. That shuts them up pretty quick. When they chanted Bush lied/kids died, I quietly asked if Pres Clinton was lying as well when he claimed Iraq had WMD. Silence on that question.
I did have a 10 minute conversation with one man who deeply frightened me. Not because he threatened me, or because he was crazy. On the contrary, he was the only protester I met that could make a decent, rational argument without yelling. What scared me was that all of his arguments were based on outright lies. When we talked about the start of the war, he claimed the Pres Bush went on national TV and accused Saddam Hussein of planning 9/11. When he asked why we couldn't leave Iraq tomorrow, I responded that UN resolution places the responsibility for the security of Iraq on the US led coalition, and they wont let us leave. He then claimed that Presidents Bush Sr and Clinton never invaded Iraq, only Pres Bush Jr did that. We went back and forth for 3 minutes on this point, and he was convinced that I was flat out wrong. For his benefit, here's a map of the invasion of Southern Iraq in 1991 from PBS, so he can't claim media bias-
In the end, we agreed to disagree and shook hands. I thanked him for exercising his first amendment rights, and he thanked me for serving in the military to protect his first amendment rights.
Janet Biehoffer's sign summed up our parting-