When I looked at the thermometer on the wall it said 1 degree celsius, only one degree above freezing. That wasn’t toO bad in itself were it not for the chill factor of a typical Dutch 13 knots wind. Before the march started we waited in the cold for about 2 hours. The chill slowly works its way to the bones. But this only added to the show of commitment of the protesters; to have come and to stay at this place despite the cold. I just got beack from the rally and thought it to be a good idea to write down what I saw immediately and to post it to counterpunch. Over the last months the site as several others have proven to way ahead on the news than the regular channels of mass communication. This was my change to give something back.
I couldn’t tell how many people were present, but there were a lot. However I can tell you who was present. It would be easy to accuse the usuals suspects for showing up, but remarkably I found many first timers around, as I was myself. The mass was mainly young, but with this I also mean young as in young families. I saw many children and yound parents in the march. One child in a baby carriage held a sign saying: “Don’t make war but solve issues in a grown-up manner”. I translated it from Dutch, of course, as I will do in the remainder of this text. However, I saw old grannies and grandpa’s in the crowd too. One even had a walking rack to aid her in getting about. Lovely old lady, cumbersome in moving about but high spirited in comments. Just like my own grandmother she must have in her late 20’s when the war came to our country in 1940. There was also a remarkable number of normal folk in the march. One middle aged guy made a perfect statement. He’s tied a long flexible stick to his back and on top he had attached a small signal flag saying (in small letters) :”I’m scared”. Why did it stand out you may ask ? Because in Holland we all ride bicycles and it has been very trendy the last few years to fit long flexible sticks with signal flags to the bicycle of little kids so that car drivers see them when they play on their bicycle among the houses and cars. And of course the small print illustrated very effectively that something a person is better heard when he wispers than when he shouts. Or at least the content of the message is then often heard instead of just the emotion that is conveyed by just shouting.
We had several of the increasingly popular signs saying “Mad COWboy desease” Then there was the Loesje statement of “—WAR— Do Not Feed” analogue to the signs found in zoo’s on the cages of dangerous animals. Loesje is something special here in the Netherlands. It has been around for 15 years now and what they do, and nobody really knows who THEY are, is make one-liner posters and stick them to walls and sorts in public places. These one-liner are most of the time heavily reflective on political and cultural events. For 15 years now they have management to stay away from aligning themselves from any particular polical party and are trully independent and open-minded. There is not a single person in the Netherlands that doesn’t have a few favourate one-liners from Loesje. A few contemporary examples :”Would all nationalists who are ready to die for their country and people, please perform that act now ?” or “Remember the time when another Bush on fire made wholely different comments ?” or “A war on Thruth requires Wapons of Mass Deception”
Several one-liners of Loesje featured in the march. But how about this one “WAR ! means to an end”. Or “75 % against, government pro, DEMOCRACY?”
And with this message it became clear that the protest march isn’t solely about a possible invasion of Iraq. Beyond a doubt large numbers of protested came out today, for the first time, to put up a fight for our cherished western values of “democracy, justice and innocent until proven guilty”. When pressured governments cave in to war demands and effectively suspend all of the above, than what sets us apart from our darker past. When these ideals are only applicable to ourselfs and our interests but not to others than what use has our western system ? Indeed, “75 % against, government pro, what do you mean by DEMOCRACY ?”. The populus will have been reduced to “applaud cattle” as the Dutch describtion is literally translated. Much like the applaud cattle that was seen at speeches made by Stalin and more recently at speeches made to congress by the current American president. Another punch line by Loesje :
“If money wins out over friendship” “If money wins out over compassion” “If money wins out over justice” “If money wins out over human values” “Then please rob me now !”
There is nothing more disgusting than a bribed politician ready to squander the sincerity of his nation, of his own people.
With this I think the relevance of the text :”The Blair witch project 2 in UK theaters now” will ring through.
I will look at the Dutch news broadcast tonight to see how many did attend the Amsterdam march, luckily we can still trust our media to give an accurate number. I’m confident that the Dutch people did their part in the world wide sinchronous protest. Both in numbers and in texts. I’m looking forward to reading actual eyewitness reports from other rallies and marches on counterpunch.
Latest estimate : 70.000 protesters in Amsterdam, considering we’re only 1/6 the size of say the UK and have a government that still walks a fine line in the middle, I think this a good turnout.
WOUTER HIJINK can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org