Guest Column: Media ignore health care protest

How much news are we missing because it is deliberately not being reported? On Saturday, Sept. 29, 2007, I attended a protest march in Washington, D.C. for “Healthcare Not Warfare.” There were as many people marching as I had ever seen together at one time, and I have attended major sporting events including the Michigan International Speedway and the race track at the Milwaukee Fairgrounds. There were many more people than could fit inside the stands, quarter-mile track, and parking lot at the Rockford Speedway.

The Mall was closed off with a snow fence; usually they let marchers stay there, but this time the request was denied. They blocked off main arteries in Washington that morning—supposedly for a bike race. People were calling in and saying, “Hold off the march—we’re trying to get there.” It took us about 3-1/2 hrs. to go 10 miles because of the congestion.

Major sponsors of the event were HealthCare— and TroopsOut, plus some others. The march was originally billed to promote health care, not warfare, but many other groups showed up to demonstrate for their causes. A demonstration was held in front of the Department of Education.

We arrived about 11:30 a.m., and everybody started to march about 3 p.m. People had signs and banners against the war. They were keeping cadence with drums, bongos, coffee cans, cowbells and anything that would make a rhythmic sound to accompany the chants. Signs said things like, “Teens against the war” written in magic marker and crayon. The streets were not wide enough to contain all the marchers, and they overflowed onto the sidewalks.

The cadence/chant that touched me the most was the question and response, “What does democracy look like? This is what democracy looks like!” The question was asked through a speaker attached to the IV pole of a wheelchair, which had the battery for the speaker in the seat. The answer was shouted loudly and emphatically. I remember marching by the departments of Education, Agriculture and Labor. The sound of thousands of people shouting “Troops out now!” as they marched under the tunnel by the Department of Labor is something I will never forget.

I looked around at what democracy looks like and saw thousands of people of every race, ethnicity and age marching in rhythm in the streets of our capital, with signs expressing what they believe. The march ended at the intersection of Third and Constitution, which is near the Capitol. Most of the crowd dispersed, but a few hundred stayed in the intersection. We got back to where we started about 5:30 p.m. People sat down in the middle of the street following the march and pitched a tent as a protest against the war.

Our bus returned to take us home at about 8 p.m. The remaining protesters at the intersection had not yet been arrested. Police cars with flashing lights were blocking the streets on either side of the protesters.

The only news report about the protest that I can find is in a Washington, D.C. newspaper. The paper incorrectly reported that there were only a few hundred young protesters. As I said before, there were many thousands, and most of the protesters I saw were not so young. There were enough people to fill the area between the street and the Reflecting Pond near the Capitol Building. This area would hold 5,000 people. With the snow fence around the grassy area, people had to join the parade from side streets.

On our full chartered bus, which left from Minneapolis, there were students, teachers, nurses, a woman accountant, an author/publisher and a retired priest. Some couldn’t finish the march due to physical health, but most did.

I just want to tell people what I saw because the media did not report it. People should know about this.

Gloria Maloney is a retired nurse and a former member of the Harlem School Board.

from the Oct. 17-23, 2007, issue

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