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May Day 2008: Powerful Protests! And a Requiem for Mainstream Media

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Message Cheryl Abraham

The crowds were huge, the marches long and the protesters were boisterous and loud. The ILWU proudly proclaimed that they'd had enough of the Iraq war. Immigrants proclaimed they'd had enough of the ICE raids. Journalists scrambled to get in-depth interviews as the streets of Seattle filled with people willing to give first hand accounts of both anti-war sentiments and the plight of immigrants. The media went the extra mile to report on the ILWU workers who sacrificed a chunk of their own paychecks to shut down the ports all up and down the west coast in a strong show of solidarity in telling the world that this war needs to end now.


When I opened the Seattle newspapers, and later watched the local television news, all I saw was story after story of the illegality of the occupation of Iraq, of the lies, the subterfuge and the criminal behavior of the Bush regime laid bare for all to see. I also saw story after story of the immigrant families ripped apart by ICE raids and in-depth stories on how NAFTA and poverty force these people into risking their own lives by crossing the border illegally, and the large corporations who prey upon these powerless people by profiting on cheap labor costs.


Beeep..beeep..beeep....I awoke to my alarm going off – I had been dreaming.


While it was true that the crowds were huge, the marches long and the protesters were boisterous and loud, the fact is that the mainstream media, once again marginalized and virtually ignored the actions of thousands on May Day. The media, in its superficial, inaccurate, and careless reporting ignored a significant portion of its own citizenry.


The actions of the ILWU, of 25,000 dockworkers in shutting down the ports up and down the west coast was not only significant, it was historic! At the very least the actions of ILWU represents the level of frustration that the people of this country are feeling, a frustration against a House and Senate that continues to fund and promote the occupation of Iraq, an occupation that the democratic led congress promised to end back in 2006. But more importantly the actions of the ILWU show how mainstream the opposition to the occupation of Iraq is among Americans. In the words of Jack Heyman, Officer of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, "We were really proud here on the West Coast, as far as the longshore union, the ILWU, making this stand, because it's part of our legacy, really, of standing up on principled issues." The ILWU, despite pressure from the Pacific Maritime Association and an arbitrator's ruling, went ahead with the work stoppage as planned. As Jack Heyman said in an article entitled, "One Longshoreman's Opinion," on the LaborNet site, "It's the war that's illegal, not our decision to stop work." Despite the courageous stand of these union workers, the mainstream media chose to barely acknowledge the importance of the actions of the ILWU. (Pictures from the Seattle ILWU action here)


Such was the case with the May Day Immigrant Rights March and Rally. The fact that so many came out to march, (estimates ranged from 5,000 to 10,000 people in Seattle, some pictures HERE), was a true testament of courage in the face of the ongoing vicious and cruel treatment that immigrants have received at the hands of the ICE and police. But did the media do any in-depth reporting on what these immigrant families have experienced? What about the young person holding a hand-painted sign that read, "I want my Dad back!" Did any reporters even see the potential here for a human-interest story? Where are the stories about families being ripped apart in the middle of the night? Where are the stories of the men and women incarcerated for days or weeks or months then deported? Where are the stories about why people continue to cross the border at great peril? What about the fact that there were thousands in the streets that day, and the march grew larger and larger with every mile as it moved its way from the Central District all the way past the Space Needle? No, the media chose to ignore the deeper issues of what this rally and march were really about.


The media reports of the ALWU work stoppage against the war and the May Day Immigrant Rights March and Rally were superficial, blatantly irresponsible, and completely ignored the fact that the May Day 2008 actions showed in a vibrant and strong way that these movements continue to grow and continue to gain momentum. It should be no surprise that the mainstream media continues to experience seriously deteriorating ratings at an unprecedented pace. As the media continues its superficial, inaccurate, and careless reporting and as it continues to marginalize and ignore a significant proportion of its own citizenry, more and more people will be turning to alternate news sources. News sources that more accurately reflect what is really going on in our world, an accuracy that serves to inform and educate rather than be a medium for government propaganda. As the mainstream media analyzes why it continues to go the way of the dinosaur, seemingly blind in the face of the obvious, it is its penchant to be a willing co-conspirator in silencing the voice of the people that may well spell its own demise and it is the mainstream media itself that will have written out its own requiem by doing itself in with its falsehoods, fabrications, and lies.


While the mainstream media missed out on accurately portraying the May Day actions, what is significant is that thousands and thousands went out on the streets to protest the illegal Iraq war and in resistance to the human rights violations of the Bush regime. Resistance continues to grow, despite all efforts to thwart it.

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