There is a “disturbance in the force” as they would say in Star Wars. People protesting for peace will now be confronted by the “Gathering Of Eagles”(Eagles) counter-demonstrators whose stated goal is to “get into the face” of the former group. One must witness this in person, as I recently did at West Point, to see if this approach is a deliberate attempt to interfere with the freedom of speech rights of an opponent.
Certainly it is tempting for us antiwar protesters to vent rather than to speak rationally. For example, I am tempted to call these people Neobrownshirts. Their aim is to silence those with opposing views. But such a simple accusation would be ethically and factually wrong.
For example, there were decent people who aligned themselves with the Eagles group. One of them actually marched with us and engaged in respectful conversation and was a delight to meet. Others were friendly. So I had to wonder what they thought of those who were speaking in their name with the amplified speakers; those who proved themselves to be obnoxious to say the least and taunting, lying fools to say the worst.
But to even compare the worst of the Eagles with the Nazi Brownshirts must be qualified. After all, there was no violence—unlike what some antiwar protesters experienced in Washington D.C. in a previous rally. But still, were the Eagles there to provide an alternative viewpoint—an honorable objective—or were they there to interfere with the Constitutional Rights of others?
First, there was the taunting and deliberate attempts to instigate trouble by the Eagles who used amplified speakers. Consider what they accused antiwar protesters of: being 1) commies who were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of millions of people; 2) hippies on drugs; 3) anti-Arab racists; 4) opponents of freedom; 5) anti-Semites; 6) supporters of terrorists; 7) peace-Nazis; 8) baby killers; and 9) the most violent people that a former bouncer had ever seen. This is only a partial list. Btw, the violence that was referrenced occurred in full view of the police who did little, if anything, to intervene--there was a little brief pushing between a couple of people. Another person reported being slapped.
Then there were the Eagles who obstructed the peace protesters in our march. As we were walking by the Academy, several Eagles stood in place taking up almost the whole sidewalk making it difficult for the anti war protesters to follow police instructions to stay off the street while marching. Finally, the police ordered these Eagles off the sidewalk and onto the grass so that we could march unimpeded.
Finally, as the peace protesters returned from the march to listen to an antiwar program, the Eagles put their amplified speaker as close as they could to the rally and spoke as loudly as possible in order to interfere with the hearing of antiwar speeches. Were the actions of the Eagles and exercise in free speech or an attempt to get away with as much as possible while interfering with the rights of others?
One must first point out that to compare the Eagles with the Brownshirts is not to imply that they are identical. It is merely to say that there are some disturbing similarities. It was obvious that the Eagles’ patriotism was offended by the presence of an antiwar demonstration. Nationalism, rather than absolute values, seems to be their bottom line when determining whether a foreign policy is moral. In addition, authoritarianism, provided the authorities are the “right” people, is strongly supported by the Eagles. What has escaped their attention is that these two qualities can lead one to become a Brownshirt. Obviously they are not socialists though one does not have to be a socialist to be a fascist.
When a group both believes strongly in nationalism and feels it is their right to interfere with the rights of fellow citizens, then they believe in hierarchal relationships between people. Somehow, the words of our Founding Fathers saying that all are created equal have become antiquated to them.
In addition, we must see as a red flag their intent to create a hostile environment and attempt to interfere with the exercise of rights by others that we ignore at our own risk.
Finally, what could only be called hate-speech exercised by some of the Eagles must also be noted. What will happen if these Eagles take their accusations of the antiwar protesters even more seriously than they do already? What would then keep these Eagles from seeing others as such threats that violence would be considered appropriate if not necessary? If this comes to pass, we will not just selectively compare these Eagles with the Brownshirts; we will rightfully call them that.