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Feb 04, 2007

If You Are Not Outraged: The Latest Photos From Alan Chin

(click any photo to enlarge)

I invite your comments on this latest set of images from photojournalist and BAGnewsNotes contributer, Alan Chin.

Alan was in D.C. the weekend before last and offers us these shots of the anti-war demonstration. In a previous post, The BAG questioned the MSM's visual coverage of the protest, given the lack of specificity in reported turn-out.  With Alan's independent visual and written account, however, we get a better sense of both scale and intensity. 

Alan writes:

I went down to DC and photographed this demo, having photographed literally dozens of such rallies for various causes before (Million Man March, pro- and anti-abortion, the Inauguration, gay rights, etc. etc.) and honestly, compared to some of those, this was a drop in the bucket.

The energy was pretty low and the numbers were only middling for a beautiful sunny warm mid-winter day. Considering how the opinion polls are now so against the war and the results of the last election, I would have thought that more people would have turned out.

But perhaps that reflects a nationwide mood of weariness, apprehension, despair...rather than righteous anger or burning hot passion.

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For The BAG's part, I was interested in a couple themes and elements. 

In #4, the sense of the Capitol tipping while the protesters seem at right angle is wonderfully suggestive.  Regarding the war, one might ask: when is Congress going to "get it straight?"

In a discussion thread the other day, a reader commented that Rumsfeld (#5) still had an office at the Pentagon.  Is this true?

Alan's use of black-and-white gives his images an historical feel.  In some of these shots, we could almost be looking at Vietnam-era photographs.  Number ten, tinged with happiness, is reminiscent of the hippy hippie movement.  Number six, on the other hand, evokes the sixties antipathy toward the the police, authority figures, the "man."  Notice the low-to-high relation between the hand with the peace sign (far left) and the policeman.

In the top photo (#1), don't the women in the center strongly capture the contradiction in energy?  The sign reads:  "If You Are Not Outraged, You Are Not Paying Attention."  At the same time, the woman immediately to the right seems completely elsewhere.  Adding to the mix, the t-shirt of the girl in-between reads: "Imagine."  If the John Lennon reference is incredibly open-ended, the refrain of the famous song has its own association, stating:

"I hope some day you'll join us, and the world will be as one."

All images © Alan Chin.  Used by permission. 

Contribution: Dear Readers, the BAGnewsNotes blog commits not to seek any operating fees or donations.  From time to time, however, The BAG intends to solicit donations for contributing photographers or photo-cooperatives.  Alan Chin is a completely independent, free-lance photojournalist and a primary contributer to this site.  He is also spending a majority of  this year  producing a book of his very important photographs of the Hurricane Katrina disaster.  If you have the means; you value Alan's participation with The BAG; and you wish to encourage more unfiltered  photo-reportage, please help support Alan's work.

Alanchinamazon_1    Alanchinpaypal


Very very sparse turnout.
It would look more impressive if they were not on a lawn meant to hold 100,000 people. It would look more potent if it were packed into a room somehwhere.

For me, the truly gargantuan protest march up Eighth Avenue during the GOP convention in Manhattan, looking like Times Sq on VJ day, set a high water mark for enormity and that was even ignored by papers like the New York Times. I think it appeared on page 11. So now I don't go anymore.

"hippy movement"

Actually, it's "hippie". Not all of us were well-padded below the waist, then.

I'd be privileged to make a contribution to further Alan Chin's magnificent work, if you give me an alternative to PayPal. I don't do PayPal. A PO box or Amazon or whatever.

The turn out was not 'very very sparse'. I was surprised at how many folks were there, actually. But I did think that people were quiet and waiting. I was also surprised at how many Impeach Bush signs there were. When it was announced that Karl Rove had been subpoenaed, the crowd really roared for the only time while I was there.

There were many younger people there, far more than at the previous rallies and demonstrations. I think it's possible the percentage of young adults in the crowd was higher than that participating in the Feb 2003 protest in NYC. I don't know that for a fact, just saying this on the basis of my observations as a participant in both events.

I attend these things not because I believe they are effective. They clearly aren't. I'm waiting for a more effective alternative to appear. Voting doesn't seem to be it; public outcry is ignored; large gatherings in the national capital are dismissed as too small or unenergetic. I didn't get the feeling that these young people were imagining some sort of reformed government. They are interested in something else.

I thought the protest was interesting and effective in that it received media coverage. However, I was dismayed by the hundred or so people I found carrying "9/11 Truth" signs. I confronted a couple conspiracy theorists trying to "educate" fellow protesters. What a load of bunk they were spewing. When pressed for smoking gun details, they fell back on the idea that the conspiracy was a coverup, denying them conclusive proof. How convenient.

This is a sparsely attended demonstration that was well-covered. There were, what, a dozen demonstrators there? Two dozen on some days?

I am quite positive that even if five million people had attended the event in Washington, it wouldn't have generated the media frenzy that this one did.

I quit attending the peace demonstrations because they are ineffective and even harmful, and because I resented my presence being used by the Green Party and the Free Mumia fringes to gain unwarranted attention to whatever it was they were shouting into the microphone. Ugh!

People don't turn out for protests like they did before for several reasons: "ordinary" people have to work, hotels and food are expensive in D.C., gas is expensive, and people are afraid they might be targeted for investigation by some government records being routinely available for that purpose.

Also, maybe TV, Computers, Ipods, etc., have rendered young people, especially, passive. Plus, all that wealth of their baby boomer parents which has washed any incentive to better the world, because, "hey! I'm comfortable, what's the problem?"

Or, could it be that protesting is old-fashioned, someone needs to come up with something flashier, edgier, more "dangerous"?

In the early days of the war I attended a couple of rallies in Seattle, and on a separate occasion went to demonstration on marriage rights. What I'm seeing in the photos is no more impressive than anything I saw in the ones I was at, although probably this recent gathering was considerably bigger.

I think most people don't go to such bloodless protests to, well, protest really. They go because it's an *event*, a social way to spend the day with the fringe benefit of salving the conscience and making you feel like you're "making a difference" (details of which aren't so clear), something you tell your friends about later to nods of self-approval. Complain about comfort? There's probably no more discomfort than you might find at an outdoor rock concert--and the music would be better. The final picture of the series: is that an anti-war protest or a hippie-dippy Wiccan spiral dance?

The only guy who really looks like he means business is Sean Penn.

I like B&W photography; the only photo I've taken that I really liked (an accidentally perfect shot of a Sister of Perpetual Mercy at a pride parade--and talk about a supposedly political event that's more like a slow-motion party) was B&W. There's something about contemporary B&W that doesn't look right though. Not as much contrast in the processing, maybe, or in the original film stock. The genuine old stuff is better.

to clarify, since the captions are not published here, photo #2 shows a pro-war protester, one of about a dozen, heckling the crowd. They were pretty bizarre. This guy was shouting at attractive women demonstrators that "you're too pretty to protest" (meaning what, exactly?!?) and another guy was droning through his bullhorn, constantly, "Swim to Cuba. Swim to Cuba"

and yes, photo #7 is Sean Penn. I missed Jane Fonda. Sigh...

the whole numbers game is hard to gauge. I used the phrase "tens of thousands" in my captions which is not very specific I admit. But other big protests I've been to have definitely been "hundreds of thousands."

the final picture shows part of a group of about a hundred making a hippie-dippie peace sign circle to be visible from the air.

regarding that last comment about the "genuine old stuff" of B+W being better, this may be more a response to how photographs look after Photoshop and on a computer screen rather than the process itself. There is a company in Croatia (Efke/Adox) that still makes the most traditional B+W film out there, the pre-World War II formulas with high silver content and slow ASA speeds. You could also shoot this film through a 1950s/60s era lens -- but then if you scan the negatives and look at the photos online, you're back at square one!

As "two Dishes" noted early on, these photos suggest a "very, very sparse turnout". Perhaps this does correlate with the low voter turnouts we routinely see in our elections; many people have adopted the position that their opinions/votes don't/can't make a difference. This could transfer to action as well.

Perhaps what appears to be a general lethargy regarding action can also be partially a response to the fact that it is a volunteer force (and their families) who are paying the direct cost in terms of American suffering in this conflict. During Vietnam the draft made the general populace a target, both actual and potential.

During Vietnam we, as a nation, were also much closer to a general spirit among the youth, of protest/rebellion against the "establishment" in dress, music, modes of thought, etc. Or, perhaps it was that my generation's rebellion was much less acceptable to my parent's generation than my kids "acts of rebellion" are to me, having been there myself.

I realize that my parents generation did, finally, stand up and join the younger ones to say "enough" to the Vietnam fiasco; however, it took many years, much bloodshed, and a whole lot of serious action and response at home before that occurred (such as the Ohio National Guard actually gunning-down student protesters).

Maybe it is the fact that scenes of unimaginable horror have become all too commonplace and numbing, as they are delivered to us from all over the world via a media presence which simply didn't exist in earlier times. You would think this would spark waves of outrage and protest, but perhaps the general reaction really is one of disgust, but coupled with a more private response of "hey, just keep it 'over there'"

And I agree with earlier posters, that the "hippie-dippie" circle-dance hurts, as an image, more than it helps. While it appeals (maybe) to an emotional desire to simply all join hands and sing kumbayah, the rational part of our brain rebels at the thought that the enormous problems our world community faces could ever be realistically solved by such a simplistic approach.

Maybe if we can get a handle on things, then we do the circle dance....

Aunt Deb: "...I didn't get the feeling that these young people were imagining some sort of reformed government. They are interested in something else." Exactly what I thought when seeing #2 #5 & #10. In #10 they look like they are playing at being hippies. Some of the photos look more like the DooDah Parade in Pasadena. My favorite, too, is #4, where the Capitol looks like it is about to tip over. Since we know the high quality of Chin's work, I'm sure his heart is where his camera is. So perhaps we should not blame the media for this one. I just wonder how committed some of the anti-war people are. As a couple of people have pointed out above, I've heard activists complain about the diluting of the message by all the other 'causes' joining in instead of everybody being dedicated to the anti-war march. Remember the Vietnam protest where the crowd just stayed there, all night. The one where Nixon came out to talk to them after midnight and tried to chat them up about football scores. Now, I think Shrub is up to that action, if only he had some protesters to talk to.

Maybe the whole idea of a day-long march is just not going to cut it with this crowd in the WH. Protestors have to do something to get the attention of the nation. How about a camp out? Just go there and stay. Cindy Shehan didn't just show up in Crawford for a day and then go home. Guess it's time to ask just how committed this generation of kids is.

In one of Molly Ivens' last columns, she wrote: "We are the people who run this country. WE ARE THE DECIDERS. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous.” (courtesy

Dare I say it? Another factor absent in the 60-70 period is the internet. We can read/post on blogs like this one and engender a feeling of community without having to go out and gather to show our protest strength. Maybe we DO have to think of something new to make the ridiculous look ridiculous.

And some music, we need some damn protest music! We've got our work cut out for us.

I'll only comment on #1, as the others seem lame and tired; lacking in umph.

The #1 shot here depicts several views of the "dissapointed" American public: You have the classic slogans that cannot really miss: "Who would jesus bomb", the pissed off dude with the played, but true: "Bush Lied, Thousands Died." - not to mention the informational bit:

There are two things I find facscinating, though, and they are: the dense, up-energy protest, represented by several factions; and the non-violent grandmother type in the middle of the photo. She clearly has a presence there, and she is bearing witness, but she's not causing a ruckus, like her companions.

After the peace march,
I saw Rembrandts and Vermeers
at the National Gallery
then walked the length of the Mall
alone at sunset
to the Vietnam War Memorial.

There I folded a little
white paper crane
like the one I left
in Hiroshima
more than thirty years before
and placed it in a gap
between the black polished

Been wearing an Impeach Bush button since November 2004. This was my first DC protest even though I hate these things. Much better to talk loud at the bus stops during rush hour than to assemble en masse so the media can ignore you.

i used to live in DC and i attended all of the anti-war protests. i too was very frustrated by all of the fringe causes trying to hijack the march, and i was annoyed by all of the hippie wanna-bees.

based on my experience with the previous marches, the starting time was set at 'x'. we'd show up at 'x' and then we'd have to listen to a couple of hours of speeches from various groups on a variety of topics. it was as if every person who had some fantasy of exhorting the masses was living their wet dream on my time and using a cause that i cared about to get me to serve as their audience. I used to get my friends and coworkers to join me on these marches, but a number of them had kids and jobs and couldn't hang out and listen to stoopid speeches and still have time to march. It was impossible to get my anti-war republican friends to come because they didn't particularly agree with all of the other speakers.

i probably wouldn't have attended this march becuase i felt like the organizers of these things are much more concerned about their own agendas and very quickly loose sight of the real ISSUE.

that said, i moved to a red state and have been religiously working against the republicans here. working a fone bank for weeks and weeks isn't nearly as sexy as organizing a march. maybe some of the people who skipped this march did the same thing?

These pictures are all on the mall. The march is where participants were concentrated (particularly considering that many people skipped the rally and came for the march, particularly locals with children).

The march surrounded the Capitol, which takes at least 100-150K people to pull off.

And, to answer the question about Rumsfeld: yes, he has a transition office that you and I are paying for, with an unusually large staff of seven. The story was reported by the Washington Times and discussed on a number of blogs, including the USA Today house blog.

I just had to respond to Aunt Deb, regarding the 9-11 Truth movement....

The truth about 9-11 IS AT THE HEART OF THIS TRAGIC WAR!

Calling people who question the official story about 9-11 conspiracy theorists is unhelpful and I think misses the point entirely. Don't you think that 9-11 deserves a FULL and COMPLETE investigation, instead of the token, some would say bogus commission that IGNORED many of the most important pieces of evidence? Why is wanting a full investigation considered conspiracy theory? There are countless books on this topic, ranging from discussions regarding the geopolitics of the Middle East and the US agenda there, to physicists discussing the total impossibility of a fire of jet fuel melting steel and collapsing the twin towers. Before you dismiss 9-11 truth seekers as nut jobs and conspiracy theorists, EDUCATE yourself....READ a book. If you don't like the messengers of info about this topic, then go out and find some of your own. It's out there, tons of it. And it's deeply based in the FACTS, in a way that some protestor with a sign isn't going to be able to convey.

The situation we have in the middle east now has been in the works for decades. If anyone doubts the root causes of this war, and the phoney "war on terror", just pick up a book like "The Grand Chessboard"....or any other book that spells out US LONG HELD objectives in that region. Our kids are dying to line the pockets of an elite few who are getting rich and entrenching their power.

And I agree with a poster that the protests that will get the attention of the msm and the country will have to be more radical, and opposed to a few hour, middle class sunbathing session. Our children are dying......for lies. Lies about yesterday, lies about today, lies about tomorrow....and LIES ABOUT 9-11.

"The world should stand together against this outrage."

From Tony Blair's statement to the House of Commons following the September 11 attacks

The message for going to war was simple.

The message for getting out of it is not.

Exactly what I thought when seeing #2 #5 & #10. In #10 they look like they are playing at being hippies.

Maybe #5 and #10 but I think you have misread #2. This fellow is quite clearly a right-wing counterprotestor -- if you look at the clothes, the sunglasses, and most tellingly, the signs behind him.

A doggy dossier a doggy man being given the bums rush out of his Labor party, lest we forget:

"But let us unite in agreeing this: what happened in the United States on Tuesday was an act of *wickedness* for which there can never be *justification*. Whatever the cause, whatever the *perversion* of religious feeling, whatever the* political* belief, to inflict such *terror* on the world; to take the lives of so many innocent and defenceless men, women, and children, can never ever be justified".

Updating Blair's speech of Sept 14 2004 substitute *Afghanistan and Iraq* for the United States and the fraudulent POLITICAL and military JUSTICATION for these wars.
The unrelenting daily devastation of two countries, 100 hundreds of thousands killed, is our contribution to this overwhelming PERVERSION.
Talk about inflicting TERROR on the world and our vast complicity of WICKNESS and premeditated evil.!!!

The guy in picture #2 is an Iraq war vet who claims to have been spit upon by the crowd:

"From the January 29 edition of Hannity & Colmes: SPARLING: What we were doing, actually, was doing the anti-protest protest, and we were there with our flags, and all that happened was a fella saw me wearing my 82nd Airborne sweater, and I noticed he also had an 82nd patch on his own sleeve, and he said I was a disgrace, basically, and that I was -- that I had blood on my hands and that I had no right wearing the uniform, and he spit at me."

My husband [active in two peace groups] and I attended the rally, and watched the march itself. Most other rallies and marches that I've attended in DC gather near the Lincoln Memorial, and around the reflecting pool at the western end of the Mall.

This antiwar rally was held on the eastern end of the Mall--for two reasons. The march was to the Capitol itself, in an effort to convince Congress to stop the escalation proposed by the Bush administration, so by rallying at the eastern end, you minimized the distance people would have to walk in the march itself. The second reason is that the National Park Service was finishing up a big cleaning project at the reflecting pool, cleaning out the mud and muck that accumulates.

When rallies are held at the western end of the Mall, the crowds fill up the space between the reflecting pool and trees to either side. It doesn't take as many people for the western end to look filled as it does as the eastern end.

At one point, about 12:30 p.m., my husband and I wanted to get a sense of how large the crowd really was. We went over to the west building of the National Gallery of Art, and climbed up onto one of parapet walls to the sides of the monumental staircase. The crowd just continued to grow: we'd see groups of 40 to 50 people coming to the rally.

One of my husband's peace groups filled more than 20 busses to attend the rally and march [about 1100 people] from southern & central NJ and eastern PA. The bus drivers were told by the march organizers, United for Peace & Justice, to go to the outer ring Metro stops, like New Carrollton & Greenbelt, and let people get to the rally by Metro. What we saw from our elevated vantage point at the National Gallery was the arrival of busloads of people, coming from a Metro stop as a group. We lost count of how many such groups were arriving.

The march itself, as someone noted above, filled Constitution Avenue, from the eastern end of the Mall, up to Capitol Hill. It was a significant crowd of people, moving very slowly.

The rally speeches were mixed: some good, pointed exhortations followed by long, boring speechifying. Both elected officials that we heard, John Conyers of Michigan and Maxine Waters of California, were very good.

We also attended one of the pre-rally rallies [mostly by happenstance]--the Code Pink rally at the Navy Memorial on Pennsylvania Avenue, across the street from the National Archives, where the counter-protest was staged. We missed the spitting incident with Sparling. The counter-protest was very small, only about 25 to 30 people. They waived a South Vietnamese flag, had a figure hung in effigy [labeled Jane Fonda, who spoke at the peace rally that day, her first war protest in many, many years], and had some vituperative signs.

I was struck by how "average" everyone was at the peace rally and march. Most people who attended were middle class, middle-aged people, wearing sweatshirts, barn jackets, and Timberlands. Several generations together in family groups [grandparents, parents, kids, grandkids]. Lots of communities of faith [Methodists Against the War, Lutherans for Peace] were present. The noisiest groups were college students.

As several other commenters have noted, rallies, marches, and other demonstrations attract people because they make you feel good [Barbara Ehrenreich has a new book out about this subject, the power of group events], but it's debatable about how much such events have in changing general public opinion, let alone changing the direction of the country, to pull out of a disastrous war of choice.

But those of us who are middle-aged remember that it took many, many such marches and demonstrations and rallies to change public opinion about the Vietnam War. There were information tables at the protest in January about another protest scheduled for march, to be held at the Pentagon. I'm interested to see how many people that protest will attract.

Protests such as this one are a relic. As Matt Taibbi wrote about the giant 2003 New York protest mentioned by Aunt Deb above,

Protests can now be ignored because our media has learned how to dismiss them, because our police know how to contain them, and because our leaders now know that once a protest is peacefully held and concluded, the protestors simply go home and sit on their asses until the next protest or the next election. They are not going to go home and bomb draft offices, take over campuses, riot in the streets. Instead, although there are many earnest, involved political activists among them, the majority will simply go back to their lives, surf the net and wait for the ballot. Which to our leaders means that, in most cases, if you allow a protest to happen… Nothing happens.

If "the people" want to effect change, they'll have to think up something more effective than giant puppets this time around.

Along the line of thinking of something new, or showing the ridiculous to be ridiculous: How about starting a third party. If all those who were at the protest in January spent their time and energy organizing a party of opposition, they just might get somewhere. I mean seriously, constantly, without letting anything else get in the way of that one goal. And don't count on Nader......he will just sit in his cave and wait to be coaxed out to be "the hero" once again. Think for yourselves. The left has lots of people who spend their time on blogs and griping. How about getting them together to form a REAL progressive party, just like they have in the grown-up countries in Europe.

C.JoDI, please don't make us read lazy thinkers like Taibbi. Thanks.

truthseeker, regarding Iraq, Europe is a shining example of what, exactly? Progressive world leadership?

The main reason why Vietnam anti-war protests were so different was the DRAFT.

I was born and raised around D.C., and I went to every protest concerning any liberal, feminist cause. As has been said, it was a "happening". I'm sure I wasn't the only one who came partly to hear Tracy Chapman or Holly Near sing for free... not to mention a rousing speech by Jesse Jackson, who never missed one of those things. Not that I didn't actually support the causes, but I don't think any of those protest marches had much effect.

rtbag: I didn't say 'shining' example or anything about world leadership. What I meant is that some EU countries have a vibrant left of center political bloc. Not that they aren't under attack by the right wing just as ours has been. But it appears to this casual observer that they are at least fighting back. Sometimes I just wonder if we aren't still in the grip of McCarthyism, looking for commies everywhere. The DLC is beholden to the corporatists and they aren't listening to the real democrats out in the rest of the country. And maybe that's the fault of the democrats in the rest of the country. We have to figure out how to hold their feet to the fire or get down to business and start a new political party from the grass roots. We can't afford to back down and grab the flag every time one of the neocons calls us traitors.

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