"Rival protestors clashed in Manhattan yesterday over plans to build an Islamic centre two blocks from Ground Zero...
Herbert London, the president of the neoconservative Hudson Institute, said that the centre would represent an Islamic victory at the site where Islamist terrorists killed 2,752 people. "We are engaged in a civilisational struggle. We have to defend America", he said...
John Press, the president of the Brooklyn Tea Party, said "We are not against Muslims but we know Islam is expansionist and America has got to stand up to it... (The centre is) ...a victory memorial for Islam conquering the West".
Report on protests against the so-called "Ground Zero mosque", The Times, 23rd August 2010
8th May 1970
"Suddenly, from all directions, two hundred construction workers marched in to the cadences of "All the way! USA!" and "We're number one!" and "Love it or leave it!" In their identical brown overalls, carrying American flags of the sort that topped off construction sites, they looked like some sort of stormtrooper battalion.
They started arguing with the police: Why weren't the flags flying in front of Federal Hall like at the Wall Street Banks? Had the hippies stolen them? (The flags, actually, per federal regulations, were not flying due to inclement weather)...
...Some students tried to shout the workers down. Others, nervous, tried to melt into the lunchtime crowd.
The riot began. Workers singled out for beating boys with the longest hair. The weapons of choice were their orange and yellow hard hats.
A construction worker recalled, "The whole group started singing 'God Bless America' and it damn near put a lump in your throat... You just had a very proud feeling".
A student recalled, "When I was on the ground, I rolled myself into a ball just as four or five pairs of construction boots started kicking me..."
A municipal secretary: "I saw one construction worker arm himself with a pair of iron clippers and head towards a student already being pummelled by three workers... He yelled at me, 'Let go of my jacket, bitch'; and then he said, 'if you want to be treated like an equal, we'll treat you like one'. Three of them began to punch me in the body. My glasses were broken. I had trouble breathing, and I thought my ribs were cracked".
Construction workers in New York City take exception to protests against the Kent State shootings four days earlier, in which four students were killed by the National Guard and nine wounded, from Nixonland, Perlstein, p.493-4; Excerpt
Is an anti-student riot by flag-waving nationalists apt as a comparison to a largely non-violent piece of paranoid, xenophobic, nativist fucknuttery? I think so.
I could offer instead the Philadelphia riots, 1844 (anti-Catholic), Excuse - Nativists intentionally spread bullshit rumours that the Catholics were trying to remove bibles from schools; Or perhaps even the 1834 Ursuline Convent riots (anti-Catholic), Excuse - sectarian hysteria.
... Or the Astor Place riot, 1849 (anti-British), Excuse - Rival productions of Hamlet, one featuring an English actor and another an American...
...Or the various Know-Nothing riots, 1854, 1855, 1856, 1857 & 58, (anti-immigration, mainly Irish, German); Excuse - ignorant bastardry...
...Or the New York Draft Riots, 1863, which readers may recall from the film The Gangs of New York. Excuse - Anti-Civil War draft, swiftly devolving into a pogrom upon the city's black population.
I could go on - my point is that the various excuses invoked by the anti-"mosque" demonstrators - that some building near the former WTC site is an unforgiveable affront; that the Islamics represent a unique and imminent threat to the Homeland and must be stopped from their underhand attempts at subtle conquest; that it's a genuine, grassroots working class movement; that tha librulz are colluding with the foreign enemy, and so on - are not new or even particularly respectable.
Previous pant-shitting, doom-crazed movements have spread terror of the Native Americans, the Spanish, the Mexicans, the Japanese and god knows how many others, but let's put the "mosque" protestors where they belong - at the heart of a centuries-old American tradition of periodic race-terror freakouts and mobilisations. It's simple white-guy rage venting on this year's mortal, flag-burning enemy... In the middle of perhaps the greatest Wall Street heist ever perpretrated on the American people, no less.
If the United States' record of intra-communal violence is long, it's certainly not unusual and, given the huge mix of ethnicities, nationalities and religions that the country has absorbed and assimilated into itself, it's also significantly less bloody* than other nations' histories.
Still, I remind readers that the protestors aren't the heirs of Jeffersonian democrats. They've got a lot more in common with the Know-Nothings and - fuck it, let's go Godwin - Father Coughlin and his ilk. Their complaints should be heard with this in mind, by their opponents and their boosters.
*Unless you happen to have been Native American, but you don't hear much from them these days.
(Video of August 2010 NY demonstration here)