On the NBC Nightly News, anchor John Seigenthaler noted that yet another so-called “anti-war” rally had been held in Washington in March, just before the war started. About 25,000 people had marched through downtown Washington, D.C. today to protest the Bush administration policy on Iraq. But then Seigenthaler mentioned in passing that, “In Atlanta, thousands of flag waving people chanting pro-administration slogans gathered at Centennial Olympic Park to show their support for the White House campaign against Saddam Hussein. The event was part of a series of Rallies for America that have been held last month in different U.S. cities.”
Many Americans who depend on the national news for their information had probably never heard of these rallies before. These two brief statements were how the NBC Nightly News covered a series of patriotic and pro-American rallies that had drawn tens of thousands of Americans before the war and continued to attract thousands after the war began. Such rallies were held in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Omaha, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Houston, Nashville, and Richmond.
The Atlanta event attracted 25-30 thousand people. National radio host Glenn Beck and WGST talk show host Kim “the Kimmer” Peterson led the Atlanta “Rally for America.” They described it as a truly patriotic gathering that transformed the Atlanta park into a sea of red, white, and blue as far as the eye could see. “We are amazed by how many people came out to support this rally. It exceeded any of our expectations,” commented Tom Parker, Program Director of WGST.
All of this has shocked many in the media. The Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post and liberal New York Times columnist Paul Krugman have suggested that there is something wrong with these “political” rallies because a big media company, Clear Channel Communications, is affiliated with stations such as WGST and employs Glenn Beck. Clear Channel says it is only trying to support the troops.
Jennifer Brett of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution described the scene in Atlanta this way: “Thousands of flag-waving, Bush-backing, troop-loving patriots came from all around metro Atlanta?to cheer for their country at Centennial Olympic Park.” Brett reported that Cindy Ralston of Hiram wore a T-shirt that read, “I’m a military mom and proud of it.” Her 20-year-old son is an Army Ranger. Her sign read, “Troops: you make us free, you make us proud, you make us brave; We love you.” She told the paper that she never thought she would attend a rally like this until last month, when she talked with her son about anti-war protesters. “You can’t imagine how it makes us feel to see Americans protesting what we’re doing, ” her son told her. “As a mother, that just broke my heart,” Ralston said.
Some of the anti-war protesters carried signs saying they support our troops because they want to bring them home. But Congress had voted overwhelmingly to authorize the president to wage war on Iraq, and our troops’ lives are now at risk. Clear Channel and Glenn Beck deserve credit for helping Americans express support for our military personnel.