March for tolerance?

Note the flags

Religious Freedom USA reports that 1,000 people marched in lower Manhattan to support tolerance for religious diversity (in general) and the establishment of a new Islamic center a few blocks from Ground Zero.

Apparently, most of the marchers were local–and a majority of Manhattan residents support the center.

In the United States it’s harder to get people out to a demonstration to support what the government is already doing–in this case, allowing local real estate markets and zoning governance to decide who gets to occupy what spaces.

But protest provokes protest.  Protest against what opponents have dubbed the “ground zero mosque” brought people who probably don’t spend much time thinking about zoning or new construction out in the streets.  In contemporary American politics, virtually any movement of potential consequence can generate an opposing movement.

The demonstrators claimed the same symbols as their opponents, notably the American flags.  Obviously, these flags mean different things to different people.  In showing the flag, activists mean to associate ostensibly consensual symbols of America with their cause.

I couldn’t find much coverage of this march.  Partly, it was crowded out of the news by reports on Freedom Works Tea Party demonstration in Washington DC and the rather expensive commemoration of September 11 staged by Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin.  The numbers were smaller, the political threat invisible, and the politics–moderation and tolerance–much less dramatic.

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About David S. Meyer

Author and professor of Sociology and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine
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