Friday, January 30, 2004

Wrapped in the Flag. No, the Other One

Barry Saunders, African-American reporter for the Raleigh News & Observer, writes about his encounter in Greenville, S.C., outside the venue for the Democratic presidential candidate debate last night, with a couple of characters literally wrapping themselves in the Confederate Flag and protesting all the Democrats as unAmerican. They were there to raise the rabble, to paraphrase Saunders. But, here, his direct quote is better: "There are some sad things known to man, but ain't too much sadder than a couple of rabble-rousers who can't rouse any rabble."

Nobody was paying Lum Petitt and Harold Porter any attention (and I promise I'm not making up those names): "Except for the cops and me, the pair garnered no attention, not from the national media or from the hundreds of supporters and protesters outside the Peace Center in downtown Greenville. Neither they nor about a dozen of their Confederate flag-waving compatriots -- who'd gathered at a less conspicuous spot and thus hadn't raised the cops' ire -- aroused curiosity, anger or any other emotion."

When Saunders went over to talk to them, "[Petit] tossed the N-word around with disconcerting glee and a theretofore absent twinkle in his eye, secure in the knowledge that I wouldn't slug a 64-year-old man or that a dozen of his younger pals stood 50 yards away."

But redneck behavior was not the only curiousity on display last night in Greenville. Saunders also reports on the not-friendly cat-calling between Kerry and Edwards supporters:

"They shouted not-so-good-natured but middle-school-inspired putdowns at each other's candidates across the street, and the cops were ready to pounce if the barbs had evolved into a physical confrontation.

"They didn't. Instead the confrontation culminated with the Edwards faction serenading the departing, yellow-shirted 'Firefighters for Kerry' with 'Na na, hey hey, Goodbye' or 'Don't burn them beans,' a reference to Kerry's Boston roots.

"Kerry's troops fired their own blast as they left: 'You're No. 2, you're No. 2,' a reference to Edwards' second-place Iowa primary finish. As they left, a burly Kerry supporter who looked as though he could wipe up Main Street singlehandedly with the Edwards supporters, crossed the street and told them, 'We're all in this together, no matter who wins' the nomination. 'It's time for a regime change in Washington.' "

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