Last Friday the normally rather apathetic denizens of Washington, D.C., left the comforts of their offices and homes to rally in support of free speech. The quickly assembled demonstration, organized by writer Christopher Hitchens, took place in front of the Embassy of Denmark from 12 noon to 1 p.m. Supporters brought Danish flags, signs, and Danishes to show their support for the small country that has been placed at the center of a growing firestorm regarding the publishing by a Danish newspaper some months ago of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammad.
Creativity abounded, with demonstrators creating signs out of legos and with references to both Hamlet and Havarti, echoing the rallying call Christopher Hitchens had sounded earlier that week with his article on slate.com, “Stand up for Denmark!”
One sign in particular, stating “We Are All Danes Now,” struck at the heart of the rally. Hitchens, perched above the crowd in an Agincourt-like moment (even his clasping of an Evian bottle couldn’t take away from the scene), addressed the crowd in an impromptu speech, commending their commitment to free speech and peaceful demonstration:
“Brother and sisters, this is the point. Brothers and sisters, I just thought I would thank everyone for coming and say how touching it is that people will take a minute from a working day to do something that our government won’t do for us, which is quite simply to say that we know who our friends and our allies are, and they should know that we know it. And that we take a stand of democracy against dictatorship and when the embassies and democracies are burned in the capital cities of dictatorships, we think the State Department should denounce that and not denounce the cartoons. I am fed up with the invertebrate nature of our State Department.
“If we had had time, brothers and sisters, we I think should have gone from here to the embassy of Iraq to express our support for another country that is facing a campaign of lies and hatred and violence. And we would if we did that we would say that we knew blasphemy when we saw it, we knew sacrilege when we saw it.
“It is sacrilegious to blow up beautiful houses of worship in Samarra. That would be worth filling the streets of the world to protest about.
“We are not for profanity nor for disrespect but we are and without any conditions or any ifs or any buts for free expression at all times and in all places. I told the Danish embassy that we would disperse at 1 o’clock, I hope we’ve believe made our point and hope that we agree that Danish TV will have some more agreeable features — such as your own — to show, instead of the faces of violence and hatred and fascism. I think I can close by saying solidarity with Denmark, death to fascism!”
It is amazing what this man can do with words, even off-the-cuff as this was, and the crowd was delighted with his encapsulation of why they were there.
Hitchens encouraged everyone to go out and “buy Carlsberg/Havarti/Lego,” along with other Danish products, which are being boycotted in several Muslim nations’ stores. Kudos to Hitchens for taking the time to show Americans’ support for Denmark, even, as he says, if our own government is perhaps being a bit too restrained in their support. I hope the rally, well attended and peaceful, might awaken our fellow Americans to the threat the radical Islamists pose to free speech and Western freedom.
On a sidenote, I was happy to see quite a few Regnery authors there, including Tony Blankley and Richard Miniter (arriving a bit after the festivities).
To see photos of the event click here.