Obama references Libyan protest sign in United Nations address

| October 4, 2012

Protest sign in Libya: "Chris Stevens was a Friend to all Libyans."

“Rescue Benghazi day” drew over 30,000 demonstrators (Via GillReport).

10/04/2012 — President Obama concluded his remarks to the UN General Assembly last week by referencing a sign spotted at a Benghazi demonstration held just ten days after an assault on America’s embassy resulted in the American ambassador’s death. The sign read: “Chris Stevens was a Friend to all Libyans.”

It was one of several at the Benghazi demonstration that appeared to be aimed at a Western audience. Others said things like “R.I.P Christopher Stevens” or “Thugs and killers don’t represent Benghazi nor Islam (sic),” or even, “Sorry People of American this not the Pehavior of our Islam and Profit (sic).” The demonstrators had assembled in Benghazi and other Libyan cities on September 21 to support democracy and protest the Islamist militias blamed for Christopher Stevens’ death, though not everyone was united in this.

Libyan man protesting the killing of the U.S. ambassador.

Protesters marched from Benghazi’s Tibesti Hotel to the Al-Keesh Square (Via JPost).

Amjad Mohammed Hassan, 26 years old, said he had come out “to defend Benghazi,” and that he didn’t “give a damn about the killing of the ambassador because the Americans offended the Prophet.” One banner at the demonstration seemed to encapsulate his ambivalence reading, “Day to rescue Benghazi or day to rescue America?”

“Rescue Benghazi day,” as it came to be known, is far from the only rally to have received attention for its signs.

Signs at “The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” were the subject of a Wall Street Journal post that reported: “While the signs at typical rallies usually express pointed political viewpoints, many of the ones at the ‘Rally to Restore Sanity’ went for satire and smiles.”

American company pride flag with eagle.

Political signs were the subject of several news stories in 2010 (Via SmartSign).

Demonstrators were photographed with posters like: “I Support The ‘SIGN’ I’m Holding,” “If Obama’s a Muslim, Can We Have Fridays Off,” and “I ♥ Critical Thinking.” Spearheaded by Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, the event was intended to rally support for reasoned politic discourse in the face of what Stewart referred to as the “twenty-four hour politico-pundit-perpetual-panic conflictinator.” All told, the 2010 gathering held at the National Mall in Washington, DC, attracted an estimated 215,00.

Just a month and a half before this, another Washington rally caught the attention of the media, this time for the signs not present. Signs at the “9/12 Taxpayer March on Washington” were the subject of a study by Emily Ekins, a UCLA graduate student. Ekins, curious about the incidence of racially charged anti-Obama signage, surveyed some 250 banners at the tea-party gathering. She found, as the Washington Post reported, that “only 5 percent of” the signs directed at Obama “mentioned the president’s race or religion, and only slightly more than 1 percent questioned his American citizenship.”

The data appeared to refute the tea-party image routinely presented to the public by media outlets, though the event’s organizer FreedomWorks did report ejecting a few protesters for signs that depicted Obama as Adolf Hitler.

- D. Schwartz

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