Scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. last Thursday, a vigil organized by Michigan Peaceworks and the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice had people filling all four corners of Liberty and Main streets in downtown Ann Arbor. The vigil was organized to call attention to the military violence in Gaza, with organizers calling for an immediate ceasefire. When I arrived around 6:45 p.m. it was apparent from the signage and the shouts that some of the demonstrators had taken a more strident position than the vigil organizers had likely hoped for.
One smaller event that unfolded almost immediately was embedded in the larger one. It was a changing of the guard: one vigil participant handed off their sign to another as the one arrived and the other departed. But by this time several participants were beginning to filter away without being replaced. One estimate floated by a participant put the peak number of participants at around 200.
Some of the demonstrators on Thursday had responded to the scheduled vigil in order to make a more partisan point than the organizers were making. But at least one of them had no prior knowledge of the vigil, and had been demonstrating in her usual spot on weekday evenings at Liberty and Fifth – in front of the Federal Building. Seeing the activity just west of her, and already equipped with a sign, “US-RAEL, biggest rogue nation,” she decided to join the larger group.
A group of young men were collecting signatures for a petition (calling for a ceasefire) to be sent to elected representatives in Michigan. Chatting with them, they recognized the name, Ann Arbor Chronicle, and let me know they were in agreement with comment number  about a previous article published here on an earlier demonstration. The comment was critical of the inclusion of an interaction between a demonstrator and a passerby, who questioned the motivation of the demonstrators.
On Thursday, I shared with them the same sentiment with which I ended that comment thread: we try to describe what unfolds in front of us. But in some ways that skirts the issue. Because we don’t describe everything that we see. It would be impossible to write, or to read, something that detailed. Every inclusion or exclusion is an editorial decision. A good photograph offers that level of detail, but the photographer has to point the camera somewhere. And that entails a decision about what direction to point it. Once you have the photograph, you have to decide if and how to crop it. That’s another editorial decision.
Below are some photographs from Thursday evening’s demonstration. The captions consist of commentary intended to provide some insight into what I thought was interesting enough about the image to offer them to Chronicle readers.
These photographs give some idea of what happened on a street corner on a cold evening in a sleepy little midwestern U.S. college town. But they don’t give much real insight into events happening half a world away. Most of us, I suspect, don’t make conscious choices about how we want to be informed about far-away places. I sure don’t. We randomly sample from the ubiquitous stream of TV, radio, newspapers, and wire reports that permeate our modern life.
But there’s bound to be some Chronicle readers who aren’t as lazy as that, and who consciously use a specific news source to get information about the Middle East. If so, kindly provide a link (if possible) and a brief description why as a comment below. Feel free to leave other comments as well, bearing in mind our commenting policy.
[Editor's note: HD is Homeless Dave, a.k.a. Dave Askins, editor of The Ann Arbor Chronicle. ]