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Report on Yesterday's Antiwar Protests


Report on Yesterday's Antiwar Protests
LINK TO ORIGINAL INCLUDING PHOTOS
Yesterday was the long-awaited antiwar protest here in DC, sponsored by ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) and United for Peace and Justice. It was one of the first major ones since the U.S. went to war in 2003. Kevin and I went downtown with his uncle John (on the Jernegan side), who flew in from California for the event. For a while before the march, I wasn't sure if DF wanted to go: He seemed to have taken a stance that "What's the use? The Bushistas are going to do whatever the hell they want." So, I was quite pleased when he started showing signs of interest, and even more so when we found out that John was flying in. Kev has a great deal of respect for his uncle and always spoke very highly of him. John attended and photographed many of the Vietnam antiwar protests. That's him on the left there.

We left for the Tenleytown Metro station around 11. Three showers, canine walks and feedings, caffeine infusions, backpack preparation, et al., took some time. But it turned out not to be an issue because the march itself, which was supposed to begin around 12:30, didn't really get moving until 2. And then, it took hours before everyone was moving: At 4:30 pm, some people were just starting. You could feel the anticipation in the air at the station, where AU students joined families with toddlers holding balloons that said "No war." And, of course, us. When the train stopped, the center cars were already stuffed to the gills, a very good sign. We ended up near the end, where there was more breathing room. We got off at Metro Center, along with a few thousand other people. (Apparently, it was a busy afternoon in Washington. The National Book Festival was being held down toward the capitol, and the IMF/World Bank meetings were also happening. During the march, you could occasionally see these suited up folks who obviously were not part of the march. Wonder what they thought of a couple hundred thousand folks indirectly commenting on their imperialism?)

Walking down 13th Street toward the Mall, the first site that hit me was a huge sign (about 14 feet by 8 feet) created by Working Assets (our new cell phone provider!) and earlier placed in front of anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist's office. It included a photo of the flooding in New Orleans and a play on a Norquist quote: "My goal is to cut government in half in 25 years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." An incredibly powerful message. Wonder if Norquist considers himself to have blood on his hands?

As always, we were impressed by the diversity of people there. Despite the depictions of the media of protestors being white trust-fund brats, in reality progressive protests are incredibly mixed. One of the first people we saw walking toward the Mall was a very elderly woman using a walker, and we saw many more folks above the age of 65. There were many, many parents with their children (and why not? The U.S. will probably be in Iraq 15 years from now when these children will be of age to join (or be conscripted into) the military). Standing near the stage where the speakers were talking, I heard one presenter (I never did hear her affiliation) talking about her 8-month-old child and how many parents cuddle together during thunderstorms to reassure their children. She then asked the audience to consider an Iraqi parent trying to console a child when the thunderous noise is not thunder, but the rain of bombs on their neighborhood. For the first of many occasions yesterday, tears came to my eyes. But here are just a few of the beautiful people (and "tattooed, pierced hippies" *sarcasm*) we saw:

But I soon got a pleasant surprise when I saw my former coworker Irene in the crowd. I wasn't surprised to see her there, but it was nice to catch up with her. In her mid-50s, she started work on her master's in library science (at Florida State, via distance ed) this semester. She caught me up on the news from NVCC. And interestingly, she wasn't the only person from the college I saw. At one point in front of us on the actual march, I saw a man who looked quite familiar. Eventually I remembered that he was an English professor whose classes I had taught in the library. Also, two of my GU coworkers were in the crowd with their spouses/partners. Local libraries definitely had a presence.

About 30 minutes in, John split up with Kevin and I, to go take some photos. We had earlier swapped cell phone numbers so that we could reach one another, so it wasn't a big deal. We didn't see him again until we reached the end of the march. Here are some early photos of the three of us. (Isn't Kevin looking handsome?)

While Kevin and I were standing around waiting for things to begin, several sights struck our notice. We were at what seemed to be the end of the march, but the crowds were thick. One group joining at that point created a procession of flag-draped "coffins" made out of cardboard. There were probably 75 of them; I was horrified to realize that each probably represented 25 dead soldiers and 200 injured ones. And to think that a procession for the Iraqi civilian dead: Each coffin would have represented at least 1,000 people. (Of course, you'd never know that by partaking in the U.S. media.)

Another issue of note: The number of police cars that went driving THROUGH the crowds: at least five of them over the course of an hour. They weren't going fast and didn't have their sirens, so it didn't seem they were going anywhere in a hurry. And in any case, there were other streets they could use as opposed to ones that were literally filled with people, including children, the elderly, and people in motorized wheelchairs and scooters. The only reason I could think of that they might be driving through the crowd was intimidation, pure and simple. Fuckers.

And there was another moving group display; I got the feeling they were a religious congregation from the Midwest, perhaps Michigan. Their numbers included the elderly as well as teenagers. They had printed out, each on an 8-1/2 by 11 sheet, the photo, name, and hometown of every soldier killed in Iraq. The page was slipped into a plastic sheet cover and attached to a rope. The rope probably stretched more than 4 or 5 blocks along Constitution. Stunning, and it gave such a horrific picture of the death toll for the American military. Each one of those individuals was someone's daughter, son, parent, nephew, coworker.

Here are some other interesting photos and groups:

These are the Montana Women for Peace. Fabulous display, and what dedication to haul their cookies across the country for this march. I wasn't sure if I'd go, and I live just a few Metro stops away.

Some favorite signs. The first shows the sign and the artist, who obviously put a great deal of time and thought into it. The imagery is incredible. The "crap" sign made us laugh, and was all too true. And the third: Great sticker, with some eye-grabbing placement. (Gonna have to talk to Kevin about photographing other women's breasts.) The giant pink peace sign was with the Code Pink contingent.

These photos are of Camp Casey, which was moved from Crawford, Texas, to the Mall. Emotion was flowing through the entire area: the photos of dead soldiers, the artifacts for each one, and the boots and crosses representing the dead.

Walking away from Camp Casey, we saw the police stretched up Constitution toward the capitol. Kevin noticed, while working on a cancer stick, that they all had gas masks with them. Police states are very scary things. The other photo was taken just before that of the police officer: of a young man (one of those hippy youths) with a peace flag. I thought it a very iconic image. Apparently, others did too: A similar photo appeared in todays Post.

Here's the White House. By the time we got to the back side, we found that the religious group with the rope of dead casualties had placed it on the fence outside the White House wrought-iron fence. (Security in DC, sigh.) The external fence was surrounded by Secret Service people in riot gear, including one carrying a tear gas launcher. (See photo.) While looking at the manse, a clean-cut fellow in an oxford cloth shirt with a bullhorn walked up next to me and started berating the police troops there for protecting a war criminal. As Kevin and I walked past him, Kev notice the sandwich-board he was wearing: "Oswald, where are you when we need you?" Apparently, dude missed the whole Jack Ruby thing. Or, he was a COINTELPRO-type infiltrator there to incite the police to attack. I wouldn't doubt it; he looked very Republican.

If he was a true protestor, I'm sure that I'm now on the FBI watch list and the no-fly list because I was standing next to him, and in Bush's America, that's enough to get you labeled as a dangerous individual. How many Muslims were interrogated because they once attended services at the same mosque as a 9/11-hijacker? (Funny how that doesn't work with Christian terrorists? Did Eric Rudolph's fellow churchgoers get hauled into a cell for a couple weeks without a lawyer or the opportunity to tell their family where they were?)

After the White House, on sort of the "back nine" of the march, we stopped for a rest (and, alas, for Kevin to smoke a cigarette). Behind us were a group of women with t-shirts reading "West Virginians for Peace." Like any good Mountaineer, I had to stop and chat. They were actually from the Eastern Panhandle, but they mentioned that they had spoken to several folks from Fairmont and Morgantown. I was proud to hear that North Central WV was representing. But anyway, here's me and the state flag:

The next shot was taken looking down toward the capitol (think it was Pennsylvania). You can see that the crowd is wall-to-wall (sidewalk-to-sidewalk?!) the entire way. Woot!

Near the end of the march, at Freedom Plaza, we ran into the Breasts Not Bombs group. Yes, those are real, bare breasts. (As an aside, kudos to the mom who was practicing extended breastfeeding while marching!)

Ironically, they were right around the corner from a wizened woman street preacher hollering about salvation. (Oh, along the route we noticed two counterprotests. One was made up of about 10 people and included signs like "God Bless America, to hell with the rest of them." The other involved a group of good "Christian" folks who apparently think that advocating for peace is a sin.)

Around this time, we got in touch with John, who had already finished the march. Apparently, we had several more blocks to go. We ended up skipping them and met up with John at 14th and Constitution, and then walked back to Capital City Brewing (where Kevin and I went out to eat after the protest where we met, so it was sort of a nostalgic meal) for beer and sandwiches, and a lot of talk about the day, protests of the 1960s, the state of the nation, and the possible impact of our actions.

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