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The March in DC - a Report
The March in DC - a Report
By Virginia Moran
Wednesday 05 October 2005
I went with my friend, Kim and her friends. We left from the West Carrollton Station and took the Metro. From the moment we entered the parking lot at the Metro station until midnight that night, we were surrounded by incredibly determined, kind, funny, angry, sincere, interesting, opinionated, strong, discouraged, depressed, desperate, sad, fearful like-minded souls and it felt great. Not in a misery loves company kind of way - but in finding a sane home for awhile. Separately, we tear our hair and wring our hands. Collectively, we change the world.
The air felt like it was destined to be changed. We were like a wave, one big beautiful wave of caring, action, and democracy and for a little while, we were going to subject our nation's capitol to some democracy since it rarely experiences any these days.
The train was packed with protesters. Some holding their signs, others propping them up so when the door opened, anyone could read them.
Some held their signs on their laps, face up. Heads tilted to the side and turned as we all read one another's signs and commented. "I love that...," two elderly women say nodding toward two young twenty-something girls.
One young white woman asks a black guy holding onto the pole if he can hold her sign while she adjusts her baby in its stroller. He smiles and takes it from her. Two punk looking angry boys listen to their machines (Ipods?) and make faces at one another then laugh. All shapes, all sizes, all ethnic groups, all ages, gender ... I look around the Metro car and I see America and my heart swells with love and gratitude. I catch myself wiping tears off my cheeks. Whether we get our skulls cracked open or not, just to see this, to be a part of it was enough for me. As far as I am concerned, I am observing the best America has to offer as representatives of its citizenry. I hope the rest of the world is watching and understands - by God, we are not our government.
The doors open up at the station and we all surge outside with our signs and T-shirts and hats and anything else we can wear on our bodies to increase the "statement surface area." I am toting this tacky stuffed farting Bush doll that says things like "America, I just shit my pants," then farts. It is a protest goodbye gift from my Grass Valley friend, Laura. In spite of the repulsion from everyone else, I love it. I set it on top of a wall that everyone leaving this Metro train station must walk by. I need to rearrange some things in my pack and the others are running off to the Ronald Reagan International Trade building to go to the bathroom. When I turn around, a small crowd has formed around the farting Bush doll and many are taking pictures of it. This doll will prove to be an incredible hit of the march and will magically appear in many of our own photos.
Everyone goes to the bathroom and takes care of logistics and we set out for Lafayette Street or some street. I am not paying attention.
I am too busy trying to take it all in. Statements everywhere ... signs, costumes, street theater, hats, old slogans and new ones but all saying the same thing - we don't like this. We want it to stop. Staging for the march is taking place and people are kind of antsy and pensive.
There are many newbies in the crowd and as this is my first time marching in DC, I of course check for where the cops are. I see none.
This strikes me as weird and worries me. Where are they? A drumming crew goes by. People all wearing the same sticker or T-shirt, people talking on their cell phones, someone tying their shoes and others stomping their feet as if getting ready. It is an exciting atmosphere. I am thrilled to be here. Where are the cops?
A loud ruckus sets off and we look and see some of the very few "counter protesters" on the corner. They are roped off to the sidewalk and yelling. This is the first time I see the cops. They are standing between us and them. A shouting match has started between them and protesters and things are getting heated. Kim motions to me to get back in case fists start flying. I cannot. This is the first time in my life I have ever seen hundreds of people from "our" side "winning" and easily. A pod of angry protesters is ascending on these nut cases and it makes me smile. We are in the majority for once. I have to enjoy this while I can, sorry.
Just before the top is going to blow off, a 15 foot high Uncle Sam on stilts cuts through the pod and walks past the cops and stands above the "counter protesters" wagging a long long finger at them. This breaks the tension and people start to laugh. Kim grabs me and sort of pushes me past all of this ahead of the pod where the march is marching up the street at a good clip. We are now officially marching. We hear 3-4 different chants. None of these go very well. People belt it out a couple times then fade out until the next one but the chants never really latch on to the crowd to the point where there is that rare loud "din".... I am disappointed in this. I yell "this is what democracy looks like" and the second time, pick up about ten voices ... we weakly repeat it, feel stupid then wait for the next chant. Finally, it degenerates into conversations and everyone is proudly holding their signs but also talking about that meeting at work or where they parked the car. I am disappointed. Kim and I and her friends talk politics and loudly and proudly. It feels great.
Meantime, I see very few police. I am totally floored by this. Finally, just as I think this is going to be "your basic march," Kim says, "look," and we look up the street to see about 300 20-somethings storming down the street directly towards us. They seem to all match somehow and are holding distinctive banners.
They are yelling as they run. No one knows what to do. One woman comments, "it's those WTO people" and the next thing I know, the crowd has parted and they enter our ranks. They are pierced, wearing black, punked, dyed, tattooed and energized. I love it. I love them and tell them so. Immediately we have a new energy. They launch into a chant right away and everyone follows. Here is a sample too of that wasted American youth I always talk about. Not these kids. The same woman states to us that she hopes "those WTO people don't mess it up for us..." and I am appalled. "Oh yea," I say, "it's all those WTO kids fault ... they are really going to mess up this march with their anger and passion and energy. Something might actually change!! How dare they!!" The woman walks away. Thank God. Unfortunately, comments about "those WTO people" were all too common especially from the Boomers as if any even marginal radical movement goes against what has now become a liberal obsession with always "being nice."
The protest route is long and eventually, we get strung out. Kim and friends want to sit down and drink some water. Eat some granola (what else?) and rest a minute. Take it all in. Finally, when I see a large group of people, I stand up, hold out the farting Bush doll and ask people if they would like to push a pin in him (Laura even gave me pins). The response is hilarious as people take me up on it. Pins are placed in the head, the crotch, the heart, the eyes and up the nose. The most popular location for the pins is the heart. One gentleman gets into it so much, I fear he is going to rip the doll's head off.
We set off again and one of the group needs to answer a cell phone call. I am wishing they were banned from the whole protest. The proliferation of people on their damn cell phones seems to break the flow of the protest. We stop again. At this point, I notice a lot of cops, many in riot gear. Why? Ah, it's those fun "counter protesters" again. Angry pods have formed again. We look over at them then sit down. I put the farting Bush doll on the curb next to me and within seconds, he is again surrounded by cameras. He has his picture taken at least 25 times. We watch in fascination. I watch the cops and continue to be totally impressed. Some are chatting with the protesters. Some are laughing ... the ones by the counter protesters are not doing either but standing with their arms behind their backs, their backs to the counter protesters and facing us. One large cop stands in the sea of people as they walk by him. People are joking with him and laughing. I go up and thank him and other police officers around them and tell them they are awesome. "This is not what I was expecting. I was scared..."
The largest cop of them smiles at me and says, "This is great for us. We get paid good money to talk to all you nice people." He has a big smile on his face. Suddenly I imagine what it must be like to be a cop in DC and I get his point.
We set off again past the angry pod that has formed by the counter protesters. I veer into their line of fire. I have to. Suddenly I make eye contact with one of them and he screams and calls me a "terrorist" and "al Qaeda sympathizer." The things they say are so inane, it is not hard to ignore them but I decide just for yahoos to yell back. Wrong. He starts to piss me off. A police officer in riot gear then appears between this guy and me. I tell the officer, "You know, it's just not worth it..." and he says, "No it's not." and I walk away. Finally, when we are nearly past them, I turn around and scream "critical thinking skills people." "Develop some critical thinking skills, please." To my utter shock, everyone gets quiet and listens to me. I figure they got quiet because I went over their heads. They were concentrating. Or possibly because I have such a big mouth. I am pleased with myself.
The march ends at a rally at the base of the largest phallic symbol in the world and we are treated to speeches and music. The Battlerays are Boomer age and none of the young kids dance to it. The Boomers do. It's hot. Steve Earle sings. Joan Baez sings and says she never thought she would need to sing the same songs again she sang during Vietnam and this is discouraging. She also said the young people HAVE to pick this movement up now. This is their time. Cindy Sheehan is awarded a beautiful handmade Star quilt from the Lakota Nation who celebrated her as a peace warrior. The quilt is absolutely beautiful. They wrap her in it while one of the Lakotans sings a Native American song. Cindy cannot speak afterwards because she is crying too hard. We are all crying. The hip hop guys came out then the 20-somethings start dancing. I found this very depressing.
We wandered. A lot of tents set up. Groups. Crosses across the green for each solider that has died. The shoes of Iraqis we have killed ... each with the name of the owner. Very disturbing ... the shoes of the dead ... Americans and Iraqis ... scattered across the fields.
From there, we wandered eventually ending up at Harry's drinking beer with a bunch of other protesters. It felt like a celebration or maybe it was just relief ... comfort ... We got home around 1 a.m. Did we accomplish anything? Yes. The answer is yes. Your heart is healed. You love your country. You have hope. This is one huge accomplishment.
Next time, you can come too?