Monday, January 29, 2007

America marches, goes home

Saturday - henceforth known as J27 - I went to Washington, D. C. and protested the war in Iraq. Four of us were supposed to go, but only two of us had the fortitude to board a Chinatown bus (only $35 return!) at 7:00 am. (As one bailer said, "I don't think the revolution is supposed to start before brunch.")

Four hours and a quick stop in Baltimore later, we were there. It was a beautiful 20 degrees, perfectly calm and sunny, wonderful compared to New York's brutalizing ice wind.

Washington truly is a city by, for, and of the bureaucrats. The subway system is so convoluted that even friend - who is from there - couldn't explain to me what ticket to buy.

We arrived at the Mall to find tens of thousands of people: union members, peaceniks, socialists, families, Dems, Jane Fonda, raging grannies, etc. The program was outrageously bad - too many Congresspeople on the campaign trail yakking about their victory back in November and claiming the moral highground and boosting proposition RH The only speech worth listening to was by an Iraqi guy who got up there and just said, unequivocally, that the US needs to get out of Iraq, that democracy will not break out until they do, that Sunnis and Shias and Kurds have been living together for thousands of years and can mind their own affairs. You could hear crickets. Because Americans - even the ones attending "End the War Now" peace rallies - think Iraqis are better off occupied.

Now, I had already decided that my job in that crowd was to raise awareness (read: heckle), so I punctuated the stilted silences with "Believe it, people!... Yeah!... Woo!... Listen to the Iraqis!" Galvanized no one.

I also got into a fight with this guy:

He made his little sign right in front of me, and I waited - I gave him the benefit of the doubt - until it was good and jiffied out before telling him I didn't think there was any place for racism at a rally like this. We went on to conversate a little, during which I informed him that yes I have been to the region, and yes I can name the two main political parties in Palestine. He explained that all he meant was that Hamas was not a reasonable negotiating partner, and that factional fighting between Hamas and Fatah would have to be resolved before the peace process could resume. Now, leaving aside the gigantic pot-calling-kettle-black-osity of that analysis, I asked him how on earth that translated to "Palestinians teach hate." In the end he admitted his sign was inappropriate, rolled it up, and promised not to display it. I'd give him a big gold star, but it was clear he was being disingenuous. Nobody changes their mind that fast; he was just shamed.

Then Jessseuuhh Jaccckk-soonnn got up to talk, and by then we were bored, so friend and I walked around to the top of the Mall, where we found the anarchists, who were just then advancing on the Capitol building. At this point, for sheer comedic value, I will defer to the AP newswire:

The rally on the National Mall unfolded peacefully, although about 300 protesters tried to rush the Capitol, running up the grassy lawn to the front of the building. Police on motorcycles tried to stop them, scuffling and wrestling with some and setting up barricades along the front steps. Protesters chanted "[Whose Congress?] Our Congress" as police faced off against them. Their ranks grew and several dozen shouting "We want a tour" broke away and tried to get into a side door.

Lol, that's pretty close to how it went down, although we didn't so much try to rush the Capitol as we did rush the Capitol. Now, every time the crowd broke through another barrier, the cops would sort of stand back after a minute as if to say "Sure, come on in" - which sometimes is the lead-up to everyone getting corralled and arrested with those little plastic ties. Luckily, that didn't happen. But we never did get our tour.

After that we went for a really nice lunch - friend had the black bean soup and tomato panini; I had the scrambled eggs on sourdough - saw the White House, and wandered around some of the trendier areas. With an hour to kill, we capped of the day by accepting a tour of a Scientology church/manse (whatever they call them). I know, right? Let's just say those people are white, middle-class, and of reeelly average intelligence.

Vanguard out.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh! That reminds me! When we were in Zurich (at about midnight) we stumbled across an anti-G8 protest that took the form of marchers in black with masks and signs and spraypaint. And spraypaint they did, all over shops and churches and wherever. In some places, they spray-painted the anarchy symbol and the hammer and sickle right next to each other. Um, huh? The police showed up too, but only a few, and only to prevent them from crossing the river. Otherwise they let them be. As far as we saw, anyway.