The Counter-Inaugural…

17 minute read

January 21, 2005, 11:10 PM

On January 20, 2005, George W. Bush was inaugurated as President of the United States for a second term. While many were in Washington to cheer Bush on, others were in Washington to demonstrate against the Bush administration. I was with the latter group. We did not agree with the Bush Administration’s policies, and were out there voicing it.

I actually got up for this event at midnight. It turned January 20, and I was up and running. I left the house at 1 AM, and, after having to turn around a few miles out because I forgot some stuff, I was off again for real. I made it to the Sheetz in Mt. Jackson for breakfast at 2 AM, and, realizing that I was WAY further ahead than I anticipated, I decided to eat in rather than eating on the go, which I usually do. Not bad. And then we were off!

Next stop: Wal-Mart in Woodstock for some “protest supplies”. Namely, bottled water. So I bought a 12-pack of Aquafina for possible later use. And we continue, on to Vienna.

This leg of the trip is usually when I have the pre-protest mishap. This time, nothing happened, and it went without a hitch. I did, however, encounter the remains of recently-fallen snow once I got to Prince William County. This was from a snowstorm that hit the area the day before, which didn’t affect where I lived, but did get Northern Virginia and Washington DC. It didn’t make I-66 that treacherous, but going from I-66 to Saintsbury Drive at Vienna, I met my winter weather. Saintsbury Drive, as well as Vaden Drive, which goes over the Interstate, were both a bit snowy. Navigate with care. The driveway into the North Garage from Vaden Drive was also quite snowy.

I arrived at Vienna at 5 AM sharp. It was a bit weird for me, since I usually arrive at Vienna at 9:30. Still dark outside. And Vienna’s North Garage was practically empty, too. I got my favorite parking space. The top deck, right next to the elevator. So all was well, aside from the fact that the top deck on the North Garage was a little questionable due to snow But we made it. Time to hit the Metro, and get my first Breda of the day. I’d estimate that it was probably the fourth or fifth train to leave Vienna that day.

From there, I went to Rosslyn, my usual warm-up spot. I got a copy of the Express, and read it in the first floor lobby of Rosslyn Metro Mall. Rosslyn is great – it’s a place for me to gather all of my thoughts, and set a direction for my day. I used the time not only to read the Express, but also to review all the literature I’d printed out regarding the various events I was considering attending. And then, we were off.

I caught a Blue Line train from Rosslyn to go to Metro Center, transferred to a Red Line train to go to Gallery Place-Chinatown, and then again to a Yellow Line train to Mt. Vernon Square. At Mt. Vernon Square, where Yellow Line trains go out of service as planned, I transferred to a Green Line train, and rode up to U Street-Cardozo. Why did I take four trains, when I could easily accomplish it in two? Because I was doing well on time, and wanted to ride all five lines right in the morning (remember I rode Orange from Vienna to Rosslyn). It’s a railfan thing. Just go with it.

At U Street-Cardozo, I got my bearings, and got directions from a person walking by on how to get to Malcolm X Park, known officially as Meridian Hill Park. I was headed to the upper section of the park. This is where the DAWN (DC Anti-War Network) counter-inaugural rally and march would be held.

Now let me clarify for a moment. There were two major counter-inaugural demonstrations being held. The one by DAWN, which I attended, was a march through the city from Malcolm X Park straight down 16th Street NW until reaching Eye Street, where we turned left to head to McPherson Square (the square, not the Metro station). There was another demonstration by ANSWER Coalition, which met between 3rd and 4th Streets NW at Pennsylvania Avenue. My perception was that the mainstream media gave the impression that it was all one big demonstration. In fact, in my local newspapers, The News-Virginian in Waynesboro covered our DAWN march, while The News Leader in Staunton covered the ANSWER demonstration. But these were two demonstrations, essentially competing for the same participants.

So I arrived at Malcolm X Park around 8:30. The rally started at 9:00. At that early hour, attendance was light, and people were assembling cardboard coffins, which would be carried by participants from Malcolm X Park to McPherson Square. Additionally, Fox 5 was on scene. I met a group from Washington State who came up for this. Then I went and mingled around for a bit, to check out what was going on. I was once again dressed in the style of the Black Bloc, which has become my preferred style for demonstrations. It makes me feel more comfortable doing my protest thing. Don’t ask me why – I don’t know. But I hadn’t quite completed it at this point.

So I mingled around a bit, while the rally’s speakers were on the stage, giving impassioned speeches about the war in Iraq and the Bush Administration. Now usually, once I find someone else in full Black Bloc, I go ahead and finish the outfit. I ran into “Becca” from Oakland, California, fully masked up. I joined her in that, and fixed myself up. We talked for a bit. Talked about what we did, where we were from, etc. Nice girl. After a while, though, I continued mingling around. It was neat what kinds of signs were being carried by demonstrators. The DAWN organizers also distributed small orange flags and Sharpies to carry one’s own personal message.

A full Black Bloc had gathered towards the back of the rally. Black and red-and-black flags could be found, as well as lots of masked individuals. I stayed clear for now, since I was still checking things out. I would stop in and say hello a few times.

Now in mingling around, I, and likely most other people, realized pretty quickly that snow getting walked over and stood on would compress. By walking around and standing on the snow that had recently fallen over Malcolm X Park, we had packed it into some slick ice. Always be mindful of your step.

Still walking around, I had one of those small-world experiences and an unlikely meet-up. I met another former Potomac resident! Check it out:

A familiar face!

So I was all masked up, walking around and I spotted a familiar face, and I knew it was JMU that I recognized her from. So I said to her, “Do you go to JMU?” In a voice that said, it couldn’t be!, she replied, “Schumin?” I pulled my bandanna down to show that yes, it really is me under all that black. It was just like, “Oh, my gawd!” since we hadn’t seen each other in like two years. Turns out that she was doing the Critical Mass bicycle events, having been at the meet-up at Union Station (which I didn’t go to), and she was going to Dupont Circle for that 4 PM Critical Mass meet-up as well, and invited me to come to Dupont Circle. I said we’ll see, as I wasn’t sure what I would do after this yet.

The rally was interesting. So many interesting people from so many places, and also so many masked individuals. It being winter and well below freezing for most of the day, it was hard to tell how many people were masked because of the demonstration, and how many were masked because it was cold. Usually a bandanna meant masked because of the demonstration, but you never know sometimes. Even though a bandanna is thin, it really does keep your face warm, though.

At the end of the rally, everyone, estimated at 10,000 according to reports on DC Indymedia, proceeded out of the park for the march, and took to 16th Street NW for the march to McPherson Square. Those participating in the separate-but-related die-in event were asked to stay. Those carrying coffins picked up their coffins to carry at this time as well. In the march, I quickly got with a woman wearing all red and a red bandanna holding up a sign saying “NO MORE SLOGANS!!!” with various slogans we’ve all heard penned in behind it. Check it out:

"No more slogans!"

At 12 noon, the march stopped momentarily. It is unknown whether this was intentional or out of necessity, but it was symbolic nonetheless, as noon is when the President is sworn in.

I separated with the person in red when the march separated. At the intersection of 16th and P Street NW, the anarchists separated from the main march to head towards Logan Circle. The woman in the red and the rest of her group gathered to decide what to do. At Logan Circle, there was to be an anti-authoritarian bloc meeting up, and this group was heading there. According to reports on DC Indymedia, about 200 people broke off. The breakaway march was unpermitted, and so anything could happen, while the regular march had a permit. The group decided to go to Logan Circle. I bid them a fond farewell, as I had a bad feeling about that breakaway march, fearing things could get ugly down there, and so I continued on with the main march, which turned out to be a good idea, which I’ll tell you about later. My friend from Potomac Hall, on her bicycle, rode off with the anarchists on the breakaway march.

Beyond here, I found a sign that I found particularly amusing, and caught up to the woman carrying the sign. I said hello, and got her to hold it up for a photo:

"Bush Mart" sign

I ended up spending the rest of the march with this woman and her friend, as the march continued. She carried her Bush-Mart sign, and I marched alongside.

Continuing down 16th Street, we encountered Scott Circle. Scott Circle:

Approaching Scott Circle  In the Scott Circle tunnel

I had also shot a two-minute movie of the march in the tunnel, with the group seeming louder by virtue of being boxed in, but due to a technical problem with Big Mavica, the movie was lost.

Beyond Scott Circle, it wasn’t long until we reached Eye Street, next to AFL-CIO headquarters, where the group made a hard left turn to reach the southern end of McPherson Square. Here, we had a bit of a bottleneck, as we were stopped on Eye Street for some time. For reasons unbeknownst to me, an unmarked police car was trying to get down Eye Street against the normal flow of traffic. Some demonstrators were shouting “WHOSE STREETS? OUR STREETS!” as the police car sounded its siren as if to say, move it. Once that got cleared, we finally got to McPherson Square. There, the first order of business was breaking down your coffin. The woman with the Wal-Mart sign and her friend ended up carrying one of the flag-draped coffins before it was all over, and so they broke down their coffin.

The coffins were one thing I found to be somewhat odd in this particular demonstration. I’m unsure about whether these were the same cardboard coffins that were carried on October 2 (see my Day of Activism photo set for more information on that event), and displayed on October 23, but to me they seemed a bit out of place. First of all, the anti-war groups had done it already, with coffins being the centerpiece on October 2. Then considering that at McPherson Square, the first order of business was to break down your coffin, it didn’t allow for an opportunity to see the war deaths mounting up as the coffins arrived, since they weren’t displayed whole. Just piles of cardboard, clips, and fabric.

After getting rid of the coffin, the three of us sat down on a bench at McPherson Square. They enjoyed some celery with peanut butter, and I unmasked and enjoyed one of my bottled waters. That really hit the spot.

After we enjoyed our respective refreshments, we went our separate ways. I mingled around McPherson Square for a bit, while they headed out, unsure of what they would do next. Great people, indeed.

Elsewhere at McPherson Square, other participants were enjoying refreshments that had been provided, and others were demonstrating on the edges of the square. I found two particularly interesting. One was a person carrying a cardboard cutout of George W. Bush. It had a mustache drawn on it like a certain German leader, and had money doodled in Bush’s hand. Check it out:

Bush cutout

Another one had two people dressed like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. The man in the Bush mask wore a gold crown saying “666”, held an inflatable globe and a bottle of motor oil, and had strings attached to his arms. The strings were to make Bush look like a puppet, and they were held by a guy in a Dick Cheney mask.

Puppetmaster Dick Cheney

And after a bit more wandering around McPherson Square, I left and went into the McPherson Square Metro station. I had determined I was going to go to the Critical Mass meet-up at Dupont Circle, since I learned that everyone was going there, with the intention of dancing in the street or thereabouts. But before then, since Critical Mass wasn’t until 4:00 and it was still a ways off, I ended up going to The Promenade at L’Enfant Plaza for a pit stop, and more sitting down. I actually ended up speaking with a gentleman who had come from New Mexico, and was a Bush supporter. Talked about the inauguration – specifically, his experience, since I wanted to hear how it went. It went well.

At L’Enfant Plaza, I took the Yellow Line up to Gallery Place-Chinatown, and then caught a CAF train on the Red Line to Dupont Circle station. Around now is when I figured out that Washington was basically crawling with two types of people: Republicans and activists. I saw a few people from the march in the Metro getting from here to there, and actually spoke for a while with one person who was also going to Dupont Circle station.

At Dupont Circle, I found some bicyclists, though not my Potomac friend (who I have a feeling dropped out after the anarchist breakaway march), and a lot of people dressed in all black. But first, I stopped on the outskirts of the circle, I said hello to some people I remembered from the march who had cameras and such, ready to immortalize the moment. Then I heard a familiar song: Sakura Saku from the Japanese anime Love Hina. Translated, it meant my cell phone was ringing. Turns out it was Mom, wanting to know how things went. She and some of her fellow teachers were very pleased to hear that things were going well for those of us protesting George W. Bush. After that was done, I put my phone back in my backpack, and put the backpack back on.

And then back to talking with these people on the bench. Or so I thought. I got everything all situated, and then I heard Sakura Saku once again. Who now? It’s Dad. Amazing that both parents thought to call me at the same time, wanting to know the same thing. I also called my friend Oren, who had called me earlier, but I didn’t hear the phone ring. He was reporting a sighting of an eight-car Rohr train on the Red Line.

Then it was into Dupont Circle for me. I put my hat back on, and fixed my bandanna again. Tied, and pulled down. I ended up pulling it back up later for warmth more than anything else. So I mingled for a bit. Talked to a number of the other Black Bloc people around. I found out why it was such a good idea to stay with the main march. As it turned out, there was a confrontation with police! What happened is that some people were throwing snowballs at the police, and I also got reports of police getting hit by some stuff. The end result, however, was that pepper spray was used by the police to try to control the crowd. Glad I wasn’t there.

At Dupont Circle, I ended up talking for quite some time with a group, where two people were wearing ski masks, and the other had a bandanna pulled down. They were from Florida, and said that this was really cold, since it’s usually in the 70s where they’re from. That group and I parted ways when they went to join a march. It was unpermitted, and I believe it was headed to Union Station, which would have made sense. The police, meanwhile, set up a staging area across the street from Dupont Circle. I stayed behind at Dupont Circle, and got a photo of the group leaving. Check it out:

The group leaves Dupont Circle, believed to be en route to Union Station.

I then ended up talking to a girl wearing a black bandanna mask like mine and sitting on a bench who called herself “Krissy”. We ended up talking about the day, the events, and just about everything else. Turned out that she was at the April 12 ANSWER demonstration, which I covered as the A Protest Against the War Photography set. She went as Black Bloc there, too. Her group came back, and the four of us went off in search of refreshments. Krissy and I kept our masks on for warmth, only pulling them down once we got inside somewhere, and then remasking when we left. First stop? CVS at Dupont Circle. The two of us didn’t get anything, but others in the group did. We then went in search of a seat, if nothing else. First stop was a Starbucks, which had no available tables. We then went across the street to Kramerbooks & Afterwords, in search of refreshment. Welcome, but it’s a $7.50 minimum order per person. I don’t think so. We left.

We ultimately went to Books-A-Million at Dupont Circle, where we sat on the floor near the reading area chairs, and talked. I took my hat off, fixed my hair, and put my glasses back on, and I got an unusual comment. They thought I was older than I was. They said that without the glasses, I looked early 20s. But then with my glasses on, they said I looked much older. Weird. Turned out they were right with the non-glasses age, since I’m 23. Still, we had fun until it was time to go. Krissy and I had places to go and the rest of the people went to meet others.

So the girl and I went to the Dupont Circle Metro station via “the bowl”, which is the local name for the Q Street entrance due to its shape. And once in the station, I made a big mistake in navigation. She needed to get to Metro Center. I was going to Union Station for yet another demonstration. Both of these were reached by a Red Line train to Glenmont or Silver Spring. Without thinking, I led her to the Shady Grove platform, and we got on a train to Shady Grove. I realized I’d goofed when I was talking to the girl while we were on the train, and a passenger mentioned that this train wasn’t going to Metro Center. So we fixed that error at Woodley Park-Zoo, and caught a Red Line train to Silver Spring. At Metro Center, we exchanged hugs and contact information, and then she got off the train to transfer.

I continued to a third demonstration, outside Union Station, site of one of the Freedom Ball, one of several inaugural balls being held around the city. The demonstration outside of Union Station was sponsored by Code Pink, and featured most of the same masked activists from Dupont Circle and Malcolm X Park. Quickly finding the group after getting out of the Metro station, I masked up and joined them.

Union Station looked beautiful on the outside (I didn’t go in). Red and blue lights were rigged to shine on the building, making it just gorgeous on the outside. And I must admit that the people were very well dressed who were going in. But that didn’t stop us from demonstrating outside.

The person who seemed to be the icon of our demonstration was a small woman wearing the standard black mask, holding up a black flag:

The person who seemed to be the icon of our demonstration was a small woman wearing the standard black mask, holding up a large black flag nearly as tall as she was.

She also shouted at an inaugural partygoer at one point. When she hopped down from the wall, I told her how awesome it was that she did that.

Code Pink was running this event, and they were trying to get all the demonstrators in the right spot based on police directives. One demonstrator a few feet in front of me sparked a small confrontation between himself, a man in a tuxedo, and a police officer, as the demonstrator tried to rough up the man in the tuxedo. A whole bunch of us ended up getting pushed back, either by an intentional shove, or a number of people quickly backing up. I don’t know which. Either way, the end result was Big Mavica getting mashed into my chest momentarily. A quick on-the-spot check revealed that both Big Mavica and I were just fine.

Otherwise, the big thing here was yelling, “SHAME! SHAME! SHAME! SHAME! SHAME!” as partygoers passed by in their tuxedos and evening gowns. At a few points, some members of the group also yelled “TOGA! TOGA! TOGA! TOGA!” at some of the partygoers, in reference to the movie Animal House. After the confrontation, I met “Lauren”, who I found out had been pepper sprayed in the earlier confrontation, and was having problems with her mask (a green winter scarf), since it had a spot of pepper spray on it, and thus causing irritation. So, since I had an extra bandanna, I lent one to her. Check it out:

So, since I had an extra bandanna, I lent one to her.

We talked about all kinds of stuff, and eventually went to a traffic island to heckle the partygoers as they came in. Not a bad place to stand, either.

Lauren and I, after putting up a good show of resistance to all that is GOP, finally decided enough is enough. Since she had to get back across town and had gotten much of her stuff scattered at the confrontation, I, being the nice guy that I am, helped her out, and paid for Metro fare to get her to where she needed to go. However, Lauren and I decided that, being masked up and all, that going into the nearby Union Station Metro station was probably unwise, since that would be crossing the lines that the police had established. So we ended up walking away from Union Station, still wearing our masks for warmth, and headed towards Capitol South on the Blue and Orange Lines. We ended up crossing north of the Senate wing ext to a few office buildings, and then went to the Metro station via the street in front of the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress. At the Metro station, we unmasked for good before going in, and then that was the end of our protest. We got off at Foggy Bottom-GWU station, where we talked for a few minutes, and shared a big hug. Then she went on her way, and I went back into the Metro.

Where was I headed? Pentagon City, as usual. So I took the Blue Line from Foggy Bottom to Pentagon City and headed into the mall. But not first before encountering one last remnant of the demonstration…

This person, as it turned out, went to the ANSWER march.  I liked those signs, though.

These people, it turned out, went to the ANSWER march, which was competing with our DAWN march for participants. I liked those signs, though.

At the mall, I got a “fruity freeze” from Mr. Smoothie in the food court, and then called my friend Katie, to tell her how things went. She also warned me of snow in our area, which I was unaware of at the time. I’m thinking, oh, joy, snow. Just what I need. Ah, well.

After that, I did a little railfanning, going down to Huntington to try to get a better angle of the top-of-the-parking-garage view at night than I got before. I’m shooting for a little lower angle without being too low, and without a tripod, since it’s a bother to carry all day, and returning to Vienna takes too much time. After Huntington, I took the Yellow Line to L’Enfant Plaza, where I was kind of dozing off, and waking up by the movement of the train at every single stop. I even jumped out of my seat when we stopped for some reason on the bridge, thinking I was about to miss my stop at L’Enfant Plaza. Once I realized I was on the bridge and not the station, I sat back down. It was weird, though. Dozing off all like that, I dreamed about the day’s protest. I’m on the train, and all of a sudden I start seeing images of the Black Bloc, and other protesters (meaning I’m dozing off). Then all of a sudden we’re on the Metro again. Then I see more activists. Then we’re on the Metro again. Weird. After getting off at L’Enfant Plaza, I caught a train to Vienna.

On the Metro on the way to Vienna, I realized that the system was just crawling with Republicans. Seriously. At every station, someone got on or off wearing a tux or an evening gown. And they must have been able to smell “dirty rotten liberal” on me, since they all turned their noses up at me. This, by the way, is one reason to wear a mask to demonstrations, because even if they had been at the ball at Union Station where we demonstrated, they would have had no idea that I was there, since I was wearing the bandanna.

Finally arriving at Vienna, I went up to my car in the North Garage, but not before first taking note of some pertinent information:

That's important, because that's where I like to park, and it seems that a lot of spaces will be closing for a while.  We'll see how that works for my parking situation.  I might just have to park in the South Garage for a while.

That’s important, because that’s where I like to park, and it seems that a lot of spaces will be closing for a while. We’ll see how that works for my parking situation. I might just have to park in the South Garage for a while.

Otherwise, though, the snow I’d encountered on the roads at Vienna in the morning had melted, and the parking garage was clear. So I was just able to roll right out. Virginia Center Boulevard was also clear, as was the Interstate. Good stuff. And we were off.

I didn’t encounter any fresher snow (i.e. what Katie warned me about) until reaching Warren County on I-66, when I noticed some possible slush on the road, thus slowing down as a precaution. At Woodstock, the local roads were a monster, particularly the parking lot at Wal-Mart, where I made a pit stop. After that, it was straight home. I-81 was good traveling, but then the somewhat-more-lightly traveled I-64 was a bit more snowy. Local roads were terrible. But I made it home.

And that was my Inauguration Day. What a day it was, too. It left me sore all over, but quite satisfied. I think that we definitely got our message out, even if there were a few scuffles here and there. You meet so many interesting people at these demonstrations, and get to do so many interesting things. And I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.

Web site: DAWN - DC Anti-War Network, sponsor of the march from Malcolm X Park

Song: Whatever music was going on at the various demonstrations...

Quote: "Metro definitely needs to put those 'stand to the right' signs out again whenever we get all these out-of-towners in here." - Me complaining about how tourists don't know the unwritten rule of Metro etiquette. On escalators, you stand to the right, and walk on the left. By the way, can't you tell I so need to move up to Washington?