It wasn’t on the scale of others, but it wasn’t bad, either.

8 minute read

June 11, 2007, 9:51 PM

On June 10, 2007, I was in Washington DC for the demonstration protesting the Israeli occupation of Palestine on its 40th anniversary. All in all, it was a nice day, and despite the lack of numbers that some of the anti-Iraq war demonstrations I’ve been to have commanded, it was still a strong demonstration. The march started at the Capitol, and marched to the Ellipse.

First of all, though, to clarify: This was not an anti-Israel protest. This was also not an anti-semitic march. We were demonstrating against occupation. If we demonstrate so vigorously against the occupation of Iraq by our own country, why should we sit idly by while there’s a longer-standing occupation going on? After all, the saying goes that “occupation is a crime from Iraq to Palestine.”

My day went quite true to form. I met up with my anarchist buddies at Dupont Circle, where we were having our own black bloc feeder march to the main march site. The march was nominally under the banner of Students for a Democratic Society, otherwise known as SDS. However, turnout was not as many had hoped. This was not like the SDS-organized blocs of J27 or March 17. There was only one person carrying anything that said “SDS” on it. This was by and large DC’s usual gang of anarchists and their supporters, many of whom I consider as friends. You had me, Jeff from the Guerrilla Poets, Luke and his bike, and a number of others that I know from the Infoshop. I made the comment, in jest, “Okay, Jeff and Luke are here, so now it’s official.” There were also two young women who were dressed normally (vs. all-black) in the group.

In the call for the feeder march, the time was stated as 2:30. We didn’t hit the streets until 3:30, in part because the rally at the Capitol was to last two hours, and in part because we were hoping more would show. I would place the number of people at twenty. In what I would consider to be unusual for a black bloc, we actually discussed whether we would march on the sidewalk or in the street. With a bigger bloc, there would be no question about it – we would take the street. We ultimately did decide, however, to take to the street, since, as someone said, the sidewalk would not make any impact whatsoever. Since we were such a small group, we made sure we all had “affinity partners” to look out for each other. I stuck with a woman from Alexandria. We also agreed to meet up after it was all over at 17th and Constitution.

We masked up and stepped off around 3:30. We followed the path of the J27 feeder march to an extent. Our lack of numbers really hampered our ability to maneuver and to vary our path. Unlike J27, where we veered on two occasions, this time we followed Massachusetts Avenue straight through to 1st Street NW. When we attempted to spread out and take the whole street (vs. the two lanes we already had), the DC police kept us on our side. An officer who overheard the discussion of taking the whole street got on his car’s loudspeaker and told us not to do so. Well – “the man” has spoken. Leaving Massachusetts Avenue, we marched south on 1st Street to Constitution Avenue, where we briefly brushed past the side of PrideFest, which is a gay pride event. While we supported them, our brush past them was primarily logistical – we had to get around their event, plus the Capitol Police were preventing us from going onto the Capitol grounds to join the main group. We eventually got to 3rd Street NW, and stopped.

As you probably gathered, the Capitol Police had not forgotten J27, when individuals associated with that day’s bloc had tagged the Capitol in several places (here, here, here, and here). This time, they searched for any reason not to let us anywhere near the Capitol, even to join up with the mainstream group, and unfortunately, we didn’t have the numbers to scoff at them. The reason they came up with is that we would be marching on the Capitol grounds without a permit. It was weak, but they said that if we tried, they would arrest us. And since there weren’t enough of us to try to break through, that was the end of that. Since our numbers were so small, we couldn’t even unarrest – if the cops tried to arrest someone, they would definitely be going to jail.

At this point, one of the two young women got very emotional to the point of tears. She and her sister jumped headfirst into a black bloc with no advance knowledge of the tactic (thus the lack of black clothing), and she was quite upset that she couldn’t join the mainstream march. We ultimately comforted her, and got her back in good spirits. We would still join the mainstream group, but it would just take a little doing.

We also had one of those small-world moments there, after the one woman calmed back down. It turned out that she thought I looked very familiar. She had been debating with herself over asking me, and ultimately decided to go ahead. “Do you ever go to the Daily Grind in Staunton, Virginia?” It turned out that she knew me from the many days I spent at Daily Grind with the Lappy during my six-week “vacation”. Small world!

Since we couldn’t get onto the Capitol, we decided to join the mainstream march when it came out into the streets. The mainstream march followed Independence Avenue SW to 15th Street SW, which then became 15th Street NW, and on to the Ellipse. We wedged ourselves in, and life was good. Most of us still tried to stay together as a bloc in the main group, though a few things changed. It had become too hot for masks, so most of us pulled off our bandannas. Still, we kept a look out for each other. We also added a friend to our group – Maddy from the Infoshop. She wasn’t able to make our feeder march due to a prior commitment, and so she joined the mainstream group.

Arriving at the Ellipse, our bloc sat down on the grass. It was hot, we were tired, and so we needed a rest. We pulled out whatever water and snacks we had brought and had some. I’d say we deserved it. Among other things, Maddy told of how her previous commitment went, and I told her about how I went with her fashion advice – all black, and no red whatsoever. I also showed the group the arm things I wore with my radical cheerleader costume, since I had them with me. Everyone was impressed. After some time, where we basically made small talk, we got up and walked to our designated meeting point at 17th and Constitution.

Arriving, we discussed what to do from there. We were about at our same size of twenty people, adding not only Maddy, but also Isis, a freelance photographer. We had discussed going up to Van Ness to demonstrate outside the Israeli embassy. One big question, since we were all starting to run out of steam: Are you actually thinking about marching all that way? Answer: No, we’d take the Metro. We were small enough that it would be feasible to do so. This wouldn’t disrupt Metro by any means. However, we never put the plan into effect, since we were tired and needed sustenance. I, for one, bring no snacks – just fluids. So we ultimately broke into two. One half stayed and did their own thing downtown, while the other half of us – Isis, Maddy, the two young women whose names by now I had learned to be Rachel and Amy, Jeff, two other gentlemen, and me – went out in search of food.

One thing to know about downtown Washington DC on Sunday in the early evening – it’s a ghost town. Nobody’s open, and with good reason. There’s no one there. Every restaurant we walked by was either closed, crowded, or out of our price range. We walked past one restaurant that was quite full, and also out of our price range. We commented on the casting of a cow’s head they had hanging from an outside wall. I said, “It’s like eating Bossy!” I got a few dirty looks from the patrons there. We actually walked all the way up to Dupont Circle, where we went to this little locally-owned Chinese restaurant. We all ordered, put two tables together, and sat down.

Needless to say, we had a wonderful time. We discussed our political views, previous demonstrations, Daily Grind in Staunton, and so much more. Amy even revealed that she had actually brought a bandanna with her after her experience at the March 17 demonstration, as a precaution against pepper spray or tear gas. She posed with it for the camera:

Amy shows off her bandanna

Rachel commented, seeing the bandanna, “That’s my camping bandanna!” Amy also noted that the possibility, however remote, of pepper spray is why she wore her glasses to the demonstration instead of contact lenses.

Maddy had to leave earlier than the rest of us, and so she left on her own. Later, once the rest of us decided to call it an evening, we headed back to the Metro. We went in via the Q Street entrance to Dupont Circle station, and got ready to catch the train. We bid Jeff goodbye at the mezzanine, since he was taking a Shady Grove train, while the rest of us would be taking a Glenmont train. We boarded Breda 3287. Once on the train, I got a photo of everyone:

The group on board Breda 3287

Left to right, we have a gentleman whose name I didn’t get, Rachel, Amy, and Isis. We then took another photo, with one of the signs from the demonstration:

On Breda 3287 with the poster

And yes, Isis is sticking out her tongue for the camera.

At Metro Center, we all finally parted ways. Everyone else was transferring at Metro Center to the Blue and Orange Lines, while I was going back up to Wheaton station. In the brief time at Metro Center, we all got our big hugs and goodbyes, and then they all shuffled off the train. Hope to see them all again soon…

Then I rode back to Wheaton station, and then drove back to my apartment.

This was actually my first big demonstration since moving to the area. It felt weird. I got up at 8:00 AM, and didn’t leave the house until 12:30 to catch the train. Prior to moving, I’d be leaving my parents’ house at 4 AM and getting to DC insanely early for these things, but I was always on site with time to spare. Still, this way is better.

You may also note that I had no pictures of the protest. There was a little snafu with Big Mavica that morning, where the batteries were all charged and topped off, but then left at home. I didn’t realize my mistake until it was far too late to go back. Sad times. So I went out with an empty Mavica. But it still worked out, though.

Also, due to the heat, I devised a new “summer” black bloc outfit. Obviously, black jeans and a black hoodie would be too much for a hot day like this. So I modified my radical cheerleader costume to make a summer black bloc outfit. I wore the black tights, a pair of black shorts, a black t-shirt, a black bandanna, my little black hat, and my Chuck Taylors. I didn’t wear the arm things (too hot), and I didn’t paint my nails. I felt a little self-conscious leaving the house in tights, but I was wearing a different shirt early on (yellow, not black), and so I looked like I was going to the gym or something. And it worked out. Everyone loved the outfit.

I also think that the reason the showing for the “SDS” bloc was so weak outside of the usual DC anarchist crew was because it was summertime. Most of the students were out for the summer, and so were most likely some distance away or otherwise unavailable for this particular demonstration. Had this demonstration gone on in the fall, we likely would have had a better showing. But for those of us who showed up, we had a blast.

In the end, this was perhaps the most fun I’ve had all year so far. I so love living in the DC area, because now I’m close to the scene. Yeaaaaaah…

Web site: DC Indymedia on the black bloc's exclusion from the main rally

Song: And you know what we didn't hear this time around? No irreverent chants or songs. The ants did not go marching one by one, and no "Which way? THIS WAY!" kinds of off-the-wall chants. Sad.

Quote: So there you are...