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There’s nothing like an evening of anti-consumerism Christmas caroling to really get you in the spirit…

December 21, 2008, 12:15 AM

Yes, there’s nothing like an evening of anti-consumerism Christmas caroling to really get you in the spirit of things this time of year. From 7 to 10 PM on Friday night, I, along with other like-minded DC area activists, did just that. We had our caroling session in Georgetown, at the intersection of M Street NW and Wisconsin Avenue NW, with The Shops at Georgetown Park on the southwest corner, and the PNC Bank building (former Riggs Bank building) on the northeast corner. What better place to protest consumerism and the current economic crisis than outside an upscale three-story shopping mall and a large bank, no?

I left work at 5 PM as usual, and took Metro to Foggy Bottom. There, I walked west along Pennsylvania Avenue, crossing the bridge over Rock Creek Parkway and passing the Lukoil station to arrive in Georgetown. Then it was a few more blocks down M Street before I reached The Shops at Georgetown Park.

There, I found a woman wearing a Santa hat, and so I took off my Gatsby cap, and put on the long Santa hat that I had previously worn to the Anon raid. Then the woman passed me a songbook, and we got busy singing.

The songs were very creative, taking popular Christmas carols and writing new lyrics to fit our anti-consumerism theme. The words mostly fit the tunes, though a few parts here and there required us to think on our feet and be creative to make them fit properly. All in all, we did our best, and had fun.

Very early on, Captain Jeff Herold of the MPDC made a quick stopover. We all got our hellos (Jeff knows me from other events), and he explained that if we announce a demonstration, they have to show up regardless, so here he is. He asked if we were going to do anything requiring police to be involved, and we said that no, there was nothing planned that strayed from what we had announced. Herold was satisfied, and that was the last we saw of the police during our entire event other than cop cars periodically going by on routine patrol, and a few officers passing by on foot.

Initially, we started singing on the southwest corner of the intersection, in front of the Banana Republic store that’s attached to Georgetown Park. That problem presented a few problems. First of all, there wasn’t much room on that corner. As our numbers grew, we had to get creative in order to get everyone together to sing, and not block the sidewalk, block people’s ability to cross the street, or block the entrance to the stores. We also drew the ire of a woman who was panhandling on that corner, who believed that we were hurting her “business”. She would sit down on her milk crate and beg for a while, get up, yell at us, and then get up and walk away. Then five minutes later, she would be back, and the whole process would repeat itself.

Then we noticed that the northwest corner in front of the PNC Bank building, where a busker had previously been playing music, was now empty. So we decided to take advantage of that opportunity and change corners. That made the panhandler happy (because she was rid of us), and we had a corner with more room to do our thing. And as an added bonus, the steps in front of the bank made for excellent risers. What more could you ask for?

Our songs were festive, and captured both the magic of the season that doesn’t come from Christmas shopping, and expressed our views on the current economic crisis, Christmas shopping, corporations, free trade, sweatshops, and fair trade. I got videos of ten of our songs, so feel free to sing along:


“Oh Rest Ye Merry Flag-Wavers” (to the tune of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”)


“On the Store Floor” (to the tune of “Up on the Rooftop”)


“Feliz NAFTA” (to the tune of “Feliz Navidad”)


“A Night of Silence” (to the tune of “Silent Night”)


“Rockin’ Around the WTO” (to the tune of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”)


“The Twelve Days of Sweatshops” (to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”)


“All Join in the Fair Trade Chorus” (to the tune of “Deck the Halls”)


“God Bless You Very Wealthy Men” (to the tune of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”)


“Human Rights” (to the tune of “Silent Night”)


“Economic Crisis” (to the tune of “Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel”)

So as you can see, we had fun, and we had about ten or so people at our peak. Not bad. And hopefully, our message sank in with people in this very upscale neighborhood and shopping district.

While we were on the first intersection, we attracted the attention of a man wearing a fedora, who started counter-caroling us, blaming the unions for all that is wrong with the auto industry. We quickly dismissed him out of hand, considering that the unions are not the problem with the auto industry, and want more than anyone for the auto industry to survive and thrive, and who have already made huge concessions to keep the companies afloat. According to the UAW, only 10% of the cost of a car is attributable to labor, with the other 90% related to parts, research and development, and corporate overhead.

And then once the guy left, we resumed singing. He didn’t linger too long, though you definitely have to give him props for having the guts to start counter-caroling.

So there you have it. A highly successful evening of anti-consumerism Christmas caroling. After all, Christmas is supposed to be about people, not products or profit, and unfortunately, it’s morphed into this giant corporate monster that tries to grab as much money as it can and doesn’t give a rip if its employees are trampled to death. I should know, considering I worked for the world’s largest and worst retailer for four Christmases, and got to see firsthand what is wrong with Christmas.

And I also have to tip my Santa hat to my fellow singers. They were really good! I even got complimented on my own singing, for that matter, which surprised me. I don’t consider myself much of a singer. But like everyone else, I did my best to do my best, and have a good time doing so. And considering that this likely will be my last demonstration of the year, I’m glad to end 2008 on an upbeat note.

Web site: The DC Guerrilla Poetry Insurgency, which wrote all of these awesome songs

Song: I guess I liked "The Twelve Days of Sweatshops" the best, because it was long, and you could really get into it.

Quote: "Wait a second... I think you need another 'Feliz NAFTA' in there to make it work." - Me on realizing that we were a line or two short of making "Feliz NAFTA" go as it should.

Categories: Activism, Christmas