“What do we want? BEER! When do we want it? NOW!”

October 3, 2010, 10:32 PM

On Saturday, I was one of tens of thousands down in Washington DC, attending the One Nation Working Together rally at the Lincoln Memorial. My plan was to join the youth and student contingent that was marching to the rally site from Freedom Plaza.

Let me say it up front: I was disappointed with the way the One Nation Working Together rally came off. For the radical community, the whole rally was a bit of a non-starter. We’re the kind of types that thrive on direct action. Take your message to the streets, and do whatever it takes to get the word out and force change. Sitting on the grass listening to speeches for four hours is not how you get things going. I have made fun of the Tea Party for this, and unfortunately, this event was essentially “Tea Party Left”, meaning it was the same type of event, but with left-wing ideas, none of the racism, and correctly-spelled signs.

Thus for me, the most effective part of it all was the feeder, taking it to the street on the way to the big rally. When it comes to speeches, you are very much preaching to the choir. And this was a made-for-TV event, as the only view that many attendees got of the speakers was from the television monitors set up at intervals along the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool. Well, hell – for that, I could have just watched it on C-SPAN in my pajama pants, and used my own toilet rather than a port-a-potty.

The feeder march, however, was good. Lots of energy, and lots of enthusiasm. I met up with the folks from Rochester SDS (the stars of Funk the Weekend), and spent most of my time with them. At Freedom Plaza, we ran into a person dressed in a business suit and a big faux-stogie (actually a pretzel). Colleen and Amber got their pictures taken with him:

Colleen poses for a photo with the pretzel man  Amber poses for a photo with the pretzel man

Then we heard a few very short speeches from the platform for the AIDS Walk (held earlier in the day) at Freedom Plaza…

And then we were off!

Leaving Freedom Plaza

We were on our way, adjacent to the NAACP contingent, and it worked out very well, as the messages harmonized, with each joining in the other’s messages.

“Money for jobs and education, not for war and occupation!”

Joining the NAACP group in singing “We Shall Overcome”.

“Education is a right, fight, fight, fight!”

My apologies for the jumpy video. I don’t know what happened there.

One of the more amusing slogans we shouted, however, and which was amusing enough to take the title of the entry, was, “What do we want? BEER! When do we want it? NOW!” I don’t know where that one came from, but it was hilarious, and everyone got a huge kick out of it. It also kind of morphed into, “What do we want? MARGARITAS! When do we want it? Now!” And admittedly, if we had known how dull the main event was going to be, margaritas would have definitely hit the spot.

And more pix from the feeder:

The Lincoln Memorial was all set, with an equipment platform taking center stage:

Meanwhile, the radical crowd found a grassy space under the shade of some trees north of the Lincoln Memorial and parked it. We were close enough to hear the speeches, but far enough away that we could do our thing. This was a pretty sedate affair, as everyone basically got a chance to hang out, socialize, and network.

And then the vegan sandwiches got passed around, and all was ready to go. A few people got massages from fellow activists:

And we generally all had a good time spending time together. After all, many of us don’t see each other all that often – only for big protest events, and then we’re normally “on” the whole time. It was a good opportunity to get to know one’s fellow activists, and I considered that to be perhaps more worthwhile than listening to the speakers.

I also got to see Caitlin, a former coworker of mine, and her boyfriend Derek:

Caitlin and Derek smile for the camera

Then I took a couple of photos of them, Derek-style, where only a few colors come through:

Caitlin makes a face.
Caitlin makes a face.

Caitlin smiles while Derek now makes a face.
Caitlin smiles while Derek now makes a face.

Later, a bunch of us went over to Constitution and 21st, where Food Not Bombs was set up. I was delighted to see Jeff there, among other familiar DC activists. Like with the vegan sandwiches, I didn’t have any of the the Food Not Bombs fare – I didn’t want to get my hands dirty for fear of getting the camera messy, and there were no utensils.

Best sight during our time at Food Not Bombs was this sign:

"Kissing GOP ass gets you TEA-BAGGED!" Best. Sign. Ever. After all, the GOP is not really concerned with the Tea Party's best interests. The Tea Party will be the first ones in line to get screwed by Republican initiatives.
“Kissing GOP ass gets you TEA-BAGGED!” Best. Sign. Ever. After all, the GOP is not really concerned with the Tea Party’s best interests. The Tea Party will be the first ones in line to get screwed by Republican initiatives.

And that was pretty much it for the One Nation rally. Rochester decided to split after Food Not Bombs, and so we got our goodbyes, and for some, our see-you-next-weeks for the World Bank and IMF demonstrations that will be occurring next weekend. They then headed to the Metro to catch their buses back to Rochester, and then I headed back over to our original spot to socialize for a few minutes with those who remained.

After socializing for a bit, and a casual visit to a nearby gift shop (where we observed that people would probably buy cotton from the gift shop if it said “WASHINGTON DC” on it), I headed out.

All in all, I was a bit disappointed by the One Nation Working Together rally. It was altogether too tame, and didn’t have nearly enough direct, take-it-to-the-streets action. Basically, it was like a Tea Party rally for the left wing. The Million Worker March was similarly tame, but it was saved by the radical contingent, which marched in loudly and proudly, and then, with a few others plus Larry Holmes, left the main rally to march to the Hotel Washington to show support for the hotel’s workers.

I was hoping to make a photo set out of the One Nation rally, but unfortunately, that didn’t pan out. Therefore, this will probably be the only coverage that I give it. However, that’s not to say that I didn’t come up with something for a photo set – just not the one I intended. I swung by the Vietnam Memorial, since it was right there, and got some photos of that in the late-afternoon sun. I have been wanting to redo the photo sets of the memorials for some time, having last photographed them for Photography in 2001, and the Vietnam Memorial seemed a good place to start. The memorials haven’t changed much in nine years, but my equipment and techniques certainly have, and I now consider the two The Schumin Web Salutes America photo sets to be subpar work, with so-so photos and stupid commentary.

And then from there, I headed back to the Metro, getting some miscellaneous photos along the way. Once on the Metro, I got to talk to other activists who shared my view on the One Nation rally – that it was too tame, and that it was a shame that the “march” component of the event got axed in favor of just a rally.

So there you have it, I suppose…

Web site: One Nation Working Together

Song: This 1950s-era video about office safety is just funny...

Quote: Meanwhile, next week: World Bank and IMF protests! Come one, come all. I would recommend full black bloc if you're coming to the Friday night event.

Categories: Activism, Photography