What a strange place to have a demonstration…

5 minute read

March 20, 2011, 11:21 PM

This weekend was pretty fun. Two demonstrations in two towns in two days. Saturday was the eighth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, and an anti-war protest was held in front of the White House. Then on Sunday, everyone piled into their cars and in buses and headed about 35 miles south to Triangle to have a “Free Bradley Manning” demonstration outside the Quantico Marine Corps Base in Prince William County, Virginia.

Saturday’s event was pretty typical for an anti-war protest in DC. The only major difference was the lack of younger folks. Seriously, this march had a large showing from the over-40 crowd, and while there were people in their twenties present, it was definitely less so than other marches. And no red-and-black flags flying this time, no SDS, and no black bloc.

Somehow I sensed what the tone of this event was going to be (I must have a sixth sense for these things), and planned accordingly. Usually when I go to demonstrations, I bring a backpack, and carry supplies. I carry water, I carry items to protect from pepper spray, and I also carry extra clothes in case I have to ditch the ones I’ve got on due to getting sprayed. I’m not one of these people who will change clothes at a demonstration in an attempt to make themselves untraceable. I have always considered that a waste of time. But I would take extra clothes with me in case things got hairy. But this time, the backpack and all of the extra supplies stayed at home, and I just brought my regular camera bag with me. Trust me when I say that was much easier to handle than the backpack with all of its contents. Plus on a day with weather like Saturday’s, I wouldn’t need to bring water along.

After the speeches, the march started. This was a silent march, and surprisingly short, starting in Lafayette Square, going west on Pennsylvania Avenue to 17th Street, north on 17th to H Street, and then east on H Street to 15th Street, and then back to the White House. Short and sweet.

Then from there, people lined up along and on the fence and demonstrated for a bit. Take a look:

Lined up on the wall in front of the White House

Then the police said that anyone not wanting to risk arrest needed to go back, and most did. After that, the (planned) arrests began, and those people were taken away on Metrobuses:

Metrobus being used to transport arrestees

Considering this one was flashing “LOCAL” on its headsign, I joked whether it was going to run as the X2 or something all the way to where these people would be processed.

And then otherwise, this was my favorite photo from the day’s event:

That is the White House in the background, and then police tape in the foreground. I like it because it conjures up the idea of "Show me what a police state looks like! This is what a police state looks like!" without saying it explicitly.

That is the White House in the background, and then police tape in the foreground. I like it because it conjures up the idea of “Show me what a police state looks like! This is what a police state looks like!” without saying it explicitly.

Then on Sunday, everyone headed down to Quantico for a “Free Bradley Manning” demonstration outside the entrance to the Marine Corps base there. Some people took buses down to Quantico, but I went with Isis and a couple of others, and so we drove down in my car. And let me tell you… even though it makes perfect sense about why the demonstration was held there (Manning is being held at Quantico), it felt very strange to have the demonstration there nonetheless. After all, this was being held along Route 1 in southern Prince William County. Very rural-looking. The area where the initial demonstration was being held appeared to be land in the process of being prepared for future development, as the ground was covered with straw and had tire tracks from big things in it, and the road was under construction as well.

And of course, in typical form, Virginia decided to call out the SWAT team:

And of course, in typical form, Virginia decided to call out the SWAT team.

Yes, they called out the SWAT team for a peaceful demonstration. Seriously, Virginia? This is what your tax dollars pay for in Virginia. Masked SWAT officers with big guns to intimidate demonstrators. Someone should haul them all in for a violation of Virginia’s mask law, if nothing else. Oh, wait, just kidding – the law doesn’t apply to law enforcement. It only applies when it’s convenient for them. Still, I’ve never seen a political demonstration in Virginia where the state hasn’t pulled out the big guns for political demonstrations, and pulls out the big State Police riot control vehicles for these things. I try to assume good faith on account of everyone, but this was a bit much.

Otherwise, though, here’s what the demonstration looked like:

By this point, the demonstration had moved from the corner lot to the street, where demonstrators were penned into a free-speech zone on one section of the road. It was really a case of police giving orders for the sake of giving them, since the roads leading to that intersection were closed in all directions for some distance, and so they had no reason to not let demonstrators have the entire intersection. Save me the “safety” bull—-, if you don’t mind, since traffic was being turned back in all directions.

Later, however, demonstrators did take the entire intersection, calmly and peacefully removing the police barricades. The demonstration remained peaceful, but now just took up the whole street. And that was fine, though the Prince William County cops didn’t like it too much – enough that they declared the assembly unlawful and ordered it dispersed. I have a feeling that the declaration of an unlawful assembly was simply a legal formality so that they could start rounding people up and play with their toys, since the police almost certainly knew better.

This is how the movement into the full intersection went down:

I call that a peaceful demonstration, and the Virginia State Police were doing their best to repress political dissent. You know, usually I say that the Virginia State Police is an unnecessary agency and replaceable by local law enforcement because most of what they do is fundraising for the state in the form of traffic citations (“safety”, my foot). However, if I were faced with a choice between using them as tools of political repression and fundraising via traffic citations without a “neither” option, I’d rather see them out playing cat-and-mouse with motorists to raise money.

If I seem a little annoyed about law enforcement today, it’s because I am. Certain police agencies in Virginia have fit the stereotype that police officers are pigs to a “T” today. Political demonstrations are not a threat worthy of SWAT teams. Expression of dissent is exactly what our country was founded upon, and should be encouraged, rather than intimidated.

So there you go, I suppose. I’m going to write this all up into a Life and Times, and so a full report should be along before too long.

Web site: Funk the War 3, from March 19, 2008, three years ago. Let's not forget that Saturday marked three years since I drowned Big Mavica. There was no Funk the War march this year, unfortunately.

Song: Here's something fun: We ended up detouring into Stafford! Because of the demonstration, we couldn't take the direct way home, and so we had to go south from Triangle/Quantico in order to meet I-95. We totally didn't expect to be going to a Wawa store in Stafford for some quick eats, that's for sure...

Quote: And yes, when you pull out the SWAT team and bring an armored vehicle to a peace rally, that is political repression on its face.

Categories: Anti-war