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Funk the War 3

Funk the War 3March 19, 2008 was the fifth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq. This year, the protests marking the anniversary of the war were being held on the actual date, which fell on a Wednesday this year, rather than a weekend around the actual date. The actions were decentralized this year. Rather than a single mass march as we’ve had on previous occasions, various groups held their own small, autonomous actions in various parts of the city. One group held a demonstration at the IRS early on. Another group held an event that marched from the Capitol Reflecting Pool to the Democratic Party headquarters.

I took the day off of work, and participated in an event called “Funk the War 3”, sponsored by the DC chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and meeting at noon at Franklin Square in downtown Washington. It was the third such march sponsored by SDS with a dance-party twist – hence the “Funk the War” name – that went around protesting the war, paying visits to various organizations that have played a part in the Iraq War over the years. The demonstration was also an opportunity to “shut down” the city, taking over streets and occupying various intersections.


I started my day getting all ready to go. Big Mavica’s batteries were charged and the first one was loaded in, the CDs were prepared, and I had the backpack all packed and ready to go with everything I would need for a great protest. I was, however, cutting it a little close time-wise for a noon protest. I caught Rohr 1097 from Wheaton, and took it to Farragut North. I figured that going to Farragut North and walking directly to Franklin Square would save me a few minutes versus transferring to a Blue or an Orange Line train at Metro Center and then going an extra one stop to McPherson Square.

I ended up getting to Franklin Square at 12:05, and the place was already hopping. That was a surprise – normally, things operate on “activist time”, which is where 12:00 really means a starting time of 12:30 or even 1:00. Even more surprising was that by 12:10, we were starting to march. I barely got my glasses off and everything else situated before the march began. I didn’t even get to say hello to everyone before the march started. Usually I have a chance to say hello to everyone I know before the march begins. Not so this time. I got to say hello to Ahmed, but I didn’t get to say hello to Jeff, Maddy, Olga, Luke, Isis, etc. until later.


Wow! When they said 12:00, they meant it - we got going quickly!

Wow! When they said 12:00, they meant it – we got going quickly!


At 12:10, we were going!  The Rude Mechanical Orchestra was with us at the beginning of our march, but they didn’t stay with us for very long before moving on.


Our march route took us through several street blockades, as well as to the military recruiter at 14th and L Streets NW, and to the Washington DC offices of Lockheed Martin and Bechtel. The march was somewhat intense, considering that everyone, both activists and police, knew for the most part what was going to happen, and so each was trying to stay a step ahead of the other. On multiple occasions, the police resorted to brute force, shoving us out of the street en masse.


The march is underway!  The march is underway!

The march is underway!

The march is underway!


Meanwhile, on the side of the road, there were counter-protesters...

Meanwhile, on the side of the road, there were counter-protesters…


...and demonstrators friendlier to our cause as well.

…and demonstrators friendlier to our cause as well.


All the while, traffic was snarled as we blocked streets with our march.

All the while, traffic was snarled as we blocked streets with our march.

All the while, traffic was snarled as we blocked streets with our march.


Various people with video cameras conducted interviews with individuals within the march.

Various people with video cameras conducted interviews with individuals within the march.


The march continues, on its way to the recruitment center.  The march continues, on its way to the recruitment center.

The march continues, on its way to the recruitment center.


Arriving at the recruitment center, we found that pro-war counter-protesters were already demonstrating outside the recruitment center, and that police had lined up between the two groups.  Arriving at the recruitment center, we found that pro-war counter-protesters were already demonstrating outside the recruitment center, and that police had lined up between the two groups.

Arriving at the recruitment center, we found that pro-war counter-protesters were already demonstrating outside the recruitment center, and that police had lined up between the two groups.


What a neat hat! Now, though, we need to just get him to Take Back The Tap...

What a neat hat! Now, though, we need to just get him to Take Back The Tap


We were a rather large group, gathered around the entrance to the recruitment center.  We were a rather large group, gathered around the entrance to the recruitment center.

We were a rather large group, gathered around the entrance to the recruitment center.

We were a rather large group, gathered around the entrance to the recruitment center.  We were a rather large group, gathered around the entrance to the recruitment center.

We were a rather large group, gathered around the entrance to the recruitment center. 


Shouting, “Hell no, we won’t go!” outside the recruitment center.


And before you knew it, the march was underway again.  And before you knew it, the march was underway again.

And before you knew it, the march was underway again.

And before you knew it, the march was underway again.  And before you knew it, the march was underway again.


During our march, we had a heavy police escort. Police generally had no choice but to stop traffic ahead of our march whenever they could.

During our march, we had a heavy police escort. Police generally had no choice but to stop traffic ahead of our march whenever they could.


We soon took up station at the intersection of 15th Street, K Street, and Vermont Avenue NW, at the northeast corner of McPherson Square.  We soon took up station at the intersection of 15th Street, K Street, and Vermont Avenue NW, at the northeast corner of McPherson Square.

We soon took up station at the intersection of 15th Street, K Street, and Vermont Avenue NW, at the northeast corner of McPherson Square.


However, as far as the cops were concerned, we were not about to stay there, and they used their sticks to shove people out of the street and into McPherson Square.

However, as far as the cops were concerned, we were not about to stay there, and they used their sticks to shove people out of the street and into McPherson Square.


Being shoved en masse out of the street and into McPherson Square, where another event was going on. Note the gentleman saying, “And we haven’t even had dinner yet!” as we were practically on top of each other due to how the cops were shoving the group around.


The march paused for a few minutes after the group was shoved into McPherson Square en masse.  The march paused for a few minutes after the group was shoved into McPherson Square en masse.

The march paused for a few minutes after the group was shoved into McPherson Square en masse.

The march paused for a few minutes after the group was shoved into McPherson Square en masse.  The march paused for a few minutes after the group was shoved into McPherson Square en masse.

The march paused for a few minutes after the group was shoved into McPherson Square en masse.  The march paused for a few minutes after the group was shoved into McPherson Square en masse.


A mattress covered with a "blanket of lies" carries the phrase "EMBEDDED" In large, bold letters.

A mattress covered with a “blanket of lies” carries the phrase “EMBEDDED” In large, bold letters.


However, before you knew it, we were underway again.  However, before you knew it, we were underway again.

However, before you knew it, we were underway again.


Dancing in the streets while occupying another intersection.


And soon, we found ourselves at a building allegedly housing offices for Lockheed Martin, a defense contractor.

And soon, we found ourselves at a building allegedly housing offices for Lockheed Martin, a defense contractor.

And soon, we found ourselves at a building allegedly housing offices for Lockheed Martin, a defense contractor.


The protest at Lockheed Martin was a spirited one, though our stay was fairly brief.  The protest at Lockheed Martin was a spirited one, though our stay was fairly brief.

The protest at Lockheed Martin was a spirited one, though our stay was fairly brief.

The protest at Lockheed Martin was a spirited one, though our stay was fairly brief.


Demonstrating in the street in front of Lockheed Martin.


David Barrows was along as well, dressed, as always, in his "Devil Bush" costume.

David Barrows was along as well, dressed, as always, in his “Devil Bush” costume.


Though likely only by coincidence, our march route also took us past the headquarters of The Washington Post.

Though likely only by coincidence, our march route also took us past the headquarters of The Washington Post.


Initially, the weather held out. The weather forecast was calling for rain, so it was expected, but for a protest, one always hopes it will stay away. As was the case in Georgetown, though, we were not so lucky. By the time we got to Bechtel, the rain was really starting to come down. Boy, did it rain. It poured. And it was cold.

Meanwhile, our next target was a building allegedly housing offices for Bechtel. By the time we got to Bechtel, I once again realized why a disc-based camera is not the greatest device to use at a protest. Big Mavica needs some level of stillness from time to time in order to be able to record the photos and movies in its internal memory to CD. A protest is just a little bit too “bouncy” for Big Mavica to handle, but somehow we manage. Thus I didn’t get that many photos at Bechtel, since Big Mavica was feverishly working to clear a backlog. On the plus side, though, in the same building as Bechtel is a Ritz Camera, much to the delight of all of us photographing in the crowd, if we needed to quickly pick something up to keep our cameras going.

At Bechtel, some people took direct action. Next thing I knew, police and security officers were spattered with red paint, and there was a large splat of red on the building. Yes, Bechtel got hit with a “paint bomb”, so to speak, as someone from the crowd basically threw something full of red paint, to represent the blood of war, at the building.

Leaving Bechtel, we were once again on the move, as the rain continued to come down.


 

 

 

 

 


We even stopped a Metrobus in its tracks!  We even stopped a Metrobus in its tracks!

We even stopped a Metrobus in its tracks!


We eventually settled in at the intersection of Connecticut Avenue, 17th Street, and K Street NW – right in front of Farragut Square, and the Farragut North Metro station. Here is where SDS pulled out the big guns – a “hard” blockade. Basically, rather than simply blocking an intersection with people only, otherwise known as a “soft” blockade, which is relatively easy to move as proven when everyone got shoved into McPherson Square, this street blockade involved hardware. Desks! People brought out those desks like many of us had in elementary school. And these desks were painted with anti-war messages, as well as the logo for SDS. Some people physically linked themselves up to the desks. Others used drumsticks and tapped out a beat on these desks. Sad to say, this, along with the rain, destroyed the beautiful paint job on these desks, but for the sake of the movement, I suppose…

But this was to be a bigger blockade than just desks. Many others took seats in the street around the desks with arms locked, forming a soft blockade around the hard blockade. And then beyond that, at one point, people formed a circle around these people and began to march around the soft blockade.


The desks come out, to be brought into position in the street.  The desks come out, to be brought into position in the street.

The desks come out, to be brought into position in the street.

The desks come out, to be brought into position in the street.


The street blockade is underway!  The street blockade is underway!

The street blockade is underway!

The street blockade is underway!  The street blockade is underway!

The street blockade is underway!  The street blockade is underway!


Dancing in the street as we occupy the intersection of Connecticut Avenue, 17th Street, and K Street NW.


Meanwhile, the police department was prepared to break up the group. There was a large group of officers lined up on Connecticut Avenue ready to descend on this group in order to break it up. The officers marched up. The police captain, Jeff Herold, the same one from Georgetown, announced that they had however many minutes to unblock the street. Naturally, as the police were dealing with a group of mainly anarchists, no one in the group moved. Eventually, the police retreated. They simply made an about-face, and headed en masse back to their staging area further up the street. This was met with tremendous applause from the demonstrators.

By this time, it was raining. Hard. The rain was coming down, and everyone was soaked. No one had any chance of staying dry. Due to the nature of this march, I had decided to forgo an umbrella. So I was soaked, too, as was the backpack. However, this was too good and too exciting to miss. There were photos to be had, and I was going to get them. Big Mavica was getting rained on, but I was wiping it dry as well as I could, and it was still going like a pro, as I grabbed shot after shot after shot of this fifth-anniversary-of-the-invasion anti-war protest.

However, the rain soon took its toll on Big Mavica. As I was lining up a shot, the data going to Big Mavica’s screen suddenly became garbled, and then just as suddenly, the screen went completely white. Could I still shoot photos, albeit “blind”? No. Big Mavica would power on and off, but otherwise was completely unresponsive.


Big Mavica's final photo, in a downpour, in the streets of Washington DC.

Big Mavica’s final photo, in a downpour, in the streets of Washington DC.


At first, I couldn’t believe it. Big Mavica couldn’t be out of commission. It couldn’t be. It was Big Mavica, the camera that went through heavy rain at World Bank protests in Foggy Bottom and Georgetown, and kept on shooting. It had been to hell and back, and still kept going. This camera, which at times seemed like the camera that would not die, had very likely taken its last photo. However, despite that the camera was out, I wasn’t concerned about the photos that I had taken. They were saved to removable media, and thus could be recovered with minimal effort, even without the camera.

I have to say that after the camera quit on me, Isis and Luke were very supportive. Both recommended that the camera be stowed for the remainder of the day with the batteries out in order to allow the camera to dry out, and that, as I had said, the pictures should be able to be recovered just fine. Meanwhile, with the soft blockade still going on, and not expected to be going anywhere anytime soon, Isis and I ducked into a small locally-owned convenience store nearby in order for Isis to get a cup of coffee, and for both of us to get out of the rain for a bit. I tested the camera again now that it was in a more controlled environment. Yep – the screen was still white, and I got no response from the camera.

Rejoining the action, the street blockade was still going on. I kept shooting photos, however – with my cell phone.


 

 

 


Eventually, the rain stopped, and with the paint completely drummed off the desks, everyone resumed their march. I was in a bit of a mental fog, since I was now rather preoccupied with the sudden, unexpected loss of Big Mavica. I pulled my red bandanna up in hopes of concealing the fact that I was suddenly so preoccupied, thinking about how I was going to do the photo set without Big Mavica, since the cell phone has extremely limited capacity, and is, after all, not a digital camera by design. I ended up taking a position right at the front of the march, helping carry the “Fund Education, Not War” banner. This, while keeping me in the march, right in front, also gave me clear ahead to think, and also, ironically enough, put me slightly away from the center of the action. This was because the front of the march would generally go slightly beyond the target, and therefore, any direct action would come out from the center of the march.


Arriving at the recruitment center for the second time during Funk the War 3.

Arriving at the recruitment center for the second time during Funk the War 3.


Our destination this time was the military recruiter at 14th and L Streets NW, which we had visited once earlier in the day. Unlike the first time, which was a relatively brief stay, this time, we stayed a while, as people inside the building all stood at the windows and watched. It was a tense situation this time, especially after a paint bomb was thrown at the building, splattering red paint all over.

As with our first visit, pro-war counter-protesters were guarding the recruitment center, and inside, employees stood at the windows, looking at us with curiosity.

Leaving the recruitment center, we marched south down 13th Street back to K Street, and headed west. I had to call it a day with Funk the War, since first and foremost, I was highly preoccupied with the camera, and being as distracted as I was, it was almost as bad as DWI, i.e. Demonstrating While Intoxicated. Jeff put it best one time when he said you should never come to a protest drunk, high, hung over, or stoned, since it could endanger both your own safety, and the safety of those around you. Thus I started considering the idea of making a graceful exit from Funk the War, since I was too distracted to be effective at the demonstration, and was afraid that my preoccupation might cause someone to get hurt. When the march passed Farragut North station again, I bid Isis goodbye, and ducked in.

I ended up taking Metro up to Tenleytown-AU station, where there were plans to meet up for radical cheerleading downtown. However, due to the rain, these plans fizzled out. I then made my way down to Pentagon City Mall, since I needed a time to recoup and kind of unwind, but I also wasn’t ready to head back home just yet. I ended up settling into the Apple store for a while, where I wrote a Journal entry about Big Mavica’s likely demise at the hands of nature. Additionally, it was here that I truly started to feel really cold, as all the rain that my clothes had taken on during the protest was evaporating, taking much heat away with it. Interestingly enough, if caught in the rain in somewhat-heavy clothing, the water actually acts as an insulator, keeping heat in. However, once the water starts evaporating, that’s when you start to feel really cold, and let me tell you something, I was freezing in the Apple store. And the Apple store is supposed to be all warm due to however many Macs they have running in there all at once. Ah, well.

Following my time in the Apple store, I headed back to Silver Spring via Fort Totten. I haven’t seen this much anti-war action in Washington DC on a weekday since Bush’s second inauguration in 2005. I just hope we can keep the anti-war momentum going through the election, and make sure the next administration knows that it’s time to end the US-led occupation of Iraq.

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