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J27 Anti-War Demonstration

Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3 – Part 4 – Part 5

Part 1

January 27, 2007 found United for Peace and Justice going all out against the Iraq War in the streets of Washington DC.  An estimated crowd of 100,000 showed up to voice their opposition to the conflict.  As always, the spectrum was wide.  There were students, young adults, middle aged adults, and older adults.  There were even children marching and carrying signs.  There was a full list of speakers, including Sean Penn, Reps. John Conyers (D-MI) and Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Susan SarandonTim RobbinsJane Fonda, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Danny Glover.  Political views ran the spectrum as well, from mainstream to radical.

I also came out for the event, and had a blast, marching with a group of 300 in a “Radical Youth Bloc” (a fancy term for a black bloc) organized by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).  I ultimately spent the better part of six hours with them, marching from Dupont Circle to the Mall to the Capitol, and back around and again, before finally calling it a day.  And here’s what happened, from start to finish…


I arrived at Vienna around 9:00, and parked on the top level of the parking garage in my usual weekend space – right next to the elevator.  There’s no chance I’d be able to get that kind of parking spot during the week, as I’d have to get to Vienna insanely early in order to snag it.  When I go up to DC during the week, I usually park in the “guaranteed” parking spaces after they open to non-permit holders at 10:00 AM (as that’s about all that’s left), or on rare occasions, I can’t find anywhere to park at Vienna, and have to go to West Falls Church to find a space.  But on the weekend, hardly anyone parks in the garages, and so I get the premium spot.

On the Metro, I took CAF 5132 to Rosslyn and did my Rosslyn thing for the most part.  Due to the elevator being out of order, I took the escalator out of the station.  On the escalator, I saw some people entering the Metro, and assumingly heading for the protest, based on the signs that they were carrying.


As I was leaving Rosslyn on the escalator, this group entered the Metro carrying protest signs.  As I was leaving Rosslyn on the escalator, this group entered the Metro carrying protest signs.

As I was leaving Rosslyn on the escalator, this group entered the Metro carrying protest signs.


Thankfully, unlike other protest days, this time I didn’t have to also try to settle my stomach.  Recall on September 24 and April 22 that I was so nervous about the protests prior to their start that I nearly had a physical episode beforehand.  This time, I was fine.  I also took the time to change into some of my black bloc finery at Rosslyn, meaning the black shirt and the black hoodie, and storing the green shirt that I’d worn up to DC.  Then the hoodie was covered by my winter coat, and all was well.  I’ve changed at Rosslyn before.  In fact, that’s been the case for most protests I’ve been to.  The June 5 ANSWER march, the Million Worker MarchA16, and September 24 all featured wardrobe changes at Rosslyn.  Meanwhile, J20 had the wardrobe change at a Starbucks on U Street, and Night March had the change at Pentagon City.

After Rosslyn, I took Breda 4063 on the Orange Line to Metro Center, and transferred to the Red Line.  There, I took Rohr 1113 to Dupont Circle.  I went out the Q Street entrance and headed over to the circle itself.

Now I like to show up to these kinds of things on time or early.  This time, I was early.  How early?  Well, I arrived at Dupont Circle at 10:30 AM for an event with a stated meeting time of 11:00 AM.  Yeah, I did pretty well.  “Hurry up and wait” has its benefits, though it was quite cold out.  I beat just about everyone to the meeting place for the SDS Radical Youth Bloc.  So go me.  At this point, there were more police than there were demonstrators in Dupont Circle.  There were rows of police motorcycles around the edge of the circle, some police  on bicycles, as well as a few police officers in Crown Victorias parked in the circle.  But the crowd at this point was more like the crowd you’d see in Dupont Circle on a normal day than a black-bloc-in-making.  No masked demonstrators yet.  So I sat down and pulled out my cell phone.  I had previously been playing a game on my phone on the Metro, and so this was as opportune a time to finish that game as any.  And I did manage to finish, so good deal.

Then the first wave of people came in.  These people came in already masked up, and they were ready for a demonstration.  With that, some of us who had already showed up at Dupont Circle went ahead and masked up with them.  For me, that meant putting away the glasses, putting on that little black hat I use at protests, putting the hood up on my hoodie, and tying on a red bandanna (ta-daa!).  This group brought a number of people beating makeshift drums, as well as some interesting signs, including one mentioning Borf.


In what reminded many of Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatistas, this gentleman smokes a big cigar through a hole in his bandanna.

In what reminded many of Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatistas, this gentleman smokes a big cigar through a hole in his bandanna.


This gentleman, with his face completely covered except for an area no more than half an inch square on his forehead, was described as "hardcore".

This gentleman, with his face completely covered except for an area no more than half an inch square on his forehead, was described as “hardcore”.


"An army of none" was one of the more visible signs throughout the day.

“An army of none” was one of the more visible signs throughout the day.


Borf!  I found this sign to be quite amusing, considering that I had discussed Borf on this site in a Journal entry just six days prior to the protest.

Borf!  I found this sign to be quite amusing, considering that I had discussed Borf on this site in a Journal entry just six days prior to the protest.


These shields, which read "U.S. OUT OF EVERYWHERE", were made of 90-degree sections of a plastic barrel.  They were painted with the green-and-black flag of green anarchism as a background, overlaid with a picture of the Earth showing the eastern hemisphere and the lettering.  Then they had padding added to the top, and a neck strap.  These shields often held the front spot in the march.

These shields, which read “U.S. OUT OF EVERYWHERE”, were made of 90-degree sections of a plastic barrel.  They were painted with the green-and-black flag of green anarchism as a background, overlaid with a picture of the Earth showing the eastern hemisphere and the lettering.  Then they had padding added to the top, and a neck strap.  These shields often held the front spot in the march.

These shields, which read "U.S. OUT OF EVERYWHERE", were made of 90-degree sections of a plastic barrel.  They were painted with the green-and-black flag of green anarchism as a background, overlaid with a picture of the Earth showing the eastern hemisphere and the lettering.  Then they had padding added to the top, and a neck strap.  These shields often held the front spot in the march.


And as is the standard case with any black bloc, black flags were flying high.  The one in the foreground was actually made out of a black garbage bag.

And as is the standard case with any black bloc, black flags were flying high.  The one in the foreground was actually made out of a black garbage bag.


Meanwhile, a pink-and-black anarcha-feminist flag also made an appearance.

Meanwhile, a pink-and-black anarcha-feminist flag also made an appearance.


Jeff, our poet from the State of the Union protest four days earlier, was back again, this time with something to beat with his drumsticks.

Jeff, our poet from the State of the Union protest four days earlier, was back again, this time with something to beat with his drumsticks.


This gentleman's shirt shows Bush as a vampire, preparing to drink the blood of the Statue of Liberty.

This gentleman’s shirt shows Bush as a vampire, preparing to drink the blood of the Statue of Liberty.


Here, a large flag is decorated with a message: "There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people".

Here, a large flag is decorated with a message: “There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people”.


As happens in so many of these black bloc marches, the police came up and addressed the group.  First thing they did was ask who was in charge.  Unlike on April 22, where everyone raised their hand, this time, no one raised their hand.  Regardless of which way it goes, with everyone’s claiming to be the leader or no one’s claiming the leader role, it’s still anarchism at work.  The other question was where were we going.  On this one, the cops basically got dead silence.  We had our plan, but we weren’t saying anything else to the police.  And lastly, the officer addressing the group laid down the law: We didn’t have a march permit, so we were to stay on the sidewalks.  I had my doubts as to how long that directive would last – I knew full well that we wouldn’t abide by it – but I kept it to myself.


As seen here from the fountain, we were quite the spirited bunch, with one person blowing a whistle, and many more beating makeshift drums.


“Ain’t no power like the power of the people ’cause the power of the people won’t stop!”


“F— the yuppies, f— the cops, every time a body drops!”


A woman wears a shirt for the Pittsburgh-based band Anti-Flag, showing an upside-down flag with various slogans written along the flag's stripes.  Even if you're unaware of the band or its views, the shirt certainly makes quite a political statement on its own.

A woman wears a shirt for the Pittsburgh-based band Anti-Flag, showing an upside-down flag with various slogans written along the flag’s stripes.  Even if you’re unaware of the band or its views, the shirt certainly makes quite a political statement on its own.


While everyone was together at Dupont Circle, I attempted to strike up a conversation with the woman wearing the “anti-flag” shirt about how the regular United States flag has been co-opted by the conservative movement, and that the flag and patriotism have become two of their symbols.  Witness the Freepers’ use of the traditional flag in their counter-protests on June 5, 2004 (photo), October 2, 2004 (photo), and September 24, 2005 (photo and another photo).  Also make note of the use of the traditional flag in the face painting of the guy I met on the Metro on September 24.  He was later spotted with the Freepers’ counter-protest group.  Additionally, witness the wrapping-of-the-flag by self-described conservatives on the radio, such as Sean Hannity, where nearly every caller tells him, “You’re a great American.”  Or take Bruce Williams, who ends his show each night by playing God Bless America.  Compare to our movements, where seeing a traditional American flag at an event is far less common, with variations on the flag being the norm.  Instead of seeing a traditional flag, we’ve seen a flag with the stars arranged to form a peace sign, the stars replaced with corporate logosflown upside down, or adorned with messages.  Likewise, at one of our events, you’re more likely to see other countries’ flags flown as well, as well as flags associated with specific political movements, such as all-black for anarchism, or red-and-black for anarcho-syndicalism.

However, I think I caught the person off-guard with a somewhat deep question, because their reaction was kind of like, “Uh…”  I asked a second person about it, and they responded that they’d not given it that much thought, probably because the flag has been co-opted by the conservative movement for such a long time.  With that, I agreed – this was by no means a recent thing.

Right before we started marching, the Rude Mechanical Orchestra showed up, wearing the green band uniforms that we’d previously seen them wearing on A16.  However, unlike previous marches, Becca, the one who flies the flag, was unable to make it.  She had to stay in New York City to film a music video.  I only got one photo of the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, and that photo, due to my having camera troubles, was lost.

And before you knew it, we were off and marching, most of us in our heavy coats, because it was still quite cold, despite the forecast of warmer temperatures later in the day.  We basically followed Massachusetts Avenue NW, with a few deviations from that route to keep the cops on their toes.  First thing thrown out the window: staying on the sidewalks.  The hell with that.  As we shouted, “off of the sidewalks and into the streets,” we took to the streets.  Another early slogan we shouted was, “Bring the war home!”


Map showing the Radical Youth Bloc's path to the Mall
(Satellite image from Google Maps)

Our march route is marked in red.  We started at Dupont Circle, and followed Massachusetts Avenue through Scott Circle to 15th Street.  We then turned north on 15th Street, and then turned east on N Street.  From there, we marched southwest on Vermont Avenue, and rejoined Massachusetts Avenue at Thomas Circle.  We remained on Massachusetts to 13th Street, where we again veered north, and then marched east on M Street.  We then turned south onto 12th Street, and once again rejoined Massachusetts Avenue heading southeast.  We stayed on Massachusetts Avenue and then made a slight veer straight east to Mt. Vernon Place.  Then we marched straight down 7th Street, straight to the Mall (off the map).  The large white building at right is the Washington Convention Center, and the Verizon Center is at the lower right edge of the map, immediately to the right of the tip of the arrow.


We've stepped off from Dupont Circle, and we are underway!  We've stepped off from Dupont Circle, and we are underway!

We’ve stepped off from Dupont Circle, and we are underway!

We've stepped off from Dupont Circle, and we are underway!  We've stepped off from Dupont Circle, and we are underway!


At various times, we attracted the attention of apartment dwellers along our route.  Here, several people look out their windows to watch us pass by.  Some waved in support, while others just watched.

At various times, we attracted the attention of apartment dwellers along our route.  Here, several people look out their windows to watch us pass by.  Some waved in support, while others just watched.


“While you’re shopping, bombs are dropping!  While you’re buying, people are dying!”


The flags led the route, and despite this being an unpermitted march, the cops cleared the way ahead for us to march in the street.

The flags led the route, and despite this being an unpermitted march, the cops cleared the way ahead for us to march in the street.


“What’s the solution?  People’s revolution!  What’s the reaction?  Direct action!”


And the march continues...  And the march continues...

And the march continues…

And the march continues...  And the march continues...


“Whose streets?  Our streets!”


I was amazed to see how many people were talking on their cell phones during the march.  Personally, my cell phone indicated that it had gone off a couple of times, but I never heard it go off at the time due to the other noises of the march.

I was amazed to see how many people were talking on their cell phones during the march.  Personally, my cell phone indicated that it had gone off a couple of times, but I never heard it go off at the time due to the other noises of the march.


Marching in the streets past cars stopped in their tracks, as we shout, “Ain’t no power like the power of the people ’cause the power of the people won’t stop!”


Step by step, we march.

Step by step, we march.

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Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3 – Part 4 – Part 5

Part 1