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March on the Pentagon

Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3

Part 2

Once the veterans’ groups passed, we all locked arms and wedged our way into the mainstream march.  We passed the line of counter-protesters “guarding” the Lincoln Memorial, and continued onto Memorial Bridge.  It took a long time to cross the bridge, for a few reasons.  First of all, Memorial Bridge is a long bridge.  It takes a while to clear it by car, let alone on foot.  Add to that the fact that we were in a relatively slow-moving herd of people, with arms locked.  Therefore, if one moves, all must move, and that takes a level of coordination that comes with a penalty on speed.  Compare to J27, where our black bloc, which marched more freely, covered a far larger amount of ground in a similar period of time.  Additionally, there were occasions where counter-protesters attempted to block our path.  Per our own rules of engagement, we had no intention of getting into a direct conflict with counter-protesters.


This "No war but class war" banner was one of the black bloc's larger banners.

This “No war but class war” banner was one of the black bloc’s larger banners.


A few people in the anti-war crowd played musical instruments.

A few people in the anti-war crowd played musical instruments.


Wedging our way into the main march, we first had to march past the line of counter-protesters.  Wedging our way into the main march, we first had to march past the line of counter-protesters.

Wedging our way into the main march, we first had to march past the line of counter-protesters.

Wedging our way into the main march, we first had to march past the line of counter-protesters.  Wedging our way into the main march, we first had to march past the line of counter-protesters.


While we were on the bridge, I got two text messages on my cell phone.  It was a friend of mine.  The first message said, “You were just on TV,” and the second said, “Fox News”.  I was surprised by this.  I knew that Fox News is national television.  This would be my first appearance on national television.  I said to the person with whom my left arm was locked with, “I’ve just been told that I was on Fox News!”  I was in a bit of a daze about this for a few minutes before snapping out of it and getting back on task.


While we marched along the bridge, it was nice to see that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney decided to join us in our march (see the heads?).


The tune to The Ants Go Marching One By One seems to be the unofficial theme song for black blocs in 2007, as its tune is again heard at this march.


And over the bridge we go...  And over the bridge we go...

And over the bridge we go…

And over the bridge we go...  And over the bridge we go...


Clearing Memorial Bridge, we were now in Arlington County, in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  And the first thing that our black bloc did upon arriving in Virginia was make a wrong turn at the traffic circle.  When you enter Virginia via Memorial Bridge, there are three ways to go.  Going straight takes you to the Arlington Cemetery station and eventually Arlington National Cemetery.  A right turn takes you north heading towards Rosslyn.  A left turn takes you south to Route 27 and on to the Pentagon.  We made a right turn, which took us off the route to the Pentagon and pointed us towards Rosslyn.  Once we realized that we were going the wrong way, we made a major course correction.  To indicate that we were making a big U-turn, we started shouting, “WHICH WAY?  THIS WAY!” which is a take on the usual back-and-forth of “Whose streets?  Our streets!”


Oops!  We've made a wrong turn!

Oops!  We’ve made a wrong turn!


Recovering from the wrong turn, we first had to let everyone know that we were making a course correction, by shouting, “Which way? This way!” and then after that, getting the shields back up in front where they belonged.


However, after we made the correction, we were back on track.

However, after we made the correction, we were back on track.


Having returned to the correct course, we continued on to the Pentagon, marching alongside the mainstream group, slightly to their right, still maintaining our tight formation.  We crossed the Boundary Channel, and continued south on Route 27.  We separated from the mainstream group when they marched down a highway ramp to the Pentagon’s north parking lot, where they would have their rally.  We continued south on Route 27.  We crossed the bridge over Route 110, and there in front of us was a line of police officers from the Pentagon Police and the Virginia State Police.

We spotted the line of police officers, who were determined to stop our forward progress.  We engaged them.  The shields in the lead position of our black bloc pressed right up against the riot shields held by the line of police.  And we used our greater numbers to put pressure on the police’s riot shields, as we tightened even further, and pressed on the line of police.  We initially seemed to be overwhelming the police, but they ultimately stopped our forward movement when they set off a stun grenade in front of us, which momentarily disoriented us.  We’re pressing forward on the police, and all of a sudden, I see a flash, hear a loud bang, and see and smell smoke.  The bloc loosened, as I think we were all a bit surprised by that blast.

Then the police started putting on gas masks.  For me, that could only mean one thing.  Pepper spray or some other chemical agent was going to be used relatively soon.  A lot of people in the bloc had quick decisions to make.  Some people sat down in the street, right where they were.  Others backed up to get out of the direct path of any pepper spray.

Personally, I backed up.  I couldn’t afford to be pepper sprayed due to the way I run my DC trips.  I have no accommodations in the DC area.  On my DC trips, my bed is 150 or so miles away, in Stuarts Draft.  If I had been sprayed by an irritant at close range, I couldn’t imagine being able to ride the Metro, take a bus, or even take a cab to get back to Vienna if I reeked of pepper spray.  I’d have to ditch everything on the spot.  That would mean ditching my winter coat, ditching my entire black bloc setup (hoodie, hat, and bandanna), ditching the backpack and possibly a lot of its contents, and possibly even more.  I’d possibly even have to ditch Big Mavica.

The mood was tense.  We knew that at any given moment, pepper spray or tear gas could go flying.  A number of people were seated directly in front of the helmeted, shielded, and gas-masked police, and another large number of people were gathered behind them.  The police were giving warnings that they would spray, and the seated bloc was determined to stand firm.  One person from the black bloc warned the gathered crowd that anyone with children or respiratory conditions would be best served to leave before things got ugly.


A man advises those with children or respiratory conditions to leave before things got ugly.

A man advises those with children or respiratory conditions to leave before things got ugly.


Meanwhile, we were basically at an impasse with the police.  Neither side was about to back down.  The seated black bloc stood their ground, and the gas-masked cops held theirs.

Meanwhile, we were basically at an impasse with the police.  Neither side was about to back down.  The seated black bloc stood their ground, and the gas-masked cops held theirs.

Meanwhile, we were basically at an impasse with the police.  Neither side was about to back down.  The seated black bloc stood their ground, and the gas-masked cops held theirs.


Meanwhile, a lot of people were taking pictures of the standoff to document for posterity.

Meanwhile, a lot of people were taking pictures of the standoff to document for posterity.


A number of people also gave the peace sign to the police officers.

A number of people also gave the peace sign to the police officers.


Shouting at the gas-masked officers, “Who do you serve?  Who do you protect?”


And all the while, people were still arriving.

And all the while, people were still arriving.

And all the while, people were still arriving.


At one point, the police gave a two-minute warning.  This sparked a bit of group consensus-building as everyone determined what to do, as tear gas or pepper spray seemed imminent.  I was at what I considered a safe distance away, and so I just watched.  Ultimately, the group determined that they were going to stay put.  Two minutes passed, and no pepper spray was released.  However, many of us were ready to record it should it happen.


Taking a panoramic view of the scene on Route 27.

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Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3

Part 2