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Midnight March

Part 1 – Part 2

Part 1

From October 11 to 13, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund held their fall meetings in Washington DC.  And as is the case with many of their meetings, both in the fall and the spring, the activist community rallies together to publicly demonstrate their disapproval of these organizations’ policies.  This was no exception.

This time around, there were two demonstrations planned.  One happened on Friday morning, where activists painted lumps of coal and barrels symbolizing oil green, symbolizing the greenwashing that goes on at the IMF and the World Bank.  Additionally, an announcement had been posted to DC Indymedia calling for a “[r]owdy, noisy march to IMF/WB delegates’ hotels” late Saturday night – technically Sunday morning.  The march was scheduled to start at Dupont Circle at 1:00 AM on and end at 4:00 AM.  As soon as I saw that earlier in the week, I decided that I wanted to go, but had no idea how to go about doing it, since it would seriously screw up my sleep pattern.  After all, this was even later than other late-night marches I’d previously attended.  Night March started at 7:30 PM and ended at 9:30.  The Georgetown part of October Rebellion started at 9:00 PM, and I got home before midnight.  Now, we were starting at 1:00 AM, topping all my past late-night demonstrations for lateness.  But after all, if the goal is to wake the World Bank and IMF delegates up in the middle of the night, one has to be up in the middle of the night to do it.

Then there was one logistical problem to overcome.  Specifically, with the announcement indicating that the march would last until 4 AM, I knew that Metro was out of the picture.  Metro runs until 3 AM on Friday and Saturday nights, and if the schedule was kept, we would definitely go past Metro’s closing time.  I wasn’t about to take Metro in and then have to take a cab back, or wait a long time on a dark street corner for a bus, and then change buses at Silver Spring to get home.  So I decided to drive in and park at work.  It helps to have an office in Dupont Circle.

This was also the Kodak’s first protest march.  The last protest march I participated in was when the Nazis came to town in April, and Duckie took center stage for that demonstration.  Thus this demonstration was not only a photo set in my eyes – it was a test to see how the Kodak did in bouncy situations, since the Kodak was lighter than both Big Mavica and Duckie, but it was far more powerful.  In reviewing the set afterwards, I determined that the Kodak was okay for these kinds of situations, but a little too automated to be up to the challenge of getting great protest shots under the demanding conditions presented by a nighttime protest march.  In other words, it wasn’t really able to handle what I was putting it through and still get great shots.

So here’s the story.


At the very late hour of 11:30 PM, I got in my car to leave for the protest.  Prior to this, I had made proper preparations.  I had done my laundry, and converted the backpack that I usually take to protests back to black bloc from Anonymous.  I got to my office just after midnight, took care of a few odds and ends in the office, and then left to join the protest at around 12:40, putting on my hooded sweatshirt and then taking my usual three-block walk down P Street NW to Dupont Circle like I do every day after work.

Approaching Dupont Circle, the first thing you could see from roughly the middle of the 1700 block of P Street were flashing blue lights from the police cars parked in the circle.  Once I got in the circle, I saw some people sitting on the benches wearing black clothing.  I asked, “Are you here for the protest?”  They answered in the affirmative.  Excellent.  Then once I got to the center of the circle, I saw all of my regular protest buddies, many carrying pots, pans, buckets, sticks, and other assorted noisemakers.  Luke was there, and a whole host of others were there.  One person was notably absent, though.  Where was Isis?  She was nowhere to be found, and that left a few of us somewhat concerned.  Once I said hello to everyone, I took my glasses off and got into black bloc mode.  My black bloc hat went on, and the red bandanna went around my neck.

All in all, I think we ended up with about twenty very dedicated people for this very late-night march.  And I think that most of us were quite impressed that we even had that much.  After all, we were asking people to come out for a march starting in the wee hours of the morning, and running through the night.  With our somewhat small numbers, I am fairly certain that the cops outnumbered us.  The cops were taking no chances, as the last big anarchist-oriented World Bank demonstration was October Rebellion, and they were determined to not let this march be a repeat of that.  However, once they saw our numbers, I think they knew that this would not be another October Rebellion.  Additionally, and quite to my surprise, we were under the 25-person limit for demonstrations being held without a permit.  While Anonymous is usually quite conscientious of this limit when doing flash raids, the anarchists don’t care.  But we were under the limit.

Speaking of October Rebellion, though, what a difference a year makes.  While it rained heavily last year in our Georgetown march, this time, the sky was clear, and the temperature was cool but comfortable.  One of my protest buddies indicated that she was nervous about the weather, considering that it was very cold and very rainy the year before.  So the two of us took a little survey of the sky.  We looked up, and I pointed.  “Look up there,” I said.  “See?  Stars!  The moon!  Not a cloud in the sky.  There is no way in hell that it will rain tonight.”

Then as we noticed a lot of people taking photos of the assembled crowd, a number of us, including myself, masked up.  When it comes to being photographed at these kinds of marches, masks are important, because you never know what potentially nefarious purposes that photos from unknown photographers will be used for.  Photographers that we know are friendly are a different story entirely.


Masked up in full black bloc, and waiting for the action to begin.  Masked up in full black bloc, and waiting for the action to begin.

Masked up in full black bloc, and waiting for the action to begin.


Perhaps the most surprising group of people I saw was a group of three people who came into Dupont Circle from the north wearing Guy Fawkes masks.  I was like, what the…?  What is Anonymous doing here?  It turned out that Anonymous had just flash-raided at the Founding Church of Scientology just up the street from Dupont Circle, and had gotten wind of our demonstration and came to take a look-see.  It was like when worlds collide or something, as the anarchists and the Anons came together.  But there they were.  One of the Anons was surprised to see me in full black bloc with the anarchists, but I have to admit, the anarchists have been my kind of crowd since 2004 – long before I got involved with Anonymous.  But I certainly appreciated the goodwill gesture of their coming to see us off.


Three DC Anons parked themselves at the edge of Dupont Circle, and saw us off on our march.  What a surprise it was to see them at a World Bank march!  People in Guy Fawkes masks were the last thing I would have expected to see...  Three DC Anons parked themselves at the edge of Dupont Circle, and saw us off on our march.  What a surprise it was to see them at a World Bank march!  People in Guy Fawkes masks were the last thing I would have expected to see...

Three DC Anons parked themselves at the edge of Dupont Circle, and saw us off on our march.  What a surprise it was to see them at a World Bank march!  People in Guy Fawkes masks were the last thing I would have expected to see…


And then as 1:00 rolled around, the police got everyone’s attention and laid down the rules of the game.  Captain Jeff Herold articulated that we did not have a permit to be in the street, and that laws concerning noise would be enforced.  Anyone breaking any laws would be arrested.  Captain Herold also appeared to not be particularly pleased about being out this late in the first place, and his tone with us made this quite clear.  The general thought was, who pissed in his cornflakes this morning?  But his less than cheerful demeanor was understandable, as the World Bank and IMF meetings already mean a lot of extra work for the MPDC, and this was like the icing on the cake.  And to his credit, Captain Herold does have perhaps the best rapport with a lot of DC’s activist scene.

However, it worked out for the police, I suppose.  We discussed amongst ourselves, and came to an agreement.  We didn’t have the numbers necessary to ignore their directives, and so we determined that this was to be a non-confrontational noisy march, and that we would take to the sidewalks.  Additionally, we agreed that if we got scattered, everyone was to meet back up at “19th and Connecticut” (i.e. back in Dupont Circle).


We certainly hung around Dupont Circle for a bit, though.  We didn't get going until 1:30.  But once we got going, we got going.  We certainly hung around Dupont Circle for a bit, though.  We didn't get going until 1:30.  But once we got going, we got going.

We certainly hung around Dupont Circle for a bit, though.  We didn’t get going until 1:30.  But once we got going, we got going.


Marching south on 19th Street NW past Dupont Circle station.  Participants are banging pots and pans to make as much noise as possible. The sound of the musical instrument is unrelated to our march.


 

 


We initially headed south down 19th Street past the entrance to Dupont Circle station, and eventually found our way to the Hotel Palomar on P Street.  A few people attempted to enter the Hotel Palomar to make noise in the lobby, but those people were quickly ejected by police.  But let me tell you something – we made noise, with pots and pans, drums, tambourines, whistles, and our own voices.


Arriving at the Hotel Palomar, making a tremendous amount of noise.


At the Hotel Palomar, our first target of the night, we made a great amount of sound, as the police barricaded the doors to ensure we stayed outside.  At the Hotel Palomar, our first target of the night, we made a great amount of sound, as the police barricaded the doors to ensure we stayed outside.

At the Hotel Palomar, our first target of the night, we made a great amount of sound, as the police barricaded the doors to ensure we stayed outside.

At the Hotel Palomar, our first target of the night, we made a great amount of sound, as the police barricaded the doors to ensure we stayed outside.  At the Hotel Palomar, our first target of the night, we made a great amount of sound, as the police barricaded the doors to ensure we stayed outside.


Stating for all to hear that the IMF is not welcome in DC.


We made quite a ruckus coming, and then continued to make a ruckus as we left.  We made quite a ruckus coming, and then continued to make a ruckus as we left.

We made quite a ruckus coming, and then continued to make a ruckus as we left.

We made quite a ruckus coming, and then continued to make a ruckus as we left.  We made quite a ruckus coming, and then continued to make a ruckus as we left.


However, on the way to our next target, the cops stopped us dead in our tracks.  Turns out that we were being too noisy.  According to the police, we could march, but anyone who continued to use noisemakers of any kind would be individually arrested.  After this warning from the police, we continued our march, though far more quietly this time.


A police officer gives a warning to the assembled crowd that further noise with our noisemakers will lead to arrests.


One person in the group collected all the sticks for safekeeping, and to help remove the temptation of using our various noisemakers.  After all, no one wanted to be arrested at this demonstration, as the goal was to get our message out and complete the march.  Being arrested was counter to that end, and thus we played the game to an extent.


The black bloc marches in silence in the wee hours of the morning, as we weren’t sure quite yet about what to make of the officers’ enforcement of DC’s noise ordinance.


We eventually arrived at the St. Gregory Hotel, which had previously been visited by a black bloc in 2006.  We arrived, the cops quickly moved to barricade the doors, and we started our noisemaking, shouting, and at one point, singing.  We attempted a Rickrolling, but it didn’t “take” with everyone.


Demonstrating outside the St. Gregory.  Demonstrating outside the St. Gregory.

Demonstrating outside the St. Gregory.

Demonstrating outside the St. Gregory.  Demonstrating outside the St. Gregory.

Demonstrating outside the St. Gregory.  Demonstrating outside the St. Gregory.


I know a song that gets on the police’s nerves, the police’s nerves, the police’s nerves, I know a song that gets on the police’s nerves, and it goes a little something like this…


Our next stop was the Renaissance Hotel.  By this time, we’d figured out what we could do, and were shouting various things – thus making a lot of noise, but with our voices rather than our pots and pans.  Perhaps the most amusing chant was about the cops, where people shouted, “They’re the ones with the guns!”


The Renaissance was a very quick visit.  We barely even stopped - it was just a quick pass by and we were on our way again.  The Renaissance was a very quick visit.  We barely even stopped - it was just a quick pass by and we were on our way again.

The Renaissance was a very quick visit.  We barely even stopped – it was just a quick pass by and we were on our way again.

The Renaissance was a very quick visit.  We barely even stopped - it was just a quick pass by and we were on our way again.  The Renaissance was a very quick visit.  We barely even stopped - it was just a quick pass by and we were on our way again.

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Part 1 – Part 2

Part 1