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Funk the Weekend

Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3 – Part 4 – Part 5 – Part 6 – Part 7 – Part 8

Part 1

Friday, March 19, 2010 marked seven years since the US-led invasion of Iraq, known as Operation Iraqi Freedom.  As has happened in past years, anti-war protesters came out in force to demonstrate in DC against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Additionally, the March for America, a march for comprehensive immigration reform, occurred on the same weekend.

I ended up attending three demonstrations over the course of the weekend.  I attended Funk the War 9: Bad Romance on Friday, ANSWER’s anti-war march on Saturday, and the immigration march on Sunday.  I attended these events with members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), primarily those from Washington DC and Rochester, New York.  The weekend was an amazing opportunity to spend time with the anti-war crowd, and the radical student community.  Over the course of the weekend’s three big demonstrations, we marched together, discussed strategy, hijacked a march, and bonded quite a bit, to the point where we all felt like a family by the time Sunday evening rolled around, and the folks from Rochester had to head back to New York.

I chose the name “Funk the Weekend” for the demonstrations from March 19-21 because while the topics were somewhat diverse, with both opposition to war and comprehensive immigration reform on the agenda over the course of the weekend, the underlying theme was SDS, with their “Funk” themed marches.  The majority of my time was spent with the various SDS chapters that came to Washington, and SDS made sure to make a huge splash with Funk the War on Friday, and then a “Funk Borders Bloc” at the immigration march on Sunday.  Many thanks to the SDSers on Facebook who helped me arrive at this title.


The events that comprised Funk the Weekend began on Friday.  The first demonstration on the weekend’s itinerary was Funk the War 9.  With a Lady Gaga-inspired theme, “Bad Romance“, the demonstration was set to begin at 3 PM from Farragut Square.  I drove down to Wheaton, and took Rohr 1209 from there to Farragut North.

Leaving Farragut North station, I quickly sighted my destination: Farragut Square, where Funk the War 9 was planned to take off.  Coming in, Farragut Square looked mostly like it would on a typical weekday, with office workers from nearby buildings taking time out of their days to relax and enjoy the beautiful day.  The only indication that something big was going to happen was the group of police assembled on the east side of the square, waiting for Funk the War to begin.  I soon spotted my people, finding Missy and Marja, and got into a conversation with them.  We also got into a conversation with MPDC Captain Jeff Herold, who asked us about the march.  We could each honestly answer that we hadn’t a clue, since none of us were involved in the planning for the event.  Herold indicated that the government picked one heck of a day to start the war in Iraq, because March 19 is his birthday.  Thus for the last seven years, rather than being able to kick back on his birthday, Herold has had to attend to anti-war demonstrations on his birthday.


Signs laid out waiting for people to carry them.

Signs laid out waiting for people to carry them.


Lacy MacAuley is interviewed for WJLA-TV, the local ABC affiliate.

Lacy MacAuley is interviewed for WJLA-TV, the local ABC affiliate.


The protest gathers...

The protest gathers…

The protest gathers...


A woman's face is painted with "FUNK WAR" on her cheeks.

A woman’s face is painted with “FUNK WAR” on her cheeks.


Amber is all smiles when she sees me, delighted to find out that she had been on Schumin Web in the March on Crystal City photo set the year before.

Amber is all smiles when she sees me, delighted to find out that she had been on Schumin Web in the March on Crystal City photo set the year before.


Herold (with back to the camera) and crew amongst the demonstrators.

Herold (with back to the camera) and crew amongst the demonstrators.


These two women dressed festively for Funk the War.

These two women dressed festively for Funk the War.


This was also the first march that I’d been to since I signed up for the Twitter.  I was still figuring out how to best use the Twitter, and so in addition to all of the usual stuff that I do in these kinds of marches, I was going to periodically “tweet” updates from my phone.  I ended up posting three tweets to my Twitter feed over the course of the march.

Additionally, this march really reflected the change in the political atmosphere that has occurred since George W. Bush left office.  In past marches of this nature, you usually saw a number of masks on the regulars’ faces.  With a new administration in office, the masks came off for many people.  Full black bloc became less necessary.  Sure, a lot of us still wore all black, but we did without the masks.  For many, including myself, the bandannas never even came out.  Additionally, in a change from my usual protest fashion, I also didn’t wear the black hat that I usually wear at demonstrations, instead wearing the brown gatsby cap that I wear to and from work in colder months.  Now I’m not saying that there weren’t masks in the crowd, but there were a lot less than there used to be.

Of course, half the time, it seems that the people wearing masks don’t quite “get” the whole idea of how to effectively conceal their identity, and not negate their mask’s effectiveness.  For instance, if you cover your face but not your hair, you’ve effectively negated your mask.  Likewise, even if you do cover your hair, if you take your mask off for any appreciable length of time without getting others to provide cover for you, you’ve negated your mask, even if you later put it back on, since the people you’re trying to protect your identity from have had a chance to see what you look like, and possibly film you for later identification as a “troublemaker” or whatever the case may be.  And likewise, deviating significantly from the standard black bloc “uniform” makes one stand out from the crowd and be more identifiable, again negating the mask.  Likewise, any distinctive tattoos, piercings, etc. should probably be covered.  For those who are trying to conceal their identity for whatever reason, one needs to be really careful about making sure it stays hidden, and I’ve seen too many people negate their mask without realizing it.  CrimethInc has a good article about this concept.


Before the march started, everyone kind of milled about in Farragut Square.  After all, these marches run on "activist time", where the stated 3:00 start time really means no earlier than 3:30.  So I got a chance to look at the various costumes and signage that various Funk the War demonstrators were sporting.  Before the march started, everyone kind of milled about in Farragut Square.  After all, these marches run on "activist time", where the stated 3:00 start time really means no earlier than 3:30.  So I got a chance to look at the various costumes and signage that various Funk the War demonstrators were sporting.

Before the march started, everyone kind of milled about in Farragut Square.  After all, these marches run on “activist time”, where the stated 3:00 start time really means no earlier than 3:30.  So I got a chance to look at the various costumes and signage that various Funk the War demonstrators were sporting.

Before the march started, everyone kind of milled about in Farragut Square.  After all, these marches run on "activist time", where the stated 3:00 start time really means no earlier than 3:30.  So I got a chance to look at the various costumes and signage that various Funk the War demonstrators were sporting.


And then eventually, we got going.  We first circled around the center of Farragut Square, and then took to the streets.


Getting the banner out in front, and then getting ready to step off.

Getting the banner out in front, and then getting ready to step off.


Marching out of the square and into the streets.  Marching out of the square and into the streets.

Marching out of the square and into the streets.


Rachel and Adam, among others, ran the sound system, ensuring that our mobile dance party had proper dancing music.  Rachel and Adam, among others, ran the sound system, ensuring that our mobile dance party had proper dancing music.

Rachel and Adam, among others, ran the sound system, ensuring that our mobile dance party had proper dancing music.

Rachel and Adam, among others, ran the sound system, ensuring that our mobile dance party had proper dancing music.


Marching in the street, with the festive atmosphere of the march quite evident.


Marching past a parked car.

Marching past a parked car.


Our first target was the Project for the New American Century, at 1150 17th Street NW, at the intersection of 17th and M Streets NW.  I know the building best for its housing a UPS Store at street level, which I have used in the past for work-related shipping.  We demonstrated outside the building for a few minutes, and then continued on, still in the street.


Outside of the Project for a New American Century.

Outside of the Project for a New American Century.

Outside of the Project for a New American Century.



Continuing, our march took us south one block and then east.  We ended up on the 1300 block of L Street, which contains an Armed Forces Recruitment Center on its south side, in the Franklin Court building.  There, things went peacefully for a while, with the Funk the War crowd out in the street, and the cops on the sidewalk preventing people from entering the building.


Continuing on from the Project for a New American Century, on the way to the recruitment center.

Continuing on from the Project for a New American Century, on the way to the recruitment center.

Continuing on from the Project for a New American Century, on the way to the recruitment center.

Continuing on from the Project for a New American Century, on the way to the recruitment center.  Continuing on from the Project for a New American Century, on the way to the recruitment center.

Continuing on from the Project for a New American Century, on the way to the recruitment center.



Handing off the camera to a masked demonstrator, and then... taking a picture!

Handing off the camera to a masked demonstrator, and then… taking a picture!

Handing off the camera to a masked demonstrator, and then... taking a picture!


Chicken suit!

Chicken suit!

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Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3 – Part 4 – Part 5 – Part 6 – Part 7 – Part 8

Part 1