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Funk the Weekend

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

Part 8

Various vehicles that needed to pass through the area.  Various vehicles that needed to pass through the area.

Various vehicles that needed to pass through the area.

Various vehicles that needed to pass through the area.  Various vehicles that needed to pass through the area.

Various vehicles that needed to pass through the area.  Various vehicles that needed to pass through the area.


Police horses...  Police horses...

Police horses…


...and their massive droppings.  Yuck.

…and their massive droppings.  Yuck.


The police horses were a point of contention between the Park Police and SDS.  The Park Police, on horses, sent the horses through the crowd periodically to ensure a clear way for vehicles.  However, the horses got too close to activists for comfort.  First of all, if the police horses are so close that you can feel and smell the horse’s breath, then they are too close.  Additionally, the way the horses were walking, I was afraid one of the horses might fall over and injure demonstrators, as well as cause injury to the horse.  Eventually, someone spoke with Park Police about the horses, and an agreement was reached that the horses wouldn’t come back as long as we got out of the way for vehicles.  And that was the end of the horses.

Eventually, things started moving.  We mostly stayed on Madison Drive, marching east towards the Capitol.  Our Funk Borders mobile dance party was right behind a group with musical instruments.  We did not want to either compete with the instruments or accidentally drown them out, so we attempted to maintain a buffer between our two groups.  This wasn’t always successful, as the march was kind of stop-and-go, and we didn’t always realize the march was stopping until we had compromised our buffer.  But somehow, we managed.  I ended up in front, helping to carry the banner.  Since a lot of what I do at political marches is photography, this ended up being a bit of a problem.  After all, I need mobility and a free hand or two to work the camera.  I managed to end up on the right end of the banner so that my right hand was free to work the camera, but I wasn’t able to hand the banner off to someone else for a while.


 

 





We got out of the street and onto the Mall itself around 7th Street.  We continued our march, taking great care to lift the wagon carrying the sound system over curbs, until we reached 3rd Street NW.  After crossing 3rd Street NW, at the beginning of the Capitol grounds, we determined that we had made it, and parked it.  A bunch of us sat down in the grass at this location.  This wasn’t a sit-in, like it was for Funk the War on Friday.  We had made it, and continued our radical dance party in place.  Those who were sitting down, including myself, were tired, and were sitting down because we had been marching in various demonstrations for three days.


Dancing on the Capitol grounds just east of 3rd Street NW.  Dancing on the Capitol grounds just east of 3rd Street NW.

Dancing on the Capitol grounds just east of 3rd Street NW.

Dancing on the Capitol grounds just east of 3rd Street NW.  Dancing on the Capitol grounds just east of 3rd Street NW.




Some people took the time to just stop and relax.

Some people took the time to just stop and relax.

Some people took the time to just stop and relax.


All the while, people continued streaming past us onto the Capitol grounds.

All the while, people continued streaming past us onto the Capitol grounds.

All the while, people continued streaming past us onto the Capitol grounds.  All the while, people continued streaming past us onto the Capitol grounds.

All the while, people continued streaming past us onto the Capitol grounds.

All the while, people continued streaming past us onto the Capitol grounds.



However, the Capitol Police were none too happy that we were on their grounds and having a good time.  Two Capitol Police officers showed up – R. Schauf, on foot, and D. Gallo on a motorcycle.  Gallo handed Schauf two large, red cans: pepper spray, with the safety pins out.  Were we about to be pepper sprayed?  It was a distinct possibility, and a number of SDS-ers took some precautionary measures, putting on bandannas and backing up.  Schauf eventually put the pepper spray away, but this definitely shows something fundamentally wrong with how the Capitol Police handles left-wing demonstrators.  I remember during the September 15, 2007 anti-war protestThe Washington Post reported that the Capitol Police used a chemical spray on demonstrators engaged in a die-in on the Capitol grounds.  Likewise, during the counter-protest against the neo-Nazis, at least one Capitol Police officer in riot gear prominently displayed his red can of pepper spray.

I have the feeling that the Capitol Police’s modus operandi in practice on the use of pepper spray is, when I’m tired of having you around, I’m going to spray you with this vile chemical agent to make you go away.  The Capitol Police is more than welcome to prove me wrong by demonstrating otherwise in practice, but that’s the vibe they’re giving off.  Honestly, pepper spray should only be used in extreme cases, when all other methods have failed.  If Officer Schauf felt threatened by us, he could have easily approached us and asked us what we were up to, or asked another officer to do so.  We don’t bite.  Really.  All could have come to an understanding if Officer Schauf had just spoken to us.  After all, we were dancing and relaxing, and that was basically it.  But instead, he created a hostile situation, with the help of Officer Gallo, by pulling out cans of pepper spray with the safety pin out, and thus ready to use.  Jackasses.


Officer Gallo arrives on a motorcycle, with cans of pepper spray on board.

Officer Gallo arrives on a motorcycle, with cans of pepper spray on board.


Officer Schauf handles the cans of pepper spray, which in themselves created a hostile situation.

Officer Schauf handles the cans of pepper spray, which in themselves created a hostile situation.


Meanwhile, I learned a lot about how I react to the threat of pepper spray in a real situation.  Yeah, I’ve thought about it on a number of occasions, and when I go to political demonstrations, I always carry a half-face respirator mask in my bag for these kinds of situations.  Now in this case, rather than reaching for any protective equipment, I reached for my camera, and started shooting photos.  Something tells me that I’m going to need to start wearing the respirator down around my neck for demonstrations that are expected to enter into the Capitol Police’s jurisdiction, as they have proven that they are more likely to spray first and ask questions later than to be civil about things.

However, in photographing, I did glean some valuable information off the pepper spray cans themselves.


Detail of the cans from the previous photo.  Note that the safety pin is missing on at least one can (i.e. it was ready to fire), and note that "MK-9" and a brand logo is readable on the can.

Detail of the cans from the previous photo.  Note that the safety pin is missing on at least one can (i.e. it was ready to fire), and note that “MK-9” and a brand logo is readable on the can.


I was able to determine that the pepper spray was Defense Technologies’ MK-9 pepper spray.  They offer it at various concentrations, and various distribution methods, such as foam, a conical spray, and a stream.  I was unable to tell from the photo what the concentration was, nor whether this was foam, the conical spray, or a stream.  However, a little further research led me to the product’s Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), which explains a lot about just what kind of vile chemical this is.


The MSDS for the pepper spray.  Click the pages for a PDF of the full MSDS.  The MSDS for the pepper spray.  Click the pages for a PDF of the full MSDS.

The MSDS for the pepper spray.  Click the pages for a PDF of the full MSDS.


I encourage any activist who expects to go to a DC-area demonstration that will potentially go into the Capitol Police’s jurisdiction (which begins at 3rd Street NW/SW) to read this, because to put it bluntly, those bastards can’t be trusted.

After the pepper scare, though, the dancing continued.


Posing for a final photo with the banner.

Posing for a final photo with the banner.


Eventually, the Rochester folks had to call it a day, in order to head back to their cars to go back to Rochester in order to arrive back home at a reasonable hour.  It was already approaching 5:00 or so, and with it being roughly seven hours’ driving time back to Rochester, the best-case scenario would get them back to Rochester around midnight.  So we all said our goodbyes, exchanged contact information, and got our hugs.  At the same time, the rest of us decided to also call it a day – and a weekend.  After saying my goodbyes and getting my hugs, I also called it a day, and headed out.


The Capitol dome in the early evening light as I prepared to head out.

The Capitol dome in the early evening light as I prepared to head out.


From where I was, the nearest Metro was Union Station.  Union Station also had the added benefit of food and drink facilities nearby.  I ended up going to a smoothie place down in the basement of Union Station in order to cool off and relax.  Three days of demonstrations will certainly tire a person out.

After finishing the smoothie, I headed down into the Metro station, and caught a Red Line train to Glenmont.



Catching a seat on Rohr 1279, I felt a tremendous feeling of accomplishment, and also felt remarkably tired.  After all, I’d been busy over the course of a three-day weekend.  I participated in three different protest marches for two different causes, and had lots of great times with other radical activists from all over the east coast.  The memories will last a lifetime, and hopefully this will be a step towards getting policymakers to do the right thing.

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

Part 8