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From the White House to Quantico

Part 1 – Part 2

Part 1

On March 19 and 20, the anti-war crowd in Washington DC was up and going for the eighth anniversary of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, to demonstrate against the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other potential fronts. On March 19, a number of anti-war groups sponsored an anti-war rally and march in Washington DC. Then on March 20, everyone hit the road and traveled the roughly 40 miles down to Triangle, Virginia for a rally in support of alleged whistleblower Bradley Manning, who at the time was being held at the Marine Corps Brig at Marine Corps Base Quantico.

The numbers of people at these things have gone down since Barack Obama took office in early 2009, but the folks who really honestly do oppose wars don’t care which party the president belongs to. War is wrong no matter which party is in power. And that’s what we were doing once again.


And so on Saturday morning, I prepared to head into Washington DC for the anti-war demonstration. I was not expecting anything too crazy, and prepared accordingly. Thus this was the first anti-war demonstration in many years where I did not bring a backpack full of gear (basically for protection in case of the use of chemical irritants). I brought my regular camera bag this time – first time I brought that to an anti-war event since A Protest Against the War in 2003.

So with the camera bag in tow, and without all the gear I usually carry in the backpack, I headed out. I drove over to Forest Glen station, with the intention of avoiding some single-tracking going on between there and my usual home station of Glenmont. I ended up getting Alstom 6022 and took it to Metro Center. All in all, it was a very nice, straightforward Red Line ride, though weekend riding always feels different than my usual rush-hour riding. I also didn’t hit the Twitter all that much on the way in. Go figure.

My arrival at Metro Center was deliberate. You’d think I would have figured this out earlier, but Metro Center has a distinct advantage over McPherson Square, Farragut North, or other stations in that general area. It’s right on the Red Line, which is better than McPherson Square, but also, there’s a Macy’s right over the station, and a Barnes and Noble nearby. Both of those have easily-accessible public restrooms. McPherson Square doesn’t have any places with public restrooms nearby on the entrance near the White House, and the places nearest to Farragut North have locked restrooms where the employees won’t open them for you until after you have made a purchase. Forget going to the restroom and then ordering at those places, especially the Starbucks and the Subway right on Farragut Square. It’s bad practice to deny people restroom access unless they make a purchase, because I’m certainly not going to buy something at a place where they won’t let me go or even so much as wash my hands before I order, nor will I recommend such establishments to my friends and relatives. By contrast, I often will buy something at the Barnes and Noble store by Metro Center when I go there, specifically because I was able to freely use the restroom.

So after a quick potty break at Metro Center (all that discussion just to say I took a potty break?), I headed over to Lafayette Square. Speeches were underway, and I went around to see just who was around. I knew that Isis wasn’t going to be there, but Luke was there, and I got a chance to say hello to him, and I also got to say hello to Medea Benjamin. One thing missing, however, was a strong radical youth presence. Much of this crowd was older, and there were no people dressed in black and no red-and-black flags.


This was definitely an older crowd than many of the anti-war demonstrations that I have participated in.

This was definitely an older crowd than many of the anti-war demonstrations that I have participated in.


I also encountered a clown troupe that was doing a thing where they had you draw something to promote peace. I drew solar panels, to represent clean energy. After all, if we’re all producing our own clean energy with generation facilities such as this, we can avoid wars over fossil fuels.


One of the members of the clown troupe holds a "HONK ME!" sign inviting passers-by to honk the attached horn. This was the "hook" to get people to participate further.

One of the members of the clown troupe holds a “HONK ME!” sign inviting passers-by to honk the attached horn. This was the “hook” to get people to participate further.


My drawing. Not bad for thirty seconds in the middle of the park, no?

My drawing. Not bad for thirty seconds in the middle of the park, no?


The full group poses with my drawing and the "HONK ME!" sign.

The full group poses with my drawing and the “HONK ME!” sign.


While the speeches continued, most of what I did was to go around the crowd, seeing what was going on, and taking photos of what I saw.


Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg 

 

 

 

 


A short distance from the main demonstration, a group of "9/11 truthers" demonstrated.

A short distance from the main demonstration, a group of “9/11 truthers” demonstrated.

A short distance from the main demonstration, a group of "9/11 truthers" demonstrated.


Then when the speeches were complete, the participants lined up four abreast and began a slow, silent march.


 

 


Police officers stand next to a Metrobus, waiting to pick up any arrestees for the civil disobedience action planned for later.

Police officers stand next to a Metrobus, waiting to pick up any arrestees for the civil disobedience action planned for later.


This was perhaps the shortest anti-war march I’ve ever seen. The march route took demonstrators from the center of Lafayette Park west on Pennsylvania Avenue NW (the part that’s closed to traffic), north on 17th Street, east on H Street, south on 15th Street, and then back into Lafayette Square via the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. So in other words, this was no March on Crystal City. So in other words, from what I could tell, the march route was basically a big ten-block loop around Lafayette Square.


 

 

 

 

 

 


Returning to the White House area, the civil disobedience phase of this action began. Realize that the sidewalk directly in front of the White House is known as the “picture postcard” area. Protests in that area have to remain moving while in that area, and can’t stand still. Thus for a civil disobedience action, people just have to stop moving. And thus people lined up and hung onto the White House fence.


 

 

 

 

 


After a few minutes of everyone’s being up on the fence, the police began to separate out the potential arrestees from those not wishing to be arrested. Those not wishing to be arrested were asked to step back a bit. We were first asked to move to the sides, away from the area immediately in front of the North Portico. Then we were asked to move back into the park, as the police tape went up along Pennsylvania Avenue.


A SWAT officer cordons off an area of Pennsylvania Avenue with police tape.

A SWAT officer cordons off an area of Pennsylvania Avenue with police tape.


Going back into the park, I took the opportunity to see what was going on, and actually ran into Elissar, one of my coworkers, and her cousin Rania, and we got some photos of the two of them and Medea Benjamin.


Elissar, Rania, Medea Benjamin, and others


Then the police started bringing in the Metrobuses to collect up the arrestees, and then those still choosing to risk arrest were arrested, one by one.


 

 

 

 


I found it amusing that one of the Metrobuses was displaying “LOCAL” on its sign while being used for transport of arrestees. I thought this was amusing enough to tweet about, and so I did:

The Metrobus being used for the arrestees says “LOCAL” on the sign. What are they going to do, run it to jail as the X2 or something? #wmata

After all, it’s not like it would be that far of a drive to get onto the X2 route. H Street runs along the northern edge of the park. All right, the joke sucked, but I got a couple of retweets out of it so it couldn’t be that bad. In any case, however, it’s quite strange to see the buses that we normally ride to get from here to there being used for arrestee transport.


Metrobus displaying "LOCAL" while being used for arrestee transport.  Metrobus displaying "LOCAL" while being used for arrestee transport.

Metrobus displaying “LOCAL” while being used for arrestee transport.


Police tape in front of the White House.  Police tape in front of the White House.

Police tape in front of the White House.


I actually photographed the two photos of the tape above right in front of a police car (just out of frame), and showed it to the cop afterwards to see what he thought. He commented that he wondered what I was taking a picture of, and let’s admit it – this is a good photo to have around, because you never know when you might need it.

And that was pretty much it for Saturday’s demonstration. I headed out from there, back to the Macy’s at Metro Center in order to take care of a personal need. From there, I headed down to Pentagon City Mall for a few hours to kind of chill out for a while before going home, taking a Blue Line train (Rohr 1245) from Metro Center to Pentagon City to get there. I haven’t done the Pentagon-City-after-a-day-in-DC thing in a long time. Back before I lived here, I used to go to Pentagon City every time I was up there, as that was my main evening activity. It was something to do while I was still up in the DC area, before the long drive back to Stuarts Draft. But nowadays, since I live in Silver Spring and all, I normally just go home. So that was a fun little diversion for the late afternoon and early evening. Coming home was less fun, however, because Metro was doing track work on the Yellow Line bridge (with related single tracking), and turning Yellow Line trains at Mt. Vernon Square instead of Fort Totten. I understand why they can’t use Fort Totten with the amount of track work they have going on (it’s related to headways and no pocket track at Fort Totten), but why couldn’t they have just run all the Yellow Line trains to Greenbelt instead? Frustrating. But after two transfers and a short drive, I was home.

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Part 1 – Part 2

Part 1