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NSM Counter-Protest

On April 19, 2008, members of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, also known as NSM88, held an anti-immigration march in Washington DC. Their march route took them from 15th Street and Constitution Avenue NW near the Washington Monument to the grounds of the Capitol, primarily via Constitution Avenue. Meanwhile, my protest buddies and I were there to make sure that the Nazis’ message did NOT get across, as we were out counter-protesting them, to let them know that their racist ideals were not welcome in Washington DC. We met at the southwest corner of 14th and Constitution, and things soon got going.

This was also only the second run of “Duckie”, my new Vivitar 6200w camera, a waterproof camera that I got to replace Big Mavica after its untimely demise on March 19. This would be Duckie’s second protest, and its first march. So I would soon see how it did in a protest march, albeit in fair weather, rather than the bad weather that it was designed to handle.


I arrived at 14th and Constitution somewhat early. The appointed time was 11:30 AM, but I got there closer to 11:00. That’s fine by me. I’ve never been one to oppose the “hurry up and wait” philosophy. And it worked out. I was the second one there. Soon, however, everyone else showed up. Soon I was accompanied by, among others, Isis, Jeff, Luke, Dylan, Ramiz, Missy, a few SDS folks, and a group of people operating as Anti-Racist Action. There was even a traveling clown troupe from Massachusetts that attempted to keep the mood light, singing, and handing out pieces of green construction paper intended to symbolize green cards.

Many people were dressed in full black bloc in preparation for this demonstration. I wore all-black for this demonstration, and indeed I did carry the provisions for full black bloc with me in my bag. However, I did this demonstration “straight”. In other words, I didn’t mask up with the rest of them. I did this mainly for practical reasons. It was really hot outside for one, and secondly, with allergy season in full swing, I didn’t want something potentially trapping pollen so close to my face.


Waiting at the appointed location - 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW.  Waiting at the appointed location - 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW.

Waiting at the appointed location – 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW.


At first, everyone just gathered at the appointed location. But then we got intelligence that Nazis had been spotted near the Washington Monument. All of a sudden, we were off towards the monument, shouting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, these Nazi folks have got to go!” There was some ambiguity about what the wording was to the chant, and thus while some people said “Nazi folks”, others replaced “folks” with the “F” word.


Marching towards the Washington Monument.  Marching towards the Washington Monument.

Marching towards the Washington Monument.

Marching towards the Washington Monument.  Marching towards the Washington Monument.


Marching towards the Washington Monument, expressing our distaste for the Nazis.


All the while, the members of the clown troupe did their thing.  All the while, the members of the clown troupe did their thing.

All the while, the members of the clown troupe did their thing.

All the while, the members of the clown troupe did their thing.  All the while, the members of the clown troupe did their thing.


Nearing the monument, Park Police officers had a quick discussion with us. As it turns out, demonstrations are not permitted within the flag circle around the Washington Monument, per the Code of Federal Regulations. And it’s true – under 36 CFR 7, it states:

No permits may be issued authorizing demonstrations or special events in the following other park areas:

The Washington Monument, which means the area enclosed within the inner circle that surrounds the Monument's base, except for the official annual commemorative Washington birthday ceremony.

I’ll be darned. It also specifies similar exclusion zones at the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.


A Park Police officer explains the regulations regarding demonstrations around the Washington Monument. To his credit, this particular officer, C.R. Holmberg, was extremely polite and professional with us - nothing less than a gentleman.

A Park Police officer explains the regulations regarding demonstrations around the Washington Monument. To his credit, this particular officer, C.R. Holmberg, was extremely polite and professional with us – nothing less than a gentleman.


Waiting outside the flag circle, looking for the alleged Nazis.  Waiting outside the flag circle, looking for the alleged Nazis.

Waiting outside the flag circle, looking for the alleged Nazis.


Not long after this, we found three stray Nazis and quickly attempted to surround them, while police tried to form a barrier between them and us. Things got ugly pretty quickly, as one of our people tried to attack these stray Nazis with a banner. The banner was quickly confiscated by Park Police.


The alleged Nazis have been spotted - two big, burly guys with beards, and a third, younger guy.  The alleged Nazis have been spotted - two big, burly guys with beards, and a third, younger guy.

The alleged Nazis have been spotted – two big, burly guys with beards, and a third, younger guy.


A Park Police officer carries the confiscated banner.

A Park Police officer carries the confiscated banner.


Pursuing the alleged Nazis back down the hill, towards Constitution Avenue.  Pursuing the alleged Nazis back down the hill, towards Constitution Avenue.

Pursuing the alleged Nazis back down the hill, towards Constitution Avenue.


As we headed back towards our original location, several arrests were made, allegedly for assaulting a police officer. Quickly, cops in helmets were ready for action, forming lines, and effectively splitting our group in two – one behind the police lines, and another in front of the police lines. I was in the group in front of the police lines.


Arrests were made, and soon, the area was crawling with police, both Park and Metropolitan.  Arrests were made, and soon, the area was crawling with police, both Park and Metropolitan.

Arrests were made, and soon, the area was crawling with police, both Park and Metropolitan.

Arrests were made, and soon, the area was crawling with police, both Park and Metropolitan.  Arrests were made, and soon, the area was crawling with police, both Park and Metropolitan.

Arrests were made, and soon, the area was crawling with police, both Park and Metropolitan.  Arrests were made, and soon, the area was crawling with police, both Park and Metropolitan.


Once the arrests were made, however, we were able to regroup, and proceeded to our original meeting location.


We soon regrouped, and we were on the move!  We soon regrouped, and we were on the move!

We soon regrouped, and we were on the move!

We soon regrouped, and we were on the move!  We soon regrouped, and we were on the move!

We soon regrouped, and we were on the move!  We soon regrouped, and we were on the move!


We proclaim, “Immigrants are welcome here!” as we return to our original location.


We are back at our original location, and while again waiting, a group of people played makeshift drums.

We are back at our original location, and while again waiting, a group of people played makeshift drums.


Back at our original location.  Back at our original location.

Back at our original location.

Back at our original location.  Back at our original location.


All the while, the people in the traveling clown troupe from Massachusetts continued to do their thing.  All the while, the people in the traveling clown troupe from Massachusetts continued to do their thing.

All the while, the people in the traveling clown troupe from Massachusetts continued to do their thing.


However, unlike the first time we spent time at this location, this time we had a stronger police presence, as cops had lined up around us on three sides, facing in, towards us.  However, unlike the first time we spent time at this location, this time we had a stronger police presence, as cops had lined up around us on three sides, facing in, towards us.

However, unlike the first time we spent time at this location, this time we had a stronger police presence, as cops had lined up around us on three sides, facing in, towards us.

However, unlike the first time we spent time at this location, this time we had a stronger police presence, as cops had lined up around us on three sides, facing in, towards us.


This actually made Isis and a few others a bit nervous, and so a number of us just up and left, with the intention of taking a little walk in order to hopefully defuse what was quickly looking to be a potentially volatile situation. We ended up walking up Madison Drive, on the north side of the National Mall, going east as far as 9th Street. There, we turned around, and followed Constitution Avenue back to our original location. And it seems that our little trick worked, as the police presence at “our” intersection was lighter when we returned.


Having returned to our original location, our group shouts, “Death, death, death to the Nazis! Power, power, power to the people!”


Members of the traveling clown troupe sing “I’ll Fly Away” as others keep the rhythm by clapping.


However, it was soon time for the main event. No more fooling around for us. The Nazis arrived in a police bus at 15th and Constitution. Emerging from the bus, we could see that they had a World War II-era Nazi flag, several flags featuring a design based on the American flag with a black swastika over it, several regular American flags, and the state flag of Illinois, interesingly enough. We were there to “greet” them, and remind them that Nazis are not welcome in our fair city.


Marching to the location of the police bus, while repeating the chant from earlier. This time, however, it was definitely the F-bomb that people were dropping.


What amazed me was the amount of police protection that the Nazis required. Normally, police presence at demonstrations is for stopping traffic ahead of marches, keeping demonstrators on route, and keeping demonstrators out of certain areas. For the Nazis, however, the police formed a wall around them on all sides. Ahead of their march, there was a row of police officers on horses. Then you had police officers in partial riot gear (helmets and sticks, but no padding or shields) on both sides, more cops in back, plus you had cops on bicycles and motorcycles all over the place.


This row of mounted police officers made up the front of the formation.

This row of mounted police officers made up the front of the formation.


The Nazis came off of this large blue police bus.

The Nazis came off of this large blue police bus.


The Nazis emerge.

The Nazis emerge.


Soon after the Nazis emerged, the police got into formation around the Nazis, and the march was ready to begin.  Soon after the Nazis emerged, the police got into formation around the Nazis, and the march was ready to begin.

Soon after the Nazis emerged, the police got into formation around the Nazis, and the march was ready to begin.


Taunting the Nazis as their march begins.


And the march began. Our group, for the most part formed as a black bloc, marched alongside them on the south side of Constitution Avenue. Our goal was to drown out their message. To that end, we blew air horns at times, and shouted, “Death, death, death to the Nazis!” and “Power, power, power to the people!” as well as the earlier “Hey, hey, ho, ho, these Nazi folks have got to go!” Additionally, more than one person pointed out that many of the police officers protecting the Nazis were people of color. How ironic for a hate group consisting of white-supremacist whack-jobs. Our counter-protest march alternated between the sidewalk and the street itself, depending on what obstructions were on both. We also attracted many tourists to our side – our counter-protest march got bigger as we proceeded, as garden-variety tourists joined us in our effort to drown out the Nazis.


The march to the Capitol is underway with the Nazis in the street and our group on their south side, making sure that the Nazis' message was drowned out.  The march to the Capitol is underway with the Nazis in the street and our group on their south side, making sure that the Nazis' message was drowned out.

The march to the Capitol is underway with the Nazis in the street and our group on their south side, making sure that the Nazis’ message was drowned out.

The march to the Capitol is underway with the Nazis in the street and our group on their south side, making sure that the Nazis' message was drowned out.  The march to the Capitol is underway with the Nazis in the street and our group on their south side, making sure that the Nazis' message was drowned out.

The march to the Capitol is underway with the Nazis in the street and our group on their south side, making sure that the Nazis' message was drowned out.  The march to the Capitol is underway with the Nazis in the street and our group on their south side, making sure that the Nazis' message was drowned out.

The march to the Capitol is underway with the Nazis in the street and our group on their south side, making sure that the Nazis' message was drowned out.  The march to the Capitol is underway with the Nazis in the street and our group on their south side, making sure that the Nazis' message was drowned out.

The march to the Capitol is underway with the Nazis in the street and our group on their south side, making sure that the Nazis' message was drowned out.  The march to the Capitol is underway with the Nazis in the street and our group on their south side, making sure that the Nazis' message was drowned out.

The march to the Capitol is underway with the Nazis in the street and our group on their south side, making sure that the Nazis' message was drowned out.  The march to the Capitol is underway with the Nazis in the street and our group on their south side, making sure that the Nazis' message was drowned out.

The march to the Capitol is underway with the Nazis in the street and our group on their south side, making sure that the Nazis' message was drowned out.  The march to the Capitol is underway with the Nazis in the street and our group on their south side, making sure that the Nazis' message was drowned out.

The march to the Capitol is underway with the Nazis in the street and our group on their south side, making sure that the Nazis' message was drowned out.  The march to the Capitol is underway with the Nazis in the street and our group on their south side, making sure that the Nazis' message was drowned out.

The march to the Capitol is underway with the Nazis in the street and our group on their south side, making sure that the Nazis' message was drowned out.  The march to the Capitol is underway with the Nazis in the street and our group on their south side, making sure that the Nazis' message was drowned out.


This arrangement took us all the way to the Capitol. As a counter-protest group, our forward progress was initially stalled at First Street NW, while the police got the Nazis up to the center of the Capitol’s west grounds, where they had a permit to rally.  Later, we were able to reach the east side of First Street, ending up against a retaining wall reinforced by a line of police officers in full riot gear.


While the Nazis filed in, we were corraled off to one side.

While the Nazis filed in, we were corraled off to one side.


Crossing First Street NW as we approached the retaining wall.

Crossing First Street NW as we approached the retaining wall.


Meanwhile, Code Pink activist Midge Potts holds up a sign stating "Unity Through Diversity".

Meanwhile, Code Pink activist Midge Potts holds up a sign stating “Unity Through Diversity”.


The members of the traveling clown troupe made it to the Capitol as well, and they continued to perform. Around this time was when people started to complain to them that some of the songs that they had chosen were not sufficiently "on message" for this demonstration.

The members of the traveling clown troupe made it to the Capitol as well, and they continued to perform. Around this time was when people started to complain to them that some of the songs that they had chosen were not sufficiently “on message” for this demonstration.


Capitol Police officers in full riot gear fortified the retaining wall, in order to maintain separation between the Nazis and us.

Capitol Police officers in full riot gear fortified the retaining wall, in order to maintain separation between the Nazis and us.


Meanwhile, beyond the police officers, the Nazis got into position at the west front of the Capitol.

Meanwhile, beyond the police officers, the Nazis got into position at the west front of the Capitol.

Meanwhile, beyond the police officers, the Nazis got into position at the west front of the Capitol.


We later managed to get on the Capitol grounds, in the southwest corner, directly south of the Nazis. separated by two retaining walls, a sidewalk, and a line of cops in full riot gear. Initially, an officer carrying a red canister of something that I presume was pepper spray announced to us that we did not have a permit to rally and were not permitted in the area where we had taken up station. However, the police took no further action beyond that, and permitted us to stay. We ultimately settled in, and later, a group played a recording of the I Have a Dream speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. over a bullhorn – a perfect counter to drown out the Nazis’ own speeches.


On the Capitol grounds, we quickly got ourselves into position to make sure that the Nazis were drowned out there as well.

On the Capitol grounds, we quickly got ourselves into position to make sure that the Nazis were drowned out there as well.


The Nazis were across two retaining walls and a walkway from us, so there was considerable distance between the two groups.  The Nazis were across two retaining walls and a walkway from us, so there was considerable distance between the two groups.

The Nazis were across two retaining walls and a walkway from us, so there was considerable distance between the two groups.


Police officers in full riot gear lined the walkway making sure that we did not interfere with the Nazis' rally, and bike cops took up positions on the other side of us.  Police officers in full riot gear lined the walkway making sure that we did not interfere with the Nazis' rally, and bike cops took up positions on the other side of us.

Police officers in full riot gear lined the walkway making sure that we did not interfere with the Nazis’ rally, and bike cops took up positions on the other side of us.

Police officers in full riot gear lined the walkway making sure that we did not interfere with the Nazis' rally, and bike cops took up positions on the other side of us.


Beating drums and doing whatever we can to prevent the Nazis from being heard during their rally at the Capitol. One person comments on the wrongness of the fact that Nazis are rallying at the Capitol.


Playing a recording of Dr. Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech.


Making sport of the Nazis, in the continued effort to drown out their message.


Meanwhile, we congregated to the south of the Nazis.  Meanwhile, we congregated to the south of the Nazis.

Meanwhile, we congregated to the south of the Nazis.

Meanwhile, we congregated to the south of the Nazis.  Meanwhile, we congregated to the south of the Nazis.

Meanwhile, we congregated to the south of the Nazis.  Meanwhile, we congregated to the south of the Nazis.


And that’s where everyone stayed until the Nazis left the Capitol. However, I soon got a phone call – Isis was in need! Isis called me to let me know that she wasn’t feeling well, and was laying down on a bench. So I went to find her. She was a little further away than I expected. While I had assumed that she had made it up to the grassy area, she was actually all the way down at the street. Once I got down there, though, Isis was soon good to go again, having had a chance to lie down for a few minutes. By this time, the Nazis were leaving, and we were quickly shuffled off to the south in order for the police to set up their lines. Leaving the Capitol grounds, the Nazis quickly boarded their bus, and soon they were gone, hopefully never to darken our town with their presence again.

Meanwhile, Isis and I were about ready to go. We ended up walking to Federal Center SW, at roughly 3rd and D Streets SW, for our ride back to our respective homes. One thing to note – if you’re going to go to protests in DC, it’s a good idea to commit the locations of several Metro stations to memory. It’s generally a good idea to know the locations of Capitol South, Federal Center SW, Union StationMetro CenterMcPherson Square, Farragut West, and Farragut North if you’re going to be protesting in the downtown area. It’s also a good idea to know where Dupont Circle is, even though it’s not near the Mall, and then for demonstrations from Malcolm X Park, it’s good to know the location of U Street-Cardozo. However, it’s important to not only know where these stations are on a map, but also where they are in relation to each other.  This way, if you’re near one station but access to it is blocked for whatever reason, you know where to go to access another nearby station.  For instance, on J20, we were demonstrating at Union Station, but our access to the Metro station there was blocked due to police activity.  So the person I was with and I ended up walking down First Street to catch Metro from Capitol South.

But I digress. So Isis and I made our way to Federal Center SW to return home. We ended up walking it with a few others from the counter-protest group. We had a wonderful time talking with them. And then when we got to the Metro, Isis and I parted company with them, and headed into the Metro. We were both exhausted, but we had such a great day. We caught CAF 5014 from there, and then we parted company at Metro Center, as I had to transfer to a Red Line train to get home, and Isis took CAF 5014 on into Virginia.

All in all, I’d say that everyone did a great job drumming the neo-Nazis out of town. We kept the corporate media from reporting on the Nazis’ message, and also drowned out the Nazis’ message live and in person, effectively rendering their point moot. Mission accomplished!

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