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Counter-Inaugural: DC

We shut down two checkpoints and huge lines of ticket holders were turned away. In the words of our beloved president: “Mission accomplished.?
Hey, all. Many of you, most likely, participated in some kind of counter-inaugural action on January 20th either in Santa Cruz or San Francisco or elsewhere, but I’m sure a few of you heard about what went on in DC on that day due to the lack of coverage by the mainstream media. I was able to go there for the J20 actions and what follows is my report back on what went down on the streets of DC. Please note that I’m sure I’ve missed some events due to the fact that there were so damn many. Hope this helps fill ya in.

My day started bright and early at 7AM (actually it was still dark) out in some suburb of DC where we were lucky enough to commandeer a townhouse for the night (from a Republican we met at the airport, no less). We jumped on a Metro and started taking the long train ride into the city with a mix of office workers and Bush supporters, anxious to prove their loyalty to the president with huge red, white and blue signs. As we got closer into the city, however, and further from the suburbs, the signs started reading differently. Instead of “Four More Years? they read “For More Wars.? Bush fans and inaugural protesters rode the line side by side in an awkward silence.

When we got into the city we made our way to Malcolm X Park where the first of the days counter-inaugural events was being held. At 9AM the DC Anti-War Network (DAWN) held a rally featuring speakers including returning Iraq War Veterans, prison-rights activists, hip-hop artists, and many others. Before long I saw the first conflict between Bush supporters and Bush demonstrators. At around 10:45 a group of Protest Warriors showed up, protesting the protest. Soon a group of anarchists surrounded them, began chanting “Nazi Scum,? and chased them from the park, tearing apart their signs and almost killing them. This was just a brief preview of interactions yet to come.

At about 11:15 AM the permitted DAWN march left the park and started heading towards the White House. Hundreds of coffins draped in flags were carried along; draped in American flags for American troops and black flags for Iraqis. After 45 minutes or so the Militant Anti-Fascist Contingent broke off from DAWN and headed out on an unpermitted march. From the beginning there was a large police presence. Many times it looked as if the bloc was surrounded and arrests were imminent, but the cops never moved in and we were able to advance all the way to the planned destination: Logan Circle.

Here the Anti-Fascist Contingent met up with the Anti-Authoritarian Bloc who had planned to leave at 12:30 PM. Although a few minutes late, things went very smoothly and the two groups moved out. The bloc, numbered at 2,000, marched for a good hour or so, followed by a very large police presence of motorcycles, unmarked cars, and riot cops, at the 7th and D St. security checkpoint. The police attempted to block the path of the march as it tried to meet up with another group of protesters already converged near the parade route. After the initial beatings by the cops the bloc backed off a bit, rearranged, and then charged the police lines, throwing snowballs and sticks at the heavily armed riot cops. The cops moved in with batons and pepper-spray guns. It seemed again as if the bloc was surrounded and going to be arrested, but somehow it was able to break away, except for a small group who were later let free. The group was probably let go because as the cops moved in they also trapped Republicans trying to attend the inaugural parade. I think they were scared they might arrest and pepper spray the wrong people (or maybe the right people). The bloc reconverged in front of the FBI building and did nothing more than block the street. The New York City Radical Cheerleaders performed and the crowd started dancing and singing. At this point it was really just about reclaiming the streets. It was obvious the cops weren’t gonna fuck with us as long as we remained stationary. Come to think of it, other than the pigs on the FBI roof looking down on us (to whom the bloc screamed “Jump!? repeatedly), I hardly remember a police presence.

Eventually people started wandering away, realizing not much was going on. We saw masked protesters walk amongst visiting Republicans and took much joy from their reactions. More than once a rich old lady would hold her purse extra tight as we walked by, or a mother would tell her children to “STAY TO THE RIGHT!!!? as we passed by their left. Never in my life have I seen so much fur, rich old women wearing road kill everywhere. My friend and I started counting Starbucks when we got to DC but we should have counted furs because that would have been a challenge.

The plan was for the Anti-Authoritarian bloc to reconverge at 2:30 PM at the gates of Chinatown. And so we did. I have to say that the blocs in DC were some of the most organized I’ve seen. People had their shit together, knew what they wanted to do, and were very punctual, a quality hard to find among anarchists. The bloc started out again promptly at 2:30 PM with the goal of charging a security checkpoint. We were followed by riot cops, bike cops, and unmarked cars. After a few blocks the group found a flatbed truck filled with blockades for inaugural security. After that was raided, riot cops and mounted police (pigs on horses!) moved in but were forced to back off when civilians were caught in the intersection.

The bloc then moved down the street and hit a security checkpoint. The riot police and soldiers stationed there responded with batons and pepper spray. I got a good mouthful, despite my bandana, which caused my lips to burn for the rest of the day. But, judging from the looks on the faces of those who got it in their eyes, I got off lucky. Some pro-Bush folk hanging around got into a confrontation with some of the protesters and started stealing their cell phones and making fun of their bandanas. This was all caught on CNN. The situation after that was pretty calm. The bloc swarmed up to the checkpoint chanting “Open the Gates! This is fear!? Our primary motives were to open the streets back up to the public and let the average citizen into an event that’s supposed to be for them. But the fact is that it required a $125 ticket to watch the inaugural events. If they wouldn’t let us in, then nobody was getting in. We shut down two checkpoints and huge lines of ticket holders were turned away. In the words of our beloved president: “Mission accomplished.? We turned the block into a street party, with people jumping up and down, singing and chanting. The Billionaires for Bush showed up and put on a little skit to the amusement of the more militant protesters.

Around 3:30 PM a group of riot cops moved in behind us, prompting some protesters to move to the other side of the checkpoint. This was the first time I had a good look at them up close. It was quite evident that all of their gear was brand new. Their helmets, padding, boots, batons, and pepper spray guns had all been freshly purchased for this event. It reminded me a lot of what I had read about Miami. We then moved over to the other side of the checkpoint to see what was going on over there. I moved up towards the barricades where there were a number of riot cops. I heard people on the inside of the parade route saying that they couldn’t leave, that the police had trapped them in and the exits were blocked. I heard one woman ask a police leader if their numbers were necessary and that if protesters were really a security threat similar to terrorists. Within a few minutes a number of riot cops had left the scene.

The bloc then moved up the street and was immediately surrounded by police. Amazingly, this was when I saw the first two arrests of the day. One was after a girl tried to ignite a flag (before an undercover cop stopped her) and the second was after a police SUV almost ran a kid over (he hit the car with his bag, the cops stopped and chased him down). And this was the end of the bloc. It was successfully dispersed and protesters went on their way.

Later that night, however, things got going again at the Punk Rock Counter-Inaugural Ball, coincidentally at the same time as the ten inaugural balls. This show featured Anti-Flag, Q and Not U, 1905, and Del Cielo and was put on by a number of local organizations. After the show there was gonna be a march from the venue to one of official balls, to be timed so we showed up as the ball got out. Right before Anti-Flag went on, a dozen unmarked vans filled with riot cops, police cars, and an empty bus pulled up on an adjacent street, anticipating the march. But the show went on anyway. The best part, in my opinion, was when a nine year old, Truman (who was pepper sprayed at protests that day), read his own inaugural address. Far better than I, or any politician for that matter, could write, he told the crowd what he thought of our system. My favorite part was his line “I believe in no government.? Fucking beautiful. The post-concert bloc moved out around 11:15 PM. The police blocked the wrong street and we simply walked the other way. Chanting “Iraq is not alone! Bring the war home!? we quickly took over the streets. Newsstands were overturned and dragged into the street to block traffic. We got mixed reactions from those on the sidewalk. Some screamed “Four more years!? and others put a fist in the air and yelled “Bring the war home!? A while later a Citibank window was smashed and, like a plague of locusts, the riot cops descended upon the protest. A cop chopper with a searchlight followed the bloc. A bottle was thrown from the group and hit a cop car, shattering its window. We backed off a bit from the bloc, as did many others, since it seemed inevitable they were gonna get fucked. And fucked they got. They were cornered in an alley and were eventually arrested. The cops went crazy and began arresting anyone wearing black. A group of medics were arrested standing idly on a street corner. Even after dressing down we were stalked by vans of riot cops. The final arrest count was over 80. And that’s how my J20 ended: in a sleeping police state come to life.

So that was my J20 in DC, though many other actions were held that I didn’t participate in, there were an estimated 60,000 protesters who showed up in DC. Many lined the parade route to yell at Bush when he drove by. His motorcade was forced to speed up as he passed when they started throwing vegetables. ANSWER held a huge peaceful march against Bush, numbering in the tens of thousands. The NYC queer rights group Queer Fist had a couple actions. One was a Fascism Show (instead of fashion show, get it?) and the other was a street party to reclaim the streets. Perhaps the most successful action of any was put on by Code Pink. During Bush’s inauguration speech eight Code Pink activists who were given tickets by their congressperson stood on their chairs and screamed “Bring the Troops Home!? and held banners like “No War, Out of Iraq Now!? I’m sure there were many more but these are a few of the ones that I heard about. Plus, there were plenty of actions throughout the following weekend. Overall I think the inaugural protests were a huge success (although the fucker was still sworn in). If nothing else we established a strong sense of resistance among activists from all across the country and unified our demands, bringing them to where it counts most: the government’s doorstep. But don’t forget: Bush isn’t the problem, capitalism is.
 
 


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