O tempore, o mores! Oh “Grannies for Peace” mingling with black-scarved anarchists! Oh one-block marches and celebrity speakers!
Yesterday, three chartered buses of Columbia students made the trek down to Washington, D.C. to participate in a massive anti-Iraq war troops “surge,” anti-Bush march. The march, which was organized by the activist group United for Peace and Justice, drew “tens of thousands” of protesters according to CNN, and “1.2 million” according to others. Columbia’s Dems, ISO, Students for Justice in the Middle East and Working Families Party (quite a melange of groups) helped send about 150 kids to the capital, and Bwog was there for the ride. Here’s the account.
5:30 AM – Bwog schleps down to 116th and Broadway, where the Dems have spread out some lukewarm bagels and Dunkin Donuts coffee. We half-heartedly mingle.
5:55 AM – We finally board the buses.
8:15 AM – Bwog wakes up bathed in the neon glow of a highway rest-stop, not having been aware that we were sleeping. We suddenly recognize we are extremely hungry; however, we have a mere ten minutes to procure sustenance so all we have time to get our hands on are some fig Newtons, Wheat Thins, and bottled water.
8:38 AM – Buses pull out once everyone has finally returned. Apparently some kids had decided risking missing the buses was worth it for some Arby’s fast food.
10:00 AM – Overheard on the bus:
“Yeah, like, do you think we’ll get arrested or something?”
11:15 AM – We arrive at the Greenbelt Metro stop outside of DC, where we are informed we will be leaving the buses in order to take the Green line into the heart of the city. Dazed and hungry, we stumble off the bus. Students pick up ready-made signs provided by the Dems et. al. and make their way into the station, which is bursting to capacity with every stripe of activist. If one has been to a protest before/recently, one will understand this term, which encompasses hippies, preppie college kids, communists, suburban mothers, Vietnam vets, current war vets, old people, punk high schoolers, and others, usually organized into visually coordinated factions with names like “Make Hip Hop Not War” or “Code Pink” for women protesters.
11:25 AM – We are informed that after we board the Metro trains, we will most likely split up, but that we need to get back to the buses by 4PM or we will never get back to New York and rot away on the Mall, where they will find our remains in two hundred years covered with anti-Bush stickers.
12:40 PM – We reach the Mall, which is completely packed. Someone says that Jane Fonda and Susan Sarandon are speaking, but we only have the chance to hear a veteran, an Iraqi man, and an angry woman of unclear ideological impetus. Again and again throughout the protest we hear about Jane Fonda, which warrants the question, “Who the fuck cares about Jane Fonda?”
1:00 PM – Bwog notices the following among the thousands of protesters: A coordinated dance troupe of girls wearing American Apparel leotards, an old hippie with a small sound system that plays the Byrds exclusively, and Historians Against the War. (When we go to take a picture of them, they ask what school we attend, and say they “support our professors,” whatever that means. They also ask if the picture is for the Spec.)
1:02 PM – Crowd chants: “Racism means we got to fight back. Imperialism means we got to fight back. Occupation means we got to fight back.”
1:03 PM – Bwog notices that gobs of press guys are running towards a lawn closer to the Capitol, and we run over to get a look ourselves. It appears that a chanting mob of about 300 black-clad anarchists have come up against police resistance as they tried to march towards the Capitol. Bwog witnesses brief scuffles, motorcycle-butting on the part of the police, and etc. However, to our knowledge, no tear gas is thrown and no blood is shed. We then stand by, with many a video-camera capturer, and watch as the anarchists break through the police and make their way up to the reflecting pool. Stymied by the lack of ice on the water, they try to get around the pool, but not before they pose for a terrific photo-op with the Capitol in the background.
1:14 PM – Bwog watches from across the pool as the mob fights through police to make their way up to the steps of the Capitol. The police presence around the event swells, with more motorcycles, cars, and mounted cops showing up. A helicopter, for the media or otherwise, hangs above the chaotic scene.
1:22 PM – While some speaker elicits thunderous applause on the stage behind us, another mob of SDS kids starts storming towards the Capitol. Bwog decides to go in for a closer look, and watches several kids rush towards the higher levels of the building, only to be thwarted by cops. Tourists wave cheerfully as if they’re watching a staged event, which confuses the protesters. All in all, it’s a peaceful scene, however, with protesters kept at bay by piecemeal fencing. Bwog overhears a super-disgruntled Reuters reporter (“I said get him on the fucking phone, what the fuck are you doing!”) and wonders which other media outlets the several dozen cameramen we see represent.
1:40 or so PM – The actual march finally mobilizes as the speakers wind up, an hour behind schedule. Some instruments (accordian, woodblock, melodica) provide a marching beat to the activists, but the swollen group generally moves about a foot per minute.
3:00 PM – Bwog’s section of the march passes the “counter-demonstration,” which is fenced off on the side of the road and is comprised of about 15-20 individuals holding signs including, “Al Qaeda Appeasers on Parade,” “Hippies Smell,” and “Jane Fonda is a Bitch,” (Again- Who cares about Jane Fonda?). An official march marshal tells protesters to “Ignore the assholes, keep moving.”
3:00-4:00 PM – The march continues to inch around the block, behind the Capitol, in front of the Supreme Court. We pass a Metro station close to 4PM and, remembering how long it takes to get back to Greenbelt, ditch the waning march and catch the next train.
5:00 PM – Too tired to speak, we get back on the buses.
8:00 PM– An episode of the “The West Wing” is aired.
10:40 PM – We pull up on Amsterdam, unload our garbage, and tip the bus driver. Bwog is out cold by eleven.
Baby Starfish, is that you?