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(en) US, Washington, ARA*: We're Pro-Choice and We RIOT! Reportback From the Anti-Fascist Bloc at the March for Women's Lives

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 5 May 2004 08:51:16 +0200 (CEST)


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Chanting, "We're pro-choice, and we shoot back" members of the
Anti-Fascist and Radical Cheerleading Blocs, numbering about 1000 people
at this point, confronted a large group of anti- choicers near 7th and
Constitution just as the March for Women's Lives was starting. Members of
the Anti-Fascist Bloc were seen loudly confronting these pro-lifers, who
were at first protected by only a handful of police officers. An impromptu
kiss-in, led by some radical cheerleaders also took place. Eventually more
police officers moved in and the Bloc moved on to join the main march. This
group of anti-choicers, made up of mostly teenagers and college students,
was the first of many pro-lifers we were forced to deal with that day.

Our day started at 9AM in Stanton Park, where both the Radical
Cheerleaders and the Anti-Fascist Bloc were meeting up. People milled
about the park - some greeting friends they hadn’t seen in a long time,
others preparing for the possibility of violence from the anti-choicers
during the march, and others practicing their cheers. Food Not Bombs
provided a pancake breakfast, and around 11AM the feeder march started.

In order to prevent confrontation with the anti-choicers who had already
begun to gather around Pennsylvania Ave, the Metropolitan Police
Department (MPD) had shut down most of the Northwest quadrant of DC,
forcing the feeder march to first march south and partly out of our way.
We went all the way down Independence Avenue, until we arrived at 7th
Street, where we then joined the main crowd. This route limited our
public visibility, as most of the route was through streets surrounded by
gray government buildings, empty on a Sunday morning. Still, we had a
festive and spirited march that was greeted warmly by the DC residents who
did see us.

The police presence during the feeder march was interesting and worth
mention. Aside from the motorcycle and bicycle cops that mostly rode
ahead of the march, controlling traffic and our general movement, the only
other noticeable police presence were single officers spread out on the
sidewalk throughout the march. There were all a good distance from one
another, and probably couldn’t see their fellow officers amidst the crowd.
This was surprising, at least to me, someone who has grown used to the
hordes of RoboCops who are everywhere at anti-nazi, anti-war, and
anti-globalization protests these days.

Arriving at the Mall, we joined the huge crowd listening to speeches and
getting ready for the march. Many of us spent our time handing out
flyers, which ranged from ARA’s perspective on pro-choice politics and our
position on anti-choicers as well as Zabalaza’s History of Anarchist Women
flyer.

Eventually the Radical Cheer and Anti-Fascist Blocs made their way across
the Mall in an attempt to join the main march. Scouts who already gone
ahead to Constitution Avenue came back to report that there was a large
group of anti-choicers on the corner of 7th and Constitution, largely
unprotected by the MPD. We made our way, now as one unified radical
contingent, to the corner, where the initial incident described at the
beginning of this account took place.

For the first and pretty much only time of the day, there was a large and
aggressive MPD presence around the Bloc as we left the corner of 7th and
Constitution headed for the main march. Motorcycle cops tried to pull
alongside and in front of us, and while several marchers attempted to
block the path of these officers, they were summarily plowed into and
almost run over. Not only that, but some liberals from the main march had
decided to tag along, in an attempt to mute our radical politics. They
were being overly confrontational with marchers, with one woman repeatedly
riding her bicycle into people, while her friends on foot attempted to
physically assault us. While most participants in the “March for Women’s
Lives” either welcomed our presence and militancy, or respectfully
disagreed, there were some who were displeased that we were there and
treated us accordingly. (See the Mobilization for Global Justice’s “Open
Letter to the Liberal Organizers of the Pro-Choice March” for a good
account of such treatment –
http://www.infoshop.org/inews/stories.php?story=04/04/29/3191546)

After joining the main march, we carved out a space for ourselves by
putting all of our banners in front of the radical contingent, and tried
to keep people tight behind the banners. Several undercover cops tried to
keep tabs on us, from both within and outside the Bloc. At least three
undercovers walked between us and the contingent in front of us for most
of the march route.

The anti-choicers, lead by Operation Rescue fundamentalist Randall Terry,
did not live up to their promise to pack both sides of the march route.
Instead, they barely had enough people to line one side of the street, and
were interspersed by hundreds of vocal pro-choice supporters. There were,
however, several blocks lined by Operation Witness – Terry’s new group –
and Army of God members.

The police presence for the counter-protest consisted of a single officer
stationed every 25 feet or so, giving the anti-fas ample opportunity for
confrontation. While there was a lot of verbal confrontation and many
signs stolen and destroyed, we were unsuccessful at physically confronting
these fascists.

Now we have seen how minimal the police presence is at these types of
demonstrations and how unwilling they are to get physically involved in a
confrontation between the two sides. We have also seen how supportive
most of the people in the main march were for our tactics. Now that we
have experienced all of this, we will be better prepared next time to deal
with those pro-lifers who support bombing abortion clinics and
assassinating abortion providers; the same ones who are directly connected
to prominent leaders in the white supremacist movement.

Just as we helped to destroy the National Alliance and the World Church of
the Creator, so too will we destroy the violent elements of the
anti-choice movement.

Anti-Racist Action is planning on having a counter-demonstration against
Operation Witness when they protest the Democratic National Convention in
Boston and the Republican National Convention in New York City this
summer. To get involved, or to find out more about ARA and our pro-choice
work, please email newjerseyara@ziplip.com or mobtownara@hotmail.com. You
can also visit us online at www.antiracistaction.us.

Related Links:

Mobilization for Global Justice’s “Open Letter to the Liberal Organizers
of the Pro-Choice March” –
http://www.infoshop.org/inews/stories.php?story=04/04/29/3191546

Anti-Fascist Bloc Call to Action -
http://www.infoshop.org/inews/stories.php?story=04/04/12/0969096
=======================
* [Ed. note: ARA is a network of activists
of the antiauthoritarian left.]


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