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(en) US, Washington, There and Back Again: An Anarchist's Tale on the inaguration demo

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 4 Feb 2005 10:39:47 +0100 (CET)


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An account of an anarchist's experience at the re-coronation of George W. Bush.
Most people who watched the inauguration did so from the safety of
their homes. They saw the same boring speeches, the same
platitudes about freedom and justice, the same boring parade as they
had seen every four years since television started covering it.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bush has become a Stalinesque figure for the
"conservative" right-wing, capable of doing no wrong, making no
mistake, telling no lie, so long as he saved them from their
arch-traitor nemesis, Leon Trotsky... er... I mean John Kerry.

Given that, my decision to protest the Inauguration should not come
as a surprise, so on Wednesday night, I threw together a few things
and took off for Washington. I didn't get a chance to tell my
roommates that I was leaving, and I traveled alone. Fourteen hours
and a huge snowstorm later, I arrived, unsuccessfully tried to sleep in
my car for a half-hour, and eventually set out for Malcolm X Park
(the unofficial name of Meridian Hill Park), the starting point for the
counter-inaugural march.

After a detour around the area looking for a bathroom, I eventually
gave up and walked back to the park, and had a few smokes while
listening to various speakers and waiting for the march to start--a
hip-hop artist, a 95-year-old woman who had hiked and skied across
the country, a priest from Haiti who talked about how Aristide was
kidnapped by U.S. Marines and taken to a French military base in
Africa, to be replaced by a former death-squad leader, and David
Cobb, the Green Party candidate in 2004. Meanwhile, some
neo-fascists decided to show up and start trouble with the black-clad
Anarchist contingent, ostensibly to show that "anarchists aren't for
free speech." To some extent this is correct: the KKK would do well
to avoid my street, for example, and that isn't "pro-free-speech."
However, considering anarchists rose up and formed armed militias
against a military coup backed by Hitler in Spain sixty years ago, I
think these fascists got off easy getting thrown out of the park
without their signs. As always, the communists were selling papers,
and the La Rouche supporters were hawking their "Bush is Satan"
books. By the end of the couple hours spent standing in the park,
turning them down had almost become rote: point to my red and
black tattoo and say "No thanks."

We started marching shortly thereafter, led by the organizers from the
D.C. Anti-War Network (DAWN). After DAWN stopped the march
for the fifth time, the anarchists went off on our own, taking about
1,000 people with us as we snaked through the streets, avoiding the
police blockades. We eventually filtered through a group of D.C.
police on motorcycles, and I couldn't resist muttering, "We're back,
bitches," in reference to large groups of protesting anarchists. The
march crested the hill, and this is when the trouble started. I didn't
see what started the whole thing, but I later learned of some
"protesters" (really undercover police officers) wearing the kind of
checkered scarf which Yassir Arafat wore (kuffiyeh) took them off,
whipped out hand-cuffs, and start arresting people. On the drive in, I
had seen someone dressed in all black and a rolled-up ski mask
casually talking on a walkie-talkie from the middle of a gaggle of
police cars, paddy wagons, and officers. At any rate, we tried to link
arms as the police charged and forced us back down the hill, beating
with their batons anyone who did not get out of their way fast
enough. I was fortunate not to be hit, but I did have the unfortunate
duty of having to pull several people who were being beaten away
behind our "lines." I've since heard that the police used a fire-hose on
the demonstrators, but I didn't actually see it happen--if true it's far
worse than it seems, there was snow on the ground.

After a few tense moments, the police stopped beating people and the
remnants of the march dispersed down the hill. I wandered over to
14th and Pennsylvania where the Secret Service had established a
checkpoint for people who wanted to protest along the parade route.
On the way there, I passed a bunch of Bush supporters coming from
the inauguration site, including a minister. I asked him how it felt to
"help kill 100,000 people, given the collar and all," and "who would
Jesus bomb?" He didn't answer.

After milling around at the SS checkpoint for a while, somebody
decided to take down some flags from the hotel next to us and light
them on fire, which nearly caused a fight with some random guy
decked out in stars-and-stripes everything. After vague threats to the
people who were trying to light the flag on fire, he claimed it was a
shame that we burned the flag, since in Communist Wherever they
would make him eat it. I responded that the real shame was all the
dead Native Americans and all the black people dragged here in
slavery, not some pieces of cloth a few kids wanted to burn. I
could've ranted some more, but he took off, which was really too bad.
Not because I wanted to rant at him, but because I wanted to ask him
if he caught the irony of claiming how much freedom we have after
we've been beaten and hosed down in the freezing cold, or even the
irony of talking about how free we are to love our government--a
freedom I'm pretty sure even the Chinese had during Mao's "Cultural
Revolution."

At this point, a few people started throwing snowballs at the cops
(again, this is how cold it was), and lifted one of the barricades out of
its position. The cops put it back.

After that I moved closer to the barricades and after a brief staring
contest, I asked one of the cops how it felt to defend a Nazi, talked
about the voter fraud and dirty tricks in Ohio (due to an idiosyncrasy
in the way computers count numbers--ala the "Y2K" problems from
half a decade ago--the Diebold electronic voting machines only count
votes up to 32,768, then start subtracting votes, and the high-voter,
vastly Democratic inner-city districts received fewer machines than
the low-voter, marginally Republican suburban districts), and asked if
he even voted for Bush. His (white) commander muttered something
to him, which sounded like "don't talk to him." The cop I was talking
with told me to "Go home," to which I responded "this is my home."

At any rate, several more sections of the barricade were lifted out of
place, and the police grabbed their batons and started hitting people,
then put the barricade sections back in place. Some people began
throwing themselves against the barricade--which everyone knew
was a futile and symbolic gesture, since we had just seen that
removing the sections required just a quick heft), and a new group of
cops stomped in started pepper-spraying people. Not just the people
who were actually removing sections of the barricade, but random
people. They pepper-sprayed someone standing near me, and I
caught the ricochet off his head in my right eye. It hurt, but I was
able to wash it out pretty quickly thanks to the medics that protesters
now have with us.

Let me clarify: because the police forces in major cities have gotten
so violent towards protesters, we now have our own medical corps
that follow the protest around, and treat the people that get assaulted
by the police. One of the surreal but enduring memories I have is the
EMS tech wearing his government-issue "MEDIC" vest treating
someone who had been attacked by the riot cops in their
government-issue "POLICE" riot gear.

At any rate, I got pissed. I wasn't tearing down a barricade, I wasn't
throwing things, I wasn't cursing at the cops, and I wasn't flipping
them off. The only interaction I had was some (pointless) banging on
a handcuffed-down barricade, and asking that one cop those few
questions. A reporter from the Washington Post noticed my eye and
asked me what had happened and I told him that the police beat and
sprayed down the crowd after a section of barricade was removed. He
asked me how it felt, and I responded sarcastically "How do you
think it feels?"

Let me digress for a moment to describe the weaponry used by the
Metro D.C. Police Department. For protests, the police are clad in full
hockey-style (probably bullet resistant) body armor. They have metal
batons about 2 and a half feet in length. They have military-style
shielded helmets. And they have pressurized CO2-powered spray
guns which dump about a quart worth of pepper-spray per shot, not
the little hand-held self-defense spray-cans you see on TV. And, of
course, they have their regular pistols. More to the point, given all the
armor the police were wearing, they would be hard-pressed to feel a
couple snowballs and some cardboard tubes on anything but a
psychosomatic level.

So after washing the spray out, I paced along the barricade, smoking
a cigarette, and mentioned to the same officer I had talked with
earlier that "I'm still here." The cops continued to spray people
standing near me, and I walked down the line, flipped them all off,
then stood back, heels at the curb. A few moments passed and one of
the newer cops (armed with a pepper-spray gun) screamed at me to
"get back on the curb," and I did. I stood on the curb, six feet away
from him, looked him in the eye, and he shot me in the face.

At this point, I lost consciousness. Which isn't to say that I passed
out, just that my conscious brain disconnected when my senses of
taste, smell, hearing, and sight disappeared. At that exact moment, I
knew what it was to be a wild animal, totally devoid of civilization,
science, reasoning, and all the other trappings of modern (in the
geological sense) life. I stood in that spot without moving for a
second, and then roared my lungs empty. I don't really know what it
sounded like to anyone else, but from inside my own head it sounded
like a raw mixture of shock and anger. I was clenching my fists, and
then sneezed out what felt like a massive gob of mucus. I believe they
sprayed me a second time as I stood there, but I really can't be sure. I
later learned that a man dressed as Jesus who was holding an "I had
nothing to do with this" sign was sprayed, along with a Fox News
Cameraman. I also was told that a cardboard coffin that someone had
set on fire was pepper sprayed as well, but, as it turns out, pepper
spray is flammable. I still shudder to think what would've happened if
they had shot someone while they were lighting a cigarette.

So, I can't see, smell, hear, or taste anything outside my own head.
My consciousness had returned somewhat after yelling, and I called
for a medic to wash out my eyes--I knew the longer anything goes
un-treated, the greater the chance of a long-term injury, and I can't
see. Someone came up and gently walked me back a couple yards
before describing (politely) in detail that they needed to touch my
eyelids and whatnot. By this time my sense of pain had returned, and
my whole face began to feel like it was on fire. I yelled at him to just
"Do It!" (referring to forcing open my eyelids and dumping water on
them to clean out the spray). After some confusion he did, and I
could almost open my eyes for a second before everything went dark
again. At this point it started to become difficult to breathe--though
I'm not sure if it was the result of panic, the cigarette I had been
smoking before I was sprayed, the spray itself, or all three. None
would surprise me. I bent over and coughed ferociously.

Someone else came up to me claiming to be from the Washington
Post as I was recovering, and asked me what had happened. I told
him that this was the second time I'd been interviewed by the Post,
and the second time I'd been hit with pepper spray. I considered
asking him to "not bury the story," but I figured that he was just as
powerless as me in that regard.

The medics washed out my eyes a couple more times, and I stripped
off my coat, hoody, and shirts, down to my bare, pale-as-snow chest.
The guy who was describing what he was going to do offered to give
me his wool shirt, which I took. As they walked me out of the area,
someone came up to me and told me to stop spraying water on my
face, since "water activates the pepper-spray." The guy I was walking
with told me that he was a cop and could be lying, but after the spray
had dried out it didn't hurt so bad (at least in the cold air). I later
came to the conclusion that the cops had seen me hacking my lungs
out and were worried that I'd collapse or die, which is not only really
bad PR, but a serious lawsuit to boot: killing a 24-year-old college
student for standing on a curb has got to be pretty expensive in court.

Anyways, being blind, soaking wet, 25 blocks from my car, and with
my face feeling like I had thrown a freshly cooked pizza on it, I asked
the guy who was walking me to take me back to my car. After a
couple more wash-outs, my sight started coming back, and after
wandering around with him looking for the friends he came with, we
took the subway back to my car. I drove with them to someone else's
house to crash for the night, and then set out the next morning for
DeKalb, eventually getting back around four in the morning on
Saturday.

Before leaving D.C., we met up with a middle-aged gentleman who
was sleeping in an abandoned warehouse while he took classes on
computer security. He relayed how he had mentioned to one of the
Bush supporters that this country was rapidly becoming a police
state, and how the person in question replied "Good!"

Thank God for freedom.
======================
Copied from infoshop.org


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