Sunday, September 25, 2005

This Is What Democracy Looks Like.

As many as a million people descended upon Washington to call for peace and the end of the war in Iraq. Thousands upon thousands gathered near the Ellipse at noon, rallying for peace, and demonstrating with street theater.

As I approached the Ellipse I came across a field of make-shift white crosses, just as we saw at Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas during Cindy Sheehan’s protest outside of George Bush’s ranch. As I got closer to the growing massive crowd, with the Washington Monument right next to us, you could already see elaborate protest signs depicting a not-so-flattering image of our nation’s leaders.

I saw this guy standing on 15th Street, waiting for the march to begin. His sign gave me a laugh, and I insisted on taking a picture of him with it. He was more than happy to oblige.

The crowd continued to grow before the march began, with so many people filling the streets that you felt like you were in a can of sardines. Up and down Constitution Ave and 15th Street was a massive group people, stretching as far as the eye could see.

On the corner of Constitution and 15th five protesters climbed a column, playing a drum and chanting protests of, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, George Bush has got to go!” in repetition, encouraging the gathering crowd to join them.

Finally, the march kicked off, but because the crowd was so large, it was more like a shuffle.

I hurried up ahead to get a better look at some of the different groups participating. Among them, were Veterans For Peace, who marched with the US flag leading to procession, as they sang their cadence.

Up ahead were a large group of protesters holding cardboard likenesses of burned Iraqi bodies. They were led by a procession of drummers, who mimicked the sounds of artilliary being shot at them. As the drumming sped up the bodies waved back and forth more dramatically, looking as if a herd of desperate people were running for their lives. With a final roll, the drumming stopped, and the bodies fell to the ground, recreating an impromptu die-in.

I marched on, trying to get ahead of Veterans and the die-ins. As I went ahead, I saw this woman holding this sign, right before the march turned left onto Pennsylvania Ave.

As soon as I turned onto Pennsylvania, it began to rain. Long lines of rope stretched up and down the street, with images of soldiers who had died in Iraq.

Here, we caught our first glimpse of some “counter-protesters.” The Billionaires For Bush were there in force, standing on the sidewalk, holding some humorous signs.

The march began to slow down to a crawl, and I began to wonder why. Perhaps the police were causing trouble up ahead. As I marched further, trying to dart around people, I saw a large group of people dancing, with the sounds of drums blaring in the distance. I was wondering why everyone decided to suddenly break down into song and dance until I looked over to my left. We had arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., and the crowd wanted to make sure that the administration heard us loud and clear.

Outside the White House was some interesting characters, such as this man on stilts, depicting a likeness of Uncle Sam mixed with Pinocchio.

This was not the first peace protest I’d been too. I’d been to a few where the number of cops had outnumbered the protesters by 2 to 1. I had never seen a single incident of violence at a single one of these protests that was not initiated by the police. At this protest, I got my first glimpse of any police presence. Despite that this was by far the largest peace protest I had ever attended, the police very extraordinarily laid back. Some 30 feet away, half way across Lafayette Park were a group of police on horseback. Children approached them to pet the horses, and the police obliged.

At one point, one police officer got his horse to prance around in circles, in beat to our drumming outside the White House. It was hilarious.

We began to wonder with all this ruckus, if the President would make an appearance. To our surprise he did show up. Standing on the sidewalk outside the White House, he was holding a briefcase which was labeled “secret memos”, as he held world, a pretzel, and a quart of oil in his hands. Right behind him was Dick Cheney and none other than Satan himself.

As I left the White House, I noticed a few police officers who were standing guard between the building and us. They numbered only about a half dozen, and they looked quite bored.

As the march continued down to the other side of Lafayette Park, a few people stopped to sit down and take a rest.

I was beginning to tire myself, and thought I should head back a bit early, so I wouldn’t be stuck on the Metro with a million other people all trying to get back home.

As the march headed down 14th Street we finally got to some genuine counter-protesters. They were lied up along one sidewalk, and numbered at most to be about 30 people. As the massive peace protest walked past them, they were shouted down with chants of “Sign up!” and “Enlist!”

At that point I left the march because my feet had begun to blister. I had been marching for the last 4 hours. It was a lot of fun, and certainly worth it to participate in his historic march to end the war in Iraq. The size of our numbers made it clear who the majority was. This is what democracy looks like.


Blogger M A F said...

Great photos of wonderfully creative signs. I found myself laughing at several of them. I wanted to thank you for suffering through the blisters.

10:20 PM  
Blogger Alva Goldbook said...

yur welcome, much appreciated. By the way, there's a pretzel sign somewhere in there near the top of the post. you couldn't read the bottom of it, but it said "better luck next time".

10:48 PM  
Anonymous charmaine said...

Thanks for all the great pictures, and the good blogging about the event.

Here in my city, we organized our protest in front of our Representative's office. We had a great crowd, and a counter protest across the street. The way we shut them down was the same; telling them to enlist. Several came over later in the day to talk, and were actually quite pleasant.

I wish I could have been in Washington, but if we who can't go show our support, it's a great help. Especially if we have rightwing congressmen/women. Ours was none too happy about our use of his "space".

11:36 AM  

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