Saturday, January 27, 2007

March on Washington Against the Iraq War

Deborah and I headed out for the rally at about 9:30. Jennifer, Scott and Wesley had gone earlier with their “Hoosier Methodists for Peace” sign.

Scott, Jennifer and Wesley hail from Muncie, Indiana. They were guests in Deborah Fort's home for the March Weekend. They're just heading out for the rally.

We emerged from the Metro at the Archives stop, and stepped right into a “CODEPINK” rally. Sean Penn was addressing the crowd, then Dennis Kucinich followed. Looking around the Navy Memorial square, I was underwhelmed by the crowd size. Well-separated, across the street, a small, but vocal group of anti-protesters hurled vitriolic rhetoric via megaphone.

CODEPINK rally at the Navy Memorial

Sean Penn addresses the CODEPINK rally

Newlyweds Dennis and Elizabeth Kucinich. He would have been more convincing dressed in pink.

Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich of Ohio addresses a morning CODEPINK rally

The opposition is not quite so tactful

After taking a few pictures, I left Deborah and set out in search of the desk, where, being a "scholarship" recipient, it was requested I check in. I wasn’t very prepared for this event. With the computer down, I had no information and depended upon others.

Having previously looked at a schematic of the rally site, I knew generally where was to be, but couldn’t find their table. Asked many people, receiving vague directions at best. There weren’t all the accustomed booths and tables, as in the San Francisco rallies I've attended. I also wanted to find a Veterans for Peace table, but when I asked members of a group wearing the Vets shirts, I met with puzzled expressions. No one thought of bringing buttons or shirts to sell, or literature to pass out.

Optimists are welcome

The Reverend Jesse Jackson interviewed by the press

Protests don't have to be miserable

Even "Working Assets Long Distance" (WALD) gets into the act, supplying signs for the March

Dancing for peace volunteers start to get organized for the rally

After an hour or so, I found a group of members gathered around unmarked tables handing out “Out of Iraq/Iraq Escalation – Wrong Way” signs. One woman I checked in with immediately asked “can you help?” Caught off guard, I stuttered, “I kind of wanted to take photographs of the event…”

Then I thought about who brought me here, and joined in, grabbing a stack of signs to hand out. I was surprised how easy it was to “get rid of them”. Repeatedly returned for additional stacks, overcoming my resistance to raising my voice, and encouraging people to take the signs.

Large groups of Union members turned out to support de-funding the Iraq War

Wake up!

Parts of the March resembled a circus

George dispatching the opposition

For my brother Jeff in Waterbury

Jane Fonda addresses a peace demonstration for the first time in 34 years. She has avoided such public statements for fear that the slander she has been subjected to might taint the cause. But now, she says "silence is not an option."

The rally was larger than the half dozen or so San Francisco rallies I’ve attended (those being back in the pre-war and early-war days. What happened to that energy?)

As the march started, I rushed to the front to capture some pictures, but found no decent vantage point. Hurried up Capitol Hill, thinking I’d get a better perspective, but the marchers were too strung out for me to capture any sense of the total mass of people.

A conclusion many have arrived at...

Counter-protesters, outnumbered about 10,000 to 1

There is something futile about a weekend march among lifeless, empty office buildings. We are almost totally reliant upon the press to convey the import of this event, for our congress members certainly aren't here to see it. All these people, and every effort is made to cause as little disruption and "inconvenience" to the city as possible. I have to wonder, what's the point?

In front of the Supreme Court

Behind the Capitol, the march turned back on itself, which confused marchers and really made no sense. It had apparently been a tough negotiation just to get this path approved. Though the organizers had intended to encircle the Capitol, the permit did not allow it. (I later heard that Maxine Walters insisted police move barricades and allow the march to proceed completely around the Capitol. If true, I missed it, as I had joined others retracing our steps.)

A logjam formed where celebrities were “leading” the march (about a quarter mile behind the actual front of the march.) I contributed to the mess by jumping in to take photos.

Medea Benjamin, Sean Penn, Jesse Jackson, Tom Hayden, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins are among those leading the march.

Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins were among the speakers addressing today's assembly

One of the most powerful moments in the march was coming upon the "Iraq Veterans Against the War", marching and chanting in cadence. They are far too young to have experienced so much.

The truth hurts

Once I started back down from Capitol Hill, and saw the long train of marchers still approaching, the impressive size of the demonstration began to sink in.

The atmosphere was fairly non-threatening. It was a beautiful, sunny day. Unusually warm for January. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood. The police stood casually by at their roadblocks, or wandered around on Honda motorcycles.

Carrying words of wisdom

The Bush Chain Gang

Only one small incident that I witnessed attracted the "wrong" kind of attention. On a wall outside the Senate Office building, a young man kept challenging a security guard. He was looking for a confrontation, and seemed to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The officer ordered the man down from the wall. With shouts of protest, the man reluctantly climbed down. The officer walked away, then the man climbed right back up. He tried to encourage others to join his defiant act. This pointless challenge was repeated four or five or six times. “A real jerk.”

"Women Say 'Pull Out'!"

The "Raging Grannies" were actually pretty sweet

The "Buddhist Peace Delegation"

The March climbs Constitution Avenue to Capitol Hill

A youthful Lady Liberty

It was quite heartening to see so many young people turn out for the March (though some seemed a little late!)

Singing against Satan

By 3:30 or 4:00, the crowd was dwindling and on corners and across the Mall, there were piles of discarded pickets. People sifted through the debris in search of their favorite signs and other souvenirs.

Post-March wrap-up

John and Sun Kim came in from New York for the protest today and were staying with Deborah this evening. When I returned to the house, everyone was gathered in the den, watching “C-Span’s” coverage of the rally.

Watched Jane Fonda’s speech. Like a scene out of Forrest Gump, I laughed when I saw my “flying companion” Alan Castro, his long hair hanging out from under a ball cap, standing on the stage right behind Jane, chatting with other celebrities.

With the Kim’s occupying the basement, I moved to a small bed in the office upstairs. According to Deborah, the bed dates from the 1870s, the only piece rescued from a fire in her Great Grandmother’s home, I think she said. She warned it was very short. It may have even been a child’s bed.

Tried using my computer to download photos and record some observations from today, but it would just freeze up after a short time. I’ll have to rely on the camera’s memory card to store the photos, and my little memo pad to store the thoughts.

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