Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Let's Play Political Blog!
The protest was amazing. Life-changing. Inspiring. A cause for hope. 100,000 people gathered in the streets and demanded change.
Not that anyone who wasn't there would know that. Thanks, big media, thanks a lot.
If you got your info on from CNN or FOX or the AP (that is, if you found any coverage at all), it probably went something like this: Peace protesters squared off with pro-war advocates in DC. Radicals got maced and arrested. Now, back to OJ...
Where's that liberal media when you need 'em?
Here's my experience:
We took the subway to downtown DC and picked up a couple of "End the war NOW" signs. We were over three hours early for the march, and although hundreds of people were already gathered behind the White House, we decided to take some time to explore. We'd barely been there five minutes when a man approached us and said, sheepishly, in broken English, "Can I please take a photo with you?"
"Sure," my boyfriend and I said, and he handed my brother his camera.
"Can you please hold the signs high?" the man asked.
We hoisted them up and smiled for the picture. Afterward, I asked him where he was from.
"Mexico City," he told us, and motioned to the signs. "Thank you. Thank you so much."
We headed back to the gathering place (not before being stopped and thanked by a man from India and encouraged by a delivery man who said, "Let's bring our boys home."). Thousands of people had congregated by now, but still, when I looked up at the White House, I felt insignificant and vulnerable. I don't know, maybe it was the snipers.
The pre-march rally was really inspiring. We heard from Iraq war veterans, military moms, and ministers of every religion. I can't think of any other way to say this, so I'll have to employ a cliche here, but there was truly an electricity in the air. I was surrounded by tens of thousands of other people who wanted--demanded--peace on earth. I turned around during one of the speeches and saw that the square had filled completely, and people were overflowing down every street farther than I could see (that's "farther than I could see," not "farther than the eye could see"--jesus, I'm not that into cliches). You know that giant protest scene in Forrest Gump where the guy keeps yelling "Viet-fucking-nam!"? It felt like that. It was amazing.
The march itself was fuckin' incredible. The sky stretched out in front of us in perfect blue, people were laughing and chanting, there was even a guy selling pretzels--God truly blessed America.
A beautiful old church on the march route had opened its doors and set up speakers that were playing "How to Save a Life." And this is when I fell in love with Washington DC.
Now, the media would have you believe that the ratio of peace protesters to pro-war protesters was 1:1, if not 1 crazy hippie:500,000 honorable patriots, but holy hell is this wrong. We didn't encounter one pro-war person until about three-quarters of the way into the march. While there were only 500-1000 of them (versus our 100,000, which doesn't totally reflect public opinion or anything...), I've got to give them credit for extreme nastiness. They yelled death threats at us and asked why we love terrorists so much (ah yes, I do love my terrorists). Here is a picture of a sweet old lady gesturing to a young woman peace protester that she wants to slit her throat (I'm dead serious):
Isn't that adorable??
Anyway, I'm not going to waste any more words on them because they've already been exhaustively lauded by all major media outlets. I will say that America is a wonderful place where two groups that are so opposed to each have every right to share a space and voice their views, but when there are 500 people on one side, and tens of thousands on the other, and the media gives them equal billing, well, that's a fucking tragedy.
When we reached Capitol Hill, the police were in riot gear and had a barricade set up so we couldn't get close. They were marching back and forth in such a dramatic fashion that part of the crowd started singing the Imperial theme from Star Wars. I thought that was clever.
People started offering themselves up for arrest by voluntarily crossing the police line. They would climb over a small fence and the cops would grab them. The crowd roared "Thank you!" as each pair of handcuffs snapped shut. It was beautiful. Two hundred people--Iraq veterans, old ladies, teenagers--went to jail to make a statement. It would have made a damn good one, too, had any of this been covered by the media.
Things got pretty tense at this stage in the protest. More cops were flooding in and they placed officers with tear gas at the front lines. A geeky teenage boy a few feet behind me got bored and started playing light saber, by himself, with a piece of his sign. A cop wearing a face mask, grabbed a can of pepper spray big enough to disable a bear and shouted, "You see the stick? You see the guy with the stick?" to the officer next to him, who drew his baton and said, "I see it." I heard screaming as a group of rowdier protesters a few hundred feet to my left got maced. People were calling the cops "traitors" and yelling "Shame on you!" This wasn't a situation I wanted to be in. First of all, crowds can get crazy really fast and give the cops ample reason to use force. And secondly, I didn't come to Washington DC to taunt cops, who were just doing their jobs, I came to protest the war.
Here's me posing with one of the cops who was guarding my section:
We had a bond. I know he felt it too.
In conclusion, it was a fantastic experience, and although the lack of media coverage is enraging (only after wading through hours of OJ news did we find a brief mention of the march), to be there, to see the passion of the people, was so encouraging. Also, I fell completely in love with Washington DC and hope to move there sometime in the next few years. If you live there and read my blog, you are required to be my friend.
As for the question of what to wear to a protest march (and to sort of bring this blog back to the whole fashion thing), I decided to go with a trucker hat I got airbrushed by a reformed convict for fifteen bucks at the State Fair (classy, right?), big aviator sunglasses (always), a black t-shirt embellished with political buttons, a peace sign necklace, and jeans. Basic, yes, but it did the job.
I wanted to say thank you to all of you who left supportive comments and emails. I had my mom read them to me at different airport stops throughout the trip (and I read them a million times when I got home) and they made my heart flutter!
Thanks so much for your support and patience, and now we should be back to our regularly scheduled programming.