ACCOUNT OF DEMOS IN DC BY PORTLAND ACTIVIST
A brief, personal account of the demos last weekend including; People's Strike, the Mobilization for Global Justice Rally and the Anti-War Demo. This is by no means a comprehensive analysis or anything like that, just my view.
FRIDAY SEPT 27
THE PEOPLE'S STRIKE
This was the day of direst action organized by DC Anti-Capitalist Convergence (ACC). The objective of the People's strike was to shut down the core of DC or at least disrupt bussiness as usual. The action was very decentralized with activists grouping into affinity groups (6-12) and then into clusters (2 or 3 affinity groups together). My cluster was grouped around activists from Left Turn (an anti-capitalist group with the magazine Left Turn) and SUSTAIN (a Palestinian rights group) and some Columbian activists. We arrived at Dupont Circle at 6:30 AM to do banner drops and leafleting at this location and on the way to freedom plaza. The Pagan cluster (with Starhawk) was also doing an action in the middle of Dupont Circle. Traffic was light, suggesting that DC was disrupted considerably by the people's strike. The police presence was heavy, intended to intimidate, riot cops were everywhere!
As we headed out to Freedom Plaza we saw the Critical Mass ride go by with a massive police "escort" around them. Reports poured in from other activists by cell phone about all the mass arrests, first the snake march and later the Pagan cluster and eventually the remainder of the Critical Mass riders. We were all sure we would be arrested, we were just hoping to avoid a beating or pepper spray. Soon our cluster hooked up with another cluster (mostly younger anarchists) and we had the numbers to block some intersections while moving torward Freedom Plaza. We met with a large group of cops "protecting" a Starbucks and the cops moved in around us. The anarchist cluster took a wrong turn and walked torward a Citibank where the windows had been broken earlier. It looked like a lot of them were getting busted. My cluster went another way and continued torward Freedom Plaza with the riot cops closing in on us also. They were boxing us in and pushing violently as if getting ready for another mass arrest but somehow we ended up at Freedom Plaza linking up with others.
There was press from all over the world at the Plaza, so we figured if they were going to do an arrest it would be best if it were broadcast around the world. The numbers at Freedom Plaza were small but we got lots of press coverage and got a message out. There was a tense moment when there were several loud sounds that sounded like shots came from the far end of Freedom Plaza but it ended up being a cop motorcycle back firing.
As you may know 649 people were arrested that day. Although this action did not bring out the numbers needed to be effective, it was a success based on the fact that it was the first post 9-11 direct action of its kind. It took a LOT of courage for people to come out for this type of action.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 28
MOBILIZATION FOR GLOBAL JUSTICE (MGJ) RALLY AND MARCH
The rally, coordinated by Mobilization for Global Justice, featured many speakers and performers. Activists speaking at the weekend's events included Ralph Nader, Maude Barlow, Oscar Olivera, Medea Benjamin and musician Michelle Shocked. Although I am sure this rally was entertaining, it dragged on for too long and people were getting hot and tired.
Following the rally, demonstrators marched through the city to Farragut Square near the site of the IMF and World Bank. I marched with the "Parade of US Aid" contingent (sponsored by SUSTAIN, Left Turn, ACC) which highlighted the role of US aid to Israel. We had a large cardboard Caterpillar bulldozer destroying cardboard Palestinian homes. People were wearing white and red bull's-eye targets around them with the names of nationalities terrorized by US aid (Palestinians, Afgani, Iraqis, Columbians, etc.)
At Farragut Sq. it soon became apparent that we did not have the numbers to Quarentine the IMF/WB meeting. There we some lock downs but these were largely sybolic. On the news that night I saw an interview with one of the european delegates to the IMF meeting and a reporter asked if DC police did a good job protecting the meeting. He relied "yes, TOO good" to which the reporter seemed suprized "what do you mean 'too good'" he asks, the delegate stops and thinks and answers "well, it's not real".
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 29
RALLY AND MARCH AGAINST WAR ON IRAQ
A march against the war starting at Dupont Circle and ending at VP Dick Cheney's house (under gound bunker?) at the naval observatory. In route we passed by various embassies including South Africa. One moving moment was when we passed by the South African embassy we were greeted by Black Women embassy workers flashing peace signs and raised fist salutes - we greeted them back with the chant "so-so-so-SOLIDARITY!" We also got a good reception as we passed the Islamic Center. This was the third day of protests for many people so the numbers were not as large as we would have liked. Reports say we had 10,000 on this march. The same day 400,000 marched against war on Iraq in London! Clearly we have to build the anti-war movement in this country.