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Protest in America -- What Happens When You Do It

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Message Faith Carr
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Protest in America -- What Happens When You Do It.

Let me tell you the story of an organized protest.
Bush's 2nd Inaugural January 2005

There were 60,000-100,000 people. Some beginning in McPherson Park, some coming from Dupont Circle, others from other rally points. Some got "tickets" to the parade route, and waited hours in the January cold so they would get a small spot to observe and protest.

The march filled over 30 blocks. We took the streets, the sidewalks. The police closed off the route to cross traffic. All these people converged 6 blocks from the allowed sidewalk space over a quarter mile away from the motorcade route. We stood and mingled behind eight foot riot fencing.

There was incredible outrage, and solidarity tinged with despair. We traded each others signs and carried them. We carried the 2000 flag draped cardboard caskets, we had drums, and horns, and whistles. And barely controlled ANGER.

30 minutes, before Bushs motorcade began, riot police began forming on "their" side of the fence. As they came down 14th, you could hear their boots, Thump, Thump -- Thump Thump. No other sound but that of the boots, They 1/4 timed it on both sides of the sidewalk, and formed up a foot behind THEIR fence.

The First row, and Pepper Hoses, the Second Row rubber bullets? Third row real bullets? Their weapons resting, relaxed in their arms. Helmets, blackend visors, kevlar vests, black, all black. Shirts, pants, gloves, boots. The riot shields were tinted black. THREE ROWS of them. Set against the very citizens who they were once sworn to protect.

An announcement came over the bullhorns to us behind the fence. "Move off the sidewalk" Every 5 minutes it was repeated with more and more force. The chanting began... WHO'S STREETS -- OUR STREETS. WHOSE SIDEWALK? -- OUR SIDEWALK. WHO'S NATION -- OUR NATION!

A small group of black clad protestors, pushed against the fence, rocking it, pressing their bodies into it until an eight foot section buckled and collapsed onto the riot police. The Pepper Hoses came up.

I was over 50 feet away from where the fencing limply fell over. My companion, was near to the group pushing at the fence, with the cops pushing the fence back up. 10 cops for every citizen.

The chemical mace began to spray over the crowd. The police were using something that looked like Super Soakers. A fine mist of the spray reached me, and before I could pull the scarf over my face, I took a mouthfull. Stupid old me I was waiting for the old school smell of tear gas. The new stuff smells like citrus car freshner.

My companion, near the fence, took a complete facefull. What makes it incredibly ironic is that he was in an ROTC program. He was wearing his Army of One hat, and his ARMY ROTC winter issue jacket. Reuters, AP, all took hundreds of pictures of him kneeling on the sidewalk, while other protesters washed his eyes out with water. Then a medic team came over and started pouring whole milk into his eyes and over his face. They took off his hat, jacket, and the shirt he was wearing and stuffed them into a bag and handed it to me. Volunteers from the National Bar Association came to interview us, to witness, and verify what had happened.

By this time the Inaugural parade was over, and the cops were beginning to disperse the crowd. Foot by foot riot sheild held high, they pushed us back into 14th. WE SAT DOWN. We were going to stay until they left or they MADE us leave. The drummers were drumming... whose streets, OUR STREETS, peace when, NOW...

We sat and waited them out. An hour later, the first of now 5 rows of police began to form up to exit the area. Thump Thump, single file. They stopped at the top of the block stepped off the sidewalk onto the street, sheilds protecting THEM from US. Then flank by flank, row by row the others moved up the now protected sidewalk, away from us.

There was just a single row (facing us) remaining. As the last of them left, we got to our feet. The drums were louder the chants were stronger. We had out waited them. They could not move us from our small one block sit-in. No one was arrested, no one was beaten. We in our small way had perservered.

Did we make any difference? Well, we made the Al-Jazzera (sp) news, as all of Europe reported and posted the photos. We made the front page of the Washington Post, and a special spot in the 2005 Inaugural collectors insert. Front page of the NYT (below the fold) Did we make a difference? Yeah, maybe... We're all talking in this forum.

We're poised on an election that may not turn the tide. We were all practicing for what is surely to come. We learned How To Do It.

I feel proud of that day... I did not go gently into that goodnight... I put my body on the line and survived.

Amazing.... Just freakin' Amazing...

Resistance is Required - Revolution is Possible

ps. On the Metro back to our homestay, there were many well dressed, mink clad Republicans on their way to one inagural ball or another filling the train seats so all us rabel rousers had to stand. Legs weak from marching, feet sore and swollen, skin burning from pepperspray.

My hat, scarf, and gloves were still full of chemical mace. (Had to keep 'em in my pocket). I took them out and sort of tapped them on the pole I was clutching. The "lady" in the full length mink began to cough, her eyes began to water, and her nose to run. She didn't know why. But I like to think of that mink coat, getting petted, sniffed, swirled, hung up against hundreds of other coats, with small bits of mace, floating their way into an inaugural ball.

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Faith Carr is an old, retired political activist. Started backyard farming for REAL in 2006. And for the first time we ate out of the gardens for all 12 months. The mission now is to get as many people growing food as possible. Raised beds, (more...)

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