Me: Is that me?
USPP: Whoever. I'm flexible. I'm agreeable. I'm just here to please.
Me: Except for the whole arresting us part, huh? [climbing out of a cramped metal van where I'd been stuck with a dozen other men, our hands cuffed behind our backs so tightly they left marks and my friend's hands went numb]
Me: No, we didn't want to get arrested. We wanted to engage in free speech.
USPP: Oh, I'm not going to get into that. Step over here. [He asks me my name and address.] Charlottesville? It's beautiful down there. Why would you want to come here and do this? [cutting himself off quickly] I mean I know why, you don't need to tell me.
Earlier that day in front of the White House:
Another police officer (APO): You all will have to move off the sidewalk into the street.
Me: Are you sure the First Amendment says that?
APO: Oh you want to play that game? We can shut the whole area down if you want to play that game.
Me: I didn't say anything about a game.
The president was holding a press conference inside the White House fence with a bunch of doctors who oppose serious healthcare reform. Donna Smith, star of Michael Moore's "Sicko", was standing next to me and telling me that every patient who had appeared in that movie had determined that the healthcare bills now under consideration in Washington would not have done anything to help them and won't now.
Hundreds of peace activists made their way to the White House sidewalk. We joined with some doctors and nurses who were not permitted to take part in the events inside because they support single-payer healthcare. We shouted "Healthcare Not Warfare." We shouted "Troops Home Now. End Warfare." We shouted "Single Payer Now. End Warfare." We made a lot of noise, but we were in the street rather than on the forbidden sidewalk. And there was an incredibly noisy truck behind us that had chosen this moment to clean Pennsylvania Avenue with pressurized hoses.
We moved down the street and the truck came too. But we made a lot more noise. Prisoners in orange from Witness Against Torture chained themselves to the White House fence. So did Cindy Sheehan whose son died in Iraq. Veterans for Peace displayed US, Afghan, and Iraqi coffins and read the names of the dead and shouted: "Mourn the dead! Heal the wounded! End the wars!" The National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, the World Can't Wait, and lots of other groups joined in. Many of us donned black shirts, white placards with the names of dead troops or civilians, and white masks: the March of the Dead. We marched on the sidewalk in front of the White House in silence.