Washington DC anti-war 29 & 30 September 2001

updates from the dcS29 crew

Friday in DC:

DC seems quite normal to us, we have not seen significant police or military presence at all. But we learned that the HUM-Vee’s were in the streets until just a couple of days ago and that cops have been making very threatening public statements against protesters. There is local media torpor about anti-globalization activists being terrorists. Also normal rights in jail have been suspended, such as phone calls and speedy trials.

Attended the People’s Summit Teach-In with useful sessions on structural adjustment, Palestine, and U.S.-Gulf States Relations. (I learned that the US underwrites the Gulf States regimes, most of which are emirates and other kinds of royal/dictatorial regimes. This means that the people of most Arab states are resentful of how our support for their elitist diminishes the possibilities of any kind of social movements there. We control Arab oil not for our own purposes of consumption but because it is the “gas pump for capitalism”, meaning that we control the supplies for Japan and Europe, which is part of our power over the whole capitalist system. Israel is more often than not an inconvenience to this project because the Arab states are pissed at us for supporting Israel. Right now we’ve told Sharon NOT to increase repression of Palestinians as we line up some sort of support among Arab states for the anti-terrorist project. This also means that an Islam vs. US war or West vs. Arab world war is not really feasible.)

Also attended a sort of movement strategy session with about 60 people which was endless statements of the obvious; really disappointing. Made me feel that [UpRoot] really has our stuff together. Saw a pretty large Critical Mass (60-70 bikes) off into rush hour traffic from Dupont Circle. One helicopter and 5 motorcycle cops who looked like they belonged in the Shriner’s parade on their miniature bikes…

Went to the Anti-Capitalist Convergence for a 7 pm “General Meeting”. We asked if there was spokescouncil and they said “no, just a meeting”. It didn’t start until 8, about 150 people there, and the vanguard group not only didn’t identify themselves but really limited any discussion of substantive issues. Fithian and Starhawk are skulking around the ACC, doing their usual pseudo behind the scenes behavior (others who I don’t recognize are acting that way but not speaking up). ACC are mounting two main activities, a march tomorrow at 9 am starting at Louisiana and C (they won’t tell us where we are going or the route) and a Temporary Autonomous Zone in Malcolm X Park. They are hosting a community dinner at this TAZ on Saturday night and then various activities on Sunday.

We later learned: that a lot of long-term radical anarchists have abandoned ACC as they find it extremist; that the ACC has rejected offers of radical Mob for Global Justice activists to participate (after MGJ was disbanded); that they are trying to maintain the TAZ on Sunday, when the Washington Peace Center/AFSC march has a permit to depart from there, thus they are endangering the latter and have resisted withdrawing. Familiar faces from other actions tell us that everybody is scared and have no idea what will happen tomorrow. There is no legal support team. Indymedia is in good shape. Bread and Puppet Theater from Vermont is supposedly sending a large number of puppets for tomorrow morning’s march. Also tomorrow at noon is the International Action Center march. And Starhawk et. al. are going to “exorcise” the World Bank to “drive out the evil spirits”. Then Sunday at 11 is the Washington Peace Center/AFSC march.


Saturday in DC

We attended only two events today: the Anti-Capitalist Convergence march at 9 AM and the International Action Center rally/march at noon.

We arrived at 8:45 at the meeting point for the non-permited ACC “march to the World Bank” only to stand around for over an hour with little information and no action except for cheers and excitement when a protester with a bullhorn pointed out two undercover cops who subsequently joined their uniformed comrades and tried to maintain their “manhood”. It appeared as if we were waiting for an escort from several troops of riot cops who arrived at about 10:00 and surrounded us on 3+ sides. As soon as they were in place we took the street and headed directly toward a wall of cops. They wouldn’t let us take the route our leaders desired, but said they would not arrest us or use chemical weapons if we followed their “quickest and safest way to the World Bank”. Perhaps 800-900 of us (IMC probably has a better estimate that we haven’t seen) marched obediently behind several police cars and no one tried to challenge the rows of riot cops who marched on either side of us. We always ask them to join us and march with us, but it’s really not that empowering when they do. We arrived at the bank, which was closed, as is most of the rest of the city on weekends, chanted at it for a while, and then just stood around. There was no attempted direct action or civil disobedience except for a few people who tried to “exorcise the evil spirits” from the bank. Let’s hope they were successful. The crowd began to disperse and we decided to head toward the afternoon rally/march organized by the International Action Center.

Before we could leave, hundreds of riot cops completely surrounded the large intersection and would not allow anyone to leave. Lots of people were frightened and tense; we just sat on the grass and ate sandwiches. The rumors were plenty throughout our two-hour detainment–that we would be allowed to leave in a minute, that we were all going to be arrested, that we were going to be assaulted with chemical weapons, that we would not be allowed to leave until the conclusion of the IAC event, etc. No one would tell us why we were being detained or when we would be allowed to leave. The cops were frightened as an anarchist soccer match (“no rules just goals”) broke out in the middle of one of our streets. Non-detained protesters chanted “let them go” from across the street and the several thousand at the IAC action debated whether or not they would march toward us pressure the cops for our release. At about 1:00 Lisa Fithian (a protest organizer) announced that they had negotiated with the cops who agreed to allow us to march to the IAC action. We were herded several blocks to the action and were greeted with cheers.

The IAC action was sanctioned by the state–a rally in “Freedom Square” followed by a march to the capitol. The rally was mostly uneventful and lasted until about 3:15. We marched, several thousand strong, with less police presence than the ACC march. We encountered patriotic counter-demonstrations at one point; they numbered less than 50, carried pathetic signs, and had no chants whatsoever. There were shouts between the two groups but no serious confrontations. We arrived at a park across the street from the capitol where there was another rally–IAC leaders told us that there were 25,000 of us, but we estimated 10,000-15,000 at the most.

There is a march tomorrow at noon that is supposed to be larger than either of the two today. We think there will be no direct action because protesters are timid and there are just too many cops.

Hopefully a more exciting update tomorrow…sounds like Denver was more eventful than DC.

Sunday in DC

This information was dictated over phone, apologies for any misrepresentations

Amory: The action today was a festive march of 3-4 thousand through ethnic and gay neighborhoods. It had a strong educational component (radical leaflets). There were 200 puppets from Bread and Circus.

Some of the signs and chants seen and heard today:

  • Our Grief is not a call for war
  • The people of Afghanistan need food and Medicine. NOW! or Millions will die. Millions!
  • Americans get a clue, People around the world hate you. Guns to Israel, War in Iraq. What made you think they’d never fight back?
  • Spare the world more misery, Take control of your history
  • Bin Laden, Saadam, Pinochet, all created by the CIA
  • Stop the war, Stop the execution, Save it for the revolution

Brian and Matt: There was no direct action. The action was sanctioned by the state. It was disempowering and boring.

Beth: It was a place for people to unify. It was educational and positive. The emotion during the action was pretty consistent throughout the day, as compared to Saturday which was filled with highs and lows. There was a woman from Italy who performed journalistic theater. She gave a good speech about the situation of the Kurds. She presented this information by enacting a news broadcast from the Kurds point of view.

Josh: It was a peace love fest. It was passive and non aggressive. There was more diversity in age and ethnicity that Saturday. The parade started in Malcom X Park and culminated at Sheridan Square. People stopped to pray around a statue of Ghandi. The black bloc Climbed the statue of General Sheridan(?) riding a horse. They put a black flag in his hand and duck-taped his eyes. They also hung an anarchist flag from the horse. The speeches that took place at the park were focused on the Kurds- the park was near the Turkish Embassy.