Friday, October 7, 2011

Stop the Machine: October 6, 2011

My wife and I arrive at the protest in Washington DC at 1 pm on Thursday, October 6. I have one question in mind – how has the “Occupy Wall Street” protest, which we were at last Saturday, impacted this movement? was planned before the Occupy Wall Street protest started, over the summer. I first heard about it on political cartoonist Ted Rall’s website (he’s speaking at today’s event, but unfortunately for us, we won’t be around this evening when he’s slated to appear).

As we exit the Federal Triangle Metro station, 1 block away from Freedom Plaza where the protest is being held, I can hear a roar from the protesters. As we walk over, a guy in a Cat-in-the-Hat hat is visible – one of the participants? But no, he just seems to be a local yokel hanging out nearby. We get to the square and I see the first sign of the day – “W.A.R. – Wasted American Resources” – right next to that is a bunch of model drone planes labeled “Unmanned Assassination Vehicles.” I hear a distant voice echoing over a loudspeaker but cannot make out any words. A picture showing G.W. Bush and Obama next to each other has the caption “War Crimes must be stopped no matter who commits them.”

I see piles of shoes – of dead soldiers I guess – They have names on plastic tags attached to them, along with their age when they died and where they came from – examples: “CPL Ramona M. Valdez, 20, Bronx, NY” – “CPT Phillip T. Esposito, 30, Suffern, NY” – I hear drums beating in the distance. Sign: “Out of Afghanistan Now.” Signs are laid out on the ground, just like at Occupy Wall Street, although this time they seem to be on posterboard, whereas in NY many were on the backs of pizza boxes. I see a vendor table of political buttons, including Kennedy. Who would buy a Kennedy button today? Who knows who Kennedy was? Signs: “Jobs” – “Corporate Personhood Sucks the Blood from Lives.” The people here are a mix of ages, from old to young, lots of different races – white, black, Asian.

We walk to a big stage which has a picture of the US constitution at the back of it (“We the People” is very prominent) and a rapper in front of it – can’t hear what he’s saying. Sign: “Torture is Illegal” – I decide to start counting the number of times I see 99% on signs, just saw the first one, the “99% count” or 9C is now 1. I estimate 600-700 people are here. 9C is now 2. We come across the source of the drums heard earlier (it was not the rapper) – 4 people are beating on an enormous tom-tom – must be 4 feet in diameter. 9C is now 3. I see a flag about something I don’t know anything about, decide to write it down to look it up later: Tuialuuluu Pago Pago December 4, 2004” – turns out it’s about the 3rd Samoan soldier who died in Iraq – was Samoa one of the George Bush’s “Coalition of the Willing”?

A guy who looks Arab from “Egyptian-Americans for Change” gets on stage and says, “We know Americans are people who are peaceful” – and I think  “Bullshit! We are the most warlike people on the planet!” We come across a reporter being interviewed – he has a Brit accent – BBC?

We come across a sign-painting booth. “Disturb the Stagnation.” An announcer from the stage says that the organizers need water. A sign amuses me personally – “Error 404 – Democracy Not Found” – I am a web technician, a 404 error means a bad web link. Best sign of the day, “Unfuck the World.” I see a police officer and realize he’s the first one I’ve seen all day.
We are now at the back of the plaza. I see 4 old guys playing musical instruments and singing – two banjos, one harmonica, and what seems to be a ukelele. What are they singing? The classic Woodie Guthrie “This land is your land, this land is my land.” The guy playing the ukelele turns around and I see it’s not a ukelele, it’s a mini banjo! Who knew there was such a thing!

I note 4 tall towers on one side of the plaza, with satellite dishes. No labels. Police? We walk over to see if we can identify. Most are unlabeled even after close inspection, but one has an NBC logo. 9C count is now 5.

We see a first aid tent and a free food tent. Indications of an intent to stick around past today? Sign: “Realize the Real Lies” - I get the pun! I am handed a pamphlet by a Lyndon LaRouche (the head of the Libertarian Party) supporter that has a picture of Obama with a Hitler mustache.
We walk two blocks away for a break, passing a flag over a building which I am determined to figure out what it is – three red stars over three red stripes on a white background. As we are drinking a beer, three Washingtonians notice our “Unsolicited Drivel” T-shirts and ask what we’re all about. We tell them we are bloggers who are reporting on the protest. The woman of the group (her +2men) comments that “DC people don’t go to these things.” My wife comments to me – “perhaps if you can afford to live in DC you don’t care about such things?”

We go back to the Plaza, stopping under the “Syrian” flag, only to find it is a place called the “Christian Science Reading Room.” As we get back to the plaza, I immediately notice that the 99% signs are everywhere and stop counting. Sign: “Herman Cain, I am black, and Democrat, and not brainwashed.”
There’s now a rock band on stage. They’re good, and oddly have a trombonist who’s a good soloist. I spot two police officers watching from a nearby roof about 12 stories up.

Some extreme asshole with a megaphone is going around shouting about Jesus and making intentionally annoying “echo” sounds like: “ECHO CHo cho cho cho” etc. A speaker is on the stage talking about taking back America from the corporations and about rescinding corporate personhood. We think the whole show is getting a little dull when suddenly it gets interesting: we and hundreds of others are asked to go to the far end of the plaza and sit in formation to create a human  “99%,” which is photographed from the top of one of the nearby buildings. If you see this picture, my wife and I are in the bottom “o” of the “%” at the bottom part of it. Our shirts are purple in front.

The group left to march on the Chamber of Commerce and K Street, but we had to go to pick up my father at BWI, who was coming in for a visit. One further thing happened before we got to the airport that seemed relevant. At the DC metro Union Center Red Line stop, I suddenly noticed that every single ad space was taken up by one corporation, advertising a single message: Wells Fargo Bank announced that it was taking over Wachovia Bank. Wells Fargo was one of the banks which was bailed out by US taxpayers. As I was waiting for the red line train, I counted the Wells Fargo ads: 17 – literally every ad space in sight – did I pay for this? Did you? And the other 99% of America?

BTW, the answer to my original question – how had the “Occupy Wall Street” movement impacted this protest – unclear. Much of the language was similar, particularly the use of “99%,” yet the relationship between the two movements was not at the end of the day clear to me. The DC protest is, like the NY protest, supposed to be a long-term affair, not just a one-day protest. We’ll see over time if the two merge or not.

Posted by GMan with photos by Laurie B.

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Stop the Machine: October 6, 2011

1 comments so far :

Hank Hendricks said...

Tags are mostly use in the sports.
Have you ever use plastic key tags for scratching the Scratch Cards?

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