Friday, January 21, 2005

Protest Sobriety!

The alarm went off at 5:45am Thursday. Inauguration Day. The first day of the rest of my life (or at least the next four years). DT, Steve and I were supposed to meet at a bagel shop in Arlington at 6:30am, so that we could be at Union Station by 7:30am for the Critical Mass Anti-Inauguration ride.

Arrive on scene, DT was waiting. Steve rode up soon after. We decide to park DT's car in a lot in Arlington, pile all the bikes onto my truck, and drive down as close to Union Station as we could before road closures forced us to park. We made it all the way to 5th and Mass Ave, found a parking lot, left the truck and headed towards the meeting place.

When we rode up to Union Station we found probably 150 people milling about. I'd guess 75 of them were on bikes and seemed to be CM participants. The rest were "mainstream" media (FoxNews(*cough*), TVTokyo, Washington Post and others), independent media/photographers, general curiosity seekers, and people getting off of buses, heading to the ceremonies. The most frightening thing (aside from all the cowboy hats and fur coats) that I saw was one redneck carrying a sign reading "I support the torture and execution of terrorists". Nice. Because it's so easy to tell which ones are terrorists, and which ones aren't, there's no chance of torturing and executing innocent people. Just ask all of those "terrorists" in Guantinimo Bay. Like the ones we keep releasing, 4 years after locking them up because...oops! they weren't really terrorists after all...sorry! Anyway, I digress...

We were supposed to meet Zach at the rally point for the ride. When he finally comes up, he tells us that he's been swamped for comments and interviews by the media (as he's standing there telling us this, TVTokyo comes up and asks for an interview with him). Nobody is really sure why he was so popular, but he had a lot of really good points to make (DC's lack of representation, the $17+million bill that DC is being stuck with by the Inauguration committee), and did so very articulately, so he was a pretty good representative for DC and CM.

We end up standing around for a while when it becomes clear that one of the good points of CM, a lack of centralized leadership, is also one of it's biggest failings. 75 people standing around in the cold waiting for somebody to say "go". Luckily, Zach took the reigns and got things moving and lead us along the ride route. He lives on the Hill, so he seemed to be the most familiar with the area.

We left Union Station, headed who knows where (I was just following the lead. I'm not all that familiar with the DC streets) until we got to a counter-inauguration HQ. There, they had hot chocolate and restrooms waiting for us. The group stayed there for maybe 30 minutes before heading out to our next stop, the "indy media center". Evidently they had Internet access setup inside for bloggers or anybody who wanted to file reports "from the field". It didn't seem like anybody was interested in doing that, so we pedaled on towards the end of the ride.

The ride ended at some park, where other counter-inauguration festivities were under way. The mock caskets (which represented some of the 1000+ soldiers killed in Iraq) were being assembled and flag-draped. There was a speaker and some music going on in the distance. The four of us (DT, Steve, Zach and I) hung out for a bit before deciding to strike out on our own ride. There was another CM ride scheduled for 4pm, and as it was now maybe 10:30am...we had some time to kill. It's decided that we would head down to Dupont Circle and see what was brewing there. That was another meeting place for demonstrators, as well as being the place for the start of the 4pm CM ride. We get down there and head directly for the warm, sugary goodness that is the Krispy Kream donut shop. We hang out there long enough to thaw out then head over to take a closer look at the rally. A couple of speakers, some pink bows, some signs. Cool. We sitck around there for a bit then decide to ride down to the DMZ (the 100 sq/block no-entry zone) to see what was happening there.

I really wish I knew more street names so I could be more descriptive in my...err...descriptions. But alas...

So we arrive at the DMZ, checkpoint 10 to be precise, just north of Lafayette Park. Not much to see here, so we decide to start a lap around the DMZ and see what we see. We don't see much besides more cowboy hats and fur coats and long lines waiting to get into the promised land. At some point, I think it's decided that since we're near RFD, we should stop by and see if they're serving beer yet. After all, it's got to be nearly 11:30am, why wouldn't they be?

Thankfully, RFD doesn't let us down. We lock up the bikes and head in to warm up, get some grub, and get loopy. Many beers flow. Zach calls a couple of coworkers who come and meet us for lunch. Many more high-octane 8-12% alcohol beers flow. A good time is had by all. After a while, the workers-bees have to get back to the office, and the slackers see a news report about a rukus going on at 7th and D streets. Sounds interesting, so we take our less-than-sober asses out the door, we mount the bikes, and ride off in search of chaos....

(Here endeth part 1. Scroll up, or click here to read the rest).