Sunday, September 25, 2005

What a Dick

I spent Saturday down in DC at the anti-war protest put on by the ANSWER Coalition, Operation Ceasefire and United for Peace and Justice. While I am, and have always been against this (bullshit, unjust, for-profit) war, I don't support the "bring the troops home now" ideal that was the main idea of many of the marchers. I don't understand how people can justify pulling all of our troops out, after we've toppled a government. It seems to me that that would lead to open class- and civil war in the country, resulting in thousands, hundred thousands, or millions more deaths. We've done a 'heck of a job' fucking the place up. It should fall to us to stabilize things before we abandon it. Basically, I guess it serves us right.

So anyway...

Started the day out driving down town. With over 100,000 expected for the march, plus a few other events going on in the area, I knew parking would be a bitch. So I tossed the singlespeed on the bike rack, grabbed a cable lock, and headed out. My plan was to take Rt66 just into the city, then head north and park a few miles away from the epicenter of activity (the Ellipse at the White House and the Washington Monument). Man, did I underestimate the parking situation. After nearly an hour of roaming every side street known to man (full-on lost a number of times) I made my way over to the Union Station side of town. Eventually, I found one lonely parking space, parked the car, mounted the SS and headed towards the action.

At about 12:30, I arrived on-scene at the Ellipse, where I found 99,999 like-minded folks doing everything from chanting to singing to praying to climbing street signs and waving corporate American flags (I gotta get me one of these!) to just being seen in fantastic costumes. It was looking to be a very animated march. And by far, the biggest I'd ever been a part of.

After milling about taking scores of random photos for an hour past the scheduled march start-time, things finally got moving slowly up 15th Street. The march was pretty uneventful on the whole (damn peace-niks! Where were the riots? Everybody loves pictures of riots!), but as we walked in front of the White House (in the street-cum-parklike "please don't blow up our president" zone), emotions ran high. I continued marching with the crowd until we passed the north side of Lafayette Park where I decided I wanted to spend more time in front of the White House. I cut south through the park and wandered around the "please don't blow up our president" zone for a while more. It was here that I got my favorite shot of the day. The devil (ok, probably not "the" devil, but one of his minions, no doubt) held a puppeteer's rod (you know...the stick thingies to which strings are attached, which in turn control puppets). To this puppeteer's rig was attached 'Dick Cheney', also holding a puppeteer's rod, which in turn was attached to 'W' who was holding an inflatable globe, a quart of oil, and a soft pretzel(?). It was a fantastic costume setup. I (and every other photographer in the immediate area) snapped off dozens of shots. As the other photographers moved on, I kept snapping when Mr. Cheney looked right at me and told me I was #1!

(Worth noting that when I scaled this image to the correct width (400 pixels) the height became 666 pixels. Coincidence? I doubt it).

After a highlight like that (not to mention that I had already spent 2 hours more time there than I had planned on), I figured nothing could top it and decided to head for home. I made a bee-line hike back towards my bike, straight down 14th to Constitution, skipping the Pennsylvania Ave and Constitution parts of the "official" march. A quick pedal up Constitution on the SS (which was very cool, since Constitution was still closed for the march, and the last few thousand marchers were still coming in, so I got to ride upstream in their midst), and I was back at Union Station and the car. A few detours later I was out of the city and heading for home.

I had originally planned on going back into DC for the concert and speakers later Saturday evening, but was pretty wiped by the end of the day. So I blew it off. I didn't realize that there were other protests going on Sunday (including a pro-war march). Had I known about them, I would prolly have gone back down in hopes of getting some confrontations on film ( know what I mean).

Interesting numbers that I heard regarding the march:

* The anti-war organizers had hoped for 100,000 people. Estimates were anywhere between 150,000 (DC police chief) and 300,000 (event organizers). I'd bet closer to 300k. It's nice to see that there are lots of people fed up with the war machine.

* Counter demonstrators on Saturday were numbered under 200 from what I heard on the news, and fewer than 400 on Sunday. From what I read, they were hoping for 20,000+. Interesting that they still claim they speak for the majority of Americans.