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LOCAL News :: Protest Activity

Reportback from Two Richmonders on the DC Anti-war march

This past Saturday, these two IMC reporters joined what has been estimated as between 100,000 to 300,000 other protesters in Washington DC. No exact estimate of the amount of people who turned out against the war has been reported, but it was a truly massive conglomeration.
Reportback on Sept. 24th DC anti-war march

This past Saturday, these two IMC reporters joined what has been estimated as between 100,000 to 300,000 other protesters in Washington DC. No exact estimate of the amount of people who turned out against the war has been reported, but it was a truly massive conglomeration. Our drive into the city passed under three overpasses hung with banners such as "Fight the Rich, Not Their Wars" adorned with the anarchist circle A symbol. Shortly before 11am the streets surrounding the ellipse and the area north were full of protesters, police and barricades, making it difficult to navigate by car. Parking garages in the area had been reserved for the cars of IMF and World Bank employees during their attendance at those meetings, which were the subject of additional protest. Eventually, our carload joined the Virginia Anti-War Network (VAWN) contingent at the Corner of 15th and Constitution. The streets were already so jam packed with folks that moving through the crowd and finding familiar faces was quite difficult.

Under a banner stating, "Money for Jobs and Education, Not for War and Occupation" stood a crossection of Richmonders against the war including members of The Defenders for Freedom, Justice and Equality, Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project, Food Not Bombs, VAWN, and Pax Christi. Younger or older, students, workers, artists and parents, of differing faiths, genders and cultures were there for various reasons. For Tiamba Wilkerson, the main motivation was to challenge a war that is part of a larger global assault on people of color.

To keep the energy up while waiting for the march to begin we danced to music provided by members of Richmond's own Hotel X and Rattlemouth accompanied by ready and willing percussionists from here and elsewhere. The music drew in the attention of the surrounding crowd and after several impromptu songs and rounds of applause the Richmond group finally fed into the march around 2pm. It flowed into a crowd full of colorful and sometimes catchy posters and banners, ranging from homemades of pen on posterboard or cloth to glossy pre-mades distributed by larger organizations. Much of the messaging was about George Bush's incompetency as commander in chief, bringing home american troops, the death toll (American and Iraqi), and ending the occupation of Iraq and Palestine. People had come from suburban DC, Pennsylvania, Flatbush, Chicago, Florida, Maine, Texas, Washington state and points beyond and between. Throughout the day many references were made to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Organizations collecting funds for Katrina relief made appeals to the marchers for support. "Make Levees, Not War" was a popular cry, comparing the amount of resources the government spends on war to the amount it spends on safe, reliable, public infrastructure.

Other forms of protest peppered the crowd. The Bread and Puppet theater troupe from Vermont performed a piece involving upwards of fifty people in costumes varying from 15 foot tall human figures to an equally large skeletal horse and rider. Another group of three figures dressed as Bush, Cheney and the devil enacted a scene of political corruption fueled by money and oil. One group of protesters walked alongside the march holding a memorial exhibit of US soldiers killed in Iraq. There were plenty of musicians present, mostly with drums, some well-practiced troupes and some impromptu groups of strangers. We did spot one lone bagpipe. All along the way chants would sporadically break out through the crowd, most of them about George Bush, which is funny, because he wasn't even there. As we passed the White House the most potent symbol of protest the crowd could muster to the vacant oval office and its resident security officers and roof top sniper was a plethora of middle fingers.

The crowd thinned out after passing the White House alternating between high tempo and tired and quiet as we weaved through the streets back towards the Washington Monument. Operation Ceasefire, a music and art festival against the war, was already under way at the Monument. Scattered through the park were tents for some of the main organizations and issues represented at the march. You could participate in discussions on Palestine, talk to a veteran of the Iraqi war, get materials for counter-recruitment, or become a member of United For Peace and Justice. The musical line-up included a diversity of music styles, all under the umbrella of ending the occupation in Iraq. A few of the bands included Thievery Corporation, Le Tigre, Joan Baez, The Coup, and Sweet Honey and the Rock. Here the party went on until nearly 2am. One of the most potent comments I heard from the performers came from the Ted Leo and the Pharmacists set. Exactly where had all of these people surprised at the racism and poverty evidenced by the Katrina debacle been living, Ted Leo wondered. As a past resident of Washington, DC, he said it was evident all around him every day that there are lots of poor people of color disregarded by the government.

The concert ended, the trash cans overflowing, our feet weary and our throats sore we walked past the white crosses and small tents of Camp Casey, where we could see a few people sitting on chairs under the stars of DC. We return to Richmond knowing that there is a mass of people out there who oppose this war for a multitude of reasons strong enough to shake them out of apathy and into the streets. Where this energy goes is everyone's decision.

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