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Inaugural Journal

Monday was Martin Luther King Day;

It was a good day to protest, even if there wasnt anything to protest about

by Jo Freeman

It is particularly apt that the day before the inauguration of the first black US President, we celebrated the life of one of the greatest black Americans — one who made this inauguration possible.

Monday I followed the Martin Luther King tradition of non-violent protest. It was hard for anyone to protest Obama, and no one did. The 200 or so people who gathered at Dupont Circle at 11:00 a.m. came to "shoe" (shoo) Bush. A large Bush balloon stood ready to be swatted, identified by a sign that said "Give Bush the Boot." There were plenty of shoes available and everyone who wanted to happily threw them at the Bush balloon.

Further around the Circle a sign said "Viva Obama." Underneath was the head of the "Bush Chain Gang" — those paper mache heads who have added such symbolism to anti-war and anti-torture marches all over. Only the Bush head made an appearance on Monday, wearing prison garb and fake chains.

On stage, celebrating "The End of an Error," the Raging Grannies sang to the crowd and CodePink did the Can-Can, as in "Yes We Can-Can End War" — their take-off on "Yes We Can." Other CodePinkers walked around tying pink ribbons to willing fingers. These were "promisekeeper ribbons," each one inscribed: "Obama Keep Your Promises for Peace."

Around the circle, members of The World Cant Wait put the finishing touches on their banner: "Stop Occupation and Torture for Empire." On the grass was a copy of the Preamble of the US Constitution written large on canvas, with space to add comments. One after another, people took off their shoes to walk to a blank spot and add their sentiments with large marking pens.

After two hours everyone lined up behind an "Arrest Bush" banner for a march to the White House. Several people brought their own signs. One said "I Have a Dream" below a fake photo of Bush and Cheney behind bars. Another said "I (heart) Al-Zaidi." The march organizer announced that they didnt have a permit for a march, but the DC police were going to escort them down Connecticut Avenue anyway.

As George (the paper mache head) led the way, six cop cars stopped traffic on the west side of the street so about 200 hundred chanting people could proceed unimpeded. Along the way, troopers in army fatigues smiled at the scene, cars halted and drivers honked in support.

Lafayette Park was circled by ten foot security fences, but a few gaps had been left for tourists and demonstrators to work their way to the Pennsylvania Avenue plaza. Connie Picciotto, who has camped on the sidewalk across from the White House since 1981, had been moved — plastic hut, anti-war signs and all — to the H St. side of the park. A large banner hanging from the top floor of the AFL-CIO building proclaimed "Welcome Malia and Sasha." It could be easily seen from the White House through the leafless trees in the park.

Inside the ten-foot security fences, all grassy areas in the park were fenced off with something. CodePink, always alert to the photo-op, posed inside with what would have been the White House in the background. On Monday all that could be seen behind them was the four story reviewing stand for press and notables — right across the street from the White House reviewing stand for the newly-elected President and his guests.

Once on the Pennsylvania Avenue plaza protestors blended into the throngs of tourists, becoming part of their photo ops. Anti-war and anti-Bush chants competed with patriotic march music blaring from loudspeakers. There was time to throw some shoes at one White House gate, as uniformed Secret Service guards stepped away from the barricades to avoid being hit. And time to hang one banner over the bunting that draped the front of the reviewing stands. It said "Prosecute Bush for War Crimes Now!"

Those who had marched from Dupont Circle as a group hung out or left as individuals. It was 'The End' for protesting Bush.

©January 29, 2009 Jo Freeman for SeniorWomenWeb

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