Page Two of On the Fourth Anniversary of the Iraq
Invasion Left and Right Agree: Get Out Now
TONC held an "encampment" on Capitol Hill for March 12 - 19. No one is
allowed to sleep on the grounds, but hanging out all night is permitted.
From this strategic spot, small groups invaded House office buildings to
march and chant. At least nine were arrested. They got out in time for a
10:30 a.m. rally before walking down Constitution Ave. to the main march.
World Can't Wait was founded by the Revolutionary Communist Party
in the summer of 2005 to "Drive Out the Bush Regime." Anti-war protests
are only part of its agenda but it has become increasingly active in
organizing for them. From its designated meeting point dozens of
people dressed in orange jump suits and black hoods to represent
the detainees held indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay joined the main
Both ANSWER and WWC have an active printing press and passed
out thousands of posters stapled to sticks. ANSWER yellow and WWC
orange dominated the visual image of the march. There was a fair
scattering of flags, though only some were the stars and stripes.
Underneath the speaker's platform at the post-march rally was a
large sign in Arabic and English: The National Council of Arab
Americans" is all it said.
With so many different groups contributing, 30,000 people might have
come to DC on Saturday if it hadn't snowed, rained, and sleeted the
day before. Long distance busses were canceled. Certainly more
buses would have come from NYC if UfPJ hadn't organized a competing
march down Sixth Avenue on Sunday. UfPJ encouraged its constituent
groups to participate in local actions all over the country and those
in DC, Virginia and Maryland did just that.
At the western end of the Mall they were greeted by men in motorcycle
jackets chanting "USA, USA." A hundred feet onto the grass a couple
hundred flags surrounded a stage where a sign declared "United We Stand.
Together We Kick Ass." The two thousand anti-anti-war protestors were
the largest contingent of anti-antis to show up at an anti-Iraq war march.
Most of them were Viet Nam vets, primarily from Rolling Thunder, a
large organization of biker vets who come to DC every Memorial Day
to remember POWs and MIAs.
They were activated by Gathering of Eagles which calls itself "the
silent guard of America's memorials." Until now those vets who don't
oppose the Iraq war have largely stayed away from the anti-war
Viet Nam memorial from being defaced by anti-Iraq war protestors.
January 27 march a small band of anti-war protestors had spray painted the
west front steps of the US Capitol with graffiti. When ANSWER announced
Memorial prior to the March," the vets connected the dots and jumped to the
What really happened in January? After the UfPJ march around the Capitol
building, a group of anarchists (the black bloc) charged up the Capitol Hill
steps. Their way was blocked by the capitol police. There were a couple
dozen anarchists (identifiable by their black clothes), more than a couple
dozen cops, and a couple hundred observers (including me). After a
non-violent confrontation punctuated by chants and shouts, and a little
milling about, everyone dispersed.
Police Chief Phillip D. Morse stating that "It is my understanding
buildings around the area while Capitol Police were instructed to not
arrest anyone engaging in these unlawful acts."
Conservative groups, in particular the Family Research Council,
demanded an investigation. FRC President Tony Perkins said,
"For any group, such acts would mean immediate arrest. This time, the
Capitol Police's hands were tied because they were ordered to stand
down by their chief of police, who answers to the speaker of the House
On January 31 Chief Morse issued a statement denying that this had
happened. He did say that"Some members of this group did covertly
mark the pavement on the Lower West Terrace during their confrontation
with us. Had this been observed, I would have directed arrests to be
made. However, the size and continual movement of the crowd provided
concealment and made detection of their actions impossible."
They were certainly concealed from me, and unlike the police I was free to
walk around among the anarchists and the observers while taking
photographs. So were the other protestors I spoke to later, who also
saw no markings, let alone spray paint. The web pages on which the
black bloc brags about its exploits (e.g. http://dc.indymedia.org) have
been silent on this though not about other illegal acts). The only
reconciliation I can make between the Chief's statement that there
were marks on the pavement and what I and other protestors did
not see is to assume that they were chalk marks. It's quite common
for demonstrators to chalk pictures and comments on the pavement
during protests, and not worthy of note. Because such marks are
quickly cleaned with water — or rain — the police ignore chalkers.
Arrests are costly. Cleaning up chalk is cheap.
What was nonexistent or unremarkable to the left was grist for the right.
When the Republicans grabbed another opportunity to attack the new
Democratic Speaker, it morphed into a major blogfest as right wing web
pages and media all over the country beat their breasts over the protestors
who sprayed painted graffiti on the Capitol steps. Putting a few key words
into Google results in over a hundred thousand hits.
All this persuaded Sgt. Artie Muller, Founder and Executive Director of
Rolling Thunder, to send out a call to action. On their webpage he wrote "In
order to ensure that the Wall and other Memorials in the general area are
not defaced, like what happened at the anti-war demonstration at the U.S.
Capitol on January 27th, I am requesting that as many Rolling Thunder, Inc.
chapters, members and supporters that can make it, meet at the Wall no
later than 8:00 AM on the 17th. We do not want, nor will we tolerate a
repeat of what happened at the US Capitol."
By the time the biker vets showed, the National Park Service was already
protecting the Viet Nam memorial. The area within several hundred feet was
fenced off with a metal detector at the only entrance. The various police
forces beefed up their ranks in order to keep the protestors and the
anti-protestors apart. Mounted police, their horses wearing head armor,
lined the street around the Lincoln Memorial as anti-war protestors packed
the north side, and anti-anti-war protestors lined up on the south. The
local taxpayers paid a lot for that rumor about defacing the Capitol steps.
I heard a lot of name calling, but saw only one woman (an anti-anti) break
through the police line to attack someone on the other side. She was
quickly removed. I also heard a couple of degrading comments about Jane
Fonda, who was not there. One large sign said "Why Call it ANSWER –
Workers World Party is a Commie."
What was most striking was not the ignorance of left wing splits displayed
by this sign, but the cultural metamorphosis. The twenty-something
Viet Nam anti-War protestors were ridiculed for beards and long hair.
The fifty-something Viet Nam vets were a hairy crowd, with a lot of metal. By
comparison, the anti Iraq-war protestors were rather clean cut. In age,
sex, race, and attire they looked more like America.
Nor did the protestors try to repeat the confrontation of the 1967 Pentagon
March. Once marchers entered the bridge, the anti-antis disappeared
and the police presence became minuscule. The north parking lot where
the rally was held is not that close to the Pentagon, and the Pentagon Metro stop was
closed. No soldiers were in sight, and no protestors stayed the night. Some
things have changed.