By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
The trash can is predictably ineffective, and the cops and crowd face off, police with pepper spray at the ready. Line after line of reinforcements arrive on motorcycle, and, after a few minutes of intense chanting, Black Bloc moves off to try the next corner. I ask John, an anarchist from New England swathed from head to toe in black fabric, if he really thinks they can get through the barricades. “The point is to make a ruckus and draw attention to the issues,” he explains. “If violence happens, it happens. If violence does break out and we get past the barricades, that’s great, but that’s not what matters.”
They don’t try again. Everyone’s been up and marching for almost eight hours at this point, so they retreat to rest in the shade for a spell, then regroup and march on, laughing and arhythmically chanting, “We’re tired, we’re cranky, we don’t like the government.”
I run into Joe, an affable NYU student in a red sharkskin suit, who, despite his attire, marches with Black Bloc, and who was with the group that first entered the squat on Saturday afternoon. “I got my ass beat on the other side of the Ellipse,” he tells me. About 40 people, including Joe, sat down peacefully in front of a line of police who were trying to clear the street. They “kicked through and started truncheoning people,” he says. “Two people went to the hospital. One guy got hit in the head and there was blood all over.” Nonviolent protesters were assaulted by police in at least two other incidents as well.
After a long march through George Washington University, where baffled frat boys look on from their stoops, the day winds to a close, with exhausted protesters collapsing on the wide lawn of the Capitol Ellipse. At the end of the day, protest organizers estimate, between 30,000 and 40,000 people have taken part in the demonstrations. Police say only 20 have been arrested. The IMF meetings were not canceled, as many had hoped they would be, but most protesters seem more than satisfied that their point has been made.
Monday, April 17
Yet more proof that God loves the rich: It begins pouring at about 4:30 in the morning and barely lets up for the rest of the day. By 5:30, the delegates have all arrived at the IMF meetings, with no resistance from protesters. An hour later, a mere half-dozen have gathered at the corner of 20th and Pennsylvania, where they make quixotic attempts to block police vans coming out from the World Bank building, attempts quickly put down by police with blasts of pepper spray and baton thrusts. At a little after 7, one valiant protester walks in front of a police van for two blocks, enduring repeated swipes and shoves from club-bearing cops, yelling at the half-dozen photographers who trail him, “Put down your cameras and join me!”
At about 7:35, Black Bloc arrives, somewhat reduced but no less enthused, already chanting, “Two, four, six, eight, smash the police state!” Joe is with them, clad today in a trash bag to fight the rain. “Where’s the main group?” he asks, looking up and down the empty streets. Within a few minutes we meet another small group of protesters, and, with hoots and hollers, our ranks swell to two or three hundred. We march down K Street, stopping rush-hour traffic, chanting, “Don’t go to work!” to trapped commuters. Bus drivers and cabbies honk their support.
The fun doesn’t last long. The crowd turns down 18th, and again on I, where a police car is leading a bus down the street. Believing the bus is hauling IMF delegates, activists sit in its path to block it. Within seconds, cops have emerged, furiously swinging batons, spraying pepper gas at short range. A few National Guardsmen, called in just this morning, appear from nowhere and fire tear-gas canisters into the crowd. Everyone scatters; young kids are running, eyes squeezed shut, faces shining with pepper spray, screaming for medics. Riot cops quickly form a line, and most of the group retreats around the corner to K Street.
There, the violence continues, though it’s not clear what started it or if it ever stopped. Police Chief Charles Ramsey himself and Assistant Chief Gainer are wrestling screaming protesters to the ground as the crowd chants, “Let them go!” Three are held facedown on the pavement, and cops begin charging the crowd with batons, shoving and striking at random. A TV cameraman is struck and thrown against a wall, not far from a kid whose bloodied head is being bandaged by medics. Even 85-year-old Thomas Hancock is beaten: “I was trying to help a guy that was down, and they threw me down and rapped me a couple times,” he tells me on the next corner, where we’ve fled after armored cars arrive and more cops begin streaming down the block.
Most of the crowd scatters, but a group of about 60 remain and run a few blocks before stopping to figure out where to go next. Soon a plainclothes cop has jumped another protester, and the crowd yells, “Shame, shame!” as a kid is cuffed facedown on the wet cement. More cars arrive, along with a few dozen riot police, and the pepper spray is once again streaming through the air. The group flees, and after a block there are only two cops behind us, pepper spray at the ready. Everyone is still scared, and angry. “It would be really good if we ran into another group,” someone says.