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
It was at his first inaugural address in the early years of the Great Depression that Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously warned that fear was the nation’s greatest danger -- ”nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror.“ In these more prosperous times, fear itself was the dominant note at George W. Bush‘s tainted inauguration in Washington, D.C., last weekend -- fear and furs, lots of furs, mink after mink after mink, the lustrous hides of entire generations of rodents. In the most heavily guarded inaugural celebration in American history, more than 7,000 officers from more than a dozen law-enforcement agencies flooded the city to ensure that Bush -- and his legions of tuxedoed and mink-wrapped supporters -- could enjoy their $40 million corporate-sponsored victory party in royal style.
As thousands of demonstrators from widely disparate backgrounds trooped through the cold and rain-soaked streets to voice their outrage, National Guardsmen lurked nearby, outfitted for urban combat; armored cars and a 70-man FBI SWAT team waited out of sight. Police set up 10 checkpoints through which the general public -- including tens of thousands of parade-goers as well as protesters -- had to pass to get to the inaugural parade route. All bags, even umbrellas, were searched at the checkpoints.
Following a lawsuit brought by protest organizers, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler grudgingly approved the security plan despite ”very, very deep concerns.“ She warned, ”The very term ’checkpoint‘ has what I would call an odious connotation of repression . . . Every citizen has the freedom to walk the streets of this land.“
Agreeing with Kessler, protesters took over the streets of the capital for the day on Saturday, cheerfully braving the assaults of both the weather and the police, defying aggressive attempts to contain them, charging through one of the security checkpoints and raining on the presidential parade with loud and visible dissent. Along with cheers from onlookers in cashmere overcoats and furs, the executive limousine was greeted with great choruses of boos, with nearly as many protest signs as black umbrellas, and at one point with a skillfully lobbed orange.
By the end of the day, Bush had broken into the White House, with the blessings of the Supreme Court; police had arrested about 10 protesters on charges ranging from disorderly conduct to felony assault on a police officer.
Hours before Bush was sworn in on the Capitol steps, protesters were converging throughout downtown Washington. The International Action Center (IAC), leading a call to ”Stop the Death Machine“ and protesting a range of issues from capital punishment to police brutality to corporate globalization, staked out the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route four hours before the procession was scheduled to begin. The Justice Action Movement, a coalition of progressive groups, and the Million Voter March, composed largely of more centrist Democrats angry about the election debacle and Bush’s far-right cabinet appointees, rallied at Dupont Circle before heading to Pennsylvania Avenue. Several hundred New Black Panthers marched to declare a ”Day of Outrage“ at the disenfranchisement of African-American voters in Florida. Reverend Al Sharpton led over 1,000 in a ”Shadow Inauguration“ at Stanton Park, swearing: ”We‘ve taken an oath today that we will turn this nation around, and it’ll take more than senior Bush or little junior Bush to turn us around.“ The Revolutionary Anti-Authoritarian Bloc, better known as the Black Bloc, convened at Franklin Square, yards away from the spot where anarchist protesters were clubbed and tear-gassed by D.C. police during last April‘s rallies against the International Monetary Fund.
The day’s first confrontation with police took place not long after the latter group, about 500 anarchists wearing black bandannas and hooded sweatshirts, joined by the odd mainstream Gore supporter, began marching at 10 a.m. to chants of ”Who is the enemy? The state is the enemy!“ By 11 a.m. they had picked up an escort of about two dozen cops on foot at the rear of the march. This happened after an hour of parading through the streets, waving signs (a sampling of messages: ”No Aid to Israeli Apartheid,“ ”Protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,“ ”End the Racist Death Penalty,“ ”Genetic Engineering: What Are You Doing to Our Food?“ ”The Real Elections Are in the Streets“), occasionally targeting the property of their adversaries with a brick (one was thrown at the window of an Armed Forces Recruitment Center -- it missed) or can of spray paint (the facade of the Washington Post building was tagged with circled A, as the crowd yelled ”Fuck Corporate Media!“), dragging newspaper boxes into the street to slow the police cars trailing them.
As the group turned the corner at 14th and L streets, just a block from its starting place at Franklin Square, police charged the crowd without warning, batons swinging. Several protesters -- and an AP photographer -- were thrown to the ground, some were beaten. Matt Even, a 24-year-old Washington resident, was bludgeoned with a baton as he turned to run from the advancing police. Knocked briefly unconscious and bleeding badly from the head, he was pulled to safety by friends. (Even was soon back on his feet, his head hastily bandaged: ”It looks like it‘s going to need stitches but I don’t want to leave the protest,“ he said two hours later.) More police appeared from the opposite direction and quickly lined up, boxing in about 200 people on the sidewalk at 14th and K. That group dwindled slightly when about 50 pushed through police lines and fled. One young man was tackled and arrested, his shirt torn off and his face bruised and bleeding.