Photo by Slobodan Dimitrov
I HATE WAR. ELEANOR HATES WAR. EVEN THE VALETS HATE WAR: But Can a Peace March Stop the Machine?
"A PEACE DEMONSTRATION IS BY ITS nature optimistic," said my friend Penelope on the day before the rally, as we watched on television as Europeans objected to the Powell Doctrine at the U.N. But it wasn't until 1 p.m. the next day, when I walked into the distant rumble of amateur drums on Hollywood Boulevard near Vine, that I really believed her. Reports were already filtering in of a half million protesters in Rome, 2 million in Spain; the streets of New York City, we heard from friends on our cell phones, were gridlocked by protesters oozing out of their designated corrals onto side streets. Here in Hollywood I climbed a light pole to hang the cumbersome sign I was carrying ("Let the Inspections Work") and saw before me an endless valley of signs, bobbing like square-headed daisies and extending as far ahead as I could see. (There were a few undercover cops, too, but nobody stopped me.) For the first time I thought, as maybe civil rights workers did in '63 and AIDS activists did in '93: This mass of humans, this noise, this exuberance maybe all of this will register in Washington. Maybe.
A peace demonstration is also by its nature a party. Who could turn down a chance to parade around the cordoned-off streets of Hollywood in some nutty getup with a decorated dog or a kid with a cute sign? ("More Candy. Less War.") Or your own defiant sign? "Fuck me, not Saddam," read the bold statement of a young woman chanting along with the Super Boss Marching Band ("We're here to fight the evil anti-groove/We're here to loose the sphincters of the world!"). The strident rhetoric of the Marxist folk who think they'll finally have their revolution was drowned out by the happy ruckus; even the announcer on KPFK kept slipping up and calling it a "festival."
The Bush administration, and The New Yorker's Nicholas Lemann, would like us to think war in Iraq will encourage democracy in the Middle East, thus making the world safer all around. Most U.S. citizens, however, seem to understand that a president who was not fairly elected and pursues a war well over two-thirds of his constituents oppose cannot be trusted to foster international democracy. Hence the day's numbers: Official estimates say 30,000 turned out in Hollywood, only a tenth of the crowd that assembled in New York City in April 1967 and February 2003, but way more than ever gathered before in a city that sprawls with various neighborhood protests every week. Even more telling were the identities behind the numbers: families, former ravers, men in mesh baseball caps and women in Lands' End comfy pants. Handsome young actors from yoga class, clerks from my upscale neighborhood supermarket. Latino valets in their red vests, who picked up discarded signs and held them aloft under their Grant Parking marquees, smiling broadly and waving two fingers in the air for peace. Opposing a war has never been so non-controversial, so appropriate for polite company, so indisputably patriotic.
Peaceniking, in fact, has become as common in the U.S. as hating Americans is in the Middle East and most of Europe. And if they hated us on September 11, which we were told they did, they hate us even more now, and with even better reasons, what with our own domestic gerontocracy talking cavalierly of tactical nuclear strikes as if radiation could be sanitarily confined to a bunker. No thinking person goes to bed in a major American city these days unconcerned about that hatred, and not one of us wakes up in the morning and turns on the radio without at least a spasm of dread. And just as it took classmates and brothers and sons and lovers coming home in body bags to get the public out to the barricades against the war in Vietnam, fear of the next morning's CNN special report or of some strange smell infecting the city smog no doubt helps get us all out on the streets these days.
As, of course, does the enduring human need to be heard about anything, anywhere, anytime. "Dog Bites Delay Mail" declared the cardboard on a stick carried by a tall, blond geeky-looking man in aviator glasses, marching with his two women friends.
"Excuse me," I interrupted. "I don't get your sign."
"Oh," he said. "It just means that postal workers shouldn't have to put up with dogs."
"Right," I said. "You do know, though, that this is an anti-war rally, not a post-office rally?"
"Sure," he said. "But there's TV cameras everywhere. We want to get our message out, too.
"And anyway," he added, almost as an afterthought, "why should I carry an anti-war sign? Everybody already knows this war is a really dumb idea."
SATURDAY MORNING, NOT LONG BEFORE the Hollywood peace rally, 15 people are crammed into Joe Talkington's Hollywood apartment, wrapping themselves in tattered lengths of gauzy white fabric. Most got here the same way I did, via an e-mail invitation to "Join us in dance to stop the war!!!" Anyone could participate, the missive read; all that mattered was intention. At the moment, we seemed to share just one: trying to look as otherworldly and utterly wretched as possible.
"Wow," one dancer says, holding up a swatch of stretchy fabric. "You could make a thong out of this stuff."
"We look like rejects from an Issey Miyake fashion show," says another.
More like extras from Monty Python's The Holy Grail, I think, as I set to knotting and shredding my own beggar's wear.
Talkington and Carla Melo, members of the butoh collective Somavox, came up with this escapade, the first of many butoh street rituals/protests called Corpus Delecti. Talkington later tells me he wants to amass a regiment of 1,000 "butoh troops" moving in unison through downtown.
Frankly, I'm skeptical. Butoh is a raw, starkly expressive style of avant-garde dance developed in Japan in the late 1950s that prioritizes being over doing. (Talkington calls it a "waking dream.") While kinetic extremes, from the painfully slow to the frenzied, are common, practitioners are more apt to wax philosophical about inhabiting emotional states than to discuss specific techniques. How, I wonder, will this highly individualistic expression jibe with Melo and Talkington's vision of coordinated mass motion?
It takes us almost two hours to get ready. Several women cover their faces in makeshift chadors and veils. One man has encased his face in twine. Talkington balding, bearded and rail-thin comes off as a post-apocalyptic Hare Krishna. After drenching any exposed flesh in the white paint of the butoh-ista (finished off with a dusting of cornstarch), we gather in the courtyard.
Melo tells us to bend our knees, drop our center of gravity, release the tension in our limbs, let our faces go vacant, stare ahead but sense the people around us. When all else fails we are to focus on our motivation, which today is to embody grief. Talkington instructs us to always maintain a diamond formation and "flock" an en masse game of following the leaders assigned to the outermost corners whenever we turn toward their direction. If we need to catch up to the march, we will fall, roll, and run as fast as possible.
FROM THE MOMENT WE HEAD OUT, our group now grown to 24 commands attention. Tourists' cameras flash along Hollywood Boulevard. Applause erupts. Drivers pull over to ask who we are. True to our intention, we trudge mutely onward without answering. People speculate out loud that we're the walking dead. Others say we're angels. Or the victims of 9/11. The shadows of Nagasaki. Iraqis fleeing a bombed-out village.
We struggle to keep up with the march, but end up at the rear sooner than expected. Worse, we can't move forward clicking and flashing paparazzi encircle us. Motorcycle police hound our heels, demanding that we pick up the pace. Talkington responds with unerring instincts for a photo-op by raising his arms overhead in the gesture of a bound prisoner. The rest of us follow suit, and the crowd goes wild. Encouraged to "Fight the Power," we drop onto our bellies and crawl.
After one especially well-executed flocking turn someone yells out, "Ooohhh, choreography!" (Who says Angelenos hate dance?) But the synchrony is short-lived: Everyone has their own idea of how slow our meditative walk is supposed to be. We devise impromptu interactive dramas of anguish and terror. We cringe and point whenever a helicopter passes overhead; wail and keen over the bodies of fallen brethren; fall, rise, and carry each other along. We break into spontaneous bursts of fleeing or screaming.
Somewhere around the Pig 'n Whistle we pick up another white-clad figure with a pillowcase over his face and tube socks covering his arms and hands. Fernando, a Salvadoran refugee, had been playing dead under a bench until he found us his kindred spirits.
When we finally near the corner of Sunset and La Brea, the police, thinking we're part of the entertainment, usher us into a mini-mall to the left of the stage. Bottlenecked by the crowd, we break into a final photo-op performance in front of the Army Recruiting Center. We're nearing the four-hour mark and when a band starts up, I silently pray our cadre of butoh soldiers will break out in a funky groove, high five each other and finally just stop. At last we circle inward, rise and somberly leave the parking lot in a single file. My face is slack now with a new intention: to climb into a hot bath with a stiff drink.
JUST BEFORE THE PEACE MARCH Saturday, Hollywood's 101 Coffee Shop hums with an urgency above and beyond the call of a Saturday-morning "Nicky P" (two eggs any style, French toast or pancakes, bacon or sausage). There's a line to get in, but I'm here with the Most Important Man in Hollywood Without a Job (M.I. for short), and he is already shaking hands with Hollywood heroes/casualties Ricky Vodka and Nicky P (for whom the popular breakfast combo is named). We sit with two of the M.I.'s New York friends, the designer Cynthia Rowley and her boyfriend, Bill, a white guy who once sported an Afro that would make the Mod Squad's Link jealous, and used to have a full-length coat crafted from a sleeping bag. The joke was that he could sleep wherever he dropped. We order our breakfasts three Nicky P's and two smoothies and catch up briefly, which means we discuss M.I.'s epic beard ("Hasidic chic") and Bill's salt-'n'-pepper non-Afro.
The 101 buzzes with peace-rally fervor. Someone walks through selling Bush T-shirts with a swastika where the "s" should be. I'm told he's a neighborhood film editor of some repute. The great Blackie Onassis of Urge Overkill fame sits down across from our table with Bobby, a screenwriter friend, and his sister, a budding film producer.
"Where's your sign?" someone from our table shouts over to Bobby.
"I've got something even more powerful." He holds up his video camera.
"Get a close-up of me shedding a single tear," comes the reply. "It'll be potent, because nobody's seen me cry."
Writer/director Don Ward (The Suburbans, My Life Is in Turnaround) and his girlfriend meet up with us. He wears blue jeans and a blue-jean jacket.
"My protest clothes," he says.
Cynthia asks if that was Dave Eggers who just walked by.
"That was Dave Eggers," someone says. Nobody looks up because that would be both bad form and a telltale display of interest.
"Should I read his book?" asks Cynthia.
"Not the second one," somebody answers.
"Yeah, he may have only had the one great tragic tale to tell but You Shall Know Us by Our Velocity is still one of the great titles," says El Mejor Que No Tiene Trabajo (as M.I.'s known in Spanish). It occurs to me that if this peace rally were to be held in the middle of the week, few in the crowd here would have many scheduling conflicts.
The march is supposed to start in 15. The out-of-towners, Bill and Cynthia, debate whether to join in or tend to their laundry, which is in limbo down the road at the Laundromat next to Vic's, the place we used to meet when we met.
It's one of those days when Hollywood feels like a small town again, when everyone seems to know your name. Bill and Cynthia are swayed by the groundswell for peace spreading across the 101, infecting every booth no matter how jaded the attendant diners are during less dangerous times.
"Give us five minutes to run down there and put our stuff in the dryer," says Bill.
People start filing out of the 101 Coffee Shop and head for Vine and Hollywood. As we walk toward the demonstration we discuss the signs we should have made.
"Hollywood Trash Against the War?"
The Most Important Man in Hollywood Without a Job nods approval.
MEMOIRS OF A STREET-FIGHTER: Peace, Batman
"THIS IS THE AMERICA I LOVE," DECLARED my comrade and current house pest John Sinclair during Saturday's march. Sinclair was founder and chieftain of the infamous White Panther Party in the 1960s, manager of the incendiary MC5, and a victim of a state frame-up in which he got up to 10 years for giving a narc two measly joints.
Now the hardest-working poet in show biz, he and I were limping west on Hollywood Boulevard with thousands of other patriots to stop Dubya's Folly. With us were Rex Weiner, former Yippie/Zippie/White Panther, underground-press hawk and current media maven, and Rex's 14-year-old son Carlos. And me, the junior-league Yippie kid who used to knock over NYPD sawhorses in the '60s and then run like hell to create strategic street diversion.
Two brothers from the Black Bloc buzzed by, noted Carlos' youth and handed him a flier announcing a breakaway march at a ä certain location. So, three middle-aged revolutionaries and one sprite. Rex had given each of us a toy walkie-talkie courtesy of his son so we could communicate in case of riot.
With my prosthetic hips and a cane, I'm lucky if I can crawl like hell. Sinclair's bones were creaking, and Rex, while the sturdiest of the three, was showing the effects of decades of pills, powders and potions befitting a founding editor of High Times. When we passed Grauman's Chinese Theater, the actors dressed as Superman and Batman were grinning and giving the peace sign to the marchers. Suddenly, some red-faced, humor-free sergeant from the Los Angeles Porcine Department ran up to America's superheroes and screamed, "CUT THAT OUT OR JOIN THE PARADE!"
"That fuckin' does it!" I grunted. "Fuckin' un-American tellin' our nation's superheroes what to do!" I whipped out my pad and pen, 3-year-old press pass and headed over to ask the cop why he did that and get his name and badge number. Two large hands enveloped me from behind, and a baritone belonging to Sinclair implored, "Please don't do that, Mike. For me." The cat spent 29 months in prison and years fighting with cops, so I refrained, even though the momentary flash of righteous rage was invigorating.
In sleepy L.A. town there's just no place for a street-fightin' man. At least not one with prosthetic hips.
I LIKE MY POLITICS CONFRONTATIONAL. I want action, direct engagement. But I discover a different sensibility at Peace on the Beach. No sense of menace, just a blissed-out feeling, as if we have all the time in the world. Orange cones mark the plot of sand where, later in the day, 5,000 or so protesters will come together in a piece of human artwork, based on Pablo Picasso's "The Face of Peace" a woman's face melding into a dove. For the moment, though, it's tie-dyed hippies touching their heart chakras and raising their hands in supplication to the sky. On the drive to Santa Monica, my wife, Rae, and I reminded our children, Noah and Sophie, about the importance of voicing our opposition to the Bush administration's Iraq policy, the significance of being heard. What we haven't prepared for is this hushed Om of chanting.
Of course, the idea today is to initiate our children gently, to teach them that, to steal a line from Abbie Hoffman, we need to do democracy, while also sending a message to the president that the middle-class families he claims as constituents stand against him and the war. With that in mind, Rae and I have arranged to meet a group of friends here, and before long, we're a tidy little tribe of six grown-ups and seven kids. Yet if Peace on the Beach has a family feeling everywhere I look, there are children running, playing, scrambling through the playground behind the stage ultimately, I'm not sure my point is coming across. Sophie, who's 4 and excited about everything, gets into the spirit; sitting on my shoulders, she flashes the peace sign at each person we encounter, and later, with her friends Georgia and Harley, she races across the sand clutching a sign that reads, "Make Love, Not War." Once Noah, however, finishes checking out the crowd, laughing at his favorite protesters and placards (a man wrapped in duct tape, a banner bearing the slogan "We don't want your fucking war"), he pronounces the proceedings "beyond boring" the ultimate putdown of a disaffected 8-year-old.
The thing is, Noah's right in a lot of ways, although I'd frame my dissatisfaction differently. Peace on the Beach is well, too peaceful, too hippy-dippy, too disconnected from the realpolitik of a bloodthirsty world. All the talk of positive visualization seems ridiculous when you consider the ruthlessness of men like George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, who would laugh at the chanting and the incense, reassured that such ineffectual resistance is no real resistance. Of the afternoon's speakers, only Tom Hayden moves beyond such rhetoric into policy, declaring, "Where are your elected representatives?" the very question I've been asking for the last 17 months and suggesting that if the U.S. does invade Iraq, "We will bury Bush politically in 2004." This, I think, is the key to everything, to look at the war in the context of a larger opposition, one that addresses militarism and the economy, individual liberties and civil rights. Whatever happens with Iraq, in other words, we need Bush out of the White House, which is why, for the last several months, I've spent part of every day imagining the president's blank and bewildered face the day after he loses the 2004 election a positive visualization, I suppose, of another sort.
Still, by the time we get in line to form "The Face of Peace," I can't help feeling as if things have opened up in some small way. Partly, it's the knowledge that, at this very moment, millions of people across the planet are engaged in similar protests, a daisy chain of hope that stretches around the world. And given last week's talk of dirty bombs and duct tape, it's nice to see so many smiles. As columns of people move in serpentine maneuvers to complete Picasso's pattern, the sun breaks through the clouds and casts light on the water, while sailboats tack back and forth off the shoreline, waving in the distance like large white hands. The kids clap and cheer and flash their peace signs. A helicopter swoops in to photograph the image, and the entire assembly stands and applauds. I start to think that perhaps we're onto something, that maybe it will be possible to stop the war. Even Noah cracks a smile.
David L. Ulin
IT'S NOT EASY BUILDING PEACE SIGNS IN the sand. At Saturday's Peace on the Beach rally in Santa Monica, Annie Taylor and John McQueeney, both 11, had a simple message: "Do not bomb Iraq," words they surrounded with hearts and peace signs. But grown-ups kept walking through their words and ruining their message. They tried to build a wall around their sand sign, but Annie thought they'd never build it high enough for people to notice. They had to dig in again every time some thoughtless tall person didn't watch where he was going. Above them, the adults stood around with signs "REGIME CHANGE STARTS AT HOME," "PEACE IS PATRIOTIC," "THERE'S A TERRORIST BEHIND EVERY BUSH" or swayed to the music with their eyes closed and arms held out as if in prayer, or they talked about the film industry.
"Yeah, I'm working on that script. I got some good notes from people. But I'm also working on a video game, and I pitched something to MTV."
"Really? Do they still have pitch-a-pallooza over at the House of Blues?"
This may have been the People's Republic of Santa Monica and, indeed, it did seem as if all the old hippies had dusted off their batik vests and plumped their beards or braids for the day, plus Tom Hayden and Ron Kovic of Born on the Fourth of July fame showed up but there were also plenty of Starbucks-carrying, cell-phone-talking, jogger-stroller-pushing families with dogs who had come down to the tip of Ocean Park Boulevard for a rousing, if small and relatively celebrity-free rally (compared to the march in Hollywood) on International (Discredit Bush and) Peace Day. There were plenty of long leather coats, nose rings and fading magenta hair, too. That was the men, of course. The women wore long crocheted jackets and nose rings.
All the hipsters and hippies, the yuppies and puppies (Frankie, a thick-furred husky with thoughtful blue eyes; the standard poodle with a peace sign on her collar; the tiny Yorkie who yelped along with the applause of the crowd from the safety of the carrier strapped to his human's chest . . . who knew L.A. dogs were so liberal?) lent their ears to the many speakers and singers and spoken-word poets who urged them to keep protesting, keep their government from waging a war they didn't want, keep channeling the spirit of peace and love for every being on the planet. But first, the Women's Circle of L.A., a group of long-haired, middle-aged women, all in flowing white dresses with red headbands tied around their foreheads, came onto the bandstand to ask permission of the sacred energies of the four directions to bless the proceedings. They had the crowd stand in a close circle so that the energy could flow, because everyone there was present to heal the energy that has been broken by talk of war. They asked the crowd to turn in each direction east, south, west, north and to engage the spirits. Then they held up incense and blew conch shells. There was also some accompaniment from the cell-phone-ringing section on the left. Finally, they had everyone crouch down with their hands in the sand to feel the power of Mother Earth.
The dogs didn't seem that impressed: Frankie the husky was sacked out, though Luther, a skinny chocolate Lab, heard the injunction to feel the spirit of the Earth and dug a deep hole in the damp sand.
By the end of the afternoon, some younger guys had stripped off their shirts and started a beach volleyball game, others laced up their Rollerblades in order to glide down the boardwalk, and there were still lots of socially conscious dogs around. It was then that I noticed something strange. There may have been a lot of pooches, but not one cat made it to the beach that afternoon. Who knows? Perhaps we have finally gotten to the bottom of the age-old dog/cat divide. Maybe all the cats are Republicans.
HOW DO YOU COUNT A CROWD WHEN it's spread across 30 blocks, its form shaped by barricades and mounted police? Days after the New York City anti-war protest, the question bounces around in my mind as I mull over attendance estimates: 100,000, say the police; 400,000, say the organizers. This sort of measurement is difficult under the best circumstances, but Saturday's rally, hardly a single action, was more like a dozen amorphous mobs, constantly splitting and re-forming, trying to find purchase somewhere in the streets of midtown Manhattan.
This configuration wasn't by choice. Protesters were marching toward a stage hosting speakers ranging from Bishop Desmond Tutu to Pete Seeger to Danny Glover, but New York police were routing the crowd through a circuitous path. Cops told protesters on Second Avenue that they had to go north to go south, but the police-approved route kept creeping farther uptown. The few who reached First Avenue were herded between metal barricades that kept people off the sidewalks and off side streets. The center of the rally looked more like a movie set than a political demonstration.
The police didn't always crack down on infractions of their new urban order occasionally protesters were allowed to push down barricades but when the police swooped in with batons and plastic handcuffs, the results were typically brutal. A friend of mine who was arrested sat next to a ä 65-year-old man whose handcuffs were so tight that his wrists were bleeding.
The mainstream media are happy to ignore these excesses, of course. And New Yorkers already know that the city's institutional disdain for dissent solidified by Rudy Giuliani years before the Twin Towers fell is still firmly in place.
We stayed quiet about these changes for years. First we were pacified by the flood of dot-com money, and then we were cowed by the specter of Arabic terrorists. But September 11 was more than a year ago, and the lies from the White House and our television have grown thicker and harder to swallow. So here's what we didn't know before Saturday: that thousands, maybe millions of people in this country have no use for apathy and cynicism anymore.
My friends and I rode a packed subway train from Brooklyn into the city, and when we climbed out of the underground station into the sunlight of a cold winter afternoon, we could hear the crowd before we could see it. As we surveyed the faces that stretched west, it was possible to catch a glimpse of giddy amazement maybe here, on a Korean immigrant, or there, on a teenage girl holding a sign that read "Waldorf School for Peace."
Many in the crowd hadn't been to a protest in years, if ever, and I knew that look because I bore it too. It said: Are all these people really here with me? Can I really hope for peace without feeling like a fool?
THE SCREAMS COULD BE HEARD A block away. George Clooney was walking the red carpet, signing autographs and shaking hands while a massive throng reverberated with high-pitched squeals and an escalating chant of "Georgie, Georgie, Georgie!" This was a gala screening at the 2003 Berlin Film Festival for a beloved American star; days later, the giddy moment is recast in an ironic light when some 500,000 Germans from all over the country converge upon their relatively new capital to protest a U.S. war against Iraq with a stroll of their own, from the heart of what was once East Berlin to the West.
Reminders of the country's contempt for the American president are everywhere in Berlin, from the oversize newspaper caption blasting "Amerikan Arroganz" to the enormous faux movie poster for Peace Killer, starring George W. Bush, stretched over a scaffold at the top of Potsdamer Platz, once the dead zone between east and west, now the modern new home of the film festival. Plasma screens on the U-Bahn subway cars project NATO updates and anti-war slogans, and on German TV, dubbed versions of Friends, Matlock and The King of Queens run simultaneously to nonstop reports on the crisis and live broadcasts from political meetings. On German MTV, hipster pleas for peace share airtime with Kid Rock and the new Nena video.
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Still, perhaps because Germans know all too well how a bad man can run away with a country, I sense they understand the difference between a nation's people and its government. Several times, Berliners tell me they were quite content with the Clinton administration, and that, aside from a clear-cut opposition to the war, they hardly know what to think about the dramatic shifts since Bush took office. More and more, I feel as though I'm expected to explain what's going on with everything American, down to why the public transportation in L.A. sucks, and why Laura Bush is so low-profile (I answer that she's probably sitting in the dark somewhere, drinking schnapps and crying).
And so it's with a heightened sense of symbolic responsibility that I abandon plans for shopping and head to the Alexanderplatz, the square where, in 1989, 700,000 East Germans gathered to protest (successfully) against the German Democratic Republic. I emerge from the subway into a swift human current. It's an all-inclusive affair -- families with small children, seniors, young couples with dogs, hippies and punk rockers. Some banners I can read "Kein Blut fur Oil," the more satiric "Hooray for War!" but most others escape me. One man holds a cardboard sign picturing a U.S. flag, and letters dripping blood; the only word I can make out is "Amerikaner." I ask him what it means. It's the only time I'm treated with anything approaching hostility. He eyes me suspiciously, then scolds me for not speaking to him in German and tells me that it says something along the lines of regime change begins at home. I ask him if he thinks most Americans are in favor of war, and he asks contemptuously how Bush could wage it without the support of his country. I decide that it's best not to bring up the Holocaust in response, and, smarting, take my leave and join the procession.
The avenue is packed, shoulder to shoulder, but this is the most orderly demonstration I've ever witnessed. Kids climb up onto buildings, trees and fountains to see and be seen, and beer and wurst tents dot the sidelines. The crowd moves past the magnificent classical buildings on the Unter der Linden in a sober, dignified fashion, with a minimum of noise and rabble-rousing aside from a drum core here, a high-spirited gang of friends there. Chants are rare. At the end, there are speeches met with cheers, but since they're in German, I don't know who's speaking or what they say. Hours later, when I return to the avenue after everyone's gone, no sign of the march is visible not a scrap of litter, barely a bent blade of grass. I am less inspired than thoroughly depressed; after an afternoon spent feeling like a lone American in a wave of condemnation, I feel like there was no sign of me here either.