City Paper is not for tourists
After a weekend of minor clashes with the police, anti-globalist radicals claimed victory over the Washington establishment. We give it to them on style points.
Photographs by Rebecca D’Angelo and ChArles Steck
Protesters braved another rough weekend in Washington. It is never easy being an anti-globalist, and as usual, everyone in town—not just the business elite—had it out for them. The local media kicked off the bashing. One WRC-4 reporter described Friday morning’s mini-traffic blockades as “frightening.” Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher wrote that demonstrators would keep the hard-working citizenry from feeding its children.
The citizenry itself was bored or hostile, shouting, “Ugly!” as protesters went by. “Keep it up, honkies!” one man hollered from his car as the anti-gas bicycling rally passed Sursum Corda Courts on Friday morning. At that point, protesters had to take it as a compliment.
The main targets of the anti-everything movement—the well-dressed people shuttled downtown in vans via police motorcades—eluded the protesters all weekend. The World Bank/International Monetary Fund honchos were almost beside the point.
And the cops? The cops were unimpressed. They’d seen it before, and they mowed down the forces of anti-capitalism with ease: escorting the bike parade through the streets, herding everybody together, passing out zip cuffs, outflanking the demonstrators on every front.
Last Saturday afternoon, as angry speaker after angry speaker deplored working conditions of sweatshop laborers, farm workers, and indigenous tribes; the treatment of AIDS sufferers; and even the closing of D.C. General, tired protesters napped under trees and on park benches, using their backpacks as pillows. Even the anarchists pitched their makeshift black flag and pulled their handkerchiefs down from their mouths. Eventually, you get tired of being a Zapatista.
Washington’s street grid stymied them, too. Organizers and protest cells fought over directions. Meeting places were forever debated. The sound system took too long to jury-rig onto a wheeled cart.
Then there was the numbers problem. The turnout fell far short of the movement’s own projections. This was not April 2000, when a common adrenaline supply ran through everyone’s limbs and the activists screamed with glee at the promise of a real movement, a new way of doing things. The psych-up was short-lived this time.
Setbacks aside, the activists went away declaring victory. And why not?
They got to express themselves, in large and small groups. They got to record themselves with their digital cameras. They got to burn up their cell-phone batteries, looking for the next big scene, the next intersection of conflict. They got to see names from e-mail groups and ride boards become living examples of solidarity. They got to trot out their “action names,” to bond with other “affinity groups.” They got to share dried mangos, bottled water, blankets, floor space. They got to flip cops the bird. They got to feel zip cuffs tightening on their wrists and batons nipping at their ribs. They got to say they had shut down the city.
That is, they got to do it all again. The IMF-protest carnival has become, in its own way, as much an institution as the IMF. The Army-jacketed radicals don’t need to battle with the police; they just execute the dance steps they learned in Seattle and in Philadelphia and in D.C., before, when it was new. It’s an exercise in crowd management, like a Freaknik for the Vassar-Oberlin-Columbia axis. The street theater, dancing, puppetry, and drum circles get another showing. A minor celebrity makes a cameo endorsement—this year, Michelle Shocked, in a big step down from Michael Moore in 2000.
Outrage and fury serve the protesters’ own emotional ends, even if the World Bank never hears them.
But if you do the same thing over and over again, eventually you get good at it. So, in celebration of the institutionalized art of the protest, the Washington City Paper went looking for the Best of Anti-Globalism 2002. Here are the most perfectly realized threats to the status quo, in no particular order:
Best Allegation of Prisoner Mistreatment
Clare Davis-Wheeler, 21, from Tulane University in New Orleans, was arrested at the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and L Street NW at 9:30 Friday morning. She was released at 1 a.m. Saturday. “None of us were allowed to go out and smoke and stuff like that,” Davis-Wheeler griped, milling about at Saturday afternoon’s rally at the Sylvan Theatre on the Washington Monument grounds. “We fucking did go crazy. It was terrible.”
Best Self-Serving Comment
“I just want to coordinate with other people who want to change the world,” spoken into a cell phone Friday evening just past 5 p.m., outside St. Stephen’s Church at 16th and Newton Streets NW, the Mobilization for Global Justice’s welcome center. “I feel like I put my ass on the line today.”
Best in Show
Supercharger, 16, the smoothly brushed chestnut mount of Officer Jim King of the U.S. Park Police.
Best Elementary-School Teach-In
“Look, Momma, there goes the scary guy,” said a little boy, referring to a protester dressed as Freddy Krueger from Nightmare on Elm Street. “Nightmare on Pennsylvania Avenue” was the protestor’s political statement. “That man is pretending he’s George Bush,” explained the boy’s mother, Robin Broad, an associate professor at American University, where she teaches about World Bank policies. “At least what [the president] looks like on the inside.”
Best Corporate Flack in Radical Drag, Runner-Up
Loren Finkelstein, a 28-year-old spokesperson for the Mobilization for Global Justice. Finkelstein’s organization had planned a “quarantine” protest to prevent World Bank/IMF delegates from moving out of their meeting place on Saturday. On Friday, after low protester turnout, Finkelstein was already ratcheting down expectations. It didn’t matter whether they could quarantine any delegates—this was “just one of our protests.” For the quarantine, the organization would have roving groups trying to outflank the police to block entrances. The real point was “the imagery goal—sending the message, projecting the image.”
Best Corporate Flack in Radical Drag, First Place
Madeline Gardner, 20, from Minneapolis, a media assistant with the Mobilization for Global Justice. “The police department put up a quarantine of the complex, so we didn’t need to. They did it for us.” Gardner said the quarantine was “absolutely” effective, even though World Bank/IMF minibus executive limousines ferried past protesters without hindrance. Claiming that the protesters were “quarantining them with ideas,” Gardner declared, “We have had a total victory.”
Best Homemade T-Shirt Slogan “World Bank Sho’ Is Stank.”
Best Crass T-Shirt Slogan
“Fight War Not Wars,” as worn by Dustin Beck, 20, from Tallahassee, Fla. “I got it online,” he explained. “It’s hard to come across Crass stuff anymore. You got to go online. I got it from someone on eBay for like $20.”
Best Freelance Permit Checker
“Lefty,” of the D.C. chapter of the Guardian Angels. On Saturday afternoon, Lefty chased away protesters setting fire to doll-sized stick figures hanging from the corners of the statue’s pedestal at Farragut Square. “I asked them if they had a permit to do these burnings, of these effigies, and they said no. So I came up here and stopped them.”
Best 300-Level Protest Coursework
“Venezuela and the Emergence of Resistance to Neoliberal Globalization in Latin America—Washington, DC,” scheduled for late Friday afternoon at the Josephine Butler Parks Center, according to the Mobilization for Global Justice Web site. “A panel discussion of the Venezuelan ‘proceso’ which breaks from the neoliberal political and economic model.”
Best Anarchist Day Job
Seth Tobocman, 44, of New York, was watching protesters make a human barricade at 20th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue Saturday evening. Tobocman draws anarchist comic books, but he’s the first to say he’s not funny. “I’m a comic artist, a graphic novelist. I don’t do humor.” His titles include You Don’t Have to Fuck People Over to Survive and War in the Neighborhood, and he’s the founding editor of the periodical World War 3 Illustrated: Confrontational Comics. In the D.C. World Bank/IMF protests in April 2000, he was jailed for five days. How would he illustrate the events and lesson of Saturday’s protest actions? “I’d show World Bank people bottled up by all the people and the world all around them. I’d also show George Bush walking in one direction and everyone else walking in the other direction.”
Josh Maylin, 19, of Fairport, N.Y. Floating shirtless around the Sylvan Theatre rally’s crowds, Maylin had the words “Hug Toll” scrawled on his stomach. Maylin used his time by going around embracing all takers. By 2 p.m. Saturday, he had hugged more than 300 protesters. Only one dude had turned him down. “He had dreads,” Maylin explained. “I think he didn’t want to get bugs.”
Best No-Show Protest
Thursday’s all-night candlelight vigil at the Treasury Department.
Best Rookie Chant
“Fuck George Bush!”
“Rupert,” who spun tunes from the bay of a truck leading the march up 15th Street to Farragut Square on Saturday. Just before reaching the Treasury Department, Rupert shouted: “We’re going to shake your rump! This is the people’s party,” before declaring: “Focus on freedom! Focus on Jamiroquai!”
Best Police Formation
At 6:36 a.m. on Friday morning, the chant of “Left! Right! Left! Right!” could be heard along 19th Street just outside the World Bank headquarters. It came from the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council Regional Response Team lining up. Explaining the council’s makeup, the regiment’s supervisor said, “That’s 38 cities and towns.”
Best Prank Attributed to Protesters
At a 6:30 a.m. Friday press briefing, Chief Charles Ramsey told reporters that the Fort Totten and Greenbelt Metro stations had been attacked with super glue.
The corporate flags of Shell and Texaco. At about 6 p.m. Saturday, Peter, 23, rushed the statue of Adm. David Farragut and set fire to the two flags before dashing back into the protest throng. “Unfortunately, because of the synthetics, the flags didn’t look too good burning,” he said with a shrug.
At Farragut Square, 6:15 p.m., one attendee said, “Let’s take pictures of other people taking pictures.”
Best Cop Threat
As a legal observer peddled alongside other eco-friendly cyclists, plainclothes cops in a minivan kept running up to his back tire. When the van finally passed, one cop shouted: “I will run you over!”
Best Misunderstanding of Tire Toxins
After media reports of demonstrators setting tires afire, the Environmental Protection Agency sent out a press release urging activists to stop the tire-fire tactics. “There is a potential for a wide range of health effects from exposure to the hydrocarbons, metals, and inorganic gases and vapor emissions identified with burning tires,” the release stated.
Best Clash With Police, Media Division
Just past 6 a.m. Friday, outside the World Bank headquarters, CNN reporter Bob Franken was buttonholing any Metropolitan Police Department official within reach about not getting his press credentials. When Chief Ramsey appeared, the veteran journalist threw a fit. Ramsey patted Franken on the shoulder, saying: “Deep breaths. Deep breaths. We have a long day today.”
Best Action Name
Karen Eliot, 28, who declared, in front of Union Station at 7:30 a.m. Friday: “I can no longer accept being in a world with undemocratic businesses.”
Best Obvious Chant
“This bus, it fucking smells!” yelled at about 7:10 a.m. by protesters stuck on Metrobus No. 8734 at 14th Street and Jefferson Drive SW.
Best Crowd-Control Device
The customized Jersey barrier. In preparation for Saturday’s protests, authorities capped Jersey barriers with metal grating. When protesters advanced on World Bank headquarters, they ran into a perimeter of these upgraded traffic-herding blocks. They retreated. You can’t fight Jersey barriers. You can’t push them. You can’t yell at them. All you can do is be kept out.
Best Obvious Anti-Protester Sign
“Welcome Rich White Kidds.”
Best Protest, in Hindsight
The lockdown at 14th Street and Independence Avenue SW on Friday morning lasted 20 minutes before cops had the protesters off the street. Sitting down on 14th Street, some linked elbows, and five locked their arms together through holes cut in 5-gallon pails. “We were pretty frustrated and thought we accomplished almost nothing,” said Billy Lane, 18, a student at SUNY Purchase. Once in jail, though, he received praise from others about his achievement. “It’s sad that ours was the most successful,” he said.
Best Self-Praise by an Activist
After a mass arrest, Rae Valentine of the Anti-Capitalist Convergence announced in a news conference, “We truly interrupted capitalism in D.C.”
Best Official Voyeurism
Katie, 18, got sprayed by cops with water bottles during an arrest. Big deal, she thought. Then she noticed something. All the men had been sprayed below the belt. She was sprayed on the chest, however, where she was wearing a white T-shirt. “I was the only one wearing a completely see-through shirt.”
Best Movie Reference
Anne Kissed, 20, from Purchase, N.Y., was waiting for friends to pick up confiscated belongings outside the police academy in Blue Plains at 11:30 p.m. Saturday. “It’s like Breakfast Club,” Kissed said. “Are we going to say hi to each other in the halls?”
Best Flak Jacket
“Revolution Now” chest protector, modeled by “Lynx,” a 22-year-old protester from San Francisco. Lynx was in his softball catcher’s gear at the anti-Gap protest in Georgetown just past 2 p.m. Friday. “I had this in Seattle,” Lynx said. “I was in one intersection. Two of my friends had ribs broken—totally unprovoked. I didn’t get my ribs broken. I don’t have health coverage, so I can’t afford to get ribs broken.”
Best Slacker Pose (male)
Jordan Dees, 20, from Austin, Texas, played Hacky Sack Saturday afternoon holding a black flag in the air with his right arm. Why? “Just to show how damn good I am at Hacky Sack!”
Best Overtime [PICTURE OF COPS LAZING/SLEEPING ON BENCH]
Best Use of a Chain
Patricia Henry (not her real name) of the District chained herself to her backpack and stood immobile and alone on the Mall watching Saturday’s speeches at the Sylvan Theatre. The double chain (with a combination lock) was because “I’m homeless,” she explained softly. “I’ve got 10 years of my life in this backpack—all the papers from the bureaucracy are in there. This backpack is a vital organ—it’s my heart.”
Best Slacker Pose (female)
Lizzie Merlesmith, 18, of Burlington, Vt., slept on the grass Saturday afternoon with her bandanna all the way over her eyes—not for the sake of bandit-anarchist anonymity, but because she’d gotten little sleep on the nine-hour-plus drive to D.C.
Best Romantic Couple
Curtis Melvin, 27, of Arlington, and Vatinee Hia, 29, of Falls Church cuddled late Saturday afternoon on the grass of Edward R. Murrow Park, right in the center of the protest zone—Jersey barriers and riot cops surrounding them. But they were dressed for a picnic in a park and had brought water and a camera. “We’re here completely for entertainment,” Melvin explained. This was their third World Bank/IMF protest. “The first was exciting,” Melvin said, but since then the demonstrations have become “sanitized and mundane….The cops and the protesters play the same game over and over. But it’s good entertainment watching the game.”
Best Platonic Couple
Hallie Caplan, 19, napped on the stomach of David Castillo, 19, under a set of shady trees to the side of the Sylvan Theatre at 2 p.m. Saturday. Both are from Long Island. Castillo on Caplan: “Smart, cool, nice.” Caplan on Castillo: “He is hip, and he’s intelligent. I need a thesaurus or something….He’s good to take
Best Scary Item Carried by a Riot Cop
A tear-gas gun emblazoned with the words “Defense Technology Federal Laboratory.” It was described by a cop standing along the Gap protest’s perimeter Friday afternoon in Georgetown as his “peacekeeper.”
Best Unintentional Reference to 9/11
“There is no violent element to a building being destroyed,” uttered by Rae Valentine, an Anti-Capitalist Convergence spokesperson, at a Friday press conference in regard to the broken window of a Citibank branch.
Best Self-Criticism by an Activist
Josh, from Chicago, wandered around downtown Friday afternoon with a few radical friends. He said that the Anti-Capitalist Convergence had fallen prey to egos and a hierarchy based on street cred. He said the organization was filled with a lot of “holy cows.” He added, “All the kids with their fucking action names, the ones that are just colors or get cute and get names from Indian deities or Lakota warriors. It’s: Who’s got the dirtiest Carhartt? Who’s got the most scars?”
Best Gas Mask as Fashion
Martin “Zeke,” not his real name, 22, of Lexington, Ky., wore his black rubber gas mask on top of his head all Saturday afternoon on the grounds of the Washington Monument. This isn’t his first protest. “I got involved protesting when I went to Senior Skip Day and discovered 12,000 people protesting in Lexington—I didn’t know anything was going on! You never hear about it, because the corporations cover it up.”
On the drawing board, this is how Saturday night was to proceed: Protesters would lay down their bodies to prevent the World Bank and IMF delegates from leaving their downtown meetings. Jamie Moorby, 19, from Canton, N.Y., rushed to the intersection of 20th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW expecting to lock arms and legs with his fellow activists in a human barricade. He found only three or four fellow protesters. All Moorby could do was watch delegates leaving in their motorcades, as random protesters saluted with their middle fingers. “If we’re going to accomplish anything here, we need massive numbers,” Moorby said. “This is pretty frustrating.”
An hour later, Moorby had the numbers—48 pairs of arms and legs linked with duct tape. The barricaders shouted that they wanted the delegates to “drop the debt.” They also said that they wanted bottled water and trail mix and unity.
After the barricade finally firmed up all the way across Pennsylvania Avenue, D.C. Police Lt. Jeffrey Herold informed the protesters that it was getting late, that every other access route was clear, that the barricade wouldn’t stop anyone from leaving the meetings. He added that they would not be arresting them.
“You can sit here all night,” Herold said.
Several organizers soon huddled. An organizer asked, “How long can we sit here before we can declare victory? Five minutes? Ten minutes? A half-hour?”
Twenty minutes later, the human barricade cut off its duct tape and disbanded.
“Does anyone have a cigarette?” a barricade member asked. CP
Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Photographs by Rebecca D’Angelo and Charles Steck.