Archive for the ‘Protests’ Category

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The Million Mask March and Guy Fawkes

The hacktivist group Anonymous announced they would be gathering at The Washington Monument at 9:00am this morning to begin a protest in Downtown D.C. It’s an annual protest that is in its 7th year here in D.C. (23rd year worldwide), and is part of an annual global protest associated with Anonymous. The protest has come to be known as the Million Mask March, or “Operation Vendetta,” and takes place each year on Guy Fawkes Day, the 5th of November. So I decided to learn more about the group and protest, and then to go and observe the protest.

The motives for each year’s march varies, but are usually broad in scope and include some consistent themes and beliefs that are prevalent in the Anonymous movement. They include: corruption in politics and governments; banks, corporations, and big pharma companies; government surveillance; demilitarization; capitalist greed; climate change; internet censorship; police violence; the erosion of civil liberties; self-governance, and; the treatment of vulnerable groups like migrants, disabled people, and those living in poverty.

Anonymous also ascribes to what many people would call “conspiracy theories.” According to the web site for the Million Mask March the group contends that: Jackie Kennedy, and not Lee Harvey Oswald, shot John F. Kennedy; Julian Assange was an orphan raised in a CIA child sex slave camp and was framed in the 9/11 attacks, and; Jeffrey Epstein, the American financier and convicted sex offender who was recently reported to have committed suicide while in Federal custody is, in fact, not dead but living on a ranch under the protection of the Federal government.

Anonymous associates itself with Guy Fawkes, and those attending protests usually wear Guy Fawkes masks. And they schedule their main protest on Guy Fawkes Day (which is also known as Bonfire Night and Firework Night). Guy Fawkes Day is an annual commemoration observed primarily in the United Kingdom. Its history began with the events of November 5, 1605, when a man named Guy Fawkes, a participant in what became known as the Gunpowder Plot, was arrested while guarding explosives the plotters had placed beneath the House of Lords. Celebrating the fact that King James the First had survived the attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London; and months later, the introduction of the Observance of the 5th of November Act enforced an annual public day of thanksgiving for the plot’s failure.

Fawkes was sentenced to be executed for his part in trying to assassinate the king. But shortly before the sentence was scheduled to be carried out, Fawkes fell from the scaffold where he was to be hanged and broke his neck, thus avoiding the agony of being hanged, drawn and quartered.

So after learning about the planned protest and the group, I took an early break from work today and went down to The Washington Monument at 9:00am to observe the Million Mask March. I got there at about 8:45am, but didn’t see anyone wearing a Fawkes mask, or that looked like they were there for a protest. But I was early. So I waited. It wasn’t particularly crowded at the monument. In fact there were no more than a couple of dozen tourist coming and going. I waited for over an hour but no protesters showed up. I eventually gave up and went back to work. I checked a site that was supposed to be live streaming the march. But I got a message that read, “404 – Page Not Found.” And later, after the march was scheduled to have concluded, I checked the Facebook page that was set up for the march. Despite multiple posts made today, there were no posts or photos of the march.

So, I find it ironically interesting that the group aligns itself Guy Fawkes, a man and a day famous for failure. If the purpose of the march was to influence people and communicate with the public, today’s march was as much a failure as Fawkes and The Gunpowder Plot.

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ShutDownDC Protest

Today I encountered a protest. That’s not unusual, however. The same can be said almost any day of the week depending on where in you are here in the city. But today’s protest occurred at various locations around D.C. There was a similar protest at the beginning of this week as well. Entitled “ShutDownDC,” the protests were timed for the beginning and end of the week, along with strikes in a number of other cities, in order to coincide with the start of the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York.

A coalition of several climate change and social justice groups participated in this week’s protests. The groups included climate change organizations: “Rising Tide North America” and “Extinction Rebellion DC.”  But it also included such diverse groups as “Code Pink: Women for Peace,” which describes itself as a grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end U.S.-funded wars and occupations, to challenge militarism globally and to redirect the resources used for those things; the “Democratic Socialists of America,” the largest socialist organization in the United States; “World BEYOND War,” a “global nonviolent movement to end war and establish a just and sustainable peace”; “Werk for Peace,” a queer and transgender rights movement, and; Black Lives Matter. According to a website for the events, the purpose of the protests were “to demand an immediate end to the age of fossil fuels, and a swift and just transition to renewable energy.”

On Monday the protesters split up and blocked various major intersections and other key infrastructure in the city in an attempt to disrupt traffic and gridlock the city during morning rush hour. Today’s protest took the form of a march, causing rolling street closures and traffic backups. It started and ended at McPherson Square. Along the way they paused in front of certain companies and organizations in order to “call them out as fossil fuel villains.” They included the investment management company BlackRock, located about a block northeast of the White House. which the protest group accuses of being “the world’s largest investor in fossil fuels and deforestation”; the Environmental Protection Agency building on Pennsylvania Avenue, which they describe as stopping at nothing to destroy existing climate protections; the Trump International Hotel, which they say is a symbol of corporate influence in U.S. politics; and a branch of Wells Fargo Bank, which they contend has put $151 billion into fossil fuel industries in the past three years during “a time when really we should be thinking about the managed decline of the fossil fuel industry.”  The intent of today’s march was to again disrupt traffic and cause gridlock for commuters during the morning rush hour.

In general, a protest is a way of making opinions heard in an attempt to influence public opinion or government policy. In this case, however, I don’t think the protests were very effective in achieving that goal. When a protest is designed to disrupt traffic and inconvenience the average working person who is just trying to go to work to support themselves and their families, you lose the support of the very people you are trying to influence. You fail to influence or gain the support of the grassroots people needed to sway public opinion and influence government and corporate action.  And you can end up looking like self-absorbed attention seekers.

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Iran Freedom March

While I was sitting in my office working this morning I received a message from our security personnel advising all employees to use caution if exiting the building around 1:00pm because many of the streets in the Downtown area would be shut down by the police for a large group of people.  However, the message simply urged caution.  It contained no specific information or explanation of what was going to be happening.  So naturally I was curious enough to schedule today’s lunchtime bike ride for the same time so I could go out and see first hand what was going on.

It turned out to be the Iran Freedom March, an annual protest in which Iranian-Americans march down Pennsylvania Avenue, from 10th Street to Freedom Plaza, where members and supporters of the Organization of Iranian American Communities gather for speeches and to draw attention to their call for a regime change in Tehran and ask the U.S.  They then finish by marching the last couple of blocks to The White House, where they call on the U.S.  government to label Iran’s military and intelligence agency as terror organizations.  The group seeks an uprising in Iran and regime change to establish a democratic, secular and non-nuclear nation.

Among other speakers, Maryan Rajavi, president-elect of the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran, addressed the marchers.  In prepared remarks, she noted that the rally was held on International Women’s Day and congratulated women fighting for equality under a “misogynist regime.” She stated, “On this day, Iran and Iranians take pride in the women of Iran who have risen up and waged one of the greatest resistances of the modern era.  They have given tens of thousands of martyrs, prisoners and torture victims, and for four decades have been active on all the fields of battle.”  Rajavi then called on the U.S. State Department to designate Iran’s military, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and the Ministry of Intelligence as foreign terrorist organizations, asserting “Doing so would be a positive message to the Iranian people, and a decisive message against the clerical regime.”

It wasn’t the way I planned to spend my lunchtime today.  But those plans can wait until next week.  I’m glad I was able to observe the march, and learn more about their cause.

 

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St. Thomas Episcopal Church

On this lunchtime bike ride I saw some new and unusual-looking banners hanging on a fence as I was riding past St. Thomas Episcopal Church, located at the corner of 18th and Church Streets (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s DuPont Circle neighborhood.  So naturally I stopped to get a closer look, and find out what I could about them.

There are currently four banners on the fence at the construction site where the historic church is being rebuilt.  Each of them has an image of Christ doing a facepalm, a gesture in which the palm of one’s hand is brought to one’s face as an expression of disbelief, shame, or exasperation.  Each banner also includes a political message intended to criticize the conservative agenda of President Donald Trump.

One banner reads, “Yes, science is real,” while another states, “What is it with America and guns.”  The other two banners seem more personal.  The third reads, “I never said I hated anyone.”  But the banner that is grabbing the most attention seems more political than issues-driven and is aimed at the President himself.  It reads, “The president said what?”

The church’s Priest-in-Charge, The Reverend Alex Dyer, said they were put up to send a message.  “We wanted to add a new voice,” he said, adding, “One voice that’s been perhaps too silent is the progressive Christian voice.”  Personally, I would expand that to the voices of all Christians.

Beyond turning heads and raising eyebrows of passersby, the banners started to gain international attention when the D.C. correspondent for the Toronto Star newspaper, David Dale, tweeted a photo of the banners with the message, “How churches advertise in Washington, apparently.”  Since the tweet, the banners have continued to gain attention on Twitter and other social media.

As news of the banners has spread the church has received some negative Emails and feedback about them.  The Reverend Dyers has said, “I know there are Christians out there who are definitely in line with what our president is doing, but there is also a voice in Christianity that says this is not in line and this is not okay.”  So according to the reverend, there is no chance they will take the banners down.

In fact, he not only plans to add more banners in the future, but starting this past weekend the church began selling “Faithpalm Jesus” merchandise, including t-shirts, bumper stickers, coffee mugs, magnets, yard signs, and more.

 

[Click on the photos above to view the full size versions]

Charlottesville to D.C. March and Protest

During this past week I stopped by McPherson Square Park (MAP) during my daily lunchtime bike rides a couple of times to try to talk with some of the protestors who recently marched from Charlottesville, Virginia, (my hometown) to D.C. (where I currently live), and are now camping out in the park.  They marched to D.C. in an effort to speak out against the type of white supremacy that was on display at the “Unite the Right” rally last month in Charlottesville, which ultimately turned into a violent clash between white supremacist protestors and a significant number of counter-protestors who showed up to oppose them, and which resulted in 19 injured and three dead.

On my first visit to the park I tried several times to engage individual protestors in conversation in an attempt to better understand their perspective on the issues in general, and their point-of-view on the recent violent incidents in Charlottesville in particular.  Unfortunately, they seemed much more interested in talking with each other than with anyone stopping by from the outside to talk with them.  So I stopped by again the next day.  Sadly, I was equally unimpressed with those I encountered on the second day.  They remained off by themselves, with most seeming to be in his or her own little world as they were preoccupied with their laptops or their cell phones.

The March to D.C. started in Charlottesville with nearly 200 marchers on August 28th.  But by the next morning there were only 35 marchers.  And by the time the group got to D.C. there were substantially fewer.  The number has increased by protestors from the D.C. area stopping by the park to bolster the original group from Charlottesville.  But the march and subsequent protest lost most of the momentum they started out with, resulting in the group being as unimpressive as the individuals I encountered.

Also, like most of the marches and protests I’ve seen here in D.C. since the beginning of the year, they appeared to be blaming or focusing on President Trump regardless of what the issue happens to be.  They even have gone so far as to, for their purposes, rename McPherson Square to Impeachment Square.  It seems like it’s never a matter of right verses wrong anymore.  Now it’s almost always right verses left.  I’m glad we live in a country where you’re free to agree with someone or their cause, and still feel disappointed in them.

         

         
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UPDATE:  Despite vowing to maintain a permanent protest vigil in Farragut Square Park until at least the end of September, the small group which arrived September 6th and set up tents in the park were gone in only four days.

The “One Thousand Ministers March for Justice”

On today’s 54th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, a rally and march was held here in D.C.  Entitled the “One Thousand Ministers March for Justice”, the event was organized by organized by Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.  Participants gathered in the field just west of the memorial to Reverend King and opened the event with a rally.  They then marched from the King Memorial, past The White House and the Trump International Hotel, and on to the U.S. Department of Justice Building a little over a mile away from the beginning.  And on today’s bike ride I rode over and attended the rally, and then rode along with the march.

The march was deemed non political by its organizers and much of the press.  But it was anything but non political.  When I first arrived at the rally I heard the speaker on the stage at that time describe his divisive view of who was and was not a Christian.  Included along with many other, he denounced evangelical as not being Christians.  He then used the remainder of his time to criticize President Donald Trump, announcing that he also was not a Christian.  The rally was so political, in fact, that an alternate rally was held at the National Press Club by other prominent religious leaders who did not share the political opinions being expressed at the march.n

In the end, I found it disappointing that an event that was billed as non political was as political, although not as passionate, as one of President Trump’s recent rallies, such as the one held in Phoenix last week.  But it was even more disappointing that a rally and march intended to be an interfaith event was used to denounce people of faith if they disagreed with the liberal politics of those who helped lead the event.

         

         

         

         

        
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Emergency Rally to Stop Sessions and the New Drug War!

“Emergency Rally to Stop Sessions & the New Drug War!” That’s the wording of the online notification I saw from the Washington Peace Center, which describes itself as “an anti-racist, grassroots, multi-issue organization working for peace, justice, and non-violent social change in the metropolitan D.C. area.”  And as I read through the notification I realized that a protest was scheduled to be held from noon until one o’clock today in front of the Department of Justice Building at 950 Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP) in Downtown D.C.  And since that’s just across the street from my office, I decided to check it out during my lunchtime break. Initially billed as a protest of the new Attorney General’s drug enforcement policies, it ended up including people who were there to protest for a variety of additional causes, such as Black Lives Matter, corporate greed, anti-Trump, and other generic issues such as the people holding signs that simply read “Resist.” Protests in D.C. are often entertaining, but ever since the Occupy protests several years ago I think the messages often get diluted in the diversity of causes that show up in addition to the original reason for the protest. Despite this, I’ll continue to show up at them.

         

         

         

         

         

          

         
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Trump Protestors Get Trumped

Today I stopped by what was formerly known as The Old Post Office Pavilion, located at 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP), which reopened today as The Trump International Hotel – Washington, D.C.  Based on a 60-year lease from the Federal government, Donald Trump has transformed the building into a 263-room luxury hotel which he proclaims is “one of the finest hotels in the world.”

Beginning today, guests will be able to stay at the new five-star hotel at rates that start at $750 per night and go up to $4,800 a night for the premier “Postmaster Suite”.   After the hotel’s official grand opening, which will take place later this year, room rates will drop to around $472 a night for a “Deluxe Room”, and $9,000 for the one-bedroom “Presidential Suite”.  But the Presidential Suite is not the most expensive accommodations being offered.  For that, guests will have to book the hotel namesake’s “Trump Townhouse”.  For that, guests will have to pay $18,750 per night.

For today’s opening, the Answer Coalition and Code Pink organizations were joined by a few individual protestors to conduct a demonstration in front of the new hotel.  However, when I was there at around noon during the peak of the protest, only about two dozen protestors had shown up to display their signs and banners.  As indicated by a sign-up table and pile of mass-produced signs on the ground next to it, they had been expecting many more people to show up to participate.  It is unknown how many people the organizing groups initially expected to be part of the protest, but most likely they expected many more than I saw while I was there.  In the end, I saw more journalists and  photographers there to cover the event than the people they were there to cover.

Adding insult to injury, the protestors were often drowned out by a street preacher in a red shirt who brought his own bullhorn to their bully pulpit.  Riding around on a bicycle in front of the protestors while simultaneously broadcasting his own personal message, he often drowned out the speakers at the protestors.  At times the speakers even stopped what they were doing while they waited for him to stop talking or, at times, dancing.  But when he did stop it was usually only temporary.

However, despite the protest not being a success in terms of size or getting out their message, the protestors may eventually have the last laugh.  Trump made the deal and broke ground on the renovation before he entered the Presidential race.  At that time his brand was mostly associated with luxury amenities and quality customer service.  But now, after more than a year of campaigning, the Trump name is much more polarizing and off-putting to many people.  And how that will translate into business for the hotel is as uncertain as the outcome of the upcoming election. 

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UPDATE (9/12/2016):  I was contacted via Twitter and advised that the protest was planned as an all-day event, and that the number of protestors had increased to approximately 75 participants by early evening.

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UPDATE (10/1/2016):  The hotel was the scene of ongoing discontent and protests when it was vandalized today with spray-painted messages of “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice No Peace” near the front entrance on Pennsylvania Avenue.

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Police Protecting Protestors Protesting the Police

We’re in the middle of a heat wave here in D.C.  And it has been so hot in the afternoons lately that for today’s bike ride I decided to go earlier in the day when the heat was a little less oppressive.  In fact, I went for my daily ride shortly after arriving at work this morning.  And since I usually begin my workday relatively early, rush hour was still ongoing while I left to go out on this ride.  This is important because the timing played a part in what I saw during today’s ride.

During my ride, I decided to ride Julius, my orange recumbent bike, around the tree-lined, shaded streets of northeast D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.  As I was riding down Massachusetts Avenue approaching the local Fraternal Order of Police lodge, located at 328 Massachusetts Avenue (MAP), I saw a crowd gathered near the building and at the end of the block near Stanton Park.  So I rode closer to investigate.  And it turns out that it was a protest by the group which calls itself Black Lives Matter, along with others affiliated with Black Youth Project 100.

The Fraternal Order of Police District of Columbia Lodge #1 is one of the largest lodges in the United States. Its membership consists of approximately 10,000 members from over 114 various District and Federal agencies. The lodge also houses the organization’s national legislative office, which in the wake of the recent killings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, is calling for Federal legislation classifying the intentional targeting of police officers as a hate crime.  And the organization’s position seems to have gained additional momentum when President Obama stated that the black sniper who killed the white officers in Dallas should have been prosecuted for a hate crime if he were still alive.

Today’s Black Lives Matter protestors were gathered in the street in front of the lodge, joining arms to block rush hour traffic at the intersection of 4th Street and Massachusetts Avenue.  I heard some of the protesters shout to the commuters who were simply trying to get to work, “If this is your normal way to work, please go around. The FOP protects killer cops.”  Others said to at least one pedestrian on the sidewalk, “Use your white privilege to walk around.” (See video below.)  Some protestors were also blocking the gateways and access to the building, while others had chained themselves to stair railings and fixtures at the entrance to the lodge.  At one point they even hoisted a Black Lives Matter flag atop a flagpole in front of the building.

In response, Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police’s D.C. office, said he supports the protesters right to assemble. But because of the disruptive influence of the protestors attempting to block access to both the street and the building, he had decided to close the lodge for the day said they would continue their work from other locations.

So as Mr. Pasco and the other employees departed, they left behind a number of on-duty Metropolitan Police Department Officers. Those officers, who were most likely also members of the lodge itself, blocked and rerouted the vehicular traffic to protect the protestors themselves, and remained on the scene to protect their right to free speech. All of the police officers there remained calm throughout, and continued to act in a professional way to the protestors who were there to protest against them.

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Bloodstained Men Protest

On this lunchtime bike ride, as I was riding through Lafayette Square and past the plaza in front of the north portico of The White House (MAP), I noticed an unusual looking protest.  From a distance it caught my eye because the men protesting were dressed in all-white outfits with what appeared to be red stains on their crotches.  I also noticed that the demonstration was not only getting a lot of attention, but was also prompting double-takes or shudders from some of the tourists and other passersby.  So naturally I rode over to take a closer look and try to find out more.

It turned out that the protest was by a group called Bloodstained Men and Their Friends, which is traveling around the country to protest against infant male circumcision in the United States.  And they have more than 60 anti-circumcision protests scheduled throughout this year.  That includes this protest at the White House.

Two of the main Abrahamic faiths, Judaism and Islam, require that males be circumcised, while Christians and nonbelievers are mixed on the topic.  Others believe that circumcision has health advantages for men completely separate from religious belief.  Both the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have found that the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks, and that the benefits justify access to this procedure for families who choose it.

However, the organizers of the protest consider the procedure of infant male circumcision to be a violation of human rights, and want this country to follow the advice of the European medical community, which has condemned American doctors for infant circumcision.  They also contend that in the United States, the legality of the practice is a violation of the 14th Amendment.

Despite being practiced in many African and Middle Eastern countries as a cultural custom, the Federal government passed a law in 1996 against Female Genital Mutilation.  In fact, just this week the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which considers it an international human rights issue, announced on its web site that it is encouraging people to come forward and report cases so that it can proactively investigate this illegal practice.  Bloodstained Men contend inasmuch as the 14th Amendment says that the law has to be applied equally, infant boys should be entitled to the same respect of their bodies that girls are.

However, the Bloodstained Men philosophy is not strictly anti-circumcision.  Although they do not advocate the process for anyone, the group believes the decision on whether to be circumcised should be left to the individual once he is an adult.  They also believe that protesting isn’t their main mission.  Rather, protesting is a means by which they seek to start a dialogue about the subject in hopes of educating people.  By this measure, I think their protest was a success.

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