Archive for the ‘Protests’ Category

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.

         

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

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.

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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.

         

         

         

         

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

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.

         

         

         

         

         

          

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

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

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

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

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The Cannabis for Countrymen Rally

During today’s lunchtime bike ride as I was passing by the park at McPherson Square I noticed a lot of activity and tents being set up. So I stopped to find out what was happening. This is the same park where a few years ago demonstrators from the Occupy D.C. protest movement camped out for several months to protest against social and economic inequality around the world. And I thought they might be back. But it turned out that today’s demonstration, which is scheduled to continue through tomorrow’s Veteran’s Day holiday, was a very different kind of demonstration.

The event currently going on is called “Cannabis for Countrymen,” or D.O.P.E (Don’t Oppress People Ever) Festival, and is being sponsored by a number of groups and organizations, including Weed4Warriors, The Drug Policy Alliance, The People’s Champ, LLC, GreenTech Industries, the National Association for Concerned Veterans, DC NORML, and many others. The purpose of the event is to raise awareness about potential medical benefits of marijuana in treating veterans who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, and other illnesses related to war trauma. The event will include a protest at The Department of Veteran’s Affair Headquarters, which is only a block away from the park, as well as a march to the White House for a first amendment demonstration. In another corner of the park I watched as an artist was setting up an exhibit comprised of twenty-two American flags surrounded by pill bottles, which I was told symbolizes the number of veterans who commit suicide each day in this country. They also advised that tomorrow they will also be handing out free marijuana to military veterans. Today there were booths set up offering samples of different hemp products, including everything from clothing to skin care products to flavored teas. I stopped and talked with a number of people, and they advised their products are in compliance with local D.C. law. When I asked if the products violated any Federal laws, I found out that some didn’t but others did. I explained that I appreciated the information they were offering but because of my position with the Federal government, I would have to decline any of the free samples.   

I did stop on the bike ride back to work, however, and treated myself by picking up some Kung Pao chicken at Soho Café & Market to take back to the office. It was a good ride today, despite the fact that it was raining. And of course, it was interesting too. It just goes to show you that there’s always something going on in D.C., and it is often something unusual. 

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

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Million Mask March

Instead of a monument or statue or other identified attraction which is my usual destination, I instead rode to an event during yesterday’s lunchtime bike ride.  I attended the “Million Mask March” here in D.C., which was a protest organized by the hacktivist group Anonymous, scheduled to be held simultaneously “in 671 different cities” throughout the world.  I found out about the march about an hour and a half before it began when a security bulletin was sent to me at work, and since I was already here in D.C. and always open to new experiences, I grabbed one of the bikes that I keep in the parking garage of my office building and took an early lunch break to go check it out for myself.

According to the event’s Facebook page, the demonstration was intended to address a myriad of topics and issues, to include: “Major Corruption In Every Government; Education Reform; The Trans-Pacific Partnership; The National Defense Authorization Act; Militarized Police State; Police Brutality; Wars Of Aggression; Genetically Modified Organisms; Free Palestine; 911 Truth; Health Care Reform; Houselessness; Starvation; Human Rights; Alternative Energy; 2nd Amendment; Stop Paying Taxes; Fukushima; Bradley now Chelsea Manning; Jeremy Hammond; Aaron Schwartz; Barrett Brown, and; Freedom!”  But demonstrators also voiced concerns about additional topics as diverse as buying only locally-grown food, or not shopping on Black Friday.

The turnout wasn’t quite what was expected, with pre-event estimates ranging from one to twenty-five thousand local participants. In the end there were, at most, only a couple hundred people, many wearing the trademark Guy Fawkes mask popularized by the “V for Vendetta” movie, who marched in the event here.  While the diversity of issues may be an attraction for some, I think the lack of focus and specificity, much like the Occupy D.C. Movement that camped out in protest in McPhereson Square a few years ago, may ultimately be what kept the size of the crowd smaller than it might have been.  I think it also, for the most part, inhibited the group’s message from getting out to anyone outside the group of protestors themselves.

The group met at the Washington Monument, where I caught up with them, and then proceeded to march, under police escort, to the White House.  After conducting a demonstration in front of the north portico of the White House, the group later in the day marched to the U.S. Capitol Building, with stops along the way, such as at FBI Headquarters.  Although protesters were supposed to follow a specific route, they were characteristically unpredictable, and some broke off from the main group causing minor chaos with afternoon commuter traffic.  But despite some minor incidents, the demonstrators here in D.C. were for the most part law-abiding and non-violent,  which cannot be said of all the other groups in other cities yesterday.

Despite the low number of participants, however, it was an worthwhile event with an interesting group of people, as you will be able to see in these photographs that I took along the way.

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

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Westboro Baptist Church Protestors

Westboro Baptist Church is an unaffiliated Baptist church, at least technically. In actuality, it is one of the most abhorrent and rabid hate groups in the United States.  And on this lunchtime bike ride I stopped to watch a couple of its members, who were here in D.C. actively protesting on the sidewalk on Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP) in front of the White House.

The church originated in 1955 as a branch of the East Side Baptist Church in Topeka, about three miles west of the Kansas State capitol. East Side Baptist Church initially hired a man named Fred Phelps to be an associate pastor, and then promoted him to be the pastor of their new church plant, Westboro Baptist, in a residential neighborhood on the west side of Topeka. Soon after it was established, Phelps broke all ties with East Side Baptist. Since that time it has basically been a family-based cult of personality built around its patriarch, Fred Phelps. And despite Phelps’ death in March of 2014, the church continues to remain focused on the hatred he cultivated.

Typified by its slogan, “God Hates Fags,” the Westboro group is best known for its harsh anti-gay beliefs, and hate speech which is usually directed against LGBT people, Jews and politicians. The hateful rhetoric can often be seen in the crude signs its members carry at their frequent protests, like this one. The group began its “picketing ministry,” meaning their practice of holding controversial protests to raise awareness of the church and its beliefs, in 1991 in a nearby park in Topeka, alleging it was a den of anonymous homosexual activity. Soon their protests had spread throughout the city, and within three years the church was traveling across the country.

The group claims to claim to have picketed more than 40,000 times, and claims to conduct an average of six protests in different locations every day. Many of the targets of the group’s protests seem to be chosen at random. Examples of places where the group has picketed include Kansas City Chiefs football games, the Indianapolis 500, Broadway musicals, the headquarters of Twitter, President Obama’s daughters’ schools, Comic-Con, public appearances by Bob Dole, and Justin Bieber concerts.

But it was in 1998 that Westboro came into the national spotlight, when they were featured on national news programs for picketing the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man from Wyoming who was beaten to death by two men because of his homosexuality. Since that time the Westboro group, also sometimes referred to as “Phelpses,” have made a point of picketing at funerals for the publicity and notoriety in generates. They have conducted protests at: the funerals of three students who were killed in a house fire at the University of Wisconsin; the funerals of the victims of the Sago mine disaster in West Virginia; the funeral of former Mormon Church president Gordon B. Hinckley in Utah; the Arizona funeral of Christina Green, a 9-year-old victim of the 2011 Tucson shooting in which Representative Gabrielle Giffords was also shot; the Sandy Hook School shooting victims’ funerals in Newtown, Connecticut, and; recording artist Michael Jackson’s funeral in California.  And as if protesting the funerals of tragic deaths of gay individuals and celebrities were not extreme enough, the group expanded to include protesting at the funerals of American military members killed in the service of their country.

I guess I can sum up my thoughts and impressions of the protestors I watched and the group they represent by saying that they enabled me to find the only thing on which I can say that I side with the Ku Klux Klan.  The Klan, the white supremacy hate group which has been known to use terrorism aimed at groups or individuals whom they oppose, recently felt the need to repudiate the Westboro Baptist Church and its beliefs and activities.  The Klan even participated in a counter-protest when the Westboro group held a protest at Arlington National Cemetery.  Exactly how evil does your organization have to be to have the Ku Klux Klan say, “Ummm … yeah … they’re too extreme and evil for us.”

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Protest Van

I never know what kind of protest I might come across when I go for a bike ride in D.C., but I can practically guarantee that I will see at least one protest.  From the hate-filled protests by the Westboro Baptist Church, to people flying the Confederate flag, to groups that gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court Building whenever a controversial decision is announced, to The White House Peace Vigil, this city always has somebody somewhere protesting something.

One of my favorite kinds of protests are the ones like this van, which I saw on a recent bike ride, that combine advocating for a cause with an unusual vehicle.  These “Rolling Protests” on wheels often travel throughout the city, so you never know when the timing will be just right to happen upon one.

But even after stopping to read the writing that appears all over it, I’m still not quite sure what the owner of this van is protesting.  It is covered with religious writings that mention Jesus, the Holy Ghost and Jehovah, as well as political writings that touch on a number of diverse subjects, including government corruption, outsourcing jobs, hate crimes, and Bain Capital.  There are also phrases on the van which read “God is Jesus a Black Man from Egypt Ham Land” and “The Holy Ghost is Against Kroger Texas.”  The van’s license plate indicates it is from Texas, and reads “7 Jesus”.

If you click on the photos included in this blog post you will be able to see the full size versions of the photos, which make the schizophrenic-like writing on the van easier to read.   So if you do, and you think you understand the van owner’s message, please let me know.

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