Posts Tagged ‘Pennsylvania Avenue’

The Department of Justice Building

Many people are not aware that eight Nazi saboteurs landed on our country’s shores early during World War II with the intent to commit sabotage.  Their names were George John Dasch, Ernst Peter Burger, Herbert Haupt, Heinrich Heinck, Eddie Kerling, Herman Otto Neubauer, Richard Quirin, and Werner Thiel.  Even fewer are aware that during this week in 1942, six of those saboteurs were executed here in D.C.

Operation Pastorius was a failed German plan for sabotage inside the U.S. during World War II. The operation was staged in June of 1942 and was to be directed against strategic American homeland targets.  In all, eight saboteurs were dropped off near shore by Nazi submarines and were able to make it to the U.S. mainland — four of them near Long Island, New York and the other four near Jacksonville, Florida.  After one of them turned himself in, the largest manhunt in the history of the FBI began for the remaining seven.  Within nine days, all of the saboteurs were captured.

Fearful that a civilian court would be too lenient, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Proclamation 2561 on July 2, 1942, creating a military tribunal to prosecute the German agents under a veil of secrecy.  Lawyers for the accused attempted to have the case tried in a civilian court but were rebuffed by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that was later cited as a precedent for trial by military tribunal of any unlawful combatant against the U.S., including those currently being held in the military prison at Guantanamo Bay as part of the War on Terror.

The military tribunal took place in July of 1942 in Assembly Hall # 1 on the fifth floor of the U.S. Justice Department building on Pennsylvania Avenue.  All eight would-be saboteurs pleaded innocent, denouncing any allegiance to Adolph Hitler or the Third Reich. The prosecution, headed by the U.S. Attorney General, asked for the tribunal, consisting of seven military generals, for the death penalty.  All eight Germans were found guilty.   Exactly one month later, based on the Presidentially approved recommendation of the military tribunal, six of the eight were executed in the electric chair on the third floor of the D.C. Jail.  They were subsequently buried in a potter’s field called Blue Plains in the Anacostia area of D.C.  The other two Germans, George John Dasch and Ernst Peter Burger, were sentenced to terms of 30 years to life at hard labor.

On today’s bike ride, I went by the U.S. Department of Justice Building where the first military tribunal against an enemy combatant was held.  I also rode by the District of Columbia jail, where they were executed in the electric chair on the third floor.  I also rode to the Anacostia neighborhood in southeast D.C., where those who were executed were buried in unmarked graves in a potters field.

A look at the statistics will show how things have changed dramatically over the past 71 years.  During World War II, there were a total of eight enemy combatants charged by the U.S.   All eight were tried, convicted and sentenced, and the sentences were carried out.  There were only 57 days between June 12th when the Germans first landed on U.S. soil with plans to commit sabotage, until their sentences were carried out and they were executed or began serving their prison sentences on August 8th.

By comparison, the statistics for today’s enemy combatants is much different.  In the current military tribunal process, the shortest time between initial capture and conviction was five years, three months and the longest time nine years, seven months.

To date, 779 detainees have been held at the Guantanamo Bay facility since the War on Terror began after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.  Of the 779 detainees, roughly 600 were eventually released without charges, many after being detained for years.  The total number of detainees currently remaining at Guantanamo stands at 41, although 5 of the 41 detainees have been approved by the U.S. for release to home or third countries but remain at Guantanamo.  There have been 15 children under age 18 who have been held at Guantanamo.  Nine Guantanamo detainees have died while in custody, six by suspected suicide. Only seven detainees have been convicted in the War on Terror military tribunals.  And of the 41 detainees that currently remain at Guantanamo, 26 have not yet been charged with a crime.

Today’s ride reinforced for me how important it is to know what your government has done, and is doing.

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Above are the FBI mugshot photos for: 1.George John Dasch;  2. Ernst Peter Burger;  3. Herbert Haupt;  4. Heinrich Heinck; 5. Eddie Kerling; 6. Herman Otto Neubauer; 7. Richard Quirin, and; 8. Werner Thiel.

Protestor in Front of the White House

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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.

         

         

         

         

         

          

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

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Sir William Blackstone Statue

Being on leave from work for the past several weeks, first for the holidays and then unexpectedly for personal reasons, has made me miss my lunchtime excursions to explore the city.  But I am back in the office now, and on my first outing of the new year I encountered a statue located in front of but off to the side near the United States Courthouse.  That statue is of William Blackstone, and like many of the statues and memorials here in D.C. it has an interesting backstory.

Sir William Blackstone was an English jurist, judge and politician of the eighteenth century who is best known for writing a four-volume work on English law. These volumes, known as Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, would not only dominate the common law legal system for more than a century, but also help shape America’s Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and have a substantial influence in American law.  His Commentaries would also influence the likes of  Alexander Hamilton, John Marshall, John Adams, and Abraham Lincoln.  And to this day, his Commentaries still continue to be cited in Supreme Court decisions.

In the early 1920’s the American Bar Association presented a sculpture of Blackstone to the English Bar Association.  The gift, however, was too tall to be placed in the Royal Courts of Justice.  The sculpture, designed by American artist Paul Wayland Bartlett, was later cast in Europe and the statue was presented back to the United States for display.

The bronze statue is a nine-foot standing portrait of Blackstone dressed in his judicial robes and long curly wig, and holding a copy of his legal publication entitled “Commentaries” in his left hand.  It is elevated on a granite base.  Congress approved the placement of the sculpture in 1943, and appropriated $10,000 for the installation.  It was installed later that year under the authority of the National Park Service.  The statue is on the grounds of the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse, at 333 Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Judiciary Square neighborhood.

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

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The First Public Performance of The Star Spangled Banner

On this bike ride as I was riding east in the protected bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the U.S. Capitol Building, I happened to see a small plaque on the front of a building.  Out of curiosity I circled back and stopped to see what it was.  And as it turns out the plaque, located 601 Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP), commemorates the location where “The Star Spangled Banner” was sung in public for the first time.

The Star-Spangled Banner” is the national anthem of the United States.  It was recognized for official use by the United States Navy in 1889, and by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916.  And it was made the national anthem by a Congressional resolution on March 3, 1931, which was signed by President Herbert Hoover.

The song’s lyrics come from a poem entitled “Defence of Fort M’Henry”, which was written in September of 1814 by Francis Scott Key, who just a few block past the western end of Pennsylvania Avenue has a memorial park named after him.  Key was inspired to write the poem by the sight of a large American flag flying above Fort McHenry during its bombardment by the British Royal Navy during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812.  The words were later set to the tune of a British song which was already popular in the United States entitled “To Anacreon in Heaven”, written by John Stafford Smith for the Anacreontic Society, a men’s social club in London.

Despite the fact that the song is notoriously difficult for nonprofessionals to sing because of its wide range, The Star Spangled Banner today is traditionally sung most often at the beginning of many public sporting events in the United States, as well as other types of public gatherings.  But on this bike ride, I discovered where the patriotic song was sung in public for the first time a little over two hundred years ago.

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The plaque reads, “On this site in 1814, “The Star Spangled Banner” was first sung on public.  The most famous of several hotels on this block was Brown’s Marble Hotel (1851 – 1935), an innovative greek revival landmark, where John Tyler and Abraham Lincoln were guests.  In the 1830’s, Beverly Snow, a free black, operated the epicurean restaurant on the corner of 6th Street.  The Atlanta Coast Line Railroad Building was completed at the same location in 1863.  Its façade was incorporated into the present office building, erected by the B.F. Saul Company in 1985.”

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Statue of Albert Gallatin

Abraham Alfonse Albert Gallatin was born in Geneva on January 29, 1761, to an aristocratic Swiss family. He immigrated to America when he was 19 years old, where he became a politician, diplomat, ethnologist and linguist. He served as a Representative, Senator, Ambassador, and he became the fourth and longest-serving Secretary of the Treasury in United States history.  And on this bike ride, I went to see a statue dedicated to him, which is in front of The United States Department of the Treasury Building, located at 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP), next door to the White House in northwest D.C.

Gallatin was originally elected to the United States Senate in 1793. However, his political career got off to a bumpy start, and he was removed from office by a 14–12 party-line vote after a protest raised by his opponents suggested he did not meet the required years of citizenship. The dispute that resulted in his removal had important ramifications though. At that time, the Senate always held closed sessions. However, the Senators in the newly established nation were leery of anything which might hint that they intended to establish an aristocracy. So they opened up their chamber for the first time for the debate over whether to unseat Gallatin. Soon after, open sessions for the Senate and a more transparent government became standard procedure.

Gallatin’s brief initial time in the Senate before being removed also had important ramifications for him. Not only did the election controversy add to his fame, but he also proved himself to be an effective opponent of America’s first Secretary of the Treasury’s, Alexander Hamilton’s, financial policies.

Returning home to Pennsylvania, Gallatin found himself embroiled in the Whiskey Rebellion, which involved a whiskey tax imposed in 1791 by Congress at the demand of Alexander Hamilton to raise money to pay the national debt.  Gallatin helped bring about a non-violent end to the conflict just before President George Washington, who had denounced the tax protesters and called out the militia, lead the army into western Pennsylvania to end the rebellion.  As a result of the  popularity he gained in advocating their cause, he was again elected two years later, this time to the House of Representatives, were he served until 1801. There he inaugurated the House Committee on Finance, which later grew into the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

Gallatin’s mastery of public finance during his three terms in Congress lead to President Thomas Jefferson appointing “the foreigner with a French accent”, as he was described by his critics, as Secretary of the Treasury in 1801.  He would go on to serve until 1814, under both Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, holding the longest tenure in this office in American history.

Gallatin went on to achieve other accomplishments after leaving the Treasury Department.  But the remainder of his career after serving as Secretary of the Treasury began with just as bumpy a start as his career in government began.  He was nominated to run for vice president, but was forced to withdraw from the race because he lacked popular support.  Gallatin was again offered the position of Secretary of the Treasury by President John Quincy Adams, but turned it down.  After that, however, he went on to become the American ambassador to France, was one of the founders of New York University, and became president of the National Bank of New York City, which was temporarily renamed Gallatin Bank.  His last great endeavor was founding the American Ethnological Society.  And based on his studies of Native American languages, he has been called the father of American ethnology.

But it was his time as Secretary of the Treasury that earned Gallatin the honor of the statue outside of the Department of the Treasury Headquarters.  And it is located on the northern patio of the building, which is the opposite side of the building from the statue of his rival, Alexander Hamilton.

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[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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The YuMe Tree

One of the best aspects of outdoor public art in D.C. is that it’s not limited to places like the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. Art in D.C. can be found almost anywhere, and often in some unexpected places. A good example of this is the mural entitled The YuMe Tree, which I happened upon during this hot afternoon bike ride when I stopped at a store to buy a cold drink. On the wall of the north side of a building housing a CVS store, The YuMe Tree mural is located just off Pennsylvania Avenue at 500 12th Street (MAP), near the intersection with E Street, in the southeast area of D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.

The YuMe (you/me) Tree is a 28 by 14 foot mosaic art project that was literally built by the community as a tribute to community. It was designed by local artist and the founder of The Corner Store non-profit arts studio and performance center, Kris Swanson. Laurie Siegel, a fused glass artist and award winning art teacher who taught at Watkins Elementary School, located across the street from the mural, also contributed greatly to it. The project also included the input and involvement of dozens of friends, hundreds of Capitol Hill neighbors, and more than a thousand children at several elementary schools who sculpted and signed the three-inch names tiles that form the trunk, roots, and branches of the tree. Other tiles form the landscape out of which the tree emerges. These tiles contain messages reflecting some of the thoughts of the community, or are commemorative in nature, and come from various donors.

But one of the most striking aspects of The YuMe Tree is the tiles which make up the leaves of the tree. The leaves of the tree are cut mirror tiles, which reflect the reality of the mural’s surroundings back to the observer. The higher leaf groupings reflect the light and movement of the clouds in the sky. The lower mirror tiles reflect back the garden and other nearby trees, the street, Watkins Elementary School, and cars and people passing by.

The Yume Tree was installed and dedicated in October of 2003. But it remains an ever-evolving work.  It continues to change and grow along with the neighborhood as new name and sponsorship tiles are added periodically. So not only can you see this art project, but you can choose to contribute and be part of it as it carries forward in representing the community and beautifying the neighborhood.

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

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The Inukshuk at the Canadian Embassy

The first time I saw an Inuksuk (also spelled inukshuk, plural inuksuit) here in D.C., I happened upon it by accident. From a distance it looked like just a big pile of rocks.  But because it was on the well-kept grounds of the Organization of American States, I approached it to get a better look.  I then researched it to find out more because it was the first time I had ever encountered an inuksuk. The situation was different this time. I’d previously heard there as an inukshuk in the lobby of the Canadian Embassy, located at 501 Pennsylvania Avenue (MAP) in downtown D.C., so I intentionally road there on this lunchtime bike ride to check it out.

Created by David Ruben Piqtoukun, an Inuit artist from Paulatuk in the Northwest Territories, the inukshuk at the Canadian Embassy was the first, and for many years the only one, in D.C. It was created in 1988. And it wasn’t until more than two decades later, in 2010, that the city’s second inuksuk was built. That inuksuk, the one on the grounds of the Organization of American States, was a gift from Canada. To date, they remain the only two inuksuit in the city.

An inukshuk can be small or large, and be comprised of a single rock, or several rocks of varying sizes and shapes balanced on each other.  They are usually built from whatever stones are at hand, making each one unique.  One of the things that impressed me the most about the Canadian Embassy inukshuk was how vital each and every rock is to the integrity of the piece.  Even the smallest rock, as shown in the video below, is indispensable.  Without it, the entire structure would fall.

The Canadian Embassy inukshuk depicts the form of a human being and is, therefore, also referred to as an inunnguaq. An embassy brochure explains that the “Inuit sculpture mimics the figure of a solitary man.  The rocks are balanced one on top of the other, only the bottom two are fixed. Such Inukshuit, built by the people of Canada’s northernmost region, are used to mark trailheads and to pen caribou. When snowfall creates whiteout conditions, the Inukshuk serves as the only distinguishing feature between land and sky.” For these reasons, an inukshuk can be a welcome sight to a traveler, making it very appropriate to the embassy’s lobby, where it welcomes visitors.

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

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Andrew W. Mellon Memorial Fountain

On this lunchtime bike ride, I visited a fountain just down the street from my office. It is located on Pennsylvania Avenue, at its intersection with Constitution Avenue and 6th Street (MAP), and is known as The Andrew W. Mellon Memorial Fountain. The fountain serves as a tribute to Andrew Mellon, who in addition to being known as a famous Pittsburgh industrialist and financier, also served as Secretary of the Treasury, ambassador to Great Britain, and was the founder of the National Gallery of Art, which the fountain is located just north of.

The round, tiered fountain is comprised of a series of three small-to-large nested bronze basins which empty water into its pebble-lined granite pool. The outer, and largest, bronze basin is engraved with the twelve signs of the zodiac, each sitting in its correct astrological position for the sun’s rays. And the top basin houses a spouting jet that shoots a stream of water up to twenty feet in the air, before falling back down and cascading through the tiers and into fountain’s base. Surrounding the fountain is a seven-foot wide granite walkway, and a semi-circular granite bench with an inscription that reads, “1855.Andrew W. Mellon.1937; Financier Industrialist Statesman; Secretary of the Treasury 1921-1932 Ambassador to Great Britain 1932-1933; Founder of the National Gallery Of Art 1937; This Fountain Is A Tribute From His Friends.”

The fountain was dedicated during a ceremony on May 9, 1952, which was presided over by President Harry S. Truman. And in 1993, when the fountain was surveyed by the Smithsonian Institution’s Save Outdoor Sculpture! Program, it was still described as “well maintained.” However, over the past quarter century the fountain had fallen into a state of disrepair. In fact, beginning in 2008 the fountain was no longer operational. So on September 25th of last year, the National Park Service transferred custody of the fountain and the surrounding triangular park to the National Gallery of Art, so that it could be restored.

The restoration and renovation of the fountain and site was divided into two phases. The first phase of the project included conservation of the three-tiered bronze fountain, revival of the original landscaping plan, and replacement of sophisticated mechanical waterworks that power the fountain spout and cascades. That phase was completed earlier this year, and was unveiled on March 17, 2016. Phase two of the project includes rehabilitation of the plaza and memorial bench around the fountain, and is scheduled to be completed in the summer of next year.

Given the newly restored condition of the fountain itself, and the ambitious schedule for the remainder of the project, at least according to D.C. standards, I think it’s a shame that ownership of many other fountains in the city cannot immediately be transferred to the National Gallery of Art.

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Westboro Baptist Church Protestor

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.”