Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Government: Protests in DC

In case you haven't heard yet, there are going to be large scale anti-war protests this weekend near the White House. The police expect 100,000 people.

If you would like to join the protests, you should check out the schedule beforehand. Yes, the protest has a schedule.

If you do not want to join the protests, I suggest avoiding downtown and traveling on the Red Line in general, which will see sudden massive waves of sweaty people teaming onto metro cars - which will only come every 20 minutes. Consider alternate routes.

If you are going to protest and are new to it, here are some tips I have learned over the years...

  • Never, never, never, never use violence in any form - against police, counter-protesters, property, anyone or anything else. Your moral authority as a demonstrator is entirely dependent upon non-violence. If you use violence in any form, even something as simple as vandalism, the general population will turn against you.

  • Don't drink alcohol or do drugs beforehand. Dehydration is your enemy.

  • Don't carry anything illegal or anything that could remotely be considered a weapon, including pocket knives.

  • Bring two or three bottles of water plus enough food for two meals. MRE's are perfect for this, as are granola bars, dried fruit, etc.

  • Bring a map. I've lived here for 10 years, and I still get lost.

  • Avoid carrying anything other then a backpack with some food, water, and a map. You're going to be carrying it all day. Pack as light as possible.

  • Don't dress like a nut-job. If you get caught on camera, you are a far more believable and effective spokesperson for your cause if you look like a normal working class Joe/Jane, and not a hippie/black-bloc/punk. The cause is what's important, not you or your personal identity (which I fully support when you are not the public face of a movement). Also, if you want to use the bathroom at a restaurant, they won't let you in if you look like you just came from Woodstock. It's bigoted, but true.

  • Avoid piercings, necklaces, or anything else that could get caught or snagged.

  • Avoid sandals - people will be stepping on your feet.

  • Write down the phone numbers of two or three people who could bail you out of jail plus a lawyer you trust on a piece of paper and put it in your shoe or pocket. You might get arrested just for standing in the wrong place, and they may likely take your cell phone away from you.

  • Tell those people that you are going to protest. Tell them when you are going to check in with them (give yourself extra padding time here). If they don't hear from you by that time, tell them to call you on your cell phone. If you don't pick up, tell them to call DC pre-trial at(202) 220-5500, and if you don't get through there, the city's main switchboard at (202) 727-1000 (the operator should know where to route people looking for arrested or hurt protesters).

  • Don't protest alone. Go with friends, and make sure you keep track of each other.

  • Avoid antagonizing the police. If one of them decides to punch you, spray you with mace, or arrest you without cause, there is almost no chance that you will be able to stop them or sue them afterwards. If you treat them with respect, they usually treat you with respect.

  • Don't wear contact lenses. If they use tear gas or mace, you are seriously screwed.

  • Buy an all day metro pass. For $5 you can ride all day.

  • Bring your HMO or similar health care card.

  • Assume that your wallet is going to be stolen. It rarely happens, but when it happens, you don't want to be stranded. I suggest that you bring enough cash to buy food and an emergency cab ride home from anywhere in the city (who knows when or where you might end up if you are arrested or hurt) plus a little extra, and put it in multiple pockets.

  • Be mindful of your feelings. They do you credit, but they could be made to serve the Emperor. There will be a great deal of fear, confusion, and anger flying around. Stay calm and focused, and you will be fine.

  • Afterwards, blog about your experience. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper. Talk to your friends. Stay involved. Protests are part of a movement, not isolated events. Keep the momentum going.


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