Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Journal Entries: Washington DC IMF Protests 4/14/00-4/16/00

We left Calvin at 5, Amber and TJ saw us off. ( Bytwerk, Sean , Thomas , Vito , Micah, Lindsey, Evita, and Ruthee). We went to Meijers first, where Sean and Bytie ran into Kim who helped them shop. Vito rode w/ the girls. The rest of us joked around and listened to music.

We stopped along the way at an impulse of the girls. They saw a bridge they liked, so we just pulled the car over, got out and explored underneath it. When we got back in the car, Bytie started going forward before Sean was completely inside (Sean was getting in the trunk, Bytie didn’t realize it). Sean just called Bytie a bitch and we pulled off. I sat shot gun and kept Bytie awake for along time until I myself fell asleep. I eventually went to sleep in the back (Evita rode with us from the girls side when Micah went over to drive Lindsey’s car.

When I woke up I was slightly fearing for my life, as there was a great commotion up front b/c of Bytie’s driving. When we finally arrived in downtown DC-we split up. The girls went to Ruthee’s grandmothers house (in DC, where they were staying) to get some sleep, us guys wandered around. We tried to get in by the IMF building to scout out the protest but police had it blocked off. We saw the capitol building, but when we walked toward it somehow we lost track of it. We went to breakfast and I talked briefly to a friendly cop. He noticed we were there for the protest, said for the last 8 days he had been working 12 hour days to get ready, and that he hoped their was no trouble. I replied that I hoped there was no trouble as well. We went to visit one of Sean’s friends who lived in DC, everyone except Sean and Vito slept in the car while they went out to check out the small protests that were occuring on Saturday.

We met up w/ the girls and went looking for the protests. We went to this church were we saw all the protestors, but they asked us to leave b/c it was attracting attention. We went to another church where protesters were gathered and wandered around there. Some how we were seperated from Sean, Bytie, and Thomas. I went back to look for them. On my way back, I had an interesting conversation w/ 3 street kids, who wanted to know what everyone was here for and I explained the IMF to them. I met up w/ Micah and Ruthee. Ruthee had a lot of questions about the IMF, and I explained it to her. (The girls had come b/c of us. The other guys told me that they had only come b/c of the road trip idea. Lindsey explained to me later in the car that she had come b/c she felt God was calling her to go. She had done some research b/f hand, and even b/f she found out about it knew God wanted her to be socially involved. Evita’s bravery in the streets the next day would convince me she felt passionately about the subject, even if she may have been uninformed).

(Another random point-Ruthee told me several times on the trips that she appreciated my calmness. This caused me to have a slight crush on her, but nothing big (at different points in the weekend I had different small crushes on all 3 of the girls).)

We eventually went back and found Sean, Bytie and Thomas. By this point Evita, Vito, and Lindsey were in some sort of training workshop, so we went without them. A bunch of people went to the car, and I stayed w/ Sean and Micah by the church. (The protesters headquarters had been taken over by the police earlier that day. We kept hearing reports of the puppets that were confiscated and stuff. Appearently 3 people were arrested in the morning, one of whom was someone I knew because a girl had complimented me on my wolf shirt, and he had come up and started talking to her while she was talking to me. There was also a message that we got messages of Solidarity all over the world, so they declared it a moral victory.

Anyway, we heard of a protest at the justice department protesting the Military Industrial Complex. We tried to get down there amidst some confusion, and when we finally made it down there, there was nothing happening. (We found out later that 300 peaceful protestors had been arrested there, which was why the protest was over by the time we got there.) Ruthee compared our actions to trying to find the party on Saturday night, only we were trying to find the protest.

We went all the way back, and became involved with the housing protest, protesting evictions we marched peacefully up and down the streets of poor minorities who those Capitalistic bastards were evicting because of urban renewal. At two different places the tenents came out and talked to us. Unlike media reports, this group at least was very diverse-probably only 50% white. When the march ended we ran into Lindsey and Evita, who told us they didn’t know where Vito was. As part of the protest against evictions, a group of people had gone into a evicted house and where planning to stay the night. Vito had gone in, they had left the area because they didn’t want to get arrested. We drove down to the house, the cop there told us everyone had been cleared out, no one was arrested (although Sean later heard that everyone in that house had been arrested). We went for supper instead of looking for Vito. We joked about what lousy friends we were (in fact we laughed about the fact that Vito was missing the rest of the weekend, it seemed to increase in funnyness the longer he was gone). However there was little we could do. We were so unorganized that Vito did not have any number where he could contact us, so we had no way of finding eachother. We called all sorts of places to see if he had been arrested, but no one was any help and Vito had left all his ID and everything behind so he could do Jail Solidarity if arrested (not coorperate w/ cops at all-not give name). We were also somewhat upset at Vito since our plan was specifically not to get arrested if possible.

At the resturant we talked to other protester (Seattle veterans I think), who told our unorganized group about the march at 5 AM. Our imaginations were excited, we quickly ditched plans of legal protest.

The boys and girls split up. Sean was driving to friends of his parent’s outside of DC. Sean and I were the only ones awake in the car, and both of us had a hard time understanding the directions. Sean was getting frustrated and my directional skills were not helping, but we eventually found it. (After first stopping at the wrong house and frightening some old lady, hopefully not too bad).

Woke up at 3:45, eventually left shortly after 4:15. (I took responsibility for getting everyone up, joking , "Alright everyone, up and at them, that Bank’s not going to close itself).

We got to the park shortly after 5 AM, waited a while for the girls who didn’t show up until 5:30. The organizers kept encouraging us to go, so not too many protesters were at the park. Eventually when the girls got there, we joined the march.

There was a meeting at the park. Some B group or something was meeting. Even though we were not part of it, we just joined up. (Again, we were very unorganized, and if we had been arrested we would have been screwed b/c we were not signed up with their legal consul). A cop car and small bus (probably for holding arrestees), went by the park and protesters flooded into the street to block its path. Our leaders shouted at us not to go help, because they already had enough people to take care of it, and we needed to stay together.

We marched past police barricades, giving them the peace sign. We marched through into an illegal area, chanting slogans. (Slogans we changed: "The people, United, can never be divided; This is what democracy looks like, this is what hypocrisy looks like; Hey hey, ho ho, the IMF has got to go; no justice, no peace: etc, etc, etc). We later heard that those who straggled behind the group were arrested.

We arrived at police barricades where we stopped. The police put on gas masks, and we started preparing to get tear gassed, but it turns out it was only a scare tactic. We stayed there, and chilled. Dances began and stuff, and I regretted not being where the action was (little did I know). People wrote stuff on the street w/ chalk such as "Our streets" and "Imperialist Mother Fuckers".

Thomas and Micah walked by. They had not marched down w/us b/c they did not want to get arrested, and it was funny first of all b/c they were walking around an illegal area not in the safety of a big group but only by themselves, and second b/c they were so calm about it, not understanding what we were excited about.

They would later end up over by the Anarchists when the Anarchists got Tear gassed, and would walk forward not understanding what was going on, and get some of the gas (according to their story at least).

Anyway, a long time of sitting there and dancing. There were group spokespeople meetings, and we designated Bytie as our spokesperson (which turned out to be somewhat humerous b/c he was constantly in meetings, and we would always laugh whenever another meeting was called, and he would make a face and have to go back in.) We decided not to let any cars through our barricade. The fact that riot police were parked on the corner a block away led people to believe that they were going to try something.

Our first test came when the police tried to lead a bus through the our intersection. They approached with a Police escort, we quickly formed up. Although we did not intend to be in the front lines, there was a gap by the corner and the organizers told people to fill it and we ended up being right in front. The Police moved forward and started grabbing and dragging people away, (approaching with the bus in the front and from behind as well) but when they grabbed a protestor, other people held on to that protestor. Things began to get chaotic so we started chanting: "Peaceful Protest". The bus kept moving forward, and a cop told Evita that if she didn’t move her leg it would be run over. She replied: "I shouldn’t have to move my leg! They shouldn’t even be here!" The cop replied: "I’m just doing my job ma’am".

The protestors refused to give up, one was shoved right by where I was sitting, "Stay there you Fuck" the police man said. Eventually the police gave up and the bus backed away. We were jubilant, standing up and yelling: "The people United, shall never be divided." (Random addendum: for some reason, probably b/c it was an illegal protest area, TV cameras were not allowed).

The next confrontation came when the police tried to move a car from their barricades out into the street. We were caught a little off guard but quickly rushed in to block it. The cops used their clubs to push people away. Evita got pushed down several times by the cops, but always rushed back in front of the car. I sat down in front of the car a couple times, but it just went around me. The cops sprayed pepper spray. I covered my face in a crouched position like the other protesters, but was not hit. Ruthie and Evita both got some spray in their hair, neither one of them affected seriously. One protester was knocked down by the police as he ran towards the car. The car got away, and several people yelled at the police as they walked back-Evita especially was really getting in their face.

Someone else (journalist) later interviewed Evita, and she told how she was repeatedly knocked down by the cops and I vouched that this was true.

The cops asked for a liason from the group, and after a spokesperson meeting we were informed by Bytie that the cops considered this intersection too important, and were intending to move us out. Our leaders told the cops we weren’t leaving. We sat down and locked arms. I was locked w/ Ruthie and a canadian (who, like most of these protesters wouldn’t give out his real name.)

The Canadian had the idea of locking legs too, but we eventually gave up on b/c it was too uncomfortable. A messanger biker came in from one of the other intersections saying a medic was needed b/c a police Van had just run protestors over. I still do not know if this report was true or not, but it scared me at the time.

Since the police had already proven they were not gentle people, I was nervous but we sat down and chanted (Over and over again-great stress reliever. Most popular one was "This is what Democracy looks like, this is what democracy looks like"). Eventually one of the leaders told us to save our breath, we were going to need it. We were joined by many other protesters from other interesections. Eventually someone shouted out (while a leader was speaking) that the cops were leaving, and we cheered again.

Another car tried to get by our intersection, again catching us by surprise. The police ran out and clubbed someone on the head who was blocking the intersection, others were forcibly moved back. While the police were struggling, the rest of us formed a barricade in front of the car. People asked who the driver of the car was, and the police responded, "it ain’t got shit to do with you, let him through." Eventually it turned out he had a union card. There was some debate about to let him through or not. (Why would a union guy try and run our barricades?) But at least one protestor was vocal that we let him through. We did not move and just let him drive around us, as protestors yelled at him, "It doesn’t matter what Union your from, you don’t run your own people over."

A legal observer came up and asked me if I had seen what happened, and I told him, and then pointed out the cop that had clubbed the guy on top of the head. The legal observer talked to the cop, and I don’t know if he ever got a hold of the person who was clubbed or not.

Cars repeatedly came up after that, but when we formed our barricades they gave up quickly. There was talk of victory being declared, and leaving, while others said that we really needed people. I fought a losing battle among my group to stay. At one point I checked out another intersection. The cops were all in gas masks, and appearently had just issued a warning that they were about to shoot off tear gas. It was close to the legal rally (which I was just coming back from visiting), so people surged over there, and the cops eventually took off their masks.

Another time new cops assembled behind the police barricade, and so we thought they were going to clear us out, so we stood up and chanted and one of the leaders asked the cops to consider what they were about to do to us, and the protestors even offered them water (which they refused) and gave messages of love to the cops. Nothing ever came of this though, I think the extra cops were just there because of the legal march coming through.

Once a legal march came through, we eventually left (no one had gotten a lot of sleep all weekend, the girls especially were really tired).

(The girls were also interviewed –Evita in the one mentioned above and then all 3 of them video taped by some group doing a documentary. I thought it was kind of ironic that they got so much attention since they were the ones pressing to leave, but they definitely looked attractive and photogenic, they had flowers in their hair, and the 3 of them comprised 3 ethnic groups.

Thomas and Micah had rejoined us, and everyone decided to go. I was initially left behind because I was still watching the march, but Ruthee noticed I was gone and they came back and got me. (Good thing, after Vito got left behind I wouldn’t want to get left behind also).

To my great frustration, we went to a pizza place in DC. (I left the biggest protest of my life to get Pizza. Oh well, it was either that or be an asshole against the group). After that we got in our cars and headed home.

Initially I was in a car w/ Sean, Bytie, Ruthee and Evita. Ruthee was really nervous when driving, but I sat shotgun and coxed her. Sean wanted to trick Bytie into being forcibly exposed to Dave Matthews. (It’s all Evita listens too, but Bytie hates it.) So I went and sat in other car. Lindsey was the only one awake. Although I hadn't talked to her before, I had a really nice 9 hour or so conversation w/ Lindsey. (The last hour of the trip I started seeing things, and Lindsey said it was okay if I went to sleep).

Lindsey (at first especially) did most of the talking. Among other things she mentioned during the protest a media figure was going to take her picture, and another protester told her to take off her bandana, and then she didn’t look mean anymore so the guy didn’t take her picture.
We arrived back at Calvin at around 5 in the morning. I went to bed.

Addendum: This video contains some footage from the intersection we were at. You can see some of us briefly near the end of Part 2 -at about 26 minutes into it.

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