The traditional pomp and circumstance of the US January presidential inauguration disappeared amid chants and tear gas, when what was expected to be a grand victory march down Pennsylvania Avenue descended into an embarrassing spectacle for the elite and their “mandate.”
With all eyes on DC, people across the world were treated to televised parade images of wafting smoke and pepper spray, as police battled protesters directly on the inaugural motorcade route. At one point about a mile ahead of the presidential parade, the barricades on Pennsylvania Avenue were brought down by demonstrators. During a prolonged clash, protesters slowed the president’s motorcade and then brought it to a stand-still.
Moments before the motorcade stopped, it was forced to speed up briefly in an attempt to spare the president a prolonged exposure to an expanse of protesters who dwarfed the numbers of Bush supporters on the parade route at the site of the ANSWER protest rally. Vice-President Cheney’s limo got nailed with a snowball during the parade, making a mockery of the multi-million dollar security operation.
A massive rally at Malcolm X Park, sponsored by the DC Anti-War Network (DAWN), was followed by a march estimated by police to be 10,000 or more. A second march from the rally ended in civil disobedience at Lafayette Park at the end of the parade route and in front of the White House. During Bush’s speech prior to the parade, activists with Code Pink dropped a banner reading “Bring the Troops Home” and were quickly removed, as were several individuals who shouted remarks in opposition to Bush.
Some of the security entrances to the parade route were effectively shut down and other groups of protesters roamed the streets, clashing with cops and Republicans at different locations throughout the city. Late into the evening, yet another march started to form and make its way through the Adams Morgan area. About 200 protesters chanting “Bring the War Home” were on their way to the Washington Hilton’s Inaugural Ball. Protesters sent rocks through the windows of Citibank, Riggs Bank, KFC, McDonalds, and a police station. A police cruiser tailing the march had a rock break its windshield.
The police moved in to arrest demonstrators while a helicopter overhead spotlighted the scene. Some of those arrested were pepper sprayed by police after being restrained. Seventy-two people were arrested. Damage resulting from the incident was estimated by police at $15,000. One marcher quoted in the mainstream press said property destruction, particularly at banks, was a political act to protest institutions responsible for exploitation and oppression.
The day after the inauguration, a coalition of homeless and low income housing advocates engaged in a series of actions. Banners were hung all over town on empty buildings demanding, “This Should Be Shelter.” At the same time, activists again reopened the Randall School Shelter in Southwest DC with an occupation. The space was held for 12 hours until people were taken off the roof by the police using body boards late that afternoon. Mayday DC activists served a free lunch outside the shelter to the homeless and hungry.
The timing of these actions was no accident, making clear the direct connection between the DC government’s disregard for the homeless and impoverished, and the growing gap between the rich and poor propagated under, and exacerbated by, the Bush regime.
Despite the December 21 sale of the Randall shelter to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, MayDay DC made it clear that the fight for the building is far from over. Call 850–572-6956 or email maydaydc – at – hotmail – dot – com for info about Mayday DC. See also: www.maydaydc.mahost.org
From South Dakota to San Francisco
Around the country, anti-inaugural protests occurred in South Dakota, San Francisco and Modesto, California, Knoxville and Nashville, Tennessee, Ohio and many other areas. In Milwaukee, anarchists, anti-authoritarians, and angry kids took to the streets. About 10 banner drops were done throughout the city, including a big one which was made out of stolen upside down flags reading “End Empire.” Over 50 people gathered in Lexington, Kentucky to protest the inauguration. During the demonstration, Lexington police assaulted and tasered several teenagers including one who was tackled in a crosswalk and shocked ten times by a group of police.