Monday, January 24, 2005

notes of PROTEST from Nicole McEwan 

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

First off a few words about the hat. (Anyone who knows me knows I have a thing for hats).

It's a shimmery red white and blue Uncle Sam hat -- about 16 inches tall with a wire skeleton so you can shape it. I bought it from a cute couple at a Washington Square sidewalk sale. One of the guys bought it to wear at a Rainbow Pride parade and hated to part with it. Lucky for me, Father Son and Holy ghost style Philly rowhouses don't permit too much sentimental packratting.

I first wore it Halloween night with a Kerry-Edwards pin attached. I live near UPenn in a fairly crunchy granola area where progressives, Democrats and anarchists coexist peacefully and Trick-or-Treating is still popular. Many neighbors had election-themed displays and signs like BUSH REELECTION: SCARY. As my son and I circulated the hat got a lot of laughs and knowing glances -- it was as though people were itching to vote and we all knew the clock was ticking on Georgie.

Almost on a dare, I wore it all day 11/2. That hat, together with the BUSH -- LIKE A ROCK, ONLY DUMBER sticker on my leather jacket drew a lot of appreciative stares, smiles, thumbs-ups and high-fives that day. I voted in it, went grocery shopping in it, even picked Sam up from school with it perched high on my head.

That afternoon there was a palpable sense of hope and unity in the air. It was hardly spring but it reminded of the first sunny, mild day in late March when everyone throws open their windows and lets out the winter funk. The time had come to take BushCo to the curb and everyone I know had already done what they thought was the heavy lifting -- whether that meant working the polls, postering, protesting, volunteering for MoveOn or answering the phone for Election Protection.

I suppose there's a joke in here somewhere about how many liberals it takes to move an elephant -- but frankly, my heart is just not in it at the moment. (YES - L-I-B-E-R-A-L-S. Let's take back the L-word, Dammit.)

Small surprise. Philly and PA went Kerry. While we slept, Dick Cheney, experienced magician that he is, had pulled Ohio out of Karl Rove's ass. In the wee, small hours of 11/3 he presented it to King W.

The next day was like a funeral. You hear all your life about the day JFK was shot. It must have felt like this was all I could think as I moved around the city.

Please pardon me. I know I'm likely preaching to the choir.

This election was rigged, stolen, hijacked, hacked, fucked, bogus, counterfeit, bought, sold, scammed. And believe me it wasn't just Ohio. And it wasn't just the electoral college -- it was the popular vote as well.

If we can learn anything useful from Right Wing pundits it's simplicity of message. If friends, family, coworkers and associates don't believe the election was rigged, ask them this simple question: If 51% of this country voted for Bush -- then how do you explain a 44% approval rating on Inauguration Day? Historically, Inaugural Day approval ratings mirror voting percentages. So who actually voted for this fascist warmonger?

I wore the hat again in D.C. on January 6th when 500 protesters gathered in Lafayette Park just outside the White House, rallied, then marched to the Capital to publicize what really is the only Cause that matters at this moment in American history.

Mouse pad activism fueled by blogs like The Democratic Underground and websites like TruthOut, The Raw Story and The Free Press (Speaking Truth to Power) had made a dent in the Mainstream Media blackout of The Greatest Story Never Told.

The reality is that if this fraud is not exposed, the 2006 mid-term elections will be just as fixed and the Republicans will gain full majority. Hello, Dictatorship. Goodbye, Bill of Rights.

Tens of thousands of letters, e-mails and faxes to Democratic senators in tandem with a 110 page report assembled by senior Congressman John Conyers Jr. had convinced California Senator Barbara Boxer to contest the certification of the electoral college. In her speech that day Boxer thanked Michael Moore for publicizing the Senate's complacency in 2000 in the infamous opening moments of Fahrenheit 9-11.

Conyers' historic document "Preserving Democracy: What went wrong in Ohio" details voter suppression tactics, statistical anomalies, Mathematical impossibilities and contains eyewitness testimony and wholesale evidence of Fraud. Yes, the F-word.

On 1/6 we rallied in support of Conyers, Jesse Jackson, Cliff Arneback and his diligent team of lawyers and David Cobb and Michael Badnerik (The Glibs) who made strange bedfellows post-election by joining the Green and Libertarian parties in efforts to raise the necessary money for hand recounts in Ohio, New Mexico and Nevada.

I'll never forget standing ten feet from Jesse Jackson as he delivered a moving appeal to the crowd, the gist of which was that MLK's dream had only been fully realized on paper. Yes, blacks have the right to vote. Now give them equal access to functional voting equipment and make sure their votes are actually counted.

And although you'd never know it from reading the shallow recitations of the Grey Lady, The Post or any other major newspaper, The Glibs are entitled to a full refund.

Ultimately, the Ohio recount was more crooked and illegal than the actual vote: Precincts were hand-picked by Republican operatives. Computer hard drive 'adjustments' were made pre-recount by Triad computer technicians. The same tech guys provided handy cheat sheets to Board of Election employees. Ballots were presorted and physically-modified (a nice white oval sticker over a Kerry vote adds up to a vote for Bush!). Volunteer 'witnesses' were made to stand several feet away; rendering their participation futile.

All this transpired under Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell. Like Katherine Harris in Florida, Blackwell delivered a crucial swing state to Bush while co-chairing the Ohio Bush/Cheney reelection campaign. Poll books (the simple, low-tech and easy way to demonstrate that the numbers don't add up) are public record. Yet Blackwell locked them down for the duration of the recount. We all know why.

All these tactics fly in the face of Ohio state law. Criminal prosecution is in its planning stages but it won't succeed without public support and the agitation that media coverage has historically provided. Things change. If the corporate-owned media turns its back: So be it.

The new rule is simple: Be The Media.

Fast forward. The Inauguration. Again the silly hat.

CA already wrote about our strange Metro encounter which amounted to grown adults treating Matt, CA and myself as though dissent was contagious -- something to be avoided -- like cooties or chicken pox.

If only.

I soon discovered that in a politically mixed crowd the hat granted me a strange Double Agent status. Moving through the masses, my head gear boldly announced my Patriotism, while the 'Bush Cheated' pins declared my allegiance. But we all know the Bushies aren't good with nuance.

The sheeple don't get it. Protest IS Patriotic.

Making our way through the marble canyons of DC was a tad creepy even without the Riot Police and the helicopters thrumming overhead. The scale of the building and their fortress like facades seem designed to make you feel small and powerless. The omnipresent stars and stripes, Military presence and speakers blaring Bush's voice created such an Orwellian vibe that I don't think anyone would have been terribly surprised to see W.'s giant face superimposed Wicked Witch-style on the sky above us.

After passing through the security tent my first encounter was with a liquored up, fur-clad woman tottering across Pennsylvania Avenue. In full party mode, smug as a hooker at a pre-Viagra retirement party, this woman waved a sign featuring a sobbing diaper-clad baby. DEMOCRAT CRYBABIES GO WAHH! WAHH! it read.

I locked eyes with her, then leaned in and yelled WAHH! WAHH! right in her face -- ostensibly identifying myself as a Democratic "crybaby."

Momentarily confused, she yelled Wah! Wah! back and started waving her sign wildly. As I continued on my way she squealed on like a wind-up toy, never guessing that I had been mocking her.

A little later a young woman in a crowd of pro-lifers smiled at me, somehow missing the WORST PRESIDENT EVER sign at my side. In a conspiratorial voice she urged me to watch out: "It's really rough up there!" she warned, glancing at the ANSWER demonstration area about a hundred yards away.

Many times smiles simply turned sour when they read the pins.

More often people -- other protesters -- were turned on and tuned in. CA already mentioned the air of bonhomie that never waned despite the cold and the all-encompassing security measures. At one point two teenage boys asked us if we had any extra signs and I handed them orange cardboard and a marker. When I passed them later they were waving hand-lettered BUSH loves DICK and NO BLOOD FOR OIL placards. At one point I distributed pins and bumperstickers to other protesters.

It just felt GOOD. And you know what? The chanting was really cathartic.

Of course the ReThugs weren't going to make it easy. If you want to make it hard for protesters one of the easiest things to do is fail to provide port-a-potties. You can also force the organizers to sleep on the ground.

At one point an ANSWER organizer spoke about the relief of finally securing a spot on the parade route -- having been being forced to pursue that Right in court. After scrambling last minute to print signs, rent bleachers, a sound system and soundstage gear ANSWER was informed that the materials needed to be on site on the 19th because the area was to be locked down overnight.

"Fine, we'll get a warming tent so our people can guard the gear," ANSWER replied. "No you can't. We won't be able to observe you," said the Secret Service. "Fine. We'll get a tent made of clear vinyl," said ANSWER. "We'll think about it, said the SS." Back to court again. Ultimately, the group's petition was denied. The SS determined that the clear "reflective" plastic might create a glare, disabling security and camouflaging the nefarious activities inside.

So Kudos to the activists who camped without tents or heat on the mall from the 19th to 21st so others could protest more effectively.

As CA already explained I got suckered when I walked through an exit area I had used earlier only to find that the re-entry point had been subsequently shut down without warning.

I wasn't alone and even found myself in a group of similarly irked Bushies.

After being interviewed by NBC about the uneven distribution of facilities and the intentionally deceptive security strategies I was ready to undergo another near strip search to get back in. It was not to be.

CA mentioned the surfeit of fur. True. For the men the uniform was long navy blue or black cashmere coats, occasionally topped with a cowboy hat. The women wore non-sensible shoes as though their wealth could even protect them from slipping on the occasional sheet of ice that dotted the streets.

It didn't.

Many Bushies seemed genuinely shocked at the number and passion of the protesters. From the looks in their eyes we might as well have been zoo creatures on the lam. We were crashing their party and they weren't too thrilled. It was also clear they weren't used to rubbing elbows with such "Riff Raff." At one point a tall man charged toward me. "Out of my way!" he bellowed, almost knocking me over. Apparently I had come between him and his hotel entrance.

After being misdirected a few times I wound up at a jammed security checkpoint on 7th and C. A mixed crowd of two hundred or so was bottlenecked together with little more than their mutual frustration in common.

Two young "radicals," one in long tight hair braids, the other in an old man style fedora were holding court from atop a barricade -- speaking what most people who read this blog (and many other sensible Americans) would term "the truth."

They rattled on about Halliburton, non-existent WMDs, Prescott Bush's Nazi profiteering, the sham US election, the soon to be shammed Iraq election, the murder of tens of thousands Iraqi civilians, our imminent invasion of Iran, the plundering of Social Security and the rest of the Bush agenda.

The anti-Bush people shouted out facts and statistics to elaborate on the impromptu speakers' points.

The Republicans in the line, torn between their desire to see the parade and their unwillingness to confront the sins of their leaders, started yelling back in a typical juvenile manner.

Next to me an older heavyset woman in stiff curls and three shades of blue eye shadow whined about missing the inauguration because of delays caused by THESE PEOPLE. Groomed to taxidermic levels herself, she yelled "Take a Bath!" as though we'd all been timewarped to Haight and Asbury. Then "Get a Job!" Other Bushies joined in: "Why Don't You Go To School and Get An Education!" "If You Hate America, Leave!"

It was fantastic street theater.

Unfortunately these young rascals were already a)clean, b)handsome, c)educated --one at MIT, d)employed -- in disaster relief and e)terribly well-informed in current affairs.

So much for debate class.

Later in the day the three of us reunited and walked up G street toward the White House. As I videotaped the jarring sight of two snipers on just the one visible corner of the WH roof, Matt, ever vigilant, informed me that the Secret Service was filming me filming the snipers. Which way? I asked. To your right, he said. Okay. So I turned and filmed the SS filming me film the WH.


CA gave away the last of his broadsheets. Wearily, we made our way back to the Metro. A small hand-lettered cardboard sign rested alone on a ledge outside a department store.

As of 1.20.05

Gil Scott Heron was right. The revolution will not be televised.

It will be blogged.


thanks so much for sending the above accounts, it's all fantastic coverage!

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