Note: I went back and cleaned up some of the verbiage and formatting on this post, and added reflections from the next day. The "At the protest" section is me on my XV6700 typing in observations on the fly. Since rain was threatening I kept the blogging to a minimum.
Please digg this story!
At the protest
- (3:05 PM) Welp, here I am... For a red state this is a bit better turnout than I expected. Police presence isn't too bad right here, but I saw a big group of stormtroopers gathered across the street, mounted and ready to deploy. It's actually kind of fun; these old hippies keep messing up the cheers, but they're the only one's really uping the ante around here. I'll take some photos now!
- (3:44 PM) Ok, it's a bit later and the size of the protest has almost doubled. we're getting a lot of honking (from cars driving by) in support. There's also a contingent here in support of Old Dirty Bastard for president. Who will break the news to them? Well, it's starting to rain so ima put my phone away.
- (4:28 PM) Here comes the prez... we're gonna give him hell. (Turns out he didn't show up till 5 PM and left around 6 PM)
- (6:32 PM) Well, it's over... good turnout, and we caught Bush coming and going. abt 200 ppl attending. the paramilitary police were disgusting. eating sushi now :-)
- Here's a link to my Flickr photos tagged "protest". Also, a video clip. I'll post some interesting ones anyway.
- From this picture it's pretty obvious that the cops were choosing sides, and it wasn't with the antiwar majority but the 5-person pro-Bush clique
- As you can see, the cops and paramilitary detail clearly considered peaceful demonstrators the major threat.
- Here's one look at the crowd, but it was hard to capture the whole thing.
It was a pretty good turnout for the capital of a red state, although we do have an art school here. Like some wierd cross between a Phish lot and a hipster convention. I didn't come with a sign, which sucked because I had to hold this little one that just said "Time for a Change".
Broad St. was closed down about 4:30 PM in anticipation of the Prez. Plastic fencing had been erected ahead of time, but officers lined up along the street to, well, I'm not sure what they were afraid of. I don't consider it a very strong democracy when elected officials need to intimidate the people and hide them. Speaking of hiding, they lined busses up along the other side of Broad so that nobody in the Museum would have to endure our sight. And as the Prez left, they even positioned Richmond Police SUVs so that the view would be obstructed (so I went further down the street to catch them).
There was a small group of war/Bush supporters, about half a dozen, with big American flags. It was a bit pathetic. The cops initially tried to stand between us and them, but realizing we weren't posing a threat, they eventually ceded the territory.
I made sure the police knew I wasn't happy with them. I yelled several times about my dismay with the police state. But even I wasn't prepared for when the Prez arrived; these guys in fatigues carrying automatic rifles stood along the busses facing us - again, as if the electorate is the enemy! They were pretty smug about it, but the crowd seemed to accept it so I didn't make a big deal out of it. It's hard being a sole voice in those things.
Many of the protesters there were trying to raise awareness of the recent damage to Battery Park, which resulted in some school closings. In fact, one thing that kind of wierded me out was how a whole host of issues, from jobs to education to gay rights, were being wrapped up in what I thought was an anti-war, anti-Bush protest. I guess Allen's presence made it more locally significant than that. But surely the war was the big focus.
There were some fruities (one white lady invoked the "N" word on the loudspeaker to the dismay of everybody, though she meant no harm) but overall things were calm. In fact, I could have stood a bit more agitation, but the collective dynamics of those things are wierd. Only one guy really broke ranks and charged out with a sign into Broad. The cops turned him back but returned his sign.
All in all, a good experience, though I wish I hadn't been alone, or at least that I hadn't arrived so early. I'll post some pictures when I get my phone sync working with my computer.
Here are some links to other sources of information about the protest... hoping I can find other bloggers in Richmond who are antiwar. The VAWN announcement mobilized a good protest, but I hope in the future we can coordinate better, perhaps by expanding online collaboration.
- Story in the Richmond Times-Dispatch (and a MySpacer takes exception to the coverage)
- A critique of the protest at The Virginia Federalist
- A few pictures at day x day's livejournal
- A MySpace blog
- Another MySpace blog (did I mention the hipsters were in force there? :-) )
- Charles Warden makes some observations with which I agree
- West of Schockoe reflects on the protest
- Camelsbackandforth has a good write-up as well as excellent photos
- United Conservatives of Virginia says Bush had Richmond "rockin' and rollin'"?
- SWAC girl whines about us
- Richmond IndyMedia coverage (and more here)
- RaisingKaine has a small writeup
- Democracy Now! coverage