Disrupt J20 – Inauguration Protests
It was not even 6:30 AM and I got handed a sign.
I was especially happy to see one of my core issues (nuclear power) on the stylishly designed placard.
We assembled in McPherson Square in downtown Washington DC. The plan was simple. There are six entrances to the Inauguration Celebration. Our goal was to block as many of them as possible to disrupt the flow of MAGAs (Make America Great Again hat people) and therefore the program.
Organizers told the group we were in that we had a number of undocumented immigrants in it. This meant we were going to do so-called “soft block” actions to reduce the risk of arrest. This included our “soft blockade.” Which really meant we were constricting traffic and slowing the progress of people trying to make it to the inauguration.
We were surprisingly effective. In part because the DC police were unwilling to suppress the protests. One of the gates was actually closed by locked down protesters, aided because the police were unwilling to hurt people to remove them. This stems from past protests where DC police roughed-up and arrested protesters prematurely and the city had to pay huge civil settlements.
It seemed as though the strategy was to arrest as few people as possible. Other gate blockers were dragged away by the police, and sometimes needed to be cut free.
We were with the peaceful non-violent protesters who were not breaking the law. These Movement for Black Lives activists who blocked the gate were using a known civil disobedience strategy; one in which they knowingly break the law (usually trespassing or obstructing traffic) with the intent of being arrested and standing trial for what they have done.
But there is another way.
There are those who would break the law, mostly destroying property, without any intention of cooperating with the police in their arrest and incarceration. While often identified as a group, the Black Bloc is really a tactic. It was originally developed in Germany for use in anti-nuclear and squatting actions in the late 1970s. Besides all the black clothed fashion, this tactic includes protecting yourself from police violence including scarves, sunglasses, ski masks, motorcycle helmets with padding, or other face-concealing and face-protecting items. This guise allows it difficult to distinguish between different participants and harder to prosecute.
Frankly, groups using Black Bloc tactics have been hugely head-achy for me. They often come to events that they do not organize and intentionally incite violence from with the police, demonstrating their predominantly white, male privilege. If you are trying to organize a non-violent civil disobedience action, a group using Black Bloc tactics can be one of your worst nightmares. It can destroy your action. It can ruin your relationship with the locals. It can incite police violence towards your peaceful protesters. And they can result in dangerous escalations of tensions.
The Black Bloc was different this time. First off, no single group could claim ownership over Trump’s coronation. More importantly, the group using these tactics was so big, that it did not really attach itself to any other action and acted autonomously (which is how they are supposed to work). People using these tactics broke some windows, burned an empty limousine outside the offices of the Washington Post, and were involved in the bulk of the 217 arrests from today’s actions.
Predictably, CNN would divide the protest world evenly between those destroying property and those who were not. In fact, there were so many actions and so few of them were destructive of property or violent, that almost all our large crew did not see any altercations with the police. Though there were some of us who sought out people a part of the Black Bloc to shadow the protests.
We were involved in several actions. Perhaps the most fun was the Festival of Resistance which started at the Union Square train station and marched back to McPherson Square. What you can’t see well enough from the above picture is that the parade stretches for blocks and blocks back to the station.
Shepard Fairey who created the famous Obama “Hope” image is back with “We the People” which had three lovely female images. As far as resistance art work goes, this was a great event.
If there is not enough time to have fun at these actions then you are definitely doing it wrong. At the end of the action we all relaxed a bit and found some folks with similar strange ideas as us. Cel has always identified with Wolves.
Protesters have all manner of advise. Much of it was directed angrily at Trump. Another big chunk of protest banners are oriented towards generalized critiques for general consumption. And finally, the smallest fraction of poster art is directed towards other protesters, like this image above. We are going to need a lot of bravery in the coming time.
You political experience is tremendously influenced by who surrounds you and how much you know them. I was lucky at this action. Most of the fine folks from Compersia in DC were at this action. Add to this various Point A activist from up the eastern seaboard and I had my very own basket of deplorables.
There were lots of good signs
More marching tomorrow.