I would tell you about all of the protests I went to,
but I'm afraid there isn't time. We have got to get
to work on #fixingcapitalism. And to be honest,
protesting is a really small part of it.
But there is time for one more protest story. It's from
George W. Bush's first inauguration. If there was one
event in my life worthy of protesting, that was
it. If our protest had somehow prevented him from
becoming president, the world would undoubtedly be a
better place than it is.
But the protest movement initiated at the Battle of
Seattle was petering out rapidly. The mainstream
union and human rights NGOs were not bringing the
large numbers like they had been early on. One
result was that punk-rock inspired anarchists were
gaining more influence in the movement.
I decided to join them.
We started by marching rapidly around downtown DC,
circling near the inauguration site. As we got closer
to the motorcade route the police became hostile and
began trying to break up our march by driving their
vehicles between us. We responded by slashing their
tires. Then we smashed the front window of a bank
branch office. I can't remember which kind of bank it
Then, truckloads of riot police appeared. They began
maneuvering around us and trying to corral us. At one
point they managed to box us in on both ends of a
wide street. There were lots of them and not enough
of us. They could stand shoulder to shoulder, three
deep, all the way across. I thought we were all going
to get arrested, and I was fine with that. But they
just kept us contained for an hour or so.
Then they moved, but not methodically like they
wanted to arrest us. Instead they charged at us with
their body armor and their billy clubs like the orcs
out of a Tolkien novel. However, I didn't see any
firearms drawn and they weren't using all the other
weaponry like tear gas and rubber bullets. They beat
the hell out of anyone who didn’t run away fast
enough, but they only arrested a few people who tried
to hold their ground.
We scattered and then regrouped along the motorcade
route. We were discussing a plan to try to block it
as a stunt. I suppose we were feeling invincible
after our prior "escape." This would be our only
opportunity to get significant media coverage.
Skirmishing with police away from the inauguration
site, where the cameras were, wasn't going to do it.
But as we speculated over the possibility of being
run over by secret-service vehicles or shot at from
the rooftops, we decided it was a bad idea.
This was 2001, so I never considered the possibility
of being labeled an "enemy combatant" and disappeared
to a CIA black-site and tortured for years and years.
Having even the writ of Habeas Corpus revoked. I
assumed we would either die right there or be treated
as citizens with rights.
It was an assumption based on a privilege that no
longer exists. That's why it was such an important
moment to protest. But it was also futile. And way
Did I mention I voted for Ralph Nader?
Yea. Don't be like me kids. You'll regret it.
With hindsight it feels like they were provoking us,
staging us even. They might have used us to tell a
story. A story about how we needed government to
protect us from the scary anarchists that slash tires
and smash windows and threaten the President of the
But we were college kids wearing hoods and bandanas.
We didn't have the stuff to play that part. We
weren't really ready to die. We didn't really
hate capitalism enough.
And that was a good thing.