Voices from D.C.

by Penny Brown, Phillip Watts, and Osage Bell

Revolutionary Worker #1266, January 30, 2005, posted at rwor.org

Our team talked to many different people in DC. The following are quotes from and stories about some of the people we met.

We met James shortly after we arrived in the city, at a convergence center set up by the DC Anti-War Network (DAWN) and the Mobilization for Global Justice. He came in to the space, filled with a hundred or so mainly young activists who had been preparing for actions and demonstrations the following day. James agreed to an interview after he had a chance to look around. When we sat down to talk, we learned that James was a freelance photojournalist for mainstream news magazines like Time and Newsweek. He said he had come to DC not on assignment but on his own accord because he wanted to help get positive images of protesters into the mainstream press. "Y’all need help," he said with a laugh.

As we engaged in deeper discussion, James brought out that he wanted to be an optimist but he didn’t think he could. He said that as a journalist he saw his ability to go to different places diminished because the world was getting so dangerous, especially for American journalists. He was very concerned about what kind of opposition would be expressed to the whole Bush program during the inauguration. James had a very intense look on his face, and as he spoke we could all appreciate his sense of urgency. We discussed the deep polarization in the country and where it was all headed. He was frustrated at how weak the Democrats had been but had a hard time seeing the strength of the people.


Sister Grace, from the Sisters of Mercy homeless shelter in Rochester, NY: Bush’s fundamentalist religion is using religion for the wrong reasons: to justify war, killing, etc. I’m still sick in my heart about Nov. 2—I feel it so deep—that’s why we’re here. We’re so opposed to him. We’ve had a lot of bad presidents, but Bush is the worst president in history. He’s a self- proclaimed messiah who thinks he has a mandate from God. But he has no morality.


RW:What do you think about the point that the genie has been let out of the bottle and that America as we once knew it will not be the same again?

A WW2 Vet who was part of a procession carrying 50 cardboard coffins symbolizing the GI’s killed in Iraq: Every country goes through changes. No country is static or the same forever. The truth is I don’t know what the future will bring, all I know is what I got to do today.


RW: From a historical perspective how significant is this day, this moment?

Gene, a middle class white woman whose nephew was in the military: For the U.S., very significant. I don’t know if it (the U.S.) will ever recover from the damage we done. We’ve lost in public opinion, we are only encouraging terrorism. We are not headed toward a peaceful world. Bush has taken this mandate—I worry about what he might do to other countries like Iraq or Korea. Bush is a lunatic, I just don’t know what he might do.


RW: How does it feel to be out here today with all these folks protesting this inauguration?

Jane, middle-aged white woman who had come from the South to represent her brother who was up on charges in the military for refusing orders: It feels great. I’ve only been on one other demonstration and that was around Roe v. Wade . (March For Women’s Lives last year in DC.) It was important for me to take off of work and come up from Virginia to be a part of this anti-war demonstration, and it feels really good. And I hope I don’t get arrested.

RW: How do you see things developing in the next four years?

Jane: I want to be optimistic. Bush can’t be elected again—I think the situation in Iraq...I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. The economy is not getting any better. A plant shut down where I’m from. I’m frustrated. Older people can’t afford medication but there is billions for war.


Anne, a Catholic mental health worker from Virginia, was walking with her teenage son after the UFPJ march. Holding a sign saying "War Is Not a Moral Issue," she talked about her disgust with the Democrats at the congressional hearings for Condoleezza Rice and Alberto Gonzales. "They ask all these questions and don’t even care about the answers." She said she was concerned that someone who supports torture is going to be the Attorney General. After expressing concern for people around the world she said, "Honesty is a moral issue."


Mike Hoffman, Co-Founder, Iraq Veterans Against the War, speaking to a group of youth at a punk rock show featuring the band Anti-Flag:

I got up today at 6 a.m. to stand in the cold, all day, turn my back on Bush. Watching these people, in furs and such, paying thousands of dollars to sit there in support of Bush—while having no idea what it is like not to have their basic needs taken care of, health care etc., their sons and daughters dying... There are people in the military, stuck there [in Iraq] now, that need to get out and speak out. They need us and millions of people supporting them to do that and fighting to end this war. Come to North Carolina on March 19 to stand with members of the 82nd Airborne. We need to support them when they step out.


Young white woman from Maryland: As a self-employed artist, a lesbian who is not Christian and not rich, he is not my president. There is no reconciliation with this downward spiral [Bush is taking the country down]. This is an inauguration like no other—so many [protesters] supporting each other.


NYC-based artist from the Mouths Wide Open collective who was carrying a cutout of a painting of a soldier carrying a dying soldier. (Other people with him held cutout signs of an Iraqi woman holding a dying child): Before the elections, things were more hopeful, there was the energy of the anti-RNC protests. I went to Pennsylvania to register people to vote and do some campaigning. Now I’m very saddened. I’m not sharing in the celebration of this inauguration. I’d like to think things won’t get worse, that we’ll still be able to express opinions 10 years from now. But there have been such dramatic changes in the last four years.

Four years ago, I wouldn’t have gone to a protest, but what I hear from this administration doesn’t make sense. Reality asserts itself no matter what we’re told. Global warming is happening, whether they say so or not. There needs to be a desire to relate to reality [from the administration] but there isn’t any. So people don’t trust election results anymore. There are all these lies and no accountability.


Female Bush supporter and business owner from North Carolina: I’m religious but I’m not an evangelical. I think we need to bring America back to where it used to be, with traditional morality, prayer in schools, etc. I don’t think Bush is trying to bring out a theocracy. Like our founding fathers, he sees the need for freedom of religion. He believes people have the right to not believe in Jesus Christ. I hope he can unify the country and go after countries that support terrorism. Everyone has a right to be free.


Alan, father of one of the founders of Turn Your Back On Bush: Like most people, I looked at the exit polls and thought we had finally squeaked by. But when we didn’t, all this energy welled up out of people to do this (organize Turn Your Back On Bush). Even though they all had other lives and full time jobs and such—they decided not to do those other important things to do this, to build a movement that can’t stop. The tools—like the internet—may differ from the 1960s, but this took people’s determination. Technology didn’t do this, people and their determination did.

I know that things can change. Even desperate situations can change, but I’m not sure how other than creating a movement against them. Right now there are two movements within the Democratic Party—one says to accommodate with the Republicans and the other says that’s what got us here. We need a real alternative. If we’re going to excite people, we need an alternative.

Republicans weren’t always like this. Nixon wasn’t a far-right fundamentalist. I live four blocks from the White House and I’m concerned because Bush is creating more terrorists. Some government intelligence agent issued a report saying Iraq is the new Afghanistan—the new terrorist breeding ground. That’s part of what keeps me up at night. And wanting to understand what’s driving all of this; how Bush could lie and people are so willing to believe him and he can get away with it. Powell, during his presentation to the United Nations, said, "These are not assertions, these are facts." A very conservative pundit said a few months back that if they don’t find WMDs, it’d be a disaster for Bush, but they haven’t found any and it hasn’t been a disaster. Why is that?!

In terms of the potential for fascism here—I’m sure plenty of Germans couldn’t imagine it coming either.