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As Thing Start To Heat Up: Friday's DC Protest Coverage

Hollie Hoxley of Big Muddy IMC – 24 Sep 2005 –

From the heart of DC, BMIMC reporter Holly Hoxley offers a report of events as the weekend starts heating up.

Global Justice Anitwar Critical Mass

The District of Columbia Bicycle Courier Association (DCBCA) states that their regularly scheduled "Solidarity Ride is a casual, fun ride." Given the police presence at many past Critical Mass rides in DC and elsewhere, there was some concern among observers that conflict and arrests might result. However, police presence at this event was minimal, as it has been so far at all events observed tonight by our reporter.

Due to scarce information on the route of the Critical Mass, BMIMC reporter Hollie Hoxley and others had little luck in following the entire route. However, during the start of the ride at DuPont Circle, there were several hundred bikes gearing up for the ride, one of whom was a former Carbondale resident.

Pedestrian bystanders responded to the event with puzzled looks. As with many other mass public gatherings, the unexpected site of several hundred people on bicycles left passers-by with a mix of curiosity and confusion. Some, however, had a more clear negative response, including a businessman who responded angrily to the large and often vocal presence of the bikers.

Overall, there was a lack of understanding among observers of what a critical mass was and why it was being organized. People on bikes and people on foot had little direct communication as the cyclists went around the circle and continued on their route, leaving no way for participants to explain what they were doing. The main explanation offered was a visual one -- the sight of hundreds of cyclists riding together on city streets. Largely, the participants enjoyed a good bike ride and supported one another in reclaiming the road. But it remains unclear how many of the observers may have gotten the message about the legitimacy of bicycles as a form of transportation.

Hollie Hoxley, BMIMC reporter commented, "Unlike the paperboy, these bike riders didn't deliver."

unpublihed route, several hundred bikes, dupont circle was the start, puzzled peds like at ant demo, some annoyed, incl angry businessman. overall, a lack of understanding of what critical mass was., no sympatico between bike and peds, no way to explain.

Code Pink Vigil at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center

Since March, Code Pink has been holding a regular vigil outside of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. According to interviews with Code Pink members and information on the Code Pink website, the main message of these vigils had been that these wounded and disabled veterans are being treated poorly by the government. They are upset with how the government sends these soldiers out to fight in wars yet doesn't take good care of the wounded.

Tonight, Code Pink held the latest in this series of vigils. However, given the tie-in to the weekend of events in D.C., tonight's vigil was a much larger affair.

At the start of the vigil, BMIMC reporter Hollie Hoxley noted some possible race issues. The gathering in preparation for the vigil occured in a predominantly African American neighborhood, and the participants were predominantly white, creating the unexpected scene of a mass of white people walking through a neighborhood of color. Articles on the Code Pink website, however, report that previous vigils have included positive dialog with residents in the local neighborhood. It remains to see how this weekend will affect future vigils.

Once the vigil started, it was clear that the special weekend had boosted turnout dramatically. The turnout in previous vigils had been approximately 25-30 people, along with a varying number of counter-vigilers. Tonight's turnout, however, was approximately 200 people, along with over one hundred counter-vigilers.

The mood was tense on all sides of the event. Code Pink organizers expressed their intent to hold this and all of their other vigils at the site in a dignified and respectful vigil. However, the effort to present this united front faltered tonight under the pressure exerted by counter-protesters.

Counter-vigilers had a variety of signs, chants, numerous American flags, and various other messages and slogans to direct at the Code Pink vigil.

An overweight white male proudly wearing an American flag on his polo shirt lead one of the group chants by shouting: "Shame on Code Pink!" In response, a group of his well-dressed middle-aged supporters would respond with: "Leave the Wounded Alone!"

When cars would honk for Code Pink, counter-vigilers would make ridiculing "raspberry" noises.

Some examples of counter-vigiler signs:

According to Code Pink supporters, the counter-provigilers are viscious toward anyone who is not a counter-vigiler, including personal insults and instigation of shouting matches. At tonight's vigil, this contributed to a very competitive atmosphere void of listening and dialog. Despite any efforts of Code Pink to the contrary, the event degraded into a shouting match between the two sides, with loose cannons on both side shouting back at forth at one another.

One Code Pink supporter was walking around correcting people's pronunciation of the word Iraq. After doing the Iraq pronunciation dance the woman became combative and shouted at BMIMC reporter Hollie Hoxley, "Bitch." The supporter was unable to identify which "side" the reporter was on due to a lack of pink in the reporters attire. Later, the woman apologized for her behavior.

Code Pink has tried to contact the Fisher House, an organization that supports families of veterans above and beyond what the government provides. However, they have not yet been successful in creating a relationship to send in letters, care packages, etc. to those in medical center.

On a local note, Code Pink reports that Barak Obama, a U.S. Senator from Illinois, has been influential in making conditions better at this medical center.

During the vigil, BMIMC reporter Hollie Hoxley interviewed several members of Code Pink.

One of these was Tiffany, who is a paid employee of Code Pink. Tiffany helps to organizes local chapters, spent the summer in Crawford, and was arrested at the RNC in a protest related to Dick Cheney. Her father was a vet, and she was formerly employeed with finding transitional housing for homeless vets. She said she's been personally in contact with those inside the medical center. Her concern is that "they have to pay for band-aids." They're being asked to pay out of pocket for many of the expenses that are required to cover their own care after being wounded.

Hollie asked two of the other CP women: Are vigils enough to address this issue? One responded that people who are going by the vigil can see the intentions of people participating in the vigils , leading to a very powerful experience. Even with the counter-vigilers, people who are going by these places can see the difference between the two sides very starkly. This, according to a Code Pink member, gets people to think about the issue based on seeing the difference between the two sides discovering the benevolent intentions of Code Pink.

Hollie also asked the participant how she felt about the "us versus them" mentality encountered at the vigil. She said that she just views counter-vigilers as uninformed about herself and the issue at hand. Therefore, she doesn't take the "us versus them" attacks personally.

Parting thoughts from Hollie (as reported to Treesong)

In many ways, tonight's vigil just seemed like an opportunity for participants to cheer for their team. Both "sides" of the event showed some of this behavior, creating a competitive atmosphere similar to a heated football or soccer game. This left little room for much dialog. Instead, the public discourse was dominated by the question of who can talk louder and whose remarks were more biting, with few if any participants truly listening. Code Pink participants left at the end of their scheduled vigil to prepare for tomorrow's events, but counter-vigilers stayed on site long after Code Pink left if only to ensure that they had "the last word."

More News

Currently, BMIMC reporter Hollie Hoxley is at Saint Stephen's Church, site of a mass gathering of demonstrator medics. Stay tuned for more reports from this and upcoming events on this special weekend of mass demonstration in Washington D.C.

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