Those of us of "a certain age" keep looking at each other and saying, "I can't believe that we're still having to protest this shit." We've been to more marches than we can count (shit, at my age, I probably can't remember them all, even if I could count them). Marches to end the Viet Nam war, the March for Women's Lives, the Million Mom March, marches to protest our entry into the Iraq war, marches to end the Iraq war, etc., etc. Here's some marching advice from a seasoned marcher to those patriots coming to Washington, D.C. this Saturday, September 15th, for the march to end the Iraq war. If we're lucky, if enough of us show up, maybe we won't have to keep protesting the same damn thing over and over.
I admit to a lot of pride of place in Washington, DC. It's my home and the "city of my heart." It's a beautiful city, especially in the Autumn, with monuments that take away your breath everywhere that you look. It's easy to come directly into DC by train. Union Station is just a few steps from the Capitol, where Saturday's march will end up. DC also has a very good metro system that allows you to get almost anywhere in the city (Georgetown is one exception) without a car. If you're taking metro, buy an all-day pass so that you won't have to stand in line and buy a farecard each time that you want to get on the subway. The trains can get kind of crowded during major marches.
There's tons of logistics information available by clicking the "End the War" button at the top of my blog: transportation, housing, maps, etc.
Right now, the weather services are calling for near-perfect marching weather -- clouds in the morning and high temperatures in the mid 70s. DC can be muggy this time of year, making it feel hotter than the thermometer says, but Saturday should be great.
Wear comfortable shoes and socks and loose, comfortable clothing, preferably with pockets. Sunscreen and a cap or hat to keep off the afternoon sun is a good idea. You'll want to carry a cell phone, chapstick, bottled water, a snack such as an energy bar, cheese stick, apple, sandwich, etc., some cash, and maybe a credit card. Lots of people make signs and bring them to the march, but the groups sponsoring the march will have printed up signs that you can pick up at the site and carry. Metro can be a bit weird about signs on sticks sometimes, although sometimes they go through with no problem.
I've been to lots of marches and have never been arrested. All of the peace marches that I've been to have been, well, peaceful. There's no reason to believe that this one won't be, as well. DC police are used to demonstrations and are generally better than some other police departments at not provoking protestors. I try to remember that it's just their job, they're not "the bad guys," and they're humans, with feelings, as well. You've got no argument with them and thus no reason to provoke them. All of that said, it's a good idea to wear a bandana or a scarf. If the police do use tear gas, you can douse the bandana with water from your water bottle and pull it up over your mouth and nose. If the police use tear gas, they'll release it so that the wind will disperse it over the crowd. While it's counterintuitive, that means that, if you can, you're often better off running towards the tear gas, so that you can get out from under it, rather than away from it. DC has lots of museums, monuments, etc. that will be open on Saturday, and there will be normal tourists touring those sites. Thus, if trouble does start, it's fairly simple to ditch your sign and head into a museum or other building until things calm down. You likely won't need this advice at all, but it doesn't hurt to have a plan.
If this march is anything like other anti-Iraq war marches, you'll never even see a counter-protestor. The few dozen (at most) chickenhawks who do show up usually stay together in one spot and content themselves with yelling insults at the marchers who outnumber them by several-hundred-to-one. I recommend ignoring them. The press will be there and they love to cover a "conflict" between the marchers and the counter-protestors, rather than focus on the fact that tens of thousands came to ask for an end to the war. Yeah, the chickenhawks are assholes. It's a free country and they've got a right to express their asshole opinions. Ignore them.
NTodd,Sinfonian, and possibly others are planning to liveblog the march. DC does have lots of places (Starbucks, etc.) with wifi, although you need your own laptop, which I wouldn't want to cart around on a march. If you can access the web with your cellphone, so much the better.
Come see my beautiful city this weekend. Come exercise the right that lots of people have died to ensure for you: "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." It's what patriots do. We've got a hell of a grievance that needs redressing.
Please add any other suggestions or sites that will be liveblogging in comments.
I'm a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an eco-feminist, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth. Hecate appears in the
Homeric Ode to Demeter, which tells of Hades who caught Persophone
"up reluctant on his golden car and bare her away lamenting. . . . But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tenderhearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave . . . ."