A nasty day to be in D.C.
By Sebastian Christ
No doubt, he is waiting for the president. Standing outside the queue infront of the iron security-gate, without having hope of getting access to the parade-route. He doesn’t worry about that. Ben Maurer has a loud voice, and his slogans will sound over the heads of hundreds of people, standing beside Pennsylvania Avenue, waiting for President George W. Bush and his convoi. Maurer is a member of the “No Police State Coalition”. He carries with three other activists a banner, that accuses Bush of being a war criminal: “In the 1940s, the US hanged war criminals. On January 2005, they inaugurate one.” His words are full of anger. “This is a sad day for the United States and a sad day for the whole world.”
On this bright sunny winter day in America’s capital, Maurer is not alone in his opinion. Thousands of people are on the streets to show their aversion to the reelected president of the US. Ironically, they see themselves confronted with die-hard supporters of Bush who came to see their president sworn into his second term in the White House -- Texans with big hats and sun-glasses, protecting their fur-wearing wifes from the protesting mob. Sometimes, both sides come into conflict with eachother. In these moments, their supressed emotions burst through like out of a vulcano. “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you,” shouts a curly woman in her mid-fifties, faced with a Jesus-like war protester. The young man stands still, without being able to say a single word. He carries a self-made sign on his shoulder: “We support our troops, but not this dirty war in Iraq.” Her husband pulls her away from the man, trying to calm her down without success. She shouts on until her words disappear in the big chior of the crowd.
Inauguration Day may be a holiday for Washington’s universities but for the employees of police and military, it was a strenous, busy day. 8,000 soldiers and 7,000 police-men were sent to DC to secure the ceremony. Their workday began early in the morning, when the first visitors came to take their places in the galleries along Pennsylvania Avenue. The checkpoints were strict. One week before Inauguration Day the police published a list with all the items forbidden at the parade/inauguration including laser-pointers, bikes, big umbrellas, tools, glass bottles and backpacks. Regarding the estimated protests, the Washington-Police also prohibited the use or entrance of big banners and long sticks on the parade route. This is, why Ben Maurer has to stay outside.
“The inauguration of this guy is disgusting”, the 36-year-old man from New York says. “He murdered more than 100,000 people in Iraq.” In his eyes, there is even more anger against the Bush-administration evident. “Half of the country should come to DC. We must vote with our bodies.” Maurer wears a long black coat with traces of grey dust on it. It is the same dust, that flows over the streets of Downtown DC, from Capitol Hill to the White House.
Two hours ago, several hundred protesters tried to attack the police. The riots took place in short distance to Capitol Hill, right after the end of the ceremony. Policemen made use of tear-gas and water cannons. The Bush-opponents answerd by hitting the security-forces with sticks or by throwing ice-balls. Some protesters tried to crush the windows of police-cars with large bricks of ice. Several people were injured this afternoon.
“Civil rights have been taken away from us”, Maurer adds. “There is not a single good word, that I could say about Bush.” Behind him, standing on a bus-stop, a young cloaked guy stands with the stars and stripes in his hands. He tries to burn it with a lighter and gasoline, but it takes him three attemps to set the flag on fire, having been interrupted by shouts from the crowd, “Don’t burn the flag!”. While waving the illuminated flag in the air, he doesn’t realize, that his own trowsers have caught on fire. A friend helps him to extinguish the flames.
The first demonstrators are tired of standing in the cold, long before Bush passes them with his big limousine. As these people go home, a young girl stands on a barrier, singing songs of peace and “a world in pieces”. Keri Johnson, 19 years old, has blond hair, bright eyes and a smooth voice articulating sentences like “I am against war”. She is a young women’s rights activist. “We are here to tell Bush that we are not happy about his politics.” she says, then continues singing on her barrier.
Ben Maurer and his colleagues can’t wait to see Bush. One last swell: “We need to get rid off this mass-murderer.” Then he turns his face to Pennsylvania Avenue. “Have a nice day,” he says. “And: write the truth.”