Fifth Anniversary

For a couple of weeks now there has been a line of strikers across the street. yelling and banging on drums for hours at a time. I'd nearly gotten used to the din. This morning, no sooner had I arrived at the office when the disturbance from the street was louder than usual. I leaned over to peer out the window, saw a circle of nine people linked together in the middle of 17th and L Street, and went back outside.

Others milled about, including women on stilts dressed in all black. A lot of people were dressed in black. Crowds began to gather on the sidewalks, holding up cell phones.

Cars honked and tried to get around the protesters. It didn't take long for a cop to show up and divert traffic. And then more cops.

The police arrived in waves over a period of 10-15 minutes-- motorcycle cops, two groups on mountain bikes (DC police in blue, Park Service in white), and in due time the riot truck and the helicopter.

That's a Smith & Wesson law enforcement special, son.

Actually, I thought the cops were pretty reasonable, all things considered. Code Pink rolled a pink bed down the sidewalk and into the street. The cops told them to keep it on the sidewalk. Fair enough, if you have to push a pink bed around.

I went back to work and watched now and then from my window. Within an hour the group had been cut apart and hauled away, traffic returned to normal.

After noon I went for a walk by the White House and found another hooded protester protesting the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo.

There was a couple nearby taking pictures of each other, so I asked if they wanted a photo together. Rather than stand together with the White House as the backdrop, they stood to the right of this guy. "Do you mind?" the woman asked the protester. "Not at all," he said from beneath the hood, his hands remaining behind his back. "Be my guest."

It was surreal. I wish I had a copy of that image -- the tourists next to a protester in orange.

The orange jumpsuit is a fashion you see in DC more often than you might expect. I wonder if they're reenforced in the knees.

On the way back to the office I swung through MacPhearson Square, where festivities were scheduled for 2 in the afternoon. The area was already happening.

The Granny Brigade knitted furiously in dissent.

Along the way I picked up a couple of signs for souvenirs, a nice yellow "USA Out Of Iraq" placard and a smaller blue peace sign. I tucked them under my arm and noted the time. Almost 1 p.m. Time to head back.

By then the cops completely encircled MacPherson Square. They stood shoulder-to-shoulder on K Street, backed up by a row of motorcycles and lines of cars, lights flashing everywhere. An officer with a bullhorn announces that anybody who steps off the sidewalk into K Street will be arrested.

For the first time, I realize that by coincidence I'm wearing my black button-down dress shirt and the same black hooded sweatshirt that I wear every day -- dressed in black like everybody else -- and carrying anti-war signs. "Officer," I said, trying my friendliest face, "Can I just cross the street? I need to get back to my office."

He just started at me. Hard. I gestured to the mob of thousands behind me. "I'm not with them. I don't know these people."

"Where is your office?" he asked. I pointed across K. "I suggest you walk a couple of blocks down the street and then cross," he said.

And that's what I did -- just my personal policy to not argue with people with guns.


Street Theater

When the weather is nice I like taking a walk during the lunch hour. I don't know what it is about this intersection, but it's great for spotting people -- Donald Rumsfeld a couple of times, Tom Ridge, Helen Thomas, Ted Koppel. Last week I watched Sam Donaldson lurch across the street to pick up his sandwich at Potbelly.

I'll often loop through Farragut Park to Lafayette Park to see what's going in in front of the White House, listening to my iPod. Usually there's a good mix of tourists, protesters, press and various law enforcement types. A lot of high school groups. When I see people taking pictures of each other, I often offer to take their picture together in front of the White House.

I pick up random snippets of history from guides conducting tours. (When a Marine guard is posted at the North door of the West Wing, that means the President is at the White House).

I don't know why, but I instinctively look both ways whenever I step onto Pennsylvania Avenue even though the street has been closed to traffic for years.

One day last week there were Park Service cops on horseback and bright yellow-clad Secret Service on mountain bikes forming a line half-way through Lafayette Park, keeping everybody a half-block further away from the White House than usual. Marine One was lifting off on the South lawn. The cops never say that the park is open again. They just turn away and saunter off.

Last Tuesday I stroll around, and the whole park is closed. People lined up on H Street to see what's going on. I had a cigarette while listening to a podcast. When the all-clear was given, the cops broke their ranks and walked or rode away. Tourists began to filter through the park to the White House. ConcepciĆ³n Picciotto, who has been living across the White House in protest for the last 27 years, struggled with her bicycle and rambunctious11-month-old American terrier. A Secret Service agent, himself on bike, started to roll Picciotto's bicycle back to her plastic and cardboard shelter. It was an awkward arrangement, so I took the bike for her. "And they say chivalry is dead," the agent he said to me from behind darkened lenses. "I don't know, it isn't doing so well," I replied.

Later I learned that another small plane had entered restricted airspace and the Capitol had been evacuated. So that's what it was about.

Today the block of K Street between 14th and 15th was blocked off, cop cars and vans all up and down the block and around the corners. The windows in front of the ATM vestibule at the Wachovia Bank are blown out, glass all over the sidewalk. Some poor schmuck left his briefcase at the money machine, and the bomb squad blew it up.

How was your lunch?


Soundtrack of the War

New uncensored images from Abu Ghraib were recently released, documenting the depraved and savage conditions that our government has wrought.

Over at imeem.com, somebody put together a songlist of music used during "enhanced interrogation," often at loud volume for hours or days at a time. The songs were identified through various accounts from the press and the military.

Just as Hendrix's cover of All Along the Watchtower is used in films to set the mood of Vietnam, this music will be the soundtrack for movies about Bush's war.