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Hi, my name is Jim Macdonald, and I have an odd assortment of interests. In no particular order, I love Yellowstone, I am an anti-authoritarian activist and organizer, and I have a background in philosophy, having taught at the college level. My blog has a lot more links to my writing and my other Web sites. In Jim's Eclectic World, I try to give a holistic view of my many interests. Often, all three passions show themselves interweaving in the very same blog. Anyhow, I think it's a little different. But, that's me. I'm not so much out there, but taken together, I'm a little unusual.

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    Friday, January 13, 2006

    Secret Service and Pentagon Police go the "extra mile" to protect Cheney from DAWN

    On Friday, January 13, 2006, activists with the DC Anti-War Network (DAWN) called for an action at the home of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; however, when scouts for the action reported lights off, the group put in pre-arranged plans for a street meeting to choose a new location, which turned out to be the home of Vice President Dick Cheney, at the Naval Observatory, at 3400 Massachusetts Avenue. An adventure of cat and mouse ensued with Secret Service and Pentagon Police pursuing the DAWN protesters.

    Activists from DAWN met outside the Woodley Park Metro as Secret Service bike police and Pentagon police circled the group. As they circled, the group put in place pre-arranged plans to meet and change course. The group marched north on Connecticut Avenue. This confused the police, who expected the group to march south toward Rumsfeld’s home on Kalorama. One bicycle officer followed the group for a time on Woodley but tailed off when the group climbed a steep hill. From there, the DAWN group walked quietly to the home of Vice President Dick Cheney.

    At Cheney’s house, the DAWN group set up on the side of the street in front of his house, where they began making noise, banging pots, and yelling things like “Jail Cheney!” and “Impeach, Indict, Incarcerate!” It took 15 minutes for Secret Service to come out and confront protesters. When they did, the Secret Service asked the standard, “Who is your leader?” Eventually, after a couple minutes, one protester chose to talk with police and recorded a conversation with them, which will be published. Protesters stayed for awhile to many cheers from motorists on the road.

    After awhile of loud yelling and noise, the group suddenly became quiet, lighting candles and singing traditional peace songs. This behavior baffled the Secret Service, who followed along, as protesters moved south down Massachusetts. There were at times upwards of 7 or 8 officers trailing the slow moving group that had switched from boisterous yelling to a period of quiet singing. At the edge of the Naval Observatory, another of the group began confronting the Secret Service asking why they were following us, what their names were, what their badge numbers were. He states in his report that he recognized the officer who had at one point been tailing us from Woodley Park. The protester asked who gave orders to follow us. There was some confusion among officers about what was happening. The secret service officer asked at one point, “Do you have any permits?” The protester responded, “I don’t need a permit.” He asked again, “Do you have any permits!?” The response was, “Don’t play that game with me; I know darn well that I don’t need a permit.” The officer said, “I was just asking.”

    We continued down Massachusetts Avenue, and the Secret Service continued to follow. We went by the British Embassy and yelled, “Jail Tony Blair!” and chants like that. At that point, two people on the inside of the fence came up to the fence. One of them gave a thumbs up to the chants. As we continued to march, the Secret Service tailed with 3 to 4 bicycles and at least one car completely on the sidewalk.

    Secret Service continued to follow the group as it turned off Massachusetts Avenue onto California and then onto Phelps. At this point, 3 cars were tailing the group on the dark side streets near Dupont Circle. As we headed down Phelps, the same protester who confronted the Secret Service at the Naval Observatory called the NBC-4 newsroom. As they talked, a car on a side street hit another car three times trying to get out of a driveway. The Secret Service made no attempt to do anything about it, claiming that the car was hitting the curb, which was totally untrue. They aren’t DC Metro police, but on the other hand, no one was breaking any law in our group, either. People walked on sidewalks, and there was never an intent to break the law. Sheer dissent is criminalized, or at most, is considered suspicious behavior. How dare someone protest public officials, reducing themselves to human megaphones, reduced to sound bytes and clichés!

    As the interview continued for half a block, this protester walked up to the officers. It turned out one of the police tailing us was Pentagon Police. It’s not clear why Pentagon Police, who we had not seen since the very beginning of the action, were around for this part of it. The protester asked who he was and why he was there; the officer refused to say. Other officers covered up their badges. What was more baffling was that the person in NBC 4’s newsroom became frightened (or that’s the assumption) and would not say his name even though he was asked between 7 and 10 times, according to this protester’s report. At this point, still on Phelps, one of the Secret Service officers got out of his car, which led to a round of verbal sparring between the Secret Service and the protesters. The Secret Service officer at one point said that he was there to “control” us. It’s not clear what he meant by that. He went on to say that he was giving us exactly what we wanted by giving us attention. In truth, we’d rather that Secret Service agents didn’t exist at all, but I suppose he was right. By overreacting to nonviolent protesters who merely were expressing dissent, they did expose the fear of dissent that exists in society. And, to that extent, highlighting the fear, highlighting what happens to people who speak out (and this has happened countless times), we did get exactly what we wanted.

    The Secret Service continued to tail protesters to Connecticut and Florida. At that point, protesters chose to meet up with someone in the media. A couple protesters on bicycles, including me, attempted to bike slowly to see if they would follow us. However, the Secret Service and Pentagon Police stopped following the group at Connecticut Avenue.

    The DAWN protesters felt the situation was rather ridiculous but felt empowered by the experience. The police were confused by the organizing, which was at once leaderless but versatile with different scenarios built into it. By overreacting to dissent, they made it easy to write this article, backing up a persistent thesis of DAWN activists that the government is at best very annoyed by the free practice of civil liberties and will use tactics of intimidation (tailing, asking misleading questions, taking a confrontational attitude toward protest) to try and shut up dissent. In fact, the use of these tactics by police convince many activists that reform of the system is impossible and that dissent must be resistance. So, it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. If you criminalize dissent by treating it like a poison, you create a poison that is determined to resist until a better world happens.

    So, Rumsfeld, Cheney are warmongering torturers; we said a few things aimed at Cheney; and the system and ivory towers they have and the guards they have to protect them from unpleasant sounds outside their fortress showed again how thoroughly unappetizing all they represent is.

    So, we will continue to show up, and as long as they continue to harass us, we will continue to speak the truth. And, their reign of fear will soon be over.


    Blogger AWG said...

    Great rundown, Jim. Demand their identities next time. Ask them why they are obscuring their identities, if we are supposedly living in a free country. What are they scared of?

    1/15/06, 4:38 PM  

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