Posted by: Castan Centre | February 2, 2017

What I did on Inauguration Day

By Amy Myers

It’s difficult not to feel like the whole world has gone to hell over the last two weeks. I feel deeply affected by the inauguration and the terrible executive orders signed by Trump over the last week. I don’t feel optimistic about things getting better in the short term. In fact it looks like they will get a whole lot worse before they get better. Sometimes showing up is your only option.  On Friday 20th January a friend from CCR and I attended the protests in Washington D.C.  We also stayed for the Women’s March the next day and were part of the enormous throng of people expressing their disgust and protest.

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While walking down to the official anti-inauguration march on Friday, we encountered the ‘Antifa March.’ A crowd of people mostly dressed in black with covered faces were chanting and yelling, and had been ‘kettled’ by the police on a street corner. Tear gas bombs and concussion grenades had left people scattered on the ground, other protesters tipped milk into their eyes to neutralise the chemicals.  There were four or five police vans with approximately 50 people arrested and detained inside, including photographers and journalists. This number later swelled to a couple of hundred. People reported being detained without explanation for many hours. The defence attorney for the DisruptJ20 Protests has already launched a class action lawsuit.

SuddenlyVermin Supreme, the iconic anarchist activist arrived.  He stormed across the park, towards the corner occupied by the police, with a large black gumboot on his head, with a guitarist and a person wearing a yellow Lycra onesie with radioactive symbol on it in tow. Vermin climbed a traffic light pole on the corner and yelled into his megaphone, “I am Vermin Supreme. Today is my inauguration. I will make a speech at lunchtime. But right now I come as an amateur hostage negotiator. You are holding these people against their will. I demand you release them. Who is in control of this sh*t show?” The crowd laughed, as did the arrestees in the back of the police vans I later learned.  Political theatre is a powerful tool. It was one of many different types of useful forms of protest on display over that weekend. Sometimes you do a dance, sometimes you show up en masse, sometimes you rally and sometimes you just cover your face with a mask and smash up a Starbucks.  At this point no action seems entirely unwarranted.

As the afternoon progressed, we found ourselves marching alongside people walking on stilts, a trio of lamas, and people from all walks of life. We ended up at a park where a hard core band was playing. Seth Tobocman strolled past giving out free zines about protest and civil disobedience, a native woman whose name I didn’t catch spoke passionately about the North Dakota Access Pipeline,  and the Radioactive person who we saw earlier with Vermin Supreme appeared and did a chaotic interpretive dance. And then out of nowhere Elvis himself appeared!  There were a few red hat wearing people standing around making people feel a little less safe (emblazoned with the aggressive and retrospective slogan, “Make America Great Again”). And then, when I thought we had reached a type of ridiculous surrealist zenith, a limousine parked out the front of the Washington Post offices opposite the park was smashed up and set alight. Smoke plumed across the park.  What could be a better symbol of dissent against the state and capitalism itself than a burning limousine?

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As the sun set and the smell of tear gas and smoke dissipated, we zigzagged through the park and the middle of the street dodging upended rubbish bins.   We were horrified that Trump had been sworn in as the 45th President but also satisfied that proceedings had been disrupted.

Things I learned on Inauguration Day and at the Women’s March:

  • Making fun of Melania, and holding banners saying “#freeMalania” and “Melania Blink Twice if you Need Help” is not funny because it trivialises domestic violence against women;
  • Yes, abortion is a man’s issue too but today we were showing solidarity for women’s struggles;
  • The name ‘Women’s March’ suggests there are two genders (and that gender is a fixed notion) which is stupid and untrue;
  • Police cornering groups of people often precedes a mass arrest;
  • Sometimes 600,000 grannies and parents with kids in tow can peacefully create more chaos and traffic disorder than you would think possible, and that’s pretty cool; and
  • The time to be radical is now.

 


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