Love in the Time of Torture – the March 19 Demonstrations

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

We’ve become embarrassed to speak of it, but love is what it’s all about: love of country, justice, peace, humanity…and love of one’s fellow Americans – one’s fellow protesters.  In contemplating my most recent experience demonstrating against the war in Washington DC, that’s what comes to me, the overwhelming love I feel for those who care enough to stand up and be counted.  

My son Daniel and I flew out of Atlanta late on Tuesday, the 18th so I could get in a full day of work.  As we approached our hotel in DC my phone rang.  It was Victory Coffee.  She explained that she had brought a friend and that they’d be in McPherson Square at 7:30 in the morning.  Daniel and I settled in to try and get a good night’s rest but could hardly sleep for the anticipation.

The alarm went off at 6:00 AM.  I got up, showered, and jumped into my best protest Levis with my gen-u-ine Ben Masel ‘Impeach Cheney First’ button and my ‘No Blood for Oil’ button and then fiddled with cameras and batteries and whatnot while Daniel got himself ready.  I carefully laid out the IGTNT flyers and bags that snackdoodle had mailed me the previous week.  I had promised to find people to hand these out at the protest as a way of honoring America’s dead in the Iraq war.  I got the flyers divided into roughly equal stacks, placed them in the bags, stacked them neatly on top of the TeeVee and promptly went off without them.  We were in McPherson Square by the time I realized my mistake.  


I am so sorry snackdoodle.  After you went to all that trouble too.  All I can say is I will bring all that stuff to Austin and we can hand them out there – and you can beat me with a stick if you are so inclined (and who could blame you?).


We grabbed a quick breakfast of cantaloupe and melon then headed for McPherson Square.  It was still pretty dark when we got there a little after 7:00 AM but people were already gathered wearing Shut Down the IRS T-shirts and sporting banners and signs bearing sweet words of protest and resistance.


Victory Coffee and her friend Ann called and said they were on the subway headed our way and would be there soon.  As I wandered through the gathering crowd snapping photos and shooting video, I was approached by a beautiful brunette with a huge grin on her face.  “OPOL!” she said.  “I’m pfiore8.”  We shared a massive hug and talked excitedly about the plans for the day.  Eventually Victory Coffee and Ann showed up and we moved out with the crowd to march to the IRS building.  Our Docudharma/DailyKos contingent was small but so very worthy that I felt distinctly privileged to be in their company.  There is something very special about those who care enough to demonstrate, to make the effort to express their opposition to the madness that has gripped our nation.  It isn’t easy but it is the stuff of real patriotism and shows a genuine love of country.



It was clear from early on that our numbers would not be what I had hoped for, but then it was Wednesday.  Not everyone could take off from work in the middle of the week for this.  I guess the surprising thing is that so many people did.  What we lacked in sheer numbers we made up for in spirit and determination.  There were probably a thousand of us or so.

Throughout the demonstration, the crowd chanted things like:

“Tell me what Democracy looks like!”

“This is what Democracy looks like!”

“Arrest George Bush, Arrest George Bush!”

“The people united will never be defeated!”  (it rhymes in Spanish I’m told) and so on.  It was great fun.


We marched several blocks to the IRS building where we acted up in all sorts of creative ways.  There were giant banners, signs, guerilla theater, and believe it or not, a marching band called the Rude Mechanical Orchestra.  I had some issues with my camera and lost some photos including shots of the Rude Mechanical Orchestra and those I took of bikemom – so sorry bikemom.  I’ll make it up to you.  I know I have the orchestra on video and probably bikemom too, but I haven’t had a chance to process the video sequences yet.


I was thrilled to meet and give a great warm hug to Liz Berrigan (Phillip’s widow).


For those who don’t remember, the Berrigan brothers were radical Catholic priests who became notorious in the 60s for being arrested dozens of times protesting the Vietnam War.  They were heroes to me in the same vein as Dr. Martin Luther King.  They were peace lovers and peacemakers.

I asked Liz how Daniel was doing.  She said he is very frail.  So sad.


I also met and gave a mighty bear hug to Desiree Fairooz (the Code Pink woman who put bloody hands in Condi Rice’s face).



After a while the demonstration at the IRS began to wind down as people peeled off to catch up with other protests and actions going on throughout the city.  Our group headed out to find the Veterans’ Peace March.  


We caught up with them at the American Indian Museum.  There I met one of my heroes from the 60s, Buffy Sainte-Marie, singer, composer, and activist.  I thanked her for all she has done through the years in support of progressive causes.  She was warm, kind and gracious.  She sang her brilliant song, Universal Soldier for us.  Donovan also recorded it, but Buffy wrote it.


Buffy Sainte-Marie, Universal Soldier


We marched to the Capitol reflecting pool, then to the Veterans Administration Building, then to the White House, and then to the National Archives where a gang of renegade Iraq War veterans scaled a 10 foot fence to rally the crowd from a high ledge on the National Archives building.  This was a bold action that captured the crowd’s imagination and mesmerized us all for well over an hour.



The numbers were disappointing to me…but that reflects poorly on the apathetic and the complicit – NOT those brave stalwarts who bother to get out in the streets and do the right thing.  We should ALL be protesting our asses off and the fact that so many are apathetic does not detract from the importance or righteousness of our cause.  The disturbing thing is that we aren’t all out there in the streets raising hell about what’s going on.  What do these guys have to do to outrage the population?  And what about those who are outraged but nevertheless sit at home?


Oh people, look around you

The signs are everywhere

You’ve left it for somebody other than you

To be the one to care

You’re lost inside your houses

There’s no time to find you now

Your walls are burning and your towers are turning

I’m going to leave you here and try to get down to the sea somehow

The road is filled with homeless souls

Every woman, child and man

Who have no idea where they will go

But they’ll help you if they can

Now everyone must have some thought

That’s going to pull them through somehow

Well the fires are raging hotter and hotter

But the sisters of the sun are going to rock me on the water now

Rock me on the water

Sister will you soothe my fevered brow

Rock me on the water

I’ll get down to the sea somehow

from Jackson Browne’s Rock Me On the Water

We eventually marched back to the reflecting pool to witness a portion of the March of the Dead.


From there we marched up Capitol Hill and blocked a huge intersection and chanted for Bush’s arrest while Homeland Security arrested scores more of our brethren and sistren.

It was there I had a chance to shake hands and chat with Col. Ann Wright.


The hostility on the streets was high.  We were all subjected to a massive police presence and the snide ridicule of the McCain supporters, and there are a lot of those crazy puppies crawling the streets of DC these days.  As Victory Coffee, pifiore8, bikemom, Ann, Daniel and I walked toward the IRS building, a guy in a suit and trench coat passed us and said “US Army!”

We all started shouting, “Yeah, let’s keep ’em alive!”  The suit apparently had no opinion on their aliveness.  

The MICMC, and their personal attack dogs the republicans are serious about maintaining their death grip on our government.  They mean to run this country by hook or by crook.  Trounced in the election they will try to steal it.  That’s what they do.  It’s what they did to Don Siegelman in Alabama, it’s what they did to Al Gore in 2000, and it’s what they did to John Kerry in 2004.  Electronic voting machines are the Achilles heel of our democracy.  


The warmongers are backing McCain.  Watch them.  They will try to steal it.  Those on the streets in Washington already act like they own it.  We have to stop them.

As long as Cheney can dismiss the concerns of the American people with “So?” we will all be screwed.  We need to put Cheney, Bush and Rove (at a minimum) on trial and ultimately, in prison.

If we don’t hold those individuals accountable our democracy will be dead and those loathsome evil neo-criminals will continue to feast on our flesh and bones.

It’s high time we end all persecution and oppression in this so-called ‘land of the free and home of the brave’.   There should not be political prisoners in this country.  No one should be subject to the whim of corrupt and criminal ‘leaders’.  No one.  Not Don Siegelman, not Leonard Peltier, not you nor I.  No one.


All of our rights are imperiled from every direction.  It is time for us all to stand up and stop this madness.

Let there finally and truthfully be justice for all in America.  And let us atone for the injustices of our past.

Deliver Me – Sarah Brightman


P.S.  Don Siegelman is free!  His appeal bond was granted and he has been released from that hell hole in Loiuisiana this past Friday.  The fight is far from over but this is a great victory.  Get the latest news on the Siegelman case here.


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    • OPOL on March 30, 2008 at 10:35 pm
  1. This really says it for me:

    As long as Cheney can dismiss the concerns of the American people with “So?” we will all be screwed.  We need to put Cheney, Bush and Rove (at a minimum) on trial and ultimately, in prison.

    If we don’t hold those individuals accountable our democracy will be dead and those loathsome evil neo-criminals will continue to feast on our flesh and bones.

    That’s the bottom line for me … because you are right – if we don’t hold them accountable, which means putting them on trial and in jail, they will continue to cause even more human suffering.

    Thanks for this and thank you to all who attended the protest, especially our DD/DKos contingent!

  2. Thank you for being out there walking the walk (and walking… and walking… you guys sure covered a lot of ground!).

    • OPOL on March 30, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    I gotta run feed my kid.  I apologize.  I’ll catch up with any comments as soon as I get back.  I won’t be long.

    Thanks for reading.

    • pfiore8 on March 30, 2008 at 11:28 pm

    the winter soldiers and suddenly we were climbing the stairs at the national archives yelling “stop this war” “stop this war” “stop this war” and these four guys jump the wrought iron fence to take position on the window ledge. fabulous.

    or the vet who told me that he did not serve his country by his actions in vietnam. and how he was making up for what he did by working to stop the war in Iraq and protect young soldiers from having their morality comprised.

    and especially, meeting you, your son, Victory Coffee, Bikemom, and Ann. thank you for showing up time and time again OPOL and giving me the opportunity to show up too.

    with much affection and respect… pf8

  3. I really admire your patriotism. It takes a special kind of person to put the rest of their life on hold and hit the streets for a greater good.

    Thanks again.

    • Alma on March 30, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    🙂   🙂   🙂   🙂   🙂   🙂  🙂   🙂   🙂   🙂   🙂   🙂

    🙂   🙂   🙂   🙂   🙂   🙂  🙂   🙂   🙂   🙂   🙂   🙂

  4. I think it might have had a few more people than the one I attended did.

    I might have to put this on my list of “stuff I gotta do”:attend demo with OPOL. I note you were accompanied by some very attractive women!

  5. Everyone who took a stand for justice in the Belly of the Beast that day, everyone who showed its mindless inhabitants what democracy looks like has my deepest gratitude.

    From the front steps of the Internal Robbery Service, to the National Archives, to Capitol Hill, the voices of We the People were heard on March 19.  OPOL and Daniel and Pfiore and Victory Coffee and Ann deserve special thanks, they spoke truth to power on behalf of all of us that day.      

    Every protest is empowering, every protest exposes this criminal government for what it is, every protest matters.  

    Thank you, OPOL.  


  6. and thank you to the others who went and put your feet on the ground in Washington and carried our message criminals residing there.

    I applaud and honor you for your good works!

    I cried when I read that Daniel Berrigan had become so frail, he’s 80 years old this year. What an exemplary brilliant life he has led.

    Great pictures OPOL, I’m sure snackdoodle will forgive you for spacing the flyers, you were amped up dude!  lol

  7. and all of the others who made it to the protest. I wish it had been on a weekend, I would’ve been there!

    I made it to the big protests in DC in 2005 and 2007 and had awesome experiences. It’s great when you get to join so many people willing to stand up and be counted, not to mention exemplifying what it means to be an aware and patriotic citizen.

    Thanks again for all you do and for sharing it so we can be inspired. Let’s hope more people start to wake up and take their country back from the thugs who are temporarily in charge!

    • kj on March 31, 2008 at 1:48 am

    big, huge, enveloping Thanks for being there.

    • Bikemom on March 31, 2008 at 2:08 am

    and thanks for asking us to consider the possibility that MCCain and his supporters will try to steal this election.  I am a practical person, and I read alot of statistic studies after the last election that virually proved (that is, said there was a high probability) that voting machines were tampered with.  In addition to our idea about a mass sit in, which I am investigating, we would do well to get involved with some of the election fraud watch groups, like black box voting. I believe that we can make a difference.

    OPOL, I feel almost guilty that I had so much fun with you, pfiore8, Daniel, Victory Coffee and Ann, and am in awe of you  all.  I actually feel that the day was very good for me somehow,and look forward to seeing you all again, especially someday to celebrate the end of the war.  To anyone considering attending a war protest with the DD crowd, please don’t hesitate – although my fellow protesters are “normal” – they are far from ordinary.

    • Bikemom on March 31, 2008 at 2:08 am

    Thanks for sharing!

  8. have been eagerly awaiting this post.  The wait did not disappoint.  Thanks Opol!

    Now, Back to the Streets!

  9. to see it, even more so to be there.

    Hope this inspires others to take to the streets.

  10. right on…

  11. Thank you so much for posting this – I wanted to to be there and your wonderful pictures and commentary is the next best thing.

    Thank you for your patriotism, your passion and for all that you do!!

    • TomP on March 31, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    great work for peace.

    • pico on March 31, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Did you see the New Yorker article that Jay Elias linked in his diary?  It’s a very long but very good read, if you can get through it: the material is hard to take.  

    What makes things like Abu Ghraib so horrifying is not that it was committed by monsters, but that it was committed by ordinary people in the most banal way possible.  Reading this soldier’s letters to her wife gave me a knot in my stomach. But:

    What makes things like protest marches effective is not that they’re organized by superhuman activists, but that they’re organized by ordinary people with a sense of decency strong enough to overcome their sense of apathy.

  12. That’s the Spanish for “The people united will never be defeated.”

    How great and inspiring that Buffy Sainte-Marie is still in their pitching, after all these years!  All of you who took part on March 19 are an inspiration to all the rest of us.

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