Mild in the Streets--the D.C. World Bank Protests

Photographs by Kristen Walsh and David Brockie

It was almost ten years ago since the last time I had followed the call to arms--a situation
had arisen that was in my opinion so objectionable that it demanded a level of response
greater than the traditional shrugging of the shoulders. No, they hadn't yanked my illegal
cable. It was the Gulf War, and it was being spoon-fed to a drooling public that I and
most of my friends were members of. But I soon found it hard to swallow, like bloody
pap, spewing from the beak of some evil prehistoric bird. It was obvious then and now
that we blew the shit out of those people not to preserve the sovereign rights of Kuwait,
but to protect our right to continue to guzzle gas like it was air and kill anybody we
consider to be a threat to that right. It was about punishing Iraq for their perceived
treachery towards us, even though they invaded Kuwait with our tacit approval--just ask
April Glaspie, our ex-ambassador to Iraq (if you can find her). And it's still about
punishment. U.S. and British warplanes bomb Iraq weekly, and the U.N. economic
sanctions against Iraq have meant death sentences for hundreds of thousands of
civilians. In short, the war was and still is an inhuman, murderous lie and I decided to do
something about it. Something beyond the traditional get-drunk-and-bitch-about-it

I would attend a protest march. I would dress up like an idiot and dance in the
streets. So we filled up our old school bus with a bunch of scraggly dudes
and their hung-over girlfriends, and off we went to the big D.C. peace march.
We painted our faces like skulls and I had a big chain with a bunch of dead babies
hanging off it-- I kept shaking it and screaming "delivery for President Bush!"
The march was non-violent and sorta well- attended, although a lot of those present were
counter-demonstrators there to scream at us how great they thought the war was. The
highlight came when I threw a bomb filled with fake blood onto the surface of an
ice-skating rink, spattering a group of off-duty Marines. They chased me for a few blocks
before I lost them in the crowd. And though I never felt the march would do anything to
bring an end to the war, we still felt victorious at it's conclusion. We had expressed to the
world that not all Americans were happy about the war, and although we were just as
fascinated by the endlessly repeating footage of exploding aspirin factories as the next
war-monging Yankee dog, we felt that it was wrong and said so in the biggest way that we
could. Our goals were humble but at least we achieved them.

Since then I haven't been involved with any protests other than the fact that my entire
life is one. Maybe I was too busy, maybe the issues didn't seem as crucial, maybe I felt
out of place at the Million-Man-March. But when I heard about the "Battle of Seattle",
the pot-smoke cleared out just enough for my eyebrows to lift. New battle lines were
being drawn. McDonalds were being smashed. Now I know these protests were
supposed to be non-violent but still I was happy about it. I hate McDonalds. I used to
work there in high school. We would mash loogies into the food. I guess that wasn't cool

The primary objective of the demonstrations in Seattle had been to shut down the
conferences of the W.T.O., or World Trade Organization. This cryptic cabal was catching
the brunt of the general contempt and disgust that many forward-thinking folks feel
towards the US government and their allies. Why? Because everybody hates us. But
that's O.K.--we keep 'em in line because they fear us as well. We loot the world at the
expense of the many, and indeed this countries citizens are also victims. You only have to
drive through some parts of my or any town to know that the U.S. is in many places a
third-world country where poverty rules and war rages relentlessly. Lots of folks seem to
be pretty left out of this period of supposed "economic prosperity" that I keep hearing
about. If you don't believe me maybe you should get a flat tire on your S.U.V. when you
drive through one of these neighborhoods. See what the natives make of your humping
white ass. You'll wind up dead, just like you would in the bush of Africa or Columbia or
any other place we have FUCKED UP and you wanna know why? Cause your (our)
people have inflicted MISERY on the world for hundreds of years.

But ya know what? A lot of white folk know that, and are deeply ashamed and distressed
by the actions of our ancestors. Yeah, I'm talking to YOU, Mr. I Hate Whitey. We're not
all a bunch of lava-dwellers. We look at Hitler and we feel shame. We look at Clinton
and we feel embarrassed. We look at the Pope and LAUGH. I think this government's
policy SUCKS and I want everybody to know it. And a lot of people feel the same way I
do. What is required is a multi-ethnic mass movement that is not afraid to get in the
streets and physically stop our government from doing things we don't want them to do.
Fuck up their carefully-calculated timetables. Do it with chains and tape and barricades,
with spirit and creativity and resolve. With comedy and terror.

Nine years ago we were out to make a big noise in the streets. Hopefully a lot of people
would show up and weÍd get on CNN. We weren't trying to paralyze the city or even get
arrested. There was never any question about mixing it up with the cops or smashing
stuff or even trying to block traffic. But things had become more serious. They were
going to try to paralyze a large section of a modern American city--the Capitol city. It
sounded like a massive act of civil disobedience was shaping up, one with a clear goal--
make it impossible for the I.M.F., W.T.O., and World Bank delegates and employees to
have their big meeting, where everybody was gonna drink cappuccino and eat muffins
and congratulate each other for fucking up the world in such a profitable manner. From
the get-go this action sounded grander in scale and intent than anything I had ever been
a part of. I knew if I got involved with the protests there was a good chance I would get
arrested and part of me actually craved it. It would be worth it to know that people were
that committed. And of course I craved the raw adrenaline rush that I knew only a crazed
street action could bring. We (myself and A.K., my beautiful companion) loaded up the
assault vehicle and off we went.

All the way there my continual mouth-farts (smelly burps) threatened to gas out the
entire mission. Finally the eternal Klansmen that is the Washington Monument poked
into our view. The city wasn't exactly overrun with terrorists but there were a lot people
on the street as we motored up 14th towards Mt. Pleasant. I noticed with alarm that
many of them appeared to be hippies, so I resigned myself to the inevitable hippie/ punk
collusion that was a regular part of these things. Sometimes it's really difficult to accept
the fact that we're both on the same side, so I just don't. But I do like smoking pot. We
ended up at Atom's house (another code name). Atom was involved with the Independent
Media Center and he kept getting shadowy phone calls. One time he yelled at me
because I kept asking questions and mouth-farting, and soon a particularly garlic-
crusted one cleared the room for a good five minutes. I used the time to smoke his pot
and indulge in his pharmaceutical buffet. Up and down at the same time didn't make a lot
of sense but it sure was fun. Apparently Atom had hosted some kind of pre-protest
get-together the night before and there was a lot of left-over beer. All the while sketchy
reports kept trickling in as I got more and more wasted. The cops had already launched
several pre-emptive strikes in the preceding days--they'd hit several rallying points and
jailed everybody they could get their burly mitts on. This neutralized many energetic
activists when they were needed most. Crafty bastards.

Atom hooked me up with a press pass that would hopefully get me into the thick of things
without getting my skull split. We checked out maps and I saw the protesters had their
work cut out for them. The conference was being held in an area of D.C. near the White
House famous for wide open streets and huge, imposing Government buildings. There
isn't much in the way of alleys or private enterprise. That whole area of the city is under
tight security year-round, in stark contrast to the cities famous crack-hoods located a
short distance away. The center of D.C. wasn't the best terrain to take the fight to a
well-entrenched enemy. They were going to have to shut down at least 15 or more
intersections to have any chance of blockading the conference and failing that they would
somehow have to break police lines to disrupt it. Both scenarios presented unique
tactical problems but I felt these could be overcome. But I wasn't a leader here, just a
humble reporter with a definite bias. The biggest wild card was the capabilities of the
protesters. How far would they go? How organized were they? It was obvious the cops
were well- organized and would probably go as far as they needed to foil the protest. How
would the protesters deal with it? For all I knew they had built a gigantic rubber chicken
that would squirt doo-doo on the cops, forcing them home out of sheer embarrassment. I
tried my best to get some sleep but it proved difficult as visions of chaos surged through
my addled mind.

But it was over before I even woke up. The cops bussed the delegates in well before
dawn, then sealed off the entire area around the conference with phalanxes of riot cops
backed up by helicopters and armored vehicles. This was done at five A.M. The few
protesters that were mobilized and in place at that time had no chance of stopping the
heavily-escorted convoys of buses, cop cars and motorcycles from reaching their
destinations. I woke up at seven and the first I had to do was drive all the way over to
Capitol Hill to rescue some dude that had locked himself in his apartment. It was a
prophetic beginning. By the time A.K. and I reached the scene of the protests the
delegates were already sitting down to their designer bagels.

We headed into the concrete canyons around 14th
and I and immediately encountered a large pack of
uppity protesters. The standard uniform was
combat boots, black clothes, gas masks and some
kind of head protection. Some people had crude
armor or trashcan-lid shields. None appeared
armed but everybody had a sinister backpack. It
looked like a pack of Orcs on their way to a punk
show. They were ripping up materials from a
construction sight and piling them up in the street,
wrapping tape and plastic netting around doors
and lightposts, forming crude barricades to make
pedestrian and vehicular traffic impossible. Many
of these crazed individuals were members of the
infamous Black Bloc, a sect within the protesters
that was known for taking things to the extreme.
As a newspaper vending machine clattered across
the street, I began to notice lines of cops
deploying on the edges of the 700-strong mob of
people I was a part of.

Black clad young ruffians seized a defenseless section of fence and ripped it free of it's
capitalist moorings. Some people tried to pick it up; others tried to put it down. The end
result was a lot of people straining against each other. Then they all dropped it, picked it
up again, and ran screaming at a line of cops deployed up the street. Things were getting
good. Others surged behind and the charge was on, in a direction that I couldn't help but
notice was away from the conference.

The cops responded with a volley of tear gas and bean bag guns, knocking several people
on their asses. At that moment the chaos I crave swirled up and out of the cracked city
streets. Clubs flailed and bottles exploded.

The cops charged the charge, stomping the fence under a herd of boots. Tear gas and
chem-spray followed. For an extended interlude the street swirled with a maelstrom of
menacing cops, hooded protesters, and ducking photographers. Individuals were grabbed,
forced to the ground and quickly worked over. The clash surged into an adjacent park as
the cops made a quick and professional melee of it. The Orcs never had a chance.

The protesters backed off down the street, hurling insults and the occasional bottle.
They weren't there to fight the cops. Besides that the protesters had no tactical coordination,
no battle plan. A half-hearted charge with a piece of broken fence wasn't gonna
do JACK. So they acted huffy for a while, pushing a car (a compact) out in the street. We
regrouped, slightly gassed but uninjured. The cops hung back, knowing the conference
was in the other direction. The protesters finally remembered that as well, and
went of in search of what I assumed would be an attempt to disrupt it.

Several other bodies of protesters were also moving through the streets, and lots of them
had big funny puppets. I had been told there would be 50,000 people in the street but it
was apparent there were nowhere near that many. All day I don't think I ever saw more
than 2000 in the same place at one time. Some of these people were forming human
barriers. They would link arms or hold hands or be chained together. The chains I saw
wouldn't stop a putty tool. Of course I had to ask how they went to the bathroom (under a
sheet). Anyway the barriers they were creating were right next to the ones the cops
had already set up. Essentially the protesters were reinforcing police lines. That seemed
pretty pointless. We ran into truly spirited groups of people protesting very specific
injustices; we ran into retarded hippies rolling around in the street. Lots of the guys
in their little cop- fighting outfits seemed to be about twelve or so, almost miniature in
comparison to their bullish adversaries. But I was still hoping for big things. I had
no doubt that the recent fracas had been merely a warm-up and the crowd that was
gathering ahead of us seemed to confirm my suspicions. The red and black flags
of the Black Bloc were flying in abundance, and a seething nucleus of protesters
had gotten ahold of a wheeled garbage-bin. They were gathering numbers around it,
and it appeared a concerted attempt to break the police lines was about to occur. This
assault had the advantage of actually being in the direction of the conference and indeed
I could see in the distance the gray facade of the I.M.F. building, far beyond the lines of
cops. The trashy juggernaut would have the added impetus of the sloping street. But
this was wrong. Charging the cops with a dumpster? Cmon!

The crowd began to grow and shuffle towards the cops, grumbling loudly. Several set
to work raising a huge banner which stretched across the street from tree to tree. It
read, "IMF, Hear Us Shakin', Today's Pig is Tomorrow's Bacon". I thought that was
about the stupidest thing I'd ever heard. Finally the rabble mustered itself in a utterly futile
assault against the barricade. The trash bin clattered helplessly against the unyielding wall, which
occasionally spat gas and spray. A singularly pathetic trashcan rolled towards the cops,
actually stopping before it got there. Then the protesters just began to flat out embarrass
themselves. One guy in particular was up at the front, red-in-the-face and screaming at the
cops, obviously in a roid-rage. A couple of his fellows asked the scarlet rouge to back it off
a couple notches, lest his noggin' get a crackin', at which point the clueless one started
screaming at the other protesters to "back the fuck off!" Suddenly the D.C. Deputy Police
Chief manifested himself in a shower of finery and spoke soothing words to all. This
princely vision captured the day for the Dark Lord. After another extended period of
huffiness, the crowd of chastised malcontents began to trickle away.

We walked around, following the puppet show as it meandered aimlessly through the
streets. Many off the human chain participants were apparently realizing the futility of
their cause and began to wander off. A group of protesters who had set up a human
roadblock argued amongst themselves as to whether they should get up and walk around.
But before they could do that, they had to argue about how they should argue about it, so
nobodies feelings got hurt and everybody felt like they were the boss. We decided to hit
the bar and after a brief refreshment period I returned to the street and see if the forces
of the revolution had re-grouped themselves. Unfortunately it was starting to look pretty
bare out there. Small groups of protesters sat or stood about, smoking cigarettes and
staring off into space. Some soaked their feet in fountains, and a group Black Bloc guys
lolled under a tree. It didn't look like a demonstration. It looked more like a Jazz-Fest
was letting out.

A few hippies and two elderly people had reclaimed a pile of junk from the morning's
ruckus. As annoying hippy-dude writhed on the ground, the cops started lining up again. I
found myself wishing they would charge and beat the hippie with their clubs, then move
on to the old. At least the cops would get hung with some bad publicity. But the D.C. cops
were the very picture of professionalism and restraint. They observed the protesters for
a while, playing with their clubs and openly laughing. Then they left. The protesters
cheered as if they'd just turned back the British at Bunker Hill, then they started to
leave too.

This thing was all over. It was barely two o'clock and it was all over. The cops leaned up
against the barricades, conversing easily with the remaining protesters and joking
amongst themselves. A couple of them passed around a box of Cheez-It's. Some were
fully sprawled out on the sidewalks, snoring loudly.

It was all over, though die-hards hung on in the streets until Monday. A cold rain chased
away all but the staunchest. In the week that followed the cops were repeatedly praised
by the media for their effectiveness. Any positive publicity the protesters gleaned was
overwhelmed by the audible back-slapping of flappy flab jabbers. I was disgusted.

So what went wrong? First off the demonstrators were late to the party. There should
have been a street-call of 12:00 a.m. Sunday morning. Get to town the week before, head
to the streets the night before, be in place and entrenched hours before the conference is
scheduled to start. All the bridges, all the tunnels, all the key intersections, shut 'em
down the night before. Do it with lightning strikes of activists trained to immobilize
specific targets. Then continually add to and reinforce these lines. Tape, chains, tubes...
you know the drill. Hopefully most people are out there well before dawn, and the cops
will have been having fits all night. It doesn't matter if you show up totally
exhausted--simply join a barricade and bring a sleeping bag. If people heed the call then
you will have barricades of living bodies that grow in size all night. NOW is the time for
the performers, the puppets. A party atmosphere will help with the draw. Get 'em in, get
'em in place, and hunker 'em down. Unless the cops can stop it, they will have the
nightmare of trying to take it apart, and chances are they are not going to gas or club
you--they're going to have to pry you apart. If they do by chance overtly brutalize you
they will be doing it in front of a worldwide audience. NOBODY SLEEPS the night before
the conference, including the delegates, terrified at the Watergate. You do this right and
you WIN. By striking first you seize the initiative. This was key, this was essential, and
this didn't happen in D.C.

So what happens if this fails? Lets say after a extended struggle the cops open up
several routes into the area and bus in the delegates. At that point the goal of the protest
changes. You've already disrupted the conference--now you must end it. You must break
police lines and actually gain entry to the building. And it can be done. Here's how. You
need a couple thousand hard-core muthafuckas. People willing to turn themselves into a
giant human fist that will move with inexorable force through any police barricade. Divide
and equip the force. Everybody will need as much protection as possible. Gas masks,
helmets, gloves, boots, etc. The Shields go first. They all bear large padded shields to
form the mail for the fist. Line them up in rows. The ones in front hold the shields in front
of them, the ones behind hold them aloft. Fill up the ranks between your shield men with
Jabbers. Jabbers are armed with padded poles, foam and duct tape jobs. The really cool
ones will have splayed cow-catcher ends, sorta like big brooms. Have these things sprout
like weeds from in between the shields. Then back it up with your Bombers. The
Bombers are armed with paint bombs. A Dutch squatter showed me how to make
them--brush melted wax (not too hot) onto balloons. When the crust is thick enough, let it
dry and then cut a hole in it, saving the removed piece. Pop and remove the balloon
(greasing the balloon first helps). The fill it up with sticky, gross stuff. The best thing to
use is dark industrial paint, though you can use your imagination on this one. Seal the
hole and it's ready. Make tons of them and fill those backpacks with something other
than your socks. Behind them come the Occupiers. They are carrying the more
traditional stuff of city shutdown--i.e. chains, locks, tape, etc. Then throw in the Legal
Observers, Puppet Masters, Medics, and anybody else who cares, and you've got an
ARMY. Heres how it works--once you've formed up march forward towards the cops.
Noisemakers of all sorts should be employed--make it so loud the cops can't hear each
other. When you get close enough start throwing the paintbombs. They won't hurt
anybody but they sure will mess up those pretty riot outfits. More importantly they will
blind the officers. Dark paint spewed across a visor will cause big problems. If they take
off their helmets or raise their visors they run the risk of getting paint in their eyes (use
water-based paint for true political correctness), and in either case the officer will have a
situation that will take all of his attention, effectively removing him from the struggle.
Keep up the barrage, arcing the bombs over the forward edge of your shield wall which
should be getting close to the enemy by now. The cops will be raining tear gas and
pepper spray at this point but you've got to tough it out. Hopefully many of them will be
blind and deaf (temporarily) at this point. Now your Jabbers come into play. The point of
these things is to get in the cops faces at a distance--tie up their arms and clubs so they
can't move easily--anytime they try to do so they get a padded pole in the way, not
striking them but impeding their movement so it's not so easy for them to repel your
Shields. Your Shields now take on the crucial job of actually pushing back the police line.
Chaos will reign here but your force must be trained to remain calm and focused. The
cops, covered in paint, deafened by the noise, harried by those fucking poles, will be
hard-pressed to stop the forward impetus of the shield wall. Just thrust forward a yard, a
foot, an inch at a time. They will give, they will break. They're only human under there.
They will BREAK. If they do, don't charge. Continue a slow and steady advance towards
your objective. Fill the ground you have occupied with new barricades, designed to not
allow the cops to push you back. It's gonna be ugly. People are gonna get hurt. Getting
trampled will be a real danger. If you see someone down, pull them up, just like in a
slam-pit. Cops will beat, club, kick, spray and gas you. They will sick dogs on you and
lock you up for days. They may break out the water cannon or block the streets with
armored cars. They won't shoot, and if they do they FUCKED UP. They'll be crucified,
and they don't want that. They WON'T SHOOT. So continue forward, for now the prize
in within sight--the portal of the World Bank and all of the filthy secrets within--the last
lines of police resistance crumbling--AND THE PRIZE IS OURS! The triumphant forces
of good surge through the crushed and ruined gateway, streaming into the plush corridors
of power to annihilate the buffet table! VICTORY, AT LONG LAST, VICTORY! Sure,
it's a best case scenario and an idealized one at that (with a fantasy feel-good ending),
but at least it's a plan. A plan based on my conclusions on first-hand observation and a
lifetime study of tactical doctrine. I believe my plan would be effective if a chance to
employ it was presented, and if that occurs we must go beyond all self- wrought
limitations in order to prevail. The Dark Lord will have grown over-confident since D.C.
The same forces that mobilized the action on April 16th in D.C. must regroup and then
strike back, retaking the initiative and setting the stage for a new mass action--one in
which my tactics are employed. Look to the Viet Cong for tenacity, the PLO for
boldness, and Crusty the Clown for cream pies. When we take to the streets let's do what
we set out to do. Lets WIN.


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