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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Painting with a broad brush: vandalism on the Capitol steps?

Posted by: Hammer / 7:40 AM

Tens of thousands of Americans marched at the Capitol on Saturday opposing the President's plan to escalate the war in Iraq:

Tens of thousands of demonstrators -- Iraq veterans, movie stars, and citizens from all walks of life -- converged on the National Mall yesterday to demand that Congress act to end the Iraq war, in an event organizers hailed as the largest antiwar protest since the US invasion in 2003.

Chanting "peace, salaam, shalom," and carrying placards declaring "Congress Inaction is Immoral" and "The Surge is a Lie," the crowds gathered in the shadow of the US Capitol to hear a broad range of activists from actress Jane Fonda to a 12-year-old Massachusetts girl plead for an end to US military involvement in Iraq.

From the thousands, a couple hundred anarchists went to the Capitol steps and spray painted some symbols and slogans:

"While there were minor instances of spray painting of pavement by a splinter group of Anarchists who were seeking a confrontation with the police, their attempts to breach into secure areas and rush the doors of the Capitol were thwarted," [U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) Chief Phillip] Morse said. "The graffiti was easily removed by the dedicated [Architect of the Capitol] staff, some of whom responded on their day off to quickly clean the area."

The FRC quickly responds with an action item that lays the blame squarely on -- you guessed it -- Nancy Pelosi:

This past weekend anti-Bush protestors marched on Washington. While the few thousand who showed up paled in comparison to the hundreds of thousands who marched for life earlier in the week, the anti-Bush protestors were given unprecedented access to the U.S. Capitol grounds, and some of them used that access to publicly deface taxpayer's property. According to the local newspaper, The Hill, the protesters were allowed to take the Capitol steps and they began to spray-paint "anarchist symbols" and phrases such as "Our capitol building" and "You can't stop us" around the area."

...According to the news reports the rank and file police officers were "livid" that they were ordered not to arrest anyone. Since the Capitol police answer to Speaker Pelosi, the question arises, did the Chief of Police give the "no arrest" order or did it come from someone else?

I really do encourage everyone to watch the FRC video which shows the extent of the damage. Truly horrific. Someone who claims to have been in the charge up the Capitol steps describes it here:

When the cops showed up and started pushing everyone around, the press came swarming. Knowing there would be a fiasco, if they pepper sprayed, clubbed or beat up us up they let us go to the reflecting pool. We decided to go further, all the way to the lower steps of the capital, at which point, the cops really didn't care who saw what. Some of us broke throw that line, and clubs started wailing, I put my hand up on a cops chest, which was beating a fellow activist and screamed, "Hey, no need for that!” He looked at me and challenged me to a fight, and then realized how stupid it was and told (a group of ten) us to back up. And we did, up the capital steps, smiling all the way. We didn't make it up the 2nd and top sets of steps, as they pulled out barricades to stop us. The lesson learned here were that, if you give up your privilege and unite, the most amazing thing could happen. And sure, it was Saturday, Congress wasn't in session, but there were still snipers on the roofs, and honestly, it was a historic moment.

When we realized that there wasn't much more to do, we all started dancing. We danced chanted and then demanded a tour, and went to the south side of the Capitol Building. Here, the cops changed name tags, for their own anonymity. We shouted a bit and then a SDS representative from NYC, made the call to join the main march and maybe get some of the main march to join. This was a great idea, but we had to remember that, for the most part, most of the people didn't came to protest, they came to add numbers, carry signs and/or see the celebrities talk. And it's true, we reached more people with our little march of 300 people that UPFJ, we managed to storm the Capital, and at some point made it to the recruiting station at 14 and K, to which there still some debate as to who smashed the window, (a cop or an activist?). Earlier in the day, when one of the cops was unruly, I told him to chill; we're just trying to make a media spectacle, he laughed, with a smile and said, "I know! And we're trying to help you." We found once again, that many of the Park Police are on our side or sympathetic. This is a strange relationship, two sides with a similar love of humanity, but ultimately opposed to each other. Even if they change their name tags, we still know them, we have for years.

I'm sure this was a chaotic scene. It sounds like there were a couple hundred protesters who were really eager for a confrontation with the police. The officer in charge made the decision to pull the police back rather than allow the confrontation to occur. I have no idea whether that was the right decision or not, but it seems to me that the decision reduced the chance for actual violence.

I understand the FRC's pathological need to pin this on Pelosi, but let me wonder this: if Pelosi is ultimately responsible for the decisions of the Capitol police, is n't Bush ultimately responsible for the actions of soldiers at Abu Ghraib? Why is the FRC more concerned about spray paint than sexual humiliation? Remember what Tony Perkins said at the time: "As Chuck Colson pointed out at yesterday's Pastors' Briefing, when you mix young people who grew up on a steady diet of MTV and pornography with a prison environment, you get the abuse at Abu Ghraib."

Yup. MTV is responsible for Abu Ghraib, but Nancy Pelosi is responsible for anarchists on the Capitol steps.

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