The Pot and Anarchy March on Inesco Field - Continued
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The march begins, and it definitely feels like the healthiest march of the entire week. It's the messages this time. Instead of heavy-as-lead condemnation of emotionally dire problems the chants are lively and in celebration of something tangible: getting high. "FREE THE LEAF!" "SAFE ACCESS NOW!" Things like that. Also jubilant screams: "I LOVE WEED!" And my favorite one, which seemed to have been very edited for maximum impact, simply "POT!" I suddenly realize, of the entire weeks' activity, this is the first explicitly positive one I've been to, and it feels pretty nice.
Then I look back and see the giant anti-war banners, the dragging sense of dread and plague, and remember there's another side to this one. I pull back. Here, the messages immediately change towards the abrasive, and I sense that this march is going to be a tug of war on everyone's senses, from passive to aggressive, looping. "NOT JUST BUSH OR THE RULING CLASS/DEMOCRATS CAN KISS OUR ASS! NOT JUST BUSH OR THE RULING CLASS/DEMOCRATS CAN KISS OUR ASS!" "NUM-BER ONE TERR-OR-RISTS U-S-IM-PERI-A-LISTS" "FBI CIA TERROR MADE IN THE USA" All fine points, though there is one that I find sounds a little silly in its affection: "OCCUPATION IS A CRIME ALL MY LOVE TO PALESTINE"
The mood change is pretty thick to handle though, and I run up to the front of the pack for a pot chant refresher. "Free the leaf!" Gotcha, and back now to the other side "STOP THE TORTURE TELL ME WHAT WE'RE MARCHING FOR" (like that one) - but the point is getting permanently proven: it's impossible, as an experience, to blend these two groups, regardless of the fact that I'm sure the anti-war group smoke pot, and the I'm sure the pot smokers are anti-war. It's just unblendable moods.
The march now moves to the left, and across a busy intersection onto Colfax avenue. The cops are extremely civil today, almost as if the entire week they've been operating on one battery, slowly fading in intensity. The first two days it was full blast authority, and each day since it's been a cinching back. Today they look and behave no different than your neighborhood friendly policemen and women, which is so strange given the earlier posturing. They're moving things along very well. This isn't to forgive them for bashing into people's chests, necks and heads earlier this week - or forgiving their fabrication of protesters using rocks (none found) but it is nice today. The weather has broken, too - much cooler.
The next twenty minutes would be a long walk uphill over Colfax avenue towards Inesco field - which is shared with a combustable mix of people walking to participate as crowd members for Obama's speech, and religious groups. It was the religious ones who receive the first heckle from the anti-war bunch. "FREE FREE FREE YOUR BRAIN! RELIGION IS A HAPPY CHAIN!" But it's the people walking towards Inesco to see Obama that unleash the worst abuse from the anarchy end of the march. The people walking to Inesco are separated from the march by cement divider. But essentially they are marching in-step with the marchers, and headed towards the same destination. And the entire rhetoric, now with a group to focus on, turns confrontational:
"PRESIDENT OBAMA WILL STILL BOMB IRAQ! PRESIDENT OBAMA WILL STILL BOMB IRAQ!" To many walking to see Obama speak, this is possibly the first time they've ever heard anti-Obama heckles and they react to it, almost too much. The reaction seems to feed the worst elements of the anti-war group - who become immediately disowned from the larger group. "They don't represent us" others begin to scream. Which is somewhat good, because armed with a megaphone they start to pound out some wild freeverse accusation: "BARACK OBAMA WANTS TO INVADE IRAN! BARACK OBAMA VOTED FOR IRAQ! BARACK OBAMA IS A FASCIST! BARACK OBAMA IS A TOOL FOR THE WHITE SUPREMACIST GOVERNMENT!"
I have to jump up front for some pot rhetoric to mellow this a touch. "THEY'RE SCREAMIN' FREE THE WEED BUT NO ONE WANTS TO LIGHT UP!" Ah, there we go, and walking back to the megaphone accuser, "DOES BARACK OBAMA HAVE HARSH WORDS FOR THE CIA? I DON'T THINK SO! HE PROBABLY WORKS FOR THE CIA!" And so on.
The people walking towards Inesco to see Obama responded to all this well enough. Some very angry, some laughing. Others sensed the two groups really separate groups. There were, in fact, something more like three groups: The pot people, the politically educated anti-war group and the yahoo fabricators. Once the CIA experts quiet down you hear somewhat more reasonable requests: "NO MORE PRISONS NO MORE POLICE" "STOP THE WAR" that sort of thing.
Finally, the end of the road. The megaphone man pipes in "OKAY THANK YOU EVERYONE - We're gonna be marching up the hill -- we want to thank you ALL for a peaceful demonstration!" And he goes to thank the cops, trying to embrace one of the lead cops hands. The cop slinks back and glares, reaction to the hand like it had vomit on it. Well, the pot smokers will take what they can get, right. They got one hell of an all-access march. And they continue up the hill to conclude.
It was over the hill that I see the crowd for Inesco. It is ridiculous, easily 15,000 people right there waiting to get through security for the evening, which I'm told is currently at a three to five hour wait. You can feel the frustration and nerves from this much larger mass of people and immediately upon contact with the marchers it dillutes things. The marching group slowly starts to fade away, with each step closer to Inesco it seems the march loses one participant - and by the time I'm among the actual Inesco crowd I look around and only count two or three marchers remaining. And before I can notice, they're gone too.
It was like the pot and anti-war rally, the last action of the DNC protests, in the end, appropriately or unfortunately went up in smoke.
- EP August 2008 (other things on this site)