A group of activists from the West Michigan area attended the protests outside of President George W. Bush’s inauguration on January 20th. What follows is a report from the anti-authoritarian bloc. The group has also posted photos from the inauguration protests.
The anti-authoritarian bloc assembled as a part of the “anarchist convergence” at Logan Circle north of the route of the inaugural parade. After waiting for numbers to increase, a black bloc of approximately 300 led a larger anarchist march down 13th St towards the route of the parade. The noisy march chanted “No more presidents”, “What’s the solution? People’s revolution”, and other chants as they followed behind a large banner painted with the slogan “Right Wing Scum, Your Time has Come.” As the march progressed along 13th, a few affinity groups within the bloc pulled out shields of various kinds and picked up debris along the road in order to aid in the coming push through the security checkpoints blocking the inaugural parade route. The call for the black bloc was published under the banner “The Parade Must End” and the group was prepared to confront the police who would inevitably be blocking the parade route.
After evading the police for about half an hour, police finally moved in at 7th and D just as the bloc was about to join up with the larger rally and push towards the parade route. Police used pepper spray and batons to prevent the anarchist march from joining up with a larger group of protestors, estimated by the corporate and independent media to be at least 10,000. As the police attacked members of the bloc through snowballs and various pieces of debris at the police, who in turn took the leading banner and used the PVC piping holding it together to beat back protestors who surged forward after the initial confrontation. Participants from Michigan reported being hit by PVC piping and pepper spray as the bloc retreated down 7th St with police in pursuit.
Following the dispersal of the first anti-authoritarian bloc, a re-convergence was called for at 2:30pm near the parade route. The bloc, considerably smaller than the first, was almost immediately followed by police. Some members pulled debris into the streets to block police vehicles and small barricades were created using materials pulled from construction sites. As the bloc approached 13th and Pennsylvania a large number of riot and mounted police appeared, but quickly backed off. Pausing near the intersection of 12th and E the group held a small street party as they waited for numbers to increase. After about five minutes, the group march towards the security checkpoint at 13th and Pennsylvania and after counting down from 10, rushed towards it in an attempt to push towards the parade route. Despite significantly rocking the fences, the charge was pushed back by a large amount of pepper spray. Following the charge riot cops were brought out to reinforce the barricade and protestors moved to another area closer to the parade route where a small attempt was made to knock over security fencing and flags were burned. The flag burning gained considerable amount of media attention and the flames and noise caused a large number of parade spectators in the bleachers to turn their heads and watch the group. Following this bloc there was a 5:00pm re-convergence at Dupont Circle, but the march was poorly organized and followed by a significant police presence.
Tactically speaking, the two blocs utilized during the afternoon were of limited success as they failed when it came to stopping the parade or opening the security check points. The bloc lacked the coordination and cohesion necessary to “crash the gates,” however; the anti-authoritarian bloc did manage to shut down two security checkpoints denying access to hundreds of Republican parade goers.
A later, seemingly more coordinated black bloc, marching under the banner “Bring the War Home” took the streets around 11:30pm. As fireworks went off at 11:40pm a banner was dropped from the roof of a Starbucks that read “From Iraq to DC, with War Comes Resistance!” at which point the bloc smashed windows at a Citibank, Riggs Bank, Taco Bell, and KFC, all of which were strategically selected based on their respective human rights abuses. According to independent reporting, this bloc was more coordinated and disruptive than the earlier blocs – resulting in $15,000 in damage to corporate property. However, where arrests were limited to a few targeted arrests by undercover officers earlier in the day, at least 78 people were arrested in the evening bloc.