Protests … festivals with a message

Mike Furno

st been drowned out by furious drums and chanting. Around the corner and in the midst of the Washington monument, over 6,000 people color the park in vibrant costume, huge puppets, giant floats and banners.

Despite the political slogans and messages being spouted from the stage, the rally looks more like one huge, costumed festival than a gathering of environmentalists, human rights advocates, anarchists, communists, pagans and kids looking to have a good time. The politics were serious, their cause was dire, but the gathering was also a celebration of shared commitment to economic, social and environmental justice.

Think of a really big block party that moves block to block spreading the thrill and emotion to everyone that passes by. This was the protest on Sept. 28, in the nation’s capital. Protests often take two different forms: the rally and the march. You could also call them the pre-party and the parade.

The rally is filled with speakers about different issues, bands playing, theater troupes and puppet shows. People amass into a huge crowd to watch the stage, pass out flyers about their respective causes or organizations and party with their newfound friends. Most people come in groups but almost all end up joining strangers in conversations, dancing or general solidarity. In a crowd like this, even the masked anarchist can wind up being a close pal.

As speakers like Ralph Nader and a little old lady from Argentina trade the stage with hardcore bands and singer-songwriters, the crowd stands receptive to the messages being presented.

In the background, another type of noise is present and a number of activists are dancing in large groups. In the middle of this festive chaos, a small drum band plays feverishly on homemade drums. They bang on cans, coffee containers, pieces of metal and big buckets to produce a wonderful array of rhythmic sounds. Together the group produces an awesome collage of music while dancing about to its own beat. Colorfully costumed activists join in with the fun to create a vibrant spectacle that is almost always supplemented by some politically- charged chant or song.

The song and dance continues as the rally proceeds into a march down city streets. This parade of social conscience shuts down several city blocks as thousands of people of all ages travel to their final destination near the World Bank meetings. The massive puppets of businessmen with bloodied hands and giant piggy banks all float above the protesters as they chant, “More world, less bank!” and “One, two, three, four, we don’t want your oil war.” Banners and flags wave with pride as the people try to portray their message to onlookers and media.

Cameras are everywhere and reporters are taking notes and interviewing activists. The parade’s chanting and noise drown out even the police helicopters that fly above the crowd.

This mobile block party redirects traffic and takes over parks. At the end of the march the people take over another park in Washington, D.C. to celebrate a successful, exciting and peaceful march. Crowds and floats fill the place to capacity and the march is still coming from around the corner.

Groups of kids in bandanas and black masks hang their corporate and black flags from the center statue to celebrate their free speech.

A few more people make speeches from the loud speakers and the march and rally are deemed a success.

All of the protestors had a great time, while expressing their message to the media and the World Bank to further their cause.