It’s the fifth anniversary of the war and here in D.C., Students for a Democratic Society are throwing a dance party. In an event themed, appropriately, “Funk the War,” about 400 youth from Oklahoma to Vermont have converged to jostle and shimmy their way down K St. to the rhythm of electronic beats and anti-war chants.
Unlike the massive protests organized by groups like ANSWER six years ago, today’s actions are decentralized, more creative and cropping up all over. This morning, black-draped protesters wearing white masks that bore the names of Iraqis killed made an eerie pilgrimage down K St., while a group of veterans from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan marched from Arlington Cemetery to the National Archives, where four veterans risked arrest to jump on the ledge in front of the building and read a copy of the U.S. Constitution.
“We consider the [National Archives] our territory,” says James Gilligan, 27, one of the four. Five years ago today, Gilligan arrived in Iraq–ready, he remembers, to “defend my country.” Now, after tours in Guantanamo and Afghanistan, he’s returned home and is ready, he says, to fight for the constitution on his own home turf.
Here on K St., the mood is fresh and ebullient, despite the arrival of heavy rains. The crowd dances its way up past the site of Lockheed Martin, where protesters try to swarm the lobby. Along the way, they’re accompanied by a fleet of 11 police cars–whose blinking red-and-blue lights make the street look even more like a disco.
Six years ago, I remember an entirely different reception when protesters started blocking streets in San Francisco. Then, people were honking angrily and some were flipping off the crowds. But this time, the on-lookers are the cheerleaders. Outside of Bechtel, I watch some protesters hurl red paint against the building’s entrance with an analyst from the U.S. Treasury at my side. “I think it’s fantastic,” he says. “This war is idiotic.” An owner of a VW bug stuck in the middle of the street, lights feebly blinking, just smiles at the scene. One banker walking by tells me, “I wish I didn’t have to go to work. More of us should be joining in.”